Stetson University Class of '67 - A Love Affair That's Lasted a Lifetime
| Stetson University is my Alma Mater, Class of '67. That's a long time ago so you can easily figure out how old I am. But age has a way of "hopefully" making us wiser and even a bit smarter than when we were undergrads. I met my husband, Ron, when I was a sophomore. I saw this good looking "new kid on the block" across the cafeteria sitting with a friend of mine. I boldly walked over and sat down with Ken Steele and this new guy. Ken introduced me. Ron told me he was majoring in philosophy and I said I was planning to teach special education. Usually shy and known to be a wall-flower, for some strange reason I let lose with an unusually perky personality. Very odd behavior for me! As I later was told when we finished eating and I left the table, Ron turned to Ken and said, "That's the girl I'm going to marry." That was in September 1964 and as I type this it is February 2019.
Ron and I married the following August 1965. He became the Head Resident of Carson Hall and we lived quite luxuriously in the basement apartment, a darling one bedroom place on Amelia Avenue just behind the new science building Stetson was constructing. I became the pastor's secretary at the First Baptist Church to supplement our meager income.
May 1967 our first daughter was born, Amy Elizabeth. She was the first baby to live in a dormitory on Stetson's campus. Way back in the dark ages teachers who were pregnant were not allowed to teach or intern past their fourth month. Ron and I were to graduate in May but since I could not intern I could not graduate. That meant financial trouble because I needed a job to support Ron while he went to graduate school. Amazingly Stetson officials stepped up to assist us. The Education Department allowed me to take independent studies my last semester. Because I was so uncomfortably huge and trying to finish my PE requirements by taking Golf and couldn't even swing the club, the coach let Ron swing for me! Can you believe that? And I passed! But even more amazing was the brilliant idea of the Dean of Men, George Borders, who arranged for me to intern at Osceola Elementary School in Ormond Beach that summer - a first for Stetson and Osceola. Amy arrived a week early and 10 days later I was driving to Ormond Beach. Ron graduated on time with President J. Ollie Edmunds shaking his hand and announcing, "This young man not only is getting his diploma today he got a beautiful baby last week!" Stetson faculty and staff were always helpful, always caring.
August found me with a diploma in hand and a teaching job at Greystone Baptist Church in Durham NC. Ron had been accepted to Duke's Divinity School for his Masters. We loaded up the van, Ron driving it while I followed in our '67 green Mustang, little Amy next to me in her infant seat. As we pulled away from Carson Hall I looked in the rearview mirror and with tears streaming down my cheeks I promised, "We'll be back."
We tried to return to Stetson on several occasions after Ron graduated from Duke then went on to receive his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. No openings were available. Ron's first teaching job was at Francis Marion University in Florence SC and there we put down roots. I became immersed in historic preservation and the environmental movement while Ron taught philosophy, wrote articles and books, and played tennis. Our second daughter, Erin Latimer, arrived in 1975. By then we had decided that we would return to Florida (I was a native and Ron had grown up in Sarasota) when we retired. Then in 1995 after teaching 27 years in special education I was able to buy in 3 years and retire early. We purchased a historic house in downtown St. Augustine where I moved while Ron continued to teach in SC and commute home on the weekends. Then in 1999 we decided to move back to DeLand.
It was Good Friday, the sun was shining, Amy was married with 3 boys and Erin was at Georgia Tech. We were heading to DeLand to look for a house. We drove down Amelia Avenue and there at the intersection of Pennsylvania was it: A large stucco yellow elephant of a Spanish Revival House. For Sale. It was directly across the street from Fraternity Row where Ron lived his first year when the Pi Kappa Phi House was then the Honors House. And right at the traffic light on Amelia and Pennsylvania at 6am May 23 1967 as Ron was driving me to Flagler Memorial Hospital to have that baby the radio played "Amy" and at that moment we knew we had found the name for our first child. Right in front of that house.
Thirty-two years later we saw that house and its historic location to our lives intrinsically intertwined with Stetson and we knew we were home. We hurried to the realtor's office and asked her to show us the house which she said had been on the market for a year and the following day the listing was to expire. She was off to a meeting but said she could give us a couple of minutes. I told her that was all I needed! She unlocked the door and we walked into the kitchen then into the living room and stood looking up at the arched ceiling, exposed beams, and marble fireplace and we knew we were home. We literally embraced and shed tears of joy.
Ron continued to commute every other week between Florence SC and DeLand while I restored Smith-Hall. (I was formerly Margaret Smith) so we thought this would be a fun play on words as Stetson already had a Smith Hall. Then when we least expected it Bob Perkins, a philosophy professor at Stetson and a friend of Ron's, called Ron in Florence. Around 10pm my phone rang at Smith-Hall and Ron said, "Bob just called. He wants to know if I want a job at Stetson."
All you could hear on my end of the line were sobs. God had answered our prayers of 34 years. We were truly home. Ron was allowed to take a leave of absence for a year at Francis Marion to build up his retirement and become a visiting professor at Stetson. Then the following year Ron retired from Francis Marion with the blessings of its incredible president, a native Floridian, and drove home for the last time. Truly prayers are answered - No, Wait, and Yes. We received the "No," then we waited, and finally after we had given up, the "Yes" was gifted to us.
Six years later a former resident at the Honors House where Ron lived, Jay Mechling, found out which house we lived in. He gleefully informed us that he was sending us a present. When it arrived from California it was a painting of our house done by a Stetson art major both Ron and Jay knew who sat out in the backyard at the Honors House and looked across the street to that old yellow stucco home and committed its image to paper. That painting now resides in a prominent place in our living room.
I went on to write two historic photographic books about Stetson and DeLand, donating my royalties to Stetson's environmental education center and DeLand's historical society. Ron became Chair of the Philosophy Department and our youngest daughter, Erin, and husband Justin moved to DeLand. In 2006 she opened FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital behind my real estate office. Then in 2010 our firstborn, Amy, and family moved back to Florida. Life is good.
As Mark Twain touted, “History doesn’t repeat itself; but it does rhyme.”
UPDATED: JUNE 2022 My daughter, Dr. Erin Holder, sold the FloridaWild business and talked her sister and family and us to relocate to Hawaii. We retained the buildings which the new business rents from us. Life is still good! ALOHA!!!