W.Va. State Honors Alumna Who Will Celebrate 102 Years in November


W.Va. State Honors Alumna Who Will Celebrate 102 Years in November

CLEVELAND – West Virginia State University President, Dr. Brian O. Hemphill, attended the annual picnic of the University’s Cleveland alumni association Sept. 8 for a special presentation to Ms. Vada Smoot McGowan.  McGowan will be 102 years old Nov. 4 and is believed to be WVSU’s oldest living alumna.           

“As President of West Virginia State University, I am humbled and honored to be associated with such an extraordinary alumna,” said Hemphill. “While I am proud of all our graduates, Ms. McGowan’s 50 years of devotion to public school education has represented West Virginia State with an uprightness and selfless dedication not often seen.”         

In 1929, McGowan’s mother brought her by train from Madison, W.Va., to enroll at West Virginia Teacher Training High School, then located on State’s campus, to complete her high school education. After graduating, she began studying for a bachelor’s degree in Education at State, inspired by her first-grade teacher.           

“From the time I was seven years old in 1917, and I learned that there were school teachers, I knew I wanted to become one,” she said.  McGowan describes her experience at State as rewarding. “Those were very enjoyable years,” she said.  According to McGowan, dormitory rules were a bit different in 1929. The 16 young ladies in residence had to be inside Fleming Hall dormitory and accounted for by 7 p.m. every evening. They had study hall from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and were in bed, with lights out, by 9:30 p.m., she shared.

After a year and one summer of college courses at State, McGowan was sent to a teaching position in Madison, returning to campus for 10 summer sessions until completing her bachelor’s degree in 1944. She taught grades 1-12 for 30 years in Madison. She then moved to Cleveland and taught primarily second grade for an additional 20 years in the Cleveland Public Schools, before retiring.          

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