Hurley, West receive Catawba's Shuford Award

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

SALISBURY — Salisbury natives Gordon P. Hurley and Martha Kirkland West were honored by Catawba College on April 10 as recipients of the 2011 Adrian L. Shuford Jr. Award for Distinguished Service.
Catawba College President Joseph B. Oxendine presented the awards to Hurley and West in a ceremony held in Hedrick Little Theatre on campus. The awards ceremony was part of the college’s annual President’s Circle event.
The award is given each year by Catawba to one or more people who have played a major role in supporting the college and its programs and the broader community through their time, talent and resources. It was established in 1983 in honor of trustee emeritus Adrian L. Shuford Jr. of Conover, who died in 2000.
Gordon P. Hurley
Oxendine called Hurley “a man who scorns the spotlight, but believes whole-heartedly in giving back to his community.” Hurley, who attended UNC Chapel Hill, was one of three sons born into the family that ran the local newspaper, The Salisbury Post, from 1912 to 1997. He and his brothers watched and learned as his family helped shape the community, providing jobs for many with the newspaper, but also becoming leading philanthropists. Many projects in the community bear the family’s name, including Hurley Park and the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.
Through the J.F. Hurley Foundation, which Hurley’s father started in the 1980s, gifts have been made to Rowan Regional Medical Center, Rowan Vocational Opportunities, the Norvell Theater, Catawba College, the YMCAs in Salisbury, South Rowan, East Rowan and Davie County, Hurley Park, the Salisbury Depot, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center, Hospice, Dan Nicholas Park, and many more. One special project that Hurley and his family saw successfully completed in the recent past thanks to their combined resources was The Buck Hurley Youth Center, named after his late son.
At Catawba, Hurley has helped fund various athletic programs at Catawba, including Friends of Wrestling, baseball, football, soccer and swimming, as well as the Dutch Meyers Auxiliary Gym, Shuford Stadium, the Hayes Field House project, landscaping, and scholarships. Hurley has also given his time. He served on Catawba’s board of visitors and has served on the board of managers of the Nazareth Children’s Home in Rockwell, the Rowan Regional Hospital Foundation, and is a past board member of Rowan Hospital. He and wife Carolyn are members of First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury.
In accepting the award, Hurley joked that the remarks Dr. Oxendine made about him were “greatly exaggerated to the point of fiction.” He then turned the tables, thanking Catawba for its role in shaping the community.
Martha Kirkland West
Oxendine knew and played football for West’s father, the late Coach Gordon Kirkland. He joked that he and other players would have given West more attention during her early teenage years had her father not been their coach.
West, a 1959 Catawba alumna, spent the first 12 years of her life on the campus of Catawba. She knew college faculty, staff, presidents, first daughters and first ladies on a personal basis.
Her father died when she was only 16, but by this time, she had a strong sense of place, of home, of Catawba, and a strong sense of the importance of education. Her mother, the late Alene Kirkland, was a teacher, and West was destined to follow in her footsteps.
An honors student at Catawba, West majored in English and minored in history, and served as the editor of the college’s student newspaper, “The Pioneer.” She went on to earn her master’s of education degree and her doctorate in elementary education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She enjoyed a long career in education and held three very different positions. Her first job was as a fifth-grade elementary school teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. She was happy in that role until, during a visit back to Catawba, then college president Dr. Donald Dearborn invited her to return to the college as a member of the teacher education faculty. She accepted his offer and spent the next 16 years as a college professor, making strong connections with her young adult students.
During her tenure as a faculty member at Catawba, she met and married her late husband, Dr. James King West, who served for 22 years as professor of religion at Catawba.
Her last official job in education lasted 17 years and was as director of elementary education for the Rowan-Salisbury School System. This gave her another opportunity to nurture relationships with her former college students, many of whom had gone on to work in this same school system.
Even after she retired, education called her name. She served for four years on the Rowan-Salisbury school board and two years of that time was in the role of vice-chairwoman. Catawba asked her to serve on its board of trustees in 1995, and she has served continuously on the board since that time.
As Catawba approached its 150th anniversary in 2001, West was tapped to serve as one of the writers and as the editor of the institution’s sesquicentennial history titled “A College of Our Own: The First 150 Years of Catawba College.” When Catawba established its Shirley Ritchie Academy for Teaching in 2007, the scholars of that academy were named the Martha West Scholars in her honor.
A Civil War history buff, she has been involved with the Rowan Museum board for many years. She also serves as a docent for the third graders’ tour of the museum. She served for many years on the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony board, and as president of that board for two years. She has served on the board of the Salvation Army, and serves on the session and as a member of the choir at her church, John Calvin Presbyterian.
In accepting her award, West thanked Catawba “for being in my life all of my life.” She noted that she had been the recipient of three miracles in relation to Catawba. The first miracle, she said, was when Dearborn asked her to be on the faculty; the second was her being invited to serve on the Catawba College board of trustees; and the third miracle was her receiving the Adrian L. Shuford Jr. Award from Oxendine, someone who knew her father.