Receiving gratitude is synonymous with the warm feeling a young child feels when a grandmother wraps her long arms around the waist of the child and the aroma of sweet potato pie and lemon cake diminish any thoughts of anxiety.
In 1969, I was the recipient of the graciousness of President Ralph Scales, which set me on an irreversible life course. Arriving at a predominately white campus that fall, I was courageous but terrified because for the first time in my life I was surrounded by a white sea of people, and I could not escape to the loving assurances of my family. The first day on the campus, my mother and I faced the initial hurdle of the long registration line, and to my dismay, the staff person loudly and self-righteously announced that my tuition had not been paid in full, which meant that I was ineligible to register for fall classes. Mortified, I stepped out of line and harshly questioned my parents as to why they had not sent in the required tuition payment.
Mother was just as perplexed as I was, and we marched to the Treasurer’s office to ascertain the cause of this mishap. The Treasurer, the stoic and unrelenting John Willard, was unsympathetic. It seemed that one of my private scholarship payments had not arrived, and although the tuition was only $300 short, there was no “attend now and pay later” plan at Wake Forest. Gleefully, John Willard told me that my only option was to go home.
Fortunately, he underestimated the resolve of my mother. She went to the office of the President where President Scales graciously received us and listened to our story. Dr. Scales stated that he did not want to lose any students who wanted to be at Wake Forest. He asked if I had any Native American blood flowing in my bloodline, and my mother informed him that when she was a little girl her mother spoke fondly of her own mother’s Cherokee ancestry. Of course, Dr. Scales was delighted because that fact made me eligible for a scholarship established in his deceased daughter’s name for students with a Native American heritage.
From that day forward, my journey was sealed as a Demon Deacon and led to a host of friends, a marriage partner, a law career, a love of the Hindi language, and a lifetime of memories. I remember Dr. Scales with great gratitude, and I am forever thankful.