Livingstone Golden Graduate still in education education
By Brent Johnson
“Mrs. P” was working when the first computers came along, and she didn’t think much of them.
She sums them up in three words: clink, clonk, clunk!
At 71, Annie Pruitt still feels she was more than a match in accuracy and finesse for that early technology. And unlike those first machines, she’s survived five decades in education and still works as a substitute teacher in local schools today.
Pruitt was recognized May 3 as a 1958 Golden Graduate from Livingstone College, reaching 50-year alumni status along with local classmates Shirley Leazer and Shirley Johnson. The trio, friends since high school, are members of the local Livingstone Golden Graduate committee.
Johnson and Leazer have retired. Pruitt has not and is still influencing students like the day she began work at Livingstone in 1962.
She hears “grandma” a lot, not only from her grandchildren and great-great children but also her students.
A native of Salisbury, Pruitt grew up and worked in a manual world. The convenience and comfort of technology that exists today was not reliable throughout Pruitt’s endeavors.
Sometimes, experiences seem to mesh together in the years of hard work, Pruitt says.
“Wait,” she jokes, “I wasn’t 58 when I graduated.”
After graduating from Price High in 1954, Pruitt enrolled in Livingstone College and married Sylvester Pruitt two years later. Children, Sylvester Lenard, now 50, Marsha, 48, Matthew, 46, and Alan, 42, joined them by 1965.
She graduated from Livingstone in 1958, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business education.
She then took what she refers to as an “extended vacation” from Livingstone ó before returning to the college again.
Pruitt actually went to work in the still-segregated Salisbury City School System ó at Price High School as a secretary-bookkeeper from 1959 to ’61. She transferred from Price in the city system to Dunbar High School in the Rowan County School System for another year.
She returned to Livingstone in 1962 and worked continuously for the college for 37 years, while also holding a receptionist job at the Rowan County YMCA for eight of those years.
She spent her first decade at Livingstone in Guidance & Personnel to purposefully test and serve every student. In 1973, she became the first female financial aid director at the college, working with the late Rev. Dr. Edgar French. She worked with the Dean of Students and College Minister’s Office to propose the college’s first federal student financial aid package.
Students often called her “Mrs. P” or “the money lady” because she was responsible for more than half a million dollars in programs, including federal funds, loan programs, grants through the United Negro College Fund and other private foundations and athletic and institutional scholarships. She and her staff successfully financed around 600 students every semester for 19 years at Livingstone and eight years at Hood Theological Seminary.
“It was like a tug-of-war for a while” she says, referring to the manual methods of financing such a large number of students. But she took satisfaction in providing an opportunity for less fortunate students, offering them the financial tools to graduate.
When she worked at Livingstone and Hood, the college yearbook recognized Pruitt for her special dedication to students one year, and she received other awards through the years.
She was also a member of the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administration, both regional and state for eighteen years and a member of the Advisory Board four years.
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Mrs. P earned a master of science in adult and continuing education from N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro in 1988.
Pruitt had a stroke “luckily and unluckily in June 1991.” She was glad it happened when it did because she was able to recover from numbing symptoms in time to work for the school year in August.
She retired from Livingstone and Hood in 1999, and that same year, she took a job as guidance office secretary and teacher at Knox Middle School.
She has been a member of Moores Chapel AME Zion Church for 57 years, Zeta Phi Beta for 52 years and the New Jubliee chorus for seven years.
Though she retired in June 2006, she is substitute teaching in the Rowan-Salisbury School System. Six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and classrooms full of students still get the chance to share grandma’s wisdom.
The students always tell her, “Well, I guess that’s what my grandma would do.”
Other members of Livingstone’s 2008 Golden Graduates class are:
Alfred A. Adjahoe, Cleo Jackson Bailey, Althea Tillery Becton, Josephine Avery Bess, Rita Barber Blake, James Walter Bridges, the Rev. John L. Bruce, the Reverend Ocie M. Brown, Jossie C. Bruce, Shirley Bell Bynoe, Louise P. Campbell, Louise C. Collier, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Corry, Annie Morton Davis, the Rev. Howard D. Davis, Lonnie P. Davis, Bertha Kornegay Edwards, Benjamin Floyd, Dr. Robert Gest III, Walter Goodman, Robert Hall, William M. Hall Jr., Jean M. Harley-Moore, Gladys McIntyre Hill, Lillie M. Hill, Doris Rivers Hood, Delores Bush Jenkins, Shirley Ann Johnson, Daniel Jolly, Loretta Chapman Kincaid, Shirley Ervin Leazer, Barbara L. Martin, Robert H. Mathes, Theodore Mattison, Janie Steele Mauney, Gerelene M. Mayfield, Dr. Willie McNeil Jr., Mrs. Lucealus Robinson McWharton, Eula Felton Monk, Wessie Morris, Mae R Neely, Barbara B. Patrick, Edward M. Patterson, Ella L. Peterkin, Annie Leazer Pruitt, Rebecca M. Pugh, Clarice Jones Sellers, Carrie Solomon, Donald L. Staton, Dr. Ndugu G. B. T’Ofori-Atta, Harold F. Thomas, Lentula D. Land Thomas, Sylvia Pinkett Tilghman, Esther M. Turnbull, James Williams and Jordan Kermit Wilson.