125 Difference-Makers I
by Chuck Gordon

Determined Founding Principal: Marcus Dry

Engraved image of Marcus Dry

When initially approached about becoming the first principal at the Wingate School, Marcus Dry dithered. Dry, a native of rural Union County who had just finished his collegiate schooling at Wake Forest College, was concerned about the high expectations of the Board of Trustees and competition from area high schools. The persistent board wore him down. It proved to be a fruitful partnership. Dry was an able captain upon some initially choppy waters. Community volunteers built the first Wingate schoolhouse, but there were delays in receiving supplies and getting some of the work done, so Dry and Mollie Scoggin, his first hire, had to teach in a dilapidated building for several months. The first year, 175 students enrolled.

One hundred seventy-five students and no schoolhouse. An inauspicious beginning, but Dry was game and determined. He and Scoggin brought a sincere focus to educating their charges. Dry wore every hat imaginable: teacher, business manager, recruiter, administrator, counselor. Mary Perry Beddingfield, one of the first three graduates of the School, said: “Mr. Dry was it. He was everything.” That included being the primary fundraiser. He regularly appealed to local Baptists for donations, since the board refused to take on any debt, and the new schoolhouse, when finally finished, contained no desks, chairs or books.

He was clearly committed to providing a quality education in an area starved for it. When the school was founded, the tiny community of Ames consisted of a church, a railroad depot and one residence. Four years later, the newly renamed town of Wingate had 30 houses, many of which were built by families eager to be closer to the new school.

At over six feet tall, the very formal Dry could seem imposing at times, but he was at heart a “genial and kind man,” according to Sylvia Little-Sweat’s history of Wingate University, The Chalk Dust Chronicle. “Apparently each side of his nature ameliorated the other,” she wrote, “and made his pupils love and esteem him highly the rest of their lives.”

In 1957, former students of Dry erected the M.B. Dry Memorial Fountain over the original campus spring, and in 1964 a group of former students sponsored the building of the Dry Chapel, off the lobby of Austin Auditorium.

Fitting tributes to the man who started it all.

Nominal Inspiration: E.W. Sikes

E.W. Sikes head shot

It’s true that love abounds at Wingate University – love of learning, love of serving others, love for humanity. Romantic love too – countless lifelong couples first laid eyes on each other as Wingate students. But was love even responsible for the institution’s name? In 1896, the good people of the community of Ames had a school building under construction, enthusiastic backers and a likely principal. What they didn’t have was a name for their budding institution. Enoch Walter Sikes, son of original trustee J.C. Sikes, suggested that it be called the Wingate School, after two-time Wake Forest College president Washington Manly Wingate. Wake Forest being the pinnacle of Baptist higher education in North Carolina at the time, it seemed as good a suggestion as any.

But perhaps Sikes’ reasons were more self-serving. At the time of the school’s founding, Sikes was a professor at Wake Forest. He was also courting Wingate’s daughter, Ruth, whom he would eventually marry. Whatever his motives, the name has stuck.

Generous Founding Father: G.M. Stewart

G.M. Stewart head shot

The Wingate School was founded by the Union Baptist Association, which wanted to provide a Christian education to local children in dire need of schooling. They chartered the school in 1895 but still needed a place to put it. In stepped George Marshall Stewart, who donated 10 acres of land, upon which the first school building was constructed. Later, Stewart sold Wingate the girls’ dormitory at a much discounted rate. A diligent businessman and trustee for many years, Stewart was generous in his support of the School during the hard times, as were other founding fathers, such as W.M. Perry, who donated much of the material for the new school building and even sawed and planed the raw wood at his mill.

First Lieutenant: Molly Scoggin

Despite the support and faith of the local community, the Wingate School could have petered out over the first few years had the quality of the instruction not been up to snuff. By all accounts, Mollie Scoggin proved to be a competent helper for Principal Marcus Dry. The pair did almost all of the teaching in the early sessions, instructing students from first grade through high school in the three Rs. Dry ran a tight ship. In August of 1896, just as the school was beginning its first session ever, Dry wrote to a trustee that “Miss Scoggin is a good teacher but she likes a good time – rather too much to suit me.” Scoggin was no longer on the school faculty by 1900, but she undoubtedly played a role in establishing the institution as one worth continuing.

Spiritual Heart of Campus: Wingate Baptist Church

Wingate Baptist Church in 1924

The Wingate campus exists where it does today for three main reasons: a rail line provided transportation; a fresh-water spring, just east of what’s now the Academic Quad, provided a plentiful source of water; and Meadow Branch Baptist Church provided spiritual sustenance. The last of these continues to be a useful partnership. Throughout its history, Wingate Baptist Church (renamed from Meadow Branch in 1931) has been closely linked to the institution of higher education that gave the town and, eventually, the church their names. Established in 1810, Meadow Branch was one of the largest and most active churches in the Union Baptist Association when the Association formed the Wingate School.

Sitting across Church Street from the Quad, the church has served through the years as a place to hold classes when flood or fire damaged the school, or even as a spot for the school to hold commencement services. The school’s teachers, staff members, principals and presidents have been active members of the church, and in 1930 Coy Muckle, pastor of Wingate Baptist, was named president of Wingate Junior College. To this day, the two institutions remain intertwined.

Wartime Caretaker: Patty Marks

Patty Marks head shot

After B.Y. Tyner and James G. Carroll led Wingate for a combined decade, during which enrollment grew and new buildings were constructed, World War I and the Spanish Flu intervened to threaten the School’s existence. With so many young men off to war, there were doubts as to whether the Wingate School would open at all in the fall of 1918. Enter Patty Marks, the only woman to lead the institution. Serving as principal for only one year, Marks kept the ship afloat amid turbulent waters. A respected educator with a master’s from Columbia University, she was teaching in Oklahoma when Wingate’s trustees asked her to take over. She hesitated, having never taught in a private school, but she eventually relented. When she arrived, the responsibility laid upon her shoulders shocked her. “She did all the buying, paying of helpers, and supervising of all workers in the school,” wrote Hubert Hester, who called her a “remarkable woman.” The first semester was even delayed, as Marks had trouble hiring the four women necessary to serve as teachers. There were 78 high school students and 28 in the grade school. The trustees and faculty adopted the motto: “Not how much, how well.”

Collegiate Leader: J.B. Huff

J.B. Huff portrait

Charles M. Beach took over for Marks and led Wingate as it became a junior college, but he didn’t last long as president. Health issues forced him to step back into the role of principal of the high school a few months into his presidency, and the reins were turned over to J.B. Huff. Huff’s presidency coincided with the start of a tumultuous period for Wingate. Over the next 30 years, Wingate would suffer through some crippling financial times, including the Great Depression, and would see the administration building burn to the ground. Still, the second president of the College proved to be a steady hand.

For one thing, the school was modernizing, physically. Since Wingate was now a college, updated amenities and supplies were needed. Chemistry-classroom equipment was purchased, to the tune of $2,000. The three dormitories were all painted, and a central heating system was installed, eliminating the need for 80 stoves on campus. All classrooms were wired for electric lights, and an electric dishwasher was installed in the school kitchen.

An influx of funding made all of this possible, and it came from the N.C. Baptist State Convention, which took ownership of the College in 1923. With strong backing from the state’s Baptists, Huff did a good job of increasing enrollment. Overall enrollment grew 12 percent between 1924 and 1925, and college-student headcount doubled.

Huff resigned in May of 1930 and returned to his birthplace of Mars Hill, N.C., where he led the English Department at Mars Hill College.

Math Whiz: A.F. Hendricks

Born in 1870 in a log cabin in Tennessee, A.F. Hendricks came from humble beginnings, but he was something approaching a mathematical genius – at least when it came to teaching. In class, he lived at the chalkboard, “chalk in one hand and eraser in the other.” Hendricks was already 59 when he started his 25-year Wingate teaching career, right when the Great Depression hit. “Paychecks were long and far between, but I taught regardless,” he said. “I came to Wingate to do a job and I did it.” A lounge in the McIntyre Student Center and a men’s dormitory (now both razed) were named for Hendricks, as is an award at Commencement that goes to the senior man with the “highest ideals of scholarship, leadership and service.”

Career Educator: Lloyd Thayer

A 1929 graduate of Wingate Junior College, Lloyd Thayer was a longtime educator (teacher, principal, superintendent) whose highly respected writings included “The Junior High School,” an official resource manual used by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Thayer School of Education is named in honor of Thayer and his wife, Georgia.

Depression-era Captain: Coy Muckle

Throughout its life, the educational institution of Wingate has been closely associated with the local Baptist church. In 1930, it seemed only natural that the pastor of Meadow Branch Baptist Church (the forerunner of Wingate Baptist) be hired as president of the College. Coy Muckle, who also served as head of the Religion Department at the school in 1929-30, succeeded J.B. Huff as president in 1930. Despite serious economic challenges – the Depression continued throughout the ’30s – Muckle increased enrollment, at a time when most colleges were losing students. A big reason for this was price: Many students were leaving more expensive colleges and enrolling at Wingate instead.

Muckle was well liked, and a group of students had pushed for him to be named president. But during his tenure, the Depression wreaked havoc on the institution’s finances. This was perhaps the lowest point, economically, in the history of the University. Some students bartered for their tuition, providing the school with produce and meat rather than dollars. Many faculty members took reductions in salary or were not paid for months at a time. Many took “student notes” (promises to pay later) in lieu of salary, and many of those notes went unpaid. The Administration Building (which was rebuilt and later named for C.C. Burris) burned down.

Through it all, it was up to Muckle to quell any discontent and keep the College’s doors open. “The entire administration of President Muckle was in the severest years of the depression yet he did not pity himself nor lament the fact that times were difficult,” Hubert Hester wrote.

According to Carolyn Gaddy, Muckle did more than anyone to save the school during the Depression. Muckle resigned in May of 1936 and went on to become an insurance salesman and to continue preaching.

Beloved Biology Teacher: Roberta Lovelace

Roberta Lovelace was one of the best loved teachers during her tenure (1931-1944). She made biology “come alive,” according to the late Jean Braswell Little ’42. Lovelace came to Wingate after graduating magna cum laude from the University of South Carolina, where she finished out her career after leaving Wingate to earn her doctorate. But during her time at Wingate, she showed a complete absorption in her chosen field. After the Administration Building burned down in 1932, Lovelace taught biology in the basement of Stewart Dormitory, often wearing galoshes and splashing around in the two inches of standing water.

Business Educator: Ruth Horton

Ruth Horton head shot

Ruth Horton began her tenure at Wingate in 1931, during the early days of the Depression. Receiving just $100 for her first year of teaching, Horton essentially worked for room and board in an era when students bartered for their education, providing sweet potatoes, grits, even farm animals rather than money to pay their bills. “We ate and received shelter,” Horton said in an interview in 1958. “A spirit of hope, love and faith kept us going. We had the courage to face difficulties even though the treasury was depleted.”

After the Administration Building burned down in 1932, she was asked to rescue the College’s financial records and thus became the bursar of the school, managing the financial affairs of the College for 20 often-tumultuous years, in addition to teaching. Under Horton’s leadership, the Business Department had the highest enrollment on campus and eventually needed its own building. Horton was also in charge of the international students on campus, and in 1936 she went to Cuba to recruit students, opening up a pipeline that served the College well.

Horton was inquisitive and always looking to broaden her horizons. She spent time in 1957 and ’58 on a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in Turkey and was an exchange professor in Osaka, Japan, in 1970-71.