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HOMECOMING 2002: 1952 Union graduate stays busy with volunteering

JACKSON, Tenn.Feb. 12, 2002 – Union’s tuition was less than $100 per quarter and girls couldn’t wear shorts, even for P.E. These are just a few of the things that Union alum Virginia Conger, who is attending her first homecoming since graduation in1952, remembers about her experience at Union.

Alumni and friends from all over gathered together during this year’s Homecoming Week to reminisce on old times and to see how Union has grown and changed.

“I think that this reunion is special because it is our 50th anniversary and when you get to be our age you are so happy to be able to participate in something that happened a long time ago where you thought ‘Maybe I wouldn’t be here,” explained Conger.

“I grew up in the country and I went to a country school. I never learned to think for myself until I got to Union, especially in literature,” said Conger. Conger believes that it wasn’t until she attended Union that she learned how to think for herself.

“You know how we dissect literature now?” asked Conger. “In high school we just sort of read it and asked questions about it, but when I got to Union, there was one teacher there, Dr. Thurmond, my English professor, who really made me think. “He would challenge you to look for some hidden meaning or other interpretation other than just ‘the cat is black’ – he would ask us ‘why is the cat black?’

Conger recalled that the Lexington Inn, a local diner at the time, was the place to socialize and study between classes for many Union students.

“The people who ran the Lexington Inn were very student oriented,” said Conger. “You could sit there for an hour and study and they wouldn’t mind. It was also inexpensive. You could eat a meal for about a dollar,” laughed Conger, admitting that times have changed since then.

Although many things have changed, Conger says that one thing that remains the same is the heart that the faculty and staff have for the students.

“They really care about the students and desire to see them grow to reach their full potential in learning and in life,” said Conger.

Graduating in 1952 with a degree in teaching secondary education, Conger later returned to Union several years later to get her certificate in elementary education. After graduation, Conger devoted much of her life to teaching, pouring herself into her students in the same way that she feels the faculty of Union poured their lives into her. She taught at West Jackson School for 17 years and at Highland Park for 14 years.

Now retired, Conger continues to stay active as a volunteer in the community. She volunteers at the Jackson Madison County General Hospital and visits with the cancer patients in the oncology wing. She pushes a “good humor” cart as she makes her rounds. The cart is filled with books, puzzles, magazines, turbans for those who have lost their hair and other items for the patients enjoyment. Conger adds her own special touch to the cart by baking a homemade cake each week and bringing it with her to share with the patients.

Conger is also the liaison for her church in the “Partners in Education” program, and helped call all of the members of the class of ‘52 to encourage them to come to this year’s homecoming. Her husband recently bought her a T-Shirt which reads “Stop me before I volunteer again.”

According to Conger, her advice to anyone would be to remember that any decision you make you have to live with.

“You do have to live with yourself, you don’t have to live with what people think about you,” Conger pointed out. “It affects you, but what they think about you doesn’t really count deep down. It’s what you are that counts.

“It took me a long time to realize that I can’t pattern my life by what someone else thinks or expects – I have to live with me. If you remember to live your life so that you can live with yourself, well then, you’ll be okay,” said Conger.

By Davie Moore,
Class of 2002


Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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