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Walking in their Mother’s Footsteps

Photo: Phillips and Alderman visited campus in October 2023 to meet some of Meredith’s current international students and enjoyed lunch together. Dr. Brooke Shurer, Atiqua Prithu, ’25, Shae-Lynn Henderson, ’25, Anne Parker Phillips, ’66 (top row pictured from left to right). Mary Stuart Parker Alderman, ’71, Wanjiru Mambo, ’24, Margo Alfieri, ’11 (bottom row pictured from left to right).

Margaret Weatherspoon Parker, ’38, was a strict parent with high expectations of her two daughters. So when Anne Parker Phillips, ’66, and Mary Stuart Parker Alderman, ’71, decided they wanted to honor their mother with a gift to Meredith College, they wanted to make sure it would be something she would have been proud to support.

“Despite her high standards, she was a champion of the underdog,” said Mary Stuart. “She was an angel in disguise to many people and was the epitome of a Meredith Angel.”

The Parker family had a long history of support for women’s education and support for those in need. Later in life, as Margaret enjoyed traveling abroad and seeing places very different from her North Carolina home, she understood the importance of knowing about and understanding cultures beyond one’s own. After discussions with Margo Alfieri, ’11, regional director of strategic giving, about the need for a fund to assist Meredith international students experiencing unforeseen hardships, Anne and Mary Stuart made a gift of $50,000 to establish the Margaret Weatherspoon Parker International Student Fund in honor of their mother.

International students will have the opportunity to receive up to $5,000 in an academic year for circumstances such as medical emergencies, housing, bereavement travel expenses, and other needs deemed appropriate. The fund will be managed by the Office of International Programs.

“I am in awe of our international students, who have often traveled across the world in pursuit of a Meredith College education. They are brave, strong, and ambitious students who are such a valuable part of our community,” said Brooke Shurer, director of international programs. “When unexpected challenges arise in their lives, international students are often not able to access government aid, financial loans, additional work, or family circles of support to weather these storms. This fund meets a direct need to ensure that these students are supported during the most vulnerable of times. We are truly grateful to Anne and Mary Stuart for honoring the legacy of their incredible mother in this impactful way.”

The sisters felt the gift was a fitting tribute to their mother, and it would be how she would have wanted them to respond to the need, just as she would have done.

“She would have loved meeting the Meredith international students and learning from them about their families, backgrounds, and aspirations. She cared for those with challenges, as made obvious by the agencies she supported with her time and talents. She helped those who couldn’t help themselves,” said Anne. Mary Stuart added that it was appropriate for them to provide resources to Meredith to emphasize the importance of a well-rounded education to address not only the academic but also the physical and emotional development of the students.

Since Anne and Mary Stuart appreciate the value of the international diversity these young women bring to Meredith, they want to help those courageous and determined enough to venture to the U.S., especially to Meredith, to broaden their education.

Two of Margaret’s three sisters also attended Meredith: Laura Weatherspoon Harrill, ’27, and Stuart Weatherspoon Upchurch, ’36. The fourth sister attended Hollins College, and their mother attended Greensboro College, both women’s colleges. In 1968, Margaret’s uncle, W. Herbert Weatherspoon, then a trustee of Meredith, and the four daughters of his late brother James R. Weatherspoon initiated the fundraising campaign for the new physical education building at Meredith with a major gift, thus having the gymnasium named for the Weatherspoon family. Margaret’s other financial contributions to Meredith include endowing a scholarship, supporting the library, investing in the addition of the Weatherspoon Gymnasium, supporting the Meredith Fund, and meeting other needs on campus. Margaret was honored to be asked to serve as a trustee, following in the legacy of her uncle Herbert and sister Laura, and served on Meredith College’s Board of Trustees from 1974-1998. She was proud to be Meredith’s first female Board Chair from 1991-93.

Margaret also served on the N.C. Baptist Convention’s Committee on Higher Education with her pastor and other moderate Baptist leaders who opposed the Southern Baptist Convention’s increasingly restrictive edicts. Mary Stuart says her mother was very proud to be at the helm of the Board of Trustees when the decision was made to sever the College’s ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in defiance of their position on women in leadership roles.

“Mother always encouraged us in our leadership roles, insisting that it was most appropriate for us to be in positions of church and community leadership, and yet she shunned most leadership roles as inappropriate for her,” said Anne. “Though she was uncomfortable in the leadership role as Board Chair, she felt strongly about the issues and decisions that were facing Meredith because of the change in leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.” Mary Stuart added, “She wanted Meredith to continue to be a woman’s college and was determined to help maintain the College’s status as a single-sex institution.”

“Mother came from and continued a legacy of giving to help others,” said Anne. “She was fortunate to have the ability to make an impact with her resources and was involved with quite a few philanthropic endeavors.” Margaret was an active member of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., co-founded the Missions Memory Fund, and was a member of the Women’s Missionary Union. She was a sustaining member of the Junior League of Winston-Salem, served as the President of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine Guild, was a Board member of the Amos Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital and Senior Services of Winston-Salem, and was active with the Winston-Salem Foundation.

Margaret was an avid bridge player and quite competitive. She enjoyed knitting, gardening, playing piano, and eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and soft ice cream. She enrolled her husband and herself in ballroom dance classes in their middle age and enjoyed displaying their new skills at countless parties and wedding receptions. She loved taking her grandchildren shopping for a toy and treating her adult daughters to a new outfit every time they visited.

Anne and Mary Stuart have wonderful memories of their mother and all the good she did to help others. They are pleased that their gift to Meredith will keep her memory alive and show international students that others care about their needs and affirm their desire to further their education as Angels at their alma mater.

You can further the impact of Anne and Mary Stuart’s effort by contributing to this fund. Visit community.meredith.edu/SupportMC and select “Other” from the designation drop-down box. Please type in Margaret Weatherspoon Parker International Student Fund to designate your gift to this fund.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330

allenme@meredith.edu
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