When inspired by her high school Latin teacher, Ms. Tillett, to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1955, Harriet anticipated both the new and the familiar. Rush week for sororities was one of Harriet’s first experiences on campus – one that was very hectic and distracting to her studies.  Though determine to be in one, she never fully believed in the sorority system, for they seem to cause division in what was an otherwise close-knit college community.  When they were later banned after her graduation, she did not mourn their loss. She also recounted the required chapel services where Dr. Quillian, the College President at the time, would talk and talk about how people believed in the school and would therefore financially support it.   Though at the time she was not sure why she as a student needed to hear so much about donors and supporters, as she entered into her career of development she realized how important cultivating such support is for non-profits, reflecting that Dr. Quillian, for this and many other reasons, was “a person ahead of his time.”

            Reminiscing about life in College, a few businesses that stick out in Harriet’s memory include Pearson’s Drug Store, the Cavalier Store, and the Hollins Mill Drive-In. The Cavalier Store was a popular choice amongst Randolph for their tasty hot dogs. The Hollins Mill Drive-In was also sought after by many students at the time as they would pile into their cars to eat at the entertaining “hole in the wall.” Some establishments remained off-limits for R-MWC students, such as the Dahlia on Bedford Avenue – a few students took the risk in going sometimes. Back on campus, various rules were in place to create a proper learning environment for R-MWC students. Even if they were of age, students were not allowed to drink within 20 miles of Lynchburg city limits. There was also a sign-in rule that was in place to ensure that all students were accounted for. One of the “unintended benefits” of the strict R-MWC atmosphere was Peggy Hicks, who worked at the campus switchboard (ultimately for 45 years!), would provide her perception of the blind dates that would come to pick up the ladies at the college for their planned nights out.

            After she completed her degree and her children were older (she met her husband, Franklin while in college), Harriet would later return to Randolph-Macon after meeting with Muriel Casey who had also attended R-MWC and had returned to serve as the Director of the Alumnae Office. Harriet replaced the retiring Ellen McNamara where she would help run the school’s campaign and efforts for public donations, including the Annual Fund. When Harriet started working at the college, the development offices were on the third floor of Smith Hall, now classrooms and faculty office space.  Her office later moved to the Butler House, named for Dr. Butler, the pharmacist at the College Pharmacy (called “The Drug” when she was in college), across the street from the college on Norfolk Avenue. Harriet spent twenty years at the college before moving on to her work as Development Officer for Patrick Henry Boys & Girls Homes (later renamed Patrick Henry Family Services).

            Harriet also touched upon the history of the Whitten Funeral Home.  Working for an already existing funeral home, Harriet’s father-in-law had noted the differences between funerary services for the well-off versus those of more modest means.  Deciding that all people needed to be better served, he founded the Whitten Funeral Home in 1937.  Located at 1336 Park Avenue, over the decades other branches have opened up throughout central Virginia.

Interviewed 6/29/2010




From her childhood visits to arriving at Randolph-Macon, finding her love in Lynchburg, and having several careers (including working at her alma mater), Harriet has seen many changes over the years but one constant is that Lynchburg has been home, and those who know Harriet and her contributions to the city are the better for it.


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Gerard Sherayko

Department of History

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