I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. Went to a daycare/elementary/high school run by that same church. I was immersed in Southern Baptist beliefs and traditions my whole childhood; no pants at church, no clapping, dancing, drinking etc. My Junior and Senior year in high school we didn’t have a prom, we had a banquet where we all dressed up, went and had a fancy dinner at a country club or some nice place that the current Junior class set up for the seniors and a slide show of the Seniors growing up. Then we went to someone’s house and hung out before going home. I grew up learning Bible verses from the time I was in preschool. Every grade had a Bible class and chapel every week. A Bible was just as an important class requirement as pen and paper. The first time I was exposed to a pregnancy out of wedlock was our Senior year when the Homecoming Queen got pregnant by her best friend’s brother who was also her boyfriend. The school didn’t know what to do with her so they let her be homeschooled when she started to show and didn’t let her walk the aisle with us at graduation. But they couldn’t really hide here since there was only 11 of us in our graduation class and there was a total of 300 in the Jr/Sr High at that time. It was quite the scandal!
When it came time to look at colleges, Shorter just immediately appealed to me. I didn’t even look at my local colleges for some reason. I think Shorter’s small classes appealed to me due to the small classes I had in high school. The moment I stepped foot on the campus I knew it was where I wanted to be even though it was three hours away from everything and everyone I had grown up with. Did I also mention that I was the first person in my family to even go to college? So, needless to say this was a HUGE step for a sheltered ( yes, I realize I was sheltered growing up), sometimes shy girl.
I learned so much during my time at Shorter. I learned of differing opinions on the same topic, that you’re not going to hell if you don’t attend church every time the church doors are open, and learned that there are SO many different people out there! One room mate I had taught me that you can cut loose AND worship at the same time. She took me to her home church ( which was Pentecostal) and I heard speaking in tongues for the first time. Another time we visited a very friendly black church ( where we stood out as the only two white girls there) but they welcomed us with open arms and firm handshakes. I never knew that worship could be so exciting with clapping, dancing and just speaking with whatever came out of your heart . No sitting stock still with blank expression for these folks!
Speaking of dancing, I was surprised to learn that Shorter had dances! Dances at a BAPTIST school???! Dances for the beginning of the year, Halloween, end of the year and sometimes just to blow off steam! I learned to do the electric slide at Shorter. Coming from a childhood where dancing was frowned on, I was surprised to say the least, But I discovered that all dancing wasn’t bad and can be quite de-stressing! I even learned to waltz and polka at the yearly Viennese Ball ( which I loved).
Shorter has always been the best four years of my single life. This school made such an impact on me in so many areas of my life. I made friends that I still keep in contact with. I keep more in touch with my college friends more than most of the high school friends because I feel my Shorter friends are truer than most of the shallow friendships I had in high school. I was always proud to say I graduated from Shorter and even more proud when it became a University, but am now rather embarrassed due the current situation. I was even more proud to hear when the school was going to get a nursing program. Being a nurse myself, I knew these nursing students would get a quality education like I did for my Biology degree. But my heart was saddened to hear of the departure of so many nursing faculty before the nursing program had really gotten its feet wet. Knowing how hard it is to get quality nursing faculty these days I feel the students will suffer in some part.
I understand that things must change, but some changes are more detrimental than they are worth. I see Shorter becoming the narrow minded school of my youth. I know that the Shorter I loved and became a better person through has to change to keep up with the times but why take 10 steps back into the dark ages and run off so many wonderful people in the process? I remember going back for my 5 year reunion and seeing the old gym now a student center with a Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Subway. I would have never seen that coming, but I know that the school had to add those things because of the current student population. Those are GOOD changes. I just don’t want to see my dear friend Shorter become a hollow version of herself. That instead of being a place of personal discovery and challenging yourself to be even better, it becomes a cookie cutter university churning out the same sort of people every year. I grew up a lot at Shorter. Mentally, spiritually, and philosophically. I have never regretted going there and miss it terribly. I would love to visit the campus again but feel that I would have such an overwhelming sense of loss that it would be more akin to attending a funeral than reliving fond memories with a wonderful friend.
I hope that Shorter can come out of this somehow with her reputation intact and the school doesn’t have to teeter on that ridge of the abyss where some schools have fallen into. I hope that Dowless and company can take off their blinders and take out their earplugs before it’s too late and a grand lady is thrown overboard by a callous dictatorship.
Sharon Huff is a Shorter alumnus. Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your story with us.
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