SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, 1963 THE COMPASS PAGE THREE "She Openeth Her Mouth With 'Wisdom; And in Her Tongue is the Law of Kindness" Some there be whose personali ties are such powerful agencies for the good that, whether physically present or not, their’s is a rich bequest constantly available to those would profit from it. Edna Mitchell, in physical terms, left for an appointment with her Maker on August 8, 1963. Edna Mitchell, in spiritual terms, will not have left this campus several dozen college generations hence. From all constructive viewpoints, she is on extended vacation. People like her do not “die”. There once were three sisters, known to the Elizabeth City community as Jane and Phoebe Overton and Fanny Burke. Fanny married a gentleman named Hugh Cale. Cale served as a Pasquo tank county commissioner and Mrs. Cale as a school teacher. Later her husband went off to Raleigh where as a member of the North Carolina State Legislature he saw to it that an important Bill was introduced—A Bill which grew from a piece of paper to an Elizabeth City State College. Meanwhile, Cale’s in-laws, Phoebe Overton and her husband, saw to it that the family was enlarged and in due course undertook to rear their daughter, Mary. Mary V. Overton became a grown woman, married Samuel W. Harris of Hertford County, and on Decem ber 10, 1901 they became the proud parents of a daughter named Edna Cornelia. What- would be more natural than Edna’s schooling taking place at the institution established by her great-aunt’s husband? There the I ager finished in 1917 those courses available to her (two years of high school), under the aegis of a certain Peter Weddick Moore. Edna Harris then emulated her great-uncle, Hugh, and also went off to Raleigh. Her “Bill” there however, was a legislative enactment but a bachelor of science degree from Shaw Univer sity which she won in 1923 after six years of work. With this in hand, Edna promptly came home, applied to and was accepted by Dr. Moon a teacher at her first alma mater. Twenty-one years old Edna Harris began demonstrating loyalty to I school from the beginning. Quietly was her manner, but inexorably was her fiber, she also began insisting from the beginning upon her dents’ giving their constant attention to self-improvement. The young preceptress felt that “others should live up to all that the institution stood for,” to quote her sister, Blanche (Mrs. Harold Newell), herself an alumna of Edna’s school, Or, to use the quotation and charac terization by the student editors of The Normal Light (yearbook for 19 26): “ ‘Young ladies and gentlemen you just ought to get this.’ You can’t fool Miss Harris; she knows when you study and marks accordingly.” Edna Harris did part-time library work, taught a foreign language, laugh English and was once chair man of the English department. She turned up in 1929 as an advisor to the State Normal Banner. In 1936 she was an advisor to the S. N. S. (State Normal School) Monthly. Later she would become the institution’s director of publications and a pro fessor of English. Love for the beauties of her native tongue and for printer’s ink had come to the forefront; there it stayed. By now, John Bias was her presi dent since Peter W. Moore had become President Emeritus; and by now, Edia Harris had become Mrs. James Jeffer son Mitchell (December 23, 1936). By December 1948, Harold L. Trigg had served as president; former Dean Sidney D. Williams had suc ceeded him; and a journalistic effort some seven years old had begun to improve upon its preceeding issues under the'advisorship of Mrs. Mit chell. This newspaper was then called the State Teachers College News letter. In November 1950 Mrs. Mitchell enlarged the Newsletter; in December 1958, she did so again (this time to its present size); and in October 1960, she became advisor to the Compass, a name change having first choice among the student body. Student Council and with the administration and President. The next issue of the Compass bore its own medallion, designed by Hugh Bullock, Art In structor. If the publication expanded o”- campus, so its staff also expanded, both quantitatively and in terms of geographical sphere of operations. For the latter, Mrs. Mitchell made sure that selected students journeyed each March to Columbia University (source of her A. M. degree) for annual conventions of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. (The Compass, or Newsletter, had been a member of the Association since 1951.) More important however, is the fact that since that date as well as before it, many a student had ex perienced professional and personal growth by being directly associated with the paper and through its activ- ties, with Mrs. Mitchell. “She al ways advised students to retain faith in s!!lf and in God, strongly opposed mediocrity and encouraged excellence on the part of the student,” wrote Thelma Howard, now a senior. Such thoughts, shared widely, help explain Edna Mitchell’s being hailed by studer.ts in a page one newsletter item (March, 1948) or honored by the Women’s Government Asso- —Proverbs 31:26 ciation in May 1960 as “a person who has made a contribution and example for the students of ... (the) college to follow.” These are some of the tangibles; what of the intangibles? This is al ways the difficult question to answer satisfactorily but perhaps the poem on this page helps indicate answers. Perhaps the following except from the program for her last rites also helps: In her forty years of service she became known as a master teach er and counsellor, became senior member of the faculty in years of service, and earned a special place of highest personal and professional regard among ad ministrators, alumni, faculty and students. It is most striking that here was a woman who could gather nothing but accolades during her earthly sojourn under every president this in stitution has had. It is difficult to hear a hard word about Edna Mit-' chell. i Blue-jeaned laborers and faddish, sophomores; children who knew her and sophisticated doctors of philoso phy; whomever it is. the reminiscence is pleasant. This also implies that Mrs. Mitchell was active on and off campus. It says, as the spiritual has it, that This I ittle Light o’ Mine’ was allowed to shine wherever Edna Mitchell went. One may quote the obituary again: Early in her life she showed great talents, keen interest and constant willingness to work with those around and the Elizabeth City Alumni Chap ter the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. With all these activities, Mrs. Mitchell was yet closely knit to her family: her daughter, Sylvia Clare of Philadelphia; her sisters, Mrs. Pearl Shannon and Mrs. Blanche Newell of her. These qualities she carried into her chosen profession of teaching. A lifelong faithful member of Corner Stone Baptist Church, she was a dedi cated contributor (to) and supporter of the entire program of that Church. She was a constant and tireless work er in community organizations. She held offices, from time to time, in the Matrons Social Literary and Art Club, the Faculty Women’s Club, the Cheerful We Club, the National As sociation of College Women’s Clubs To Mrs. Mitchell | Mrs. Mitchell, now has come the day That I must be on my way. Still in my mind, you will remain, ’Cause life without you won’t be the Thoughts of you will still linger 5 almost ’Tho my College Days gone. With you as my guid; I shall march on with pride. In search for a loftier throne. Although my work here is ending,} School (Elizabeth City), Elizabeth City; her brother, Rufus Harris of Clarksville, Virginia; and certainly her husband, James J. Mitchell of the P. W. Moore High School Faculty. Nor did academic pursuits suffer. As highly thought of as a teacher as she was as a newspaper advisor, she sought additional experiences from which her students might be come legatees. These experiences in cluded advanced graduate study at Sarah Lawrence College, Antioch Col lege and New York University. There came, finally, August 12, 1963 — a time when an overflow of persons who would do homage, gathered in the building wherein was her office and named for him who first employed her. These persons heard J. S. Bach, other composers, spirituals, speak through music thus; things which strong men and wcmen could not put entirely into words. Isaac A. Battle, president of the General Alumni Association, the Reverend J. E. Trolman of St. Steph ens Baptist Church. Miss Queenie E. Ferebee of the Trigg Elementary President them and the organizations they rep resented; to express those thoughts occasioned in bold relief by her sud den and shocking death. She once heard in recital a group of Elizabeth City high school organ students and felt they should be heard on campus. They performed in June 1963. Two months later, subdued in mien, they returned, this time to play the organ while she lay in state. I Others of them returned to sing in the choir of her beloved church; still others “just wanted to be on hand” for the last rites as a gesture of re spect. The Corner Stone Choir joined in the snug eulogy with the College Choir both directed by her close friend, Evelyn A. Johnson, who years ago came to the College upon Mrs. Mit chell’s initial persuasion. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, there came perhaps the most succinct summary of her life given by Presi dent Walter N. Ridley as he ad dressed the class of 1967 during its Candlelighting Ceremonies: “She was a light to those around her.” Thelma Howard, a faithful worker on the Compass staff recently se lected these words to characterize her mentor; A face serene . . . A word of thought . . . Such high esteem this leader sought to give to those around her. In cognizance of so much that she was, and is, to this publication, the Compass thinks that it can do no less than try to perpetuate some rays of that “light” of which Dr. Ridley spoke; no less than try to build higher on ‘How Firm a Foundation’ Edna Harris Mitchell hath wrought. Requiescat in pace LRB COMMENCEMENT, MAY 1963 (MRS. MITCHELL IS THIRD FROM LEFT) I have just reached my beginning. | Ridley and the Reverend Dr. J. R. R. For I have much to say yet— - McRay of Mrs. Mitchell’s own Cor- That is — YOU — I shall NEVER j ner Stone Church, all gathered to ex- FORGET! i press as best they could those things j —Clarence E. Biggs | which Professor Mitchell meant tol At Columbia University. March, 1963

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