Recently I’ve been overseeing a project that involves scanning pictures from Harding’s archives and putting them in an online collection on Flickr. Anyone who knows me, knows this is right up my alley.
While looking through some of the most recent additions to the project, I found this picture. It was probably taken at Open House, a time when students interested in pledging a social club get to visit a table that is “manned” by members of each club.
“Manned” is not the right word for this group, though. These women are all members of Regina, and though they were active members before I was a freshman pledged the same group, I love this picture. It has joy, life, and friendship.
Last year, I was asked to speak on behalf of Regina at a luncheon that honored our long-time sponsor Bessie Mae Pryor. Here is the content of my remarks.
When Ann Dixon asked me to speak on behalf of Regina, I was both honored and terrified. How do I summarize in one brief speech the importance that Regina social club played in my life? And how can anyone describe the influence that Bessie Mae Pryor had on Regina?
In the fall of 1986, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions of my young life. Did I pledge the “family club” whose artifacts and memorabilia had filled my parents’ home or did I follow in my sister Sheila’s footsteps and pledge Regina? After much thought and many conversations, I chose Regina and anxiously waited to see if Regina would also choose me. The word ecstatic does not begin to describe how I felt when my sister and 40 other young women handed me a bid the following Sunday afternoon.
If I had any second thoughts about the quality of Regina, they were ended with induction week. After a week of major and minor dates I was blessed to be a part of a longstanding Friday night induction tradition that still brings tears to my eyes when it comes to mind. Yes, Regina was a group of exceptional women and yes, Regina was now a part of who I was.
But Regina was and is special because Bessie Mae Pryor is special. I pledged Regina in the last year of her forty-year tenure as sponsor. By this time, Bessie Mae’s gracious, God-seeking character had permeated the nature of the club to such an extent that to many of us, Bessie Mae was Regina. Her hospitality was extended to us regularly: club meetings, afternoon teas, and homecoming brunches were just the beginning. Many Regina alumni also mentioned sleepovers, free laundry service, and a place to “crash” when late night work on the Petit Jean or Bison kept them out after curfew. Her home was our home and we were able to learn hospitality and love for others while sitting at her feet. As a social club who sought to emulate the worthy woman of Proverbs 31, we were blessed to have a living, breathing example right in front of us.
But I am not the only Regina alumna who counts my decision to pledge Regina as one of the best of my young life. Listen to these words from other Regina alumnae:
Sherry Alkire Thompson, ’83
Bessie Mae was the poster child for grace, elegance, and hospitality. I still make her spiced tea for gatherings. A piece of her has followed each of her girls and we are truly grateful for her presence in our lives.
Dani Trammell Waites, class of ’80
Bessie Mae is one of the most genteel women I have ever known. Her poise and inner beauty made her into a most Godly women to those around her. She had great strength of character and an extreme love of God evident to all of us.
Sheila Underwood Vamplin, class of ‘88
William Faulkner wrote a short story entitled, “There Was a Queen.” It highlights the qualities of a woman with regal bearing–not because of a position she was born into–but because of her depth of spirit, her dignity, her compassion, her righteousness, and her strength. When I was in college, I wrote a paper on that story, with my grandmother in mind. There aren’t many women in this world of whom I can honestly say, “She reminds me of my grandmother,” because my grandmother was truly a queen among women.
But as I reflect on the influence Bessie Mae had on me through Regina (and Petit Jean, and church), I can say honestly that she reminds me of my grandmother. She is a queen, and through her beautiful, faithful example, she helped us grow a little closer to becoming the royal priesthood that God intends us to be.
Michelle Sutherland Sullivan, class of ‘89
Bessie Mae was a mentor to so many of us. I count myself very fortunate to have known her and learned from her. There are so many things I do today because of Bessie Mae. I came to Harding knowing that the woman I was to be would be formed while I was there. Thank you Bessie Mae for being a godly woman, teaching and loving all of the Regina Queens. Happy Birthday and may God’s blessings continue to fall upon you richly.
Thank you, Bessie Mae, for being who you are and for sharing yourself with us. In the words of CS Lewis, “Once a queen, always a queen,” and there will never be another Queen quite like you.
Lisa Underwood Burley, class of ‘90
My oldest daughter once said, “Mom, I hope that when I’m grown I have friends as amazing as yours are.” Becca, I hope you do too. My Regina sisters were just the beginning of an amazing series of women that God has brought into my life. Sisters to laugh with, cry with, and pray with. Sisters who know how to have good fun — the kind you can tell your children about 20 years later — and who are not afraid to hold me accountable when I’m struggling.
So today I thank God for Regina and for all the women who have blessed my life since then.
And thank you if you are one of those women.