Peace College educated me on more than just academia. It is where I met some of the greatest women I know, and made some of the closest friendships I have. Dianna is one of the kind of friends that stick with you through thick and thin. I know because she has stuck by me, and I have done the same with her. Had it not been for our meeting at Peace, I’d be missing a sister-friend for sure.
I Grew Up with a Brother and Discovered I Had Sisters
By Dianna Marshall Mangum, ’97 & ’99
In my junior year at my very small high school, I was an average student with BIG goals. When I informed my adviser that I wanted to go to college, she asked me to list the college’s I had in mind and she would get me some information on them. I listed Carolina School of Journalism. My big brother was attending the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and I knew exactly where I wanted to receive my degree from. I was going to be a Carolina girl; even if I had to kill somebody for their spot.
Needless to say, I was not part of the 2% of high school girls that consider attending an all-female educational institution. Shoot, in high school, I really didn’t like having female friends; there was too much drama and cattiness from the girls. So the idea of an all-female college was the farthest thing from my mind.
Not sure how my name was put on the mailing list of Peace College, but I began getting mail from an Admissions Director named Martha Ammons almost weekly not too long after my meeting with my adviser. I got invitations to speak with her about my college career, visit the school with my parents, attend meet and greet events and even an overnight weekend with a current student. I accepted the overnight weekend visit just as an introduction to college living.
I remember being driven to Peace by my mother and thinking that I would never navigate around the beltline. We approached Peace from Glenwood Avenue and as we slowly drove past the front of campus on Peace Street I believe I actually gasped at the sight of Main with the glorious columns. That’s also where I stayed that weekend. And that’s the weekend I fell in love with Peace. I was mesmerized by the campus, the history I felt, and the community of the students. In that 2 day visit, I had changed my mind; I no longer wanted to be a Carolina Girl. I felt at home and knew that I wanted to be a Peace Girl.
A few months later I attended the C2: Composition and Computation Workshop at Peace, staying in Ross with other rising high school seniors. At the conclusion of those 2 weeks I had fallen more in love with Peace as a whole, met a young woman who to this day is my best friend, and had turned in my application for admission. I went back home to convince my father that this was indeed the place for me even though it had a large price tag attached to it.
Once my father was on board with my choice of Peace College; we waited. I did not apply to any other school and had weekly checkup phone calls from Martha Ammons and the President Dr. Briggs. I remember receiving the phone call from Martha when she told me that I was accepted and that I should get my official letter in the mail shortly. I cried with joy, my mother cried with delight and my father cried with pride.
On move in day, a day I had been packed for weeks for in anticipation, we all drove to Raleigh together as a family. I could feel myself bouncing with nerves and excitement as we drove around the beltline. We actually pulled onto the brick walkway to unload with the assistance of all these smiling faces introducing themselves as my Peace Sisters. After the last box was placed in my dorm room in Main, my parents had to leave. I walked them to the car, gave hugs goodbye and turned to walk back to my new home, never looking back. My father told me some years later that as they drove away and watched me walk up the brick sidewalk, waving to new friends on Main’s balcony, with a “pep in my step” and never once turning around to look back, he said he knew that this would be the place that I would transform from his little girl to a mature, strong, classy, intelligent woman.
Peace College was a 2 year institution in 1995 but I attended a meeting with many of my new classmates that was held to discuss the idea of Peace being able to offer both an Associate’s degree and Bachelor degrees. We were told the transition to include the 4 year programs would be a gradual one; we would be the first to be able to attend all 4 years at Peace without having to transfer elsewhere and then back. And the best part, you could receive both degrees from Peace if you chose to. I was sold!
I took part in all the traditions of Peace including convocation, 2 week closed study, weekly chapel, singing the alma mater around the fountain, peanut week, dancing on the lawn during Parents weekend, inviting a family member for little sister weekend, going to class in my pj’s and a baseball hat and even putting bubbles in the fountain. I ran for Student Government Vice President, was at the introduction of the Peace Pride, worked at The Attic Pizza joint upstairs in Belk, was a member of the Peace Peer Advisors, and I was the only 3 year Editor-in-chief of the Peace Times newspaper and winning the Peace Times award twice. I found my voice, my drive and my life while at Peace. Peace helped shape me into the woman I am today.
I did a lot during my 4 year tenure at Peace; and out of those 4 years there are 4 days that will live in my heart and memories forever.
The day I moved in; as I mentioned after sending my parents on their way home I turned and walked back up the brick sidewalk. Unaware of my parents experience at that moment, I remember feeling the warm sun come over me as I approached Main and those glorious columns, looking up to see these welcoming women’s faces and knowing I was exactly where I needed to be.
The day I met the Journalism professor that would challenge me, push me, root for me, praise me and intrigue me; Mr. Dan French. He was not like anyone I had ever met and certainly did not have an office decorated like anyone I had ever met. But he spoke to me as an adult in a way that was not only respectful, but as if he already knew that I had a strong voice and he gave me the confidence to express that. I personally owe a great deal to him.
The day I graduated with my Associates degree adorn in my white dress my mother had made for me, long white gloves and carrying 13 red roses. The ceremony oozed with tradition and history and I was so honored to be a part of it. As I crossed the stage and was handed my degree and a bible I looked in the crowd at my parents and it was like there was a beam of pride shining off of them. And at the conclusion of the ceremony circling the fountain, singing the alma mater and throwing a rose in the fountain (to symbolize leaving a piece of myself with Peace while taking a piece of Peace with me). My dress is still hanging in my closet. I was part of history, as this is no longer practiced.
And finally the day I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications; this time walking tall with my green robe and cap following the young ladies in their white dresses. Feeling like a role model to those ladies and knowing I was a mature, strong, classy, intelligent woman; just as my parents had hoped. The circling around the fountain, singing the alma mater and throwing my rose in the fountain was even more powerful the second time around. Again I was part of history, Class of 1999, the first class to attend 4 years consecutively, attending all classes on Peace campus to receive their Bachelor degrees. I was surrounded by my sisters and considered a woman and no longer a girl. Although we all knew we would all be Peace Girls forever. Sisters forever.
Peace College as an institution, a learning environment, a community, and a family shaped me as a woman and as a human. Attending the private, all female college gave me opportunities that would not have presented themselves at a larger co-ed university. I was meant to attend Peace College, and I felt like Peace College was meant for me and young girls like me.
I proudly display my degrees from Peace College on the walls of my office. And I look at the print I have framed in my home of Main and her glorious columns every morning. Years after graduating, my Grandfather gave me a gift I value as one of my prize possessions; my Peace College class ring. I wear it almost daily and I wear it proudly. I appreciate that I have that token of my time at Peace College.
I had aspirations that at least one of my two daughters, if not both, would attend Peace College and feel the same magic I did and grow as I did into mature, strong, classy, intelligent Peace women. Sadly that dream is fading fast. But as my Alma Mater goes through a radical change, I used it as a learning tool for my girls, ages 8 and 5. I took them to a Rally on a September day to congregate with my Peace sisters to express our distaste of the decisions being made to our beloved Peace College. I took my girls to show them to stand up for what you believe in. I wanted them to see and be surrounded by strong, mature, classy, intelligent women. And I wanted to teach the lesson to not let anyone mute their voices; because in essence, I found my voice at Peace.
There was one other thing that Peace gave me that has been so valuable to my journey in life; my two sisters/best friends Meredith and Roni; to whom I talk to on a weekly basis and see as often as our schedules permit although we are separated by hours of travel. Meredith and I met at the C2 Workshop in 1994. We moved into the same dorm in 1995; Main. That’s where we met Roni. And to tell you stories of our friendship would be a whole book by itself. But these ladies and I have been through just about everything together in our adult lives: spouses, children, marriages, money woes, career changes, location changes; intolerance; hostility; you name it, we’ve dealt with it together. Always together as sisters.
I am a Peace Girl; I will always be a Peace Girl. I grew up with a brother and discovered I had sisters.
*Also posted in Dianna’s notes on Facebook.
*Photos: 1) Meredith & Dianna Associate’s Graduation ’97. 2) Dianna & Roni (that’s me) Baccalaureate Graduation ’99. 3) Dianna & her daughters Amaya & Gwyneth. 4) Roni, Dianna & Meredith.