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Thelma Sawyer McGraw, Alumnae of the Class of 1943, Makes Return Visit

August 4, 2014

Ms. Thelma Louise Sawyer McGraw, Class of 1943, visited the campus of Athens State University recently. She was accompanied by her daughter, Paula Burns, and granddaughter, Stacey Burns. McGraw and her family were taking a trip down “memory lane” while recording a living history of McGraw’s time at the former Athens College. Ms. Louise Strange Steele, Class of 1941, also joined them on the tour and the alums reminisced about their time on campus under the presidency of Dr. E. R. Naylor. Both McGraw and Steele remembered Dr. Naylor fondly and held him in high regard. He was the president of Athens College from 1930-1949.

McGraw was visibly moved with her visit and reentering Founders Hall. Founders was her dormitory before students were moved to Sanders Hall. “I can remember waiting in line against this wall for our mail”, McGraw stated as she positioned herself in the same place she probably did on a regular basis in the 40’s. The mailroom that she remembered so vividly is now a utility closet, and McGraw said that she shared her “large” dormitory room in Founders Hall with two other female students.

After stopping by the Parlor where McGraw spent much of her extracurricular time, the tour headed to McCandless Hall. This building also brought back a flood of memories. The auditorium is where McGraw received her diploma in 1943. McGraw went on stage and walked across one more time as she had done nearly 72 years before.

McGraw was in the Phi Sigma Literary Society and International Relations Club while at Athens College. She went onto raise a family and taught high school. The campus tour ended with lemonade and cookies at the home of our current President and first lady, Dr. and Mrs. Bob Glenn, before the family continued their journey to McGraw’s hometown of Bankston, AL.


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