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Myers Park Magazine takes a look at how Queens has transformed over the last 50 years

imageQueens students during the late 50's/early 60's. Left to right: Sara Bee Craig Johnson, Bonnie Currie Gilbert, Frances DeArmon Evans and Sue Challen Moore.
05/13/14 -  

The following article is featured in the May issue of Myers Park Magazine.

By Delia McMullen

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of Queens University of Charlotte's location at its beautiful campus in the heart of Myers Park. When the college was moved from downtown Charlotte in 1914, it fit right in with the surrounding streets. As Adelaide Davis (1961 graduate and current Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Planned Giving)explains, the streets were named after other institutions of higher learning, including prestigious schools such as Wellesley, Radcliffe, Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Dartmouth. "As Queens has evolved from a first class liberal arts college into a master's level university, we are still in good company surrounded by streets that remind us of other outstanding colleges and universities."

Without going back a whole century, let's look about 50 years into the past. In the late 1950s to early 1960s, Queens was a women's only college. Back then, the only place a man could be on campus was Burwell Hall, which now serves as the school's administrative building. Burwell is one of five original buildings that still make up the center of campus. Women would meet their dates in the "parlors" of Burwell. "Boys would check in, then we would get a call to come over from our dorm," recalls Davis. "The parlors featured several full-length mirrors so the dean of students could monitor the behavior of the girls and their dates."

Frances DeArmon Evans (1959) didn't travel far for college. She grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Myers Park High School. After spending two years at Queens, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. As a day student, Evans' experience was a little different, but she recalls close friendships with both day and resident students. Students dressed for class in dresses or skirts and blouses - no pants and certainly no exercise clothes! Another mark of a different era: chapel services were required three times a week.

Evans also remembers many hours spent in the library: "At that time it was located on the second floor of Burwell Hall. We had a very strict librarian, Miss Rena Harrill. She loved her library so much she even lived in an adjacent apartment. She kept the library running very efficiently."

Another day student, Bonnie Currie Gilbert (1963), also grew up in Charlotte but started at a big public university before transferring to Queens. Gilbert shares what Queens meant to her: "Queens both grounded and comforted me during a difficult transition period in my life and also expanded my love of teaching and a lasting circle of friends."

Gilbert recalls chapel services clearly: "I remember the light filtering in through the Belk Chapel windows and watching the leaves change color. I don't recall one message, but I know the quietness and structure was meaningful and healing. I usually sat on the back row and tried on my friend's beautiful rings or wrote out my latest boyfriend's name and then put a 'Mrs.' in front of it!"

As a day student, Gilbert drove her own Plymouth with fins and push button gears to campus. She says, "We often went out to lunch with other day students and frequented Shoney's on Morehead Street where car hops took orders for hamburgers and fries followed by their famous strawberry pie." Social events were frequently off-campus: dances and fraternity parties at Davidson, Wake Forest or Chapel Hill.

Sue Challen Moore (1964) grew up in Memphis and was drawn to Queens because she wanted a small women's school with a men's college nearby. Good choice for her as she ended up marrying her Davidson College boyfriend and settling in Charlotte! Moore lived on campus all four years and remembers the dorm friendships being fun and close. Moore recalls, "We had 'closed study' from 7-10 pm on weeknights, then we all left our dorms for a snack." She continues, "Most of my meals were in Morrison Hall which is still the dining hall. We had round tables for eight with white linen tablecloths and napkins. 'Little Betty' was our favorite waitress, and she is still working there now! She knew and loved us all."

Without a car, Moore remembers riding bikes to the laundromat and to Park Road Shopping Center. She recalls, "We went to the Town House Restaurant with dates and also to the Manor Theater for movies. We rode the city bus downtown to shop." Moore continues, "I loved Queens from the first time I stepped on campus. My friendships with classmates and professors alike were special and deep. The whole climate at Queens was that of friendliness and concern for others; you could really see the Christian heritage of the college being lived out."

Sara Bee Craig Johnson (1957) from Lancaster, SC, was attracted by the Queens music department. Johnson enjoyed her sorority experience and recalls how the women took turns preparing Sunday night suppers at the Kappa Delta house, one of several small cottages at the rear of campus. Johnson loved her music classes and performed with the choir throughout the Southeast.

Family-style meals at the Morrison Dining Hall were "exceptionally delicious, including wonderful homemade cinnamon rolls on Sunday mornings." Johnson describes the dress code for meals: "Always the attire in the dining hall was dresses or skirts, no pants. On Fridays we dressed more formally with hose and high heeled shoes. After dinner, coffee was served from a silver service in Burwell Hall. Sometimes if we did not feel like dressing up, we would wear pants under our raincoats and walk to the Town  House Restaurant on Friday nights."

As Johnson concludes, "I am grateful for a wonderful education and close friendships which have continued to this day. While the face of Queens has changed, the spirit of this wonderful place remains the same."

All four women have stayed involved with Queens, serving in various capacities including alumni leadership, reunion activities and scholarship endowment. They have also enjoyed taking continuing education classes and traveling with Queens' alumni groups.

Of course one of the biggest changes Queens has experienced was becoming fully co-ed in 1987. As Gilbert notes, "Queens awoke like a sleeping beauty to the prince. Excellent, award-winning professors and small classes have continued, but the vibrancy of new buildings and a new president has enabled Queens to continue to thrive with a presence in Charlotte and beyond that is competitive and significant."

Other transformations have included the addition of the McColl School of Business (1993), the Presbyterian School of Nursing (2004), the Cato School of Education (2007) the Knight School of Communication (2008) and the Blair College of Health (2010). From the original five buildings completed in 1914, the campus has grown to 33 buildings on the main campus and two at the Sports Complex. Queens has been led since 2002 by President Pamela Davies.

Current student Campbell Corder (2016) chose Queens because it offered a high quality liberal arts education and business school, the chance to study abroad, a beautiful campus and a remarkable Presidential Scholarship grant (thanks to the generosity of Myers Park neighbors Kathie and Bill Grigg). Corder, of Austin, Texas, lives on campus and serves as a Resident Advisor. While many current students favor informal attire for class, Corder usually dresses "business casual" for class and his off-campus internship. Corder notes that, "The McColl School brings recruiters by often, so just walking to class can turn into an impromptu networking opportunity."

Corder continues, "Queens has had an incredible impact on my life. I could not be happier with the decision I made to come here. Professors and alumni have helped me find great internship opportunities, and the people here have become like family to me. Charlotte is my new home, and I love living in one of the most beautiful areas of the city."

Queens students today still enjoy the school's location in Myers Park and proximity to many amenities. Even students with cars frequently walk to Harris Teeter, Myers Park restaurants and shops. Students also enjoy other Charlotte neighborhoods like South End, Plaza Midwood and NoDa and take advantage of Panthers and Bobcats games.

Some traditions from 50 years ago remain today, including the Boars Head Festival, a holiday event that celebrates Queens' English heritage. Current students also love the annual Casino Night, where professors serve as blackjack dealers, Homecoming Week and Midnight on Ice, an opportunity for students to detach from the stresses of academics and come together off-campus at a skating rink.

Another current student, Jamal Tate, hails from San Jose, CA and will graduate in 2015. Tate chose Queens because he wanted "a school that would develop me into a civic leader and challenge me to put the needs of others above my own." He lives off campus in an apartment. For class, Tate typically wears a shirt and tie. "My theory behind this is that I want to dress for success and be all that I can be. When I dress like this I find myself more focused and engaged in the classroom."

Tate is one of many students who are supported by scholarships raised each year through the Queens Fund. These scholarships can be based on academic merit, leadership, service or financial need. "Had it not been for the Queens Fund," Tate explains, "I would not be here. Queens saw potential in me and decided to make an investment in my future. They have also provided me with vital resources to ensure that I can be equally successful inside and outside of the classroom."

Jessica Rooney, of Orlando, Florida, was recruited to play lacrosse at Queens and will graduate this spring. While she initially heard about Queens through the recruiting process, she says, "I fell in love with the city of Charlotte and the beautiful campus when I came to visit with my family. I love the location of the school and the friendly and welcoming people on campus." While Rooney typically wears exercise clothes to class, she says, "There are days that I dress up and look cute when I get my workout out of the way or just feel like changing it up."

Rooney has a car and admits it has been "extremely helpful to get around - going to the sports complex, babysitting, getting to work, grocery-shopping, etc." She takes advantage of all that Charlotte has to offer. "I love going out and exploring the beautiful city that is right in our backyard. My favorite activities include going out to dinner, to the movies, to professional sporting events and concerts. I also love to go to Freedom Park and Little Sugar Creek to get outside and enjoy the scenery."

Like the other students, Rooney stresses the impact Queens has had on her life: "I have made lifelong friendships and connections with professors that I will forever cherish. I have truly been able to thrive in the Queens environment and have taken my opportunities to a completely new level." Rooney adds that through its motto, Not to be served, but to serve, "Queens has taught me the importance of putting others before you and how rewarding it is to give back."

Freshman student Mary Cannon Dickens is from Concord, NC. She enjoys being close to home but still feels far enough away to have her own space: "I love the small feel of Queens and the one-on-one atmosphere in the classroom." Dickens, who lives on campus, notes that for early classes, "I go with the 'roll out of bed' look! When I have time, I wear something more presentable."

Dickens has formed a close bond with her sorority sisters at Chi Omega. Favorite activities have included hiking at Crowders Mountain, playing dodgeball with a fraternity and attending holiday parties on Halloween and Valentine's Day. She continues, "The girls in my sorority are very nice and friendly. If something is going wrong or maybe you need help in a class, your sisters are always there to help you out. My big sister is the president of our sorority and a great role model. She balances a job and is a full-time nursing student."

Dickens describes a new campus trend: sitting in ENO hammocks (lightweight, nylon hammocks) outside with friends. "If you walk through campus on a warm day you will see maybe 10 ENOs tied up to the trees. Sometimes we play Frisbee also." She concludes, "I have met so many great people at Queens and have built some awesome relationships with students and teachers."

The athletic program at Queens has come a long way. While students from the 1950s and 1960s remember mostly intramural events, now more than 25 percent of all undergraduates are student athletes. According to Corder, "The teams are very supportive of each other, and I think with the Levine Center opening more people have been able to come and cheer on our teams." Tate also enjoys Queens' athletic events, noting that "they are a place where Queens students can come together as Royals." Rooney also notes, "Overall, athletic events are very important to Queens, and I think they will only become increasingly popular in years to come."

While there are several places to study on campus, many choose the library. According to Corder, "The student government pushed last year to expand the hours until 2 am, so night owls like me can get work done. The library tends to be a place to both socialize and study." Tate notes that the Levine Center offers an alternative to the library and includes a student common area fitted with TVs and fireplaces to make for a cozy study environment, especially for late night group sessions in the winter.

Like the students of the 1950s and 1960s profiled, current students plan on staying involved with Queens after graduation whether they remain in Charlotte or not. As Rooney concludes, "I definitely want to stay involved with the university that has had such a positive impact on my life. Queens has changed so much over the past four years that I have been here, and I cannot wait to see what is to come. I plan to be a very active alum and want to visit often!"

According to Tate, "Queens has provided me with the opportunity and network to thrive as a voice for my generation. Queens has supported me 100% and given me access to everything needed to pursue my dreams. Whether it's an event space, experienced mentors, or connecting with successful alumni, Queens has far exceeded my expectations. The authenticity and dedication of the faculty and staff continues to blow me away every day that I'm here."

While the face of Queens is ever-changing, former and current students share a passion for the place that has helped shape them into who they are today or will become tomorrow. On its leafy Myers Park campus, the university's commitment to excellence will surely continue for the next 50 years and beyond.

What's changed?

  • Went co-ed
  • Added graduate programs
  • Added professional degrees in business, nursing, health, communication and education
  • 18 NCAA Division II men's and women's athletic teams
  • A study abroad program ranked 7th nationally
  • Robust internship and career-readiness program

What's stayed the same?

  • Liberal arts core, undergraduate only
  • Commitment to service via motto "Non ministrari sed ministrare" or "Not to be served, but to serve"
  • Fantastic professors
  • Small classes
  • Honor code
  • Lifelong friendships
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