This is a special “Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Happy Birthday” tribute all rolled into one for a noble teacher who was a major influence in my high school years and throughout my life.
A significant honor and well-deserved recognition was announced publicly on February 11, 2006 at a grand luncheon at Choestoe Baptist Church sponsored by Truett McConnell College of Cleveland, Georgia. The previous two-year college, now transitioning to a four-year program, has been approved by accrediting agencies to offer a four-year degree in education. The name chosen for the newly-confirmed division of the college is the Dora Hunter Allison Spiva School of Education. So as not to be such a long-drawn-out name, it may be shortened to the Dora Spiva education program. However, to those of us who have known and loved her as Mrs. Dora Allison and Mrs. Dora Spiva, we like the full name, giving her maiden name of Hunter, her first married name to the long-time ordinary of Union County, Frank Allison (1901-1969), and to her more recent (1974) marriage to her “childhood sweetheart” Daniel Spiva (1900-1985) after both lost their first spouses to death.
The event at Choestoe Church’s commodious new Family Life Center was held despite snow flurries and predictions of foul weather. Some braved four inches or more of snow in their respective locations to attend the “Dora Spiva Celebration.” Over 150 guests had made reservations to attend; some let the threat of snow hinder the travel. But still a wonderful and joyous crowd was there to enjoy the tributes to Mrs. Dora and the announcement of the School of Education to be named for her.
Pastor Dick Stillwell of Choestoe Church welcomed the guests and gave accolades to “faithful member” “Aunt Dora” who braves the elements still to be a regular attendee and participant in the services at Choestoe Church.
Her membership in and work at the church span more than nine decades, for there she has been a teacher. She helped to found Woman’s Missionary Union in 1929, and became a leader of this women’s organization in church, Notla River Association, and Georgia Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union as a divisional vice-president. She served as Superintendent of the Sunday School in a time when women were not usually elected to major leadership positions in a local church.
From Truett McConnell College were president Dr. Jerry W. Pounds, Sr. and his wife, Bayne; Dr. Sam Cash, Vice-President for Advancement Services; Dr. Susan Gannaway, Professor of Education who wrote the proposal for the four-year degree program approved by accrediting agencies; Dr. DeWitt Cox (and his wife Edna), special consultant for the campaign to raise funds for the Spiva School of Education; Ms. Edna Holcomb, now associate with Dr. Cash in the Office of Advancement as Dean of Institutional Support and long-time professor at the college; the Vice-President of Academic Studies; music professor Ms. Kathy Duren; students Rachel Bailey and Michael Bailey who sang; and student Brett Carson who rendered background piano music during the luncheon. Others from the college were present for the luncheon, with food provided by the ARAMark Food Service which also manages the cafeteria on campus.
The Blairsville Garden Club of which Mrs. Dora was a founding member made lovely arrangements not only for the speakers’ table but for each of the round tables where guests enjoyed a delightful meal, good conversation, and the program that honored “Aunt Dora.” Everywhere one looked were smiling faces, savoring the atmosphere and reveling in the association with one whom they loved and honored.
Representative Charles Jenkins of the Georgia Legislature, a student of “Aunt Dora,” Class of 1947, was present to present the Georgia House Resolution in her honor. However, the framed bill did not arrived due to the snow, because Representative Terry Johnson did not hazard mountain roads to be present.
There were light and serious moments interspersed as testimonies to Mrs. Dora’s influence came from County School Superintendent, Tommy Stephens. He said he was never known for his acumen in Mrs. Dora’s math classes as a high school student and it took a stint in the military and Truett McConnell College (he is an alumnus) to set him on the right course, as well as remembering Mrs. Dora’s sound advice when he “liked sports better than studies” in high school. Mr. Stephens lauded the integrity of Union County Schools, past and present, due to dedicated teachers. He is excited about the new School of Education which will train Christian teachers for future jobs in the county.
From her niece, Dr. Austine Hunter Wallis, an outstanding math educator, counselor, administrator and in “Who’s Who Among America”s Teachers” came funny stories about how the then near-centenarian, her real Aunt Dora and Austine’s Uncle Roscoe Collins could out-do her on trips to California and elsewhere. She said, in tribute, “My Aunt Dora inspired me to become a teacher.”
From Dr. Paul Abernathy, former student, came accolades of how Mrs. Dora inspired him to buckle down, study, seek higher education. For twenty-seven years he was on the science faculty of Purdue University.
Clyde Collins, retired educator and principal, gave a tongue-in-cheek report of how sometimes Mrs. Dora was late to first period Algebra class when he was her student, and he, therefore, just got “half a class of Algebra II.” But, before Mrs. Dora retired, he was her principal at Union County High School, and he could then tell her she must be on time, that punctuality is one of the sure marks of greatness.
In addition to Dr. Pounds, Dr. Cash, Dr. Gannaway, and Dr. Cox of the college, those on the Dora Spiva Campaign Steering Committee are Ethelene Dyer Jones (Union native now living in Milledgeville, or “yours truly”) Honorary Chair; and from Blairsville, Rev. Troy Acree, Mr. Clyde Collins, Mrs. Janet Hill, Representative Charles Jenkins, and Rev. Charles (Dick) Stillwell, and from Cleveland, GA, Rev. Doug Merck. We have a large challenge before us: Raising $1.1 million dollars to endow the newly-formed Dora Hunter Alllison Spiva School of Education at Truett McConnell College. If any of you reading this would like to show your own love and appreciation for this outstanding teacher who touched your life, you may send contributions to Truett McConnell College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 100 Alumni Drive, Cleveland, GA 30528. A million dollars is reached by small gifts and large gifts, donations of love to one who has made a difference in our lives and whose influence will continue to touch many lives in the future.
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Feb. 16, 2006 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.