Dr. Carolyn Ward loved Shorter College. As a student at Shorter, she was active in student affairs, president of her class for 3 years and president of the student body her senior year. She graduated cum laude with a degree in biology and later became a well-respected physician in the Atlanta area. She was also a woman who brooked no nonsense.
She served on the Alumni Governing Board 1963-1964
She served as a trustee for Shorter College from 1986-1991, 1992-1997, 1999-2002 and served on the reorganized board from 2002 through October 7, 2005. She served as Chairman of the Board 2001-2002.
In 1997, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Alumni Association.
The faculty and Staff of Shorter College named her the Red Cross “Hero of 2003” as past chairman of the Shorter Board of Trustees.
The following are excerpts from her diary of her experiences with Shorter – a diary that she kept from 2001 until shortly before her death in 2011.
From her cover letter:
“ These last years (2001-2005) were tumultuous years for me and the rest of the Board, during which in the Fall of 2001 the College Executive Committee realized that the Georgia Baptist Convention which had the right to elect trustees since the 1959 charter was about to begin packing the Board of Trustees with men (sic) whose first loyalty was to the Convention. In spite of all that we tried – 2 face-to-face meetings with our boards and committees as well as meetings with both groups’ officials, numerous letters back and forth – - – we lost the decision of the Supreme Court by a vote of 4-3 in May 2005. Thus by one vote, the history of Shorter was forever changed as well as her future.
“. . . My grief and sadness has continued, especially as I see the predicted changes occurring. In addition the Baptist media, the now (2006 -2011) Board chairman and even the now president in his speeches, continue to rewrite Shorter history according to their own desires. They paint those of us who tried so hard, in the worst possible light.
“One thing I know is that I did my best, that I did what I thought I should and that I have no regrets. I would do it again.
From her diary:
“Fall 2001 – GBC elected 3 trustees who were not originally presented by SC [Shorter College]. They turned down a former trustee, the immediate past chairman of the Board and the immediate past President of the Alumni Assn. We asked them to reconsider. Especially since 4 ladies had rotated or resigned off the board, and Shorter, having a long history of being a woman’s college and today has approximately 65% women in the student body, we asked that the alumni president be nominated. They refused.
“Being the first time this had occurred and given the history of the politics and record of the Convention, it was immediately seen as a takeover of the board by the extreme fundamentalists of the Convention. It was also evident that such a takeover would forever change the entire character and soul of Shorter College.
“AT THE SAME TIME, it happened that this year of 2002 was the ten year audit to be done by SACS. The SACS Handbook mandates that a college through its governing board must be free of undue external pressure from any outside group. As the workup for the review proceeded, the SACS group found that they had questioned the independence of Shorter’s governing board 10 years ago and thus they focused on this unresolved issue.
“Since our paperwork had to be submitted to SACS by Jan1, the BOT on Nov 2 voted a lease arrangement for the management of the college, which was considered to be temporary until changes could be made with the GBC. This had not been accomplished by January 1 and so the lease went into effect on January 2. Because of the immediate furor and reaction that it met with the GBC’s leader, it was rescinded on Jan (date omission by the author) in order to work with the GBC as they refused to talk until it was.”
From February until November 2002, work went on in order to come to an agreement with the GBC on the selection of trustees. All efforts were met with the same sort of intransigence that is evident now. In May, the Shorter trustees passed a new bylaw to the charter in an attempt to clarify Shorter’s position regarding the election of trustees. The bylaw, in essence, set forth in writing what had been the agreement with the GBC since 1959. It said that the Georgia Baptist Convention would still elect trustees, just as it always had, but that the nominees would be qualified first by the College. The vote on the bylaw was split; it passed and became a bone of contention between the GBC –placed trustees and the rest of the board.
As was the custom, Shorter sent a list of proposed trustees to the GBC. The proposed trustees were to be evaluated by the GBC Nominating Committee and selections for each of the eight vacancies were to be made. The Nominating Committee would then present the slate of candidates to the full Convention for a vote. For each position, three nominees were submitted.
The Convention began and the Nominating Committee had still not informed Shorter whom they had chosen as trustees for the school. It was not until November 11 that the GBC Nominating Committee handed the list of nominees selected to the Shorter representatives at the Convention.
Dr. Ward writes, “. . . NONE of the 8 are from our list. Thus they have completely ignored our bylaw, have once again demonstrated that the Board is not independent and remains under the pressure and thumb of the GBC. This means we again have an issue with SACS.
“Rev. Mike Everson, chairman of the GBC Nominating Committee prior to reading the names of the GBC nominees, gave a “7 minute dialog” against the College and our President in particular. . . .He also made comments about the ones which Shorter had nominated to the GBC. He said that one woman had joined a Baptist [church] recently in order to be on the Board and there was a question about how much either she or her church gave to the Cooperative Program. He also said one of our nominees only went to church a couple of times a year. Etc. Their 8 nominees were, of course, elected.”
And so the process of electing trustees began. No longer would the trustees be vetted by Shorter. No longer was there a primary focus on the qualifications of the candidates as would best serve the institution. Trustees would now first be qualified on how much they or their churches gave to the Cooperative Program of the GBC.
For those of you who have been scratching your heads and wondering how we could get to the place in which we currently find ourselves, you must look to the beginning of the Fundamentalist take-over of Shorter.
We thank Dr. Ward for her diligence and love of Shorter and for sharing her insights with us. We hope that we can honor her memory, as we step forth in faith to declare that Shorter has always been a Christian institution of higher education.
Not once, in all of the controversy currently surrounding our beloved institution has the current administration pointed to the reason for the “need for returning Shorter to its Christian roots”. They have not. Shorter has always held to its Christian roots; it just has not sold herself to the Fundamentalist agenda. The Fundamentalists of the GBC now have complete control – not ownership, as no one owns a non-profit institution – of the school. The agenda at Shorter is no longer the pursuit of academic excellence; the agenda is power and control disguised in the name of Jesus Christ.
As Dr. Ward wrote, in reference to her leadership of a rapidly changing Board of Trustees, after the trustee election of 2002:
“God Bless Shorter. God bless our Board. And God help me to do my duty.”