As other smaller colleges and universities dedicated to the education of students of the same gender struggle and seek ways to survive, Meredith College of Raleigh hits an anniversary that demonstrates its strength – and its determination to stay the course of tradition.
Meredith is now celebrating its 125th year. It is healthy and thriving, evidenced by its campaign to raise $75 million, with more than $50 million already raised.
Raleigh has been a staunch ally of the college. It is a city where many alums have settled, but almost all have worked in jobs while in school or performed a host of public service endeavors. Meredith also is a family school, with long histories of families, particularly those in North Carolina, sending their daughters and granddaughters and greats- and great-greats to the quiet campus on Hillsborough Street.
Meredith students have for generations worked for Raleigh families and businesses while in school. They’ve also moved up the business ladder in a variety of capacities, and a considerable number go on to graduate schools – many to the very best graduate schools.
Meredith’s leaders have been prominent fixtures in the community as well. Long-serving presidents such as Carlyle Campbell and John Weems were active in Raleigh civic life throughout their tenures. The beloved Campbell, who brought the college through the 1940s into the mid-1960s, looked and carried himself like a college president almost from youth. He was a progressive Baptist and proud of it.
The late Dr. Mary Lynch Johnson was an alum and a professor of English at the college for decades. A precise and demanding teacher, she also wrote the first history of Meredith and was a member of a large Eastern North Carolina family that has counted in its number over 50 Meredith alums in the last three generations.
Many alums hope Meredith will remain another 125 years with its defining character unchanged, a close-knit school on a park-like campus where students develop a lasting loyalty to their school and to each other. Current President Jo Allen, herself an alum, notes on the anniversary that it was a group of men who founded the college, believing that women – their daughters and wives – deserved a chance at higher education.
She also believes Meredith’s history is the reason for its increasing applications, along with the draw of the city of Raleigh and the energy of Research Triangle Park. But ultimately what has allowed Meredith to reach its venerable age is the enduring quality of its student body that keeps it forever young.