Mrs. Shirley: A Final Exams Tradition at ATU

It’s the fourth and final morning of final examinations for the fall 2017 semester at Arkansas Tech University. Faculty and students are pushing to reach the finish line in anticipation of the holiday break, a respite that is finally within reach.

These are the moments when we all need someone to provide us with a little extra support.

At ATU, that someone is Shirley Drewry Dodd.

She is positioned in her familiar spot in the Witherspoon Hall lobby, an echo-filled, three-story space reserved for study, fellowship and the occasional nap among Arkansas Tech students pursuing knowledge in the arts and humanities. She says Witherspoon Hall is “kind of like home” because of the admiration she had for Gene Witherspoon, director of bands at Tech from 1950-79, during her time as a student.

Dodd is there for each day of final exams, spring and fall semesters, passing out free breakfast provided by the ATU Alumni Association and filling that cavernous space with just the right mix of encouragement and nourishment.

She is not alone in her volunteerism. Dozens of her fellow Arkansas Tech alumni and friends give of their time at the close of each semester in academic buildings all across campus. Muffins, fruit, cider and coffee constitute the menu for fall exams.

Most volunteers sit or stand at their tables and exchange pleasantries with passers by. Not Mrs. Shirley, who has been at it since 2008. She actively recruits students, faculty and anyone else in the vicinity to her post with a fervor that demonstrates her affection for Tech. Everyone gets breakfast until all the breakfast is gone.

It’s a trait that she ties back to her days as a cheerleader at Arkansas Tech in the 1950s.

“They are really, really close,” said Dodd when asked to compare cheer leading to alumni volunteerism. “They’re both about promoting Tech.”

A product of Paris High School, Dodd originally made her way to Arkansas Tech because of her high school counselor, Mr. Challis. He saw potential in young Shirley and connected her with a job in the Tech dining hall so she could pay her way through school. She worked for Eunice Brownlee Ferguson, lived in Caraway Hall under the watchful eyes of dorm mother Margaret Young and studied elementary education in Lena Rexinger’s classes.

Dodd graduated from Arkansas Tech in 1959. After 14 years as a classroom teacher in Little Rock and Russellville and 17 years as a guidance counselor at Russellville High School, Dodd has remained involved in education by serving her alma mater.

She was a member of the Arkansas Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2008-10 before becoming president-elect of the organization in 2011 and president in 2012. She was a member of the committee that planned the Arkansas Tech centennial celebration and helps organize reunions and philanthropic efforts by the “Caraway Hall Girls,” a group of alumnae who lived together on the Caraway Hall third floor in the late 1950s.

Dodd’s dedication to ATU was recognized in 2015 when she was inducted into the ATU Hall of Distinction under the Distinguished Alumni Service category.

“I’m here because of Tech,” said Dodd. “I wouldn’t have met my husband, David, without Tech. Our two kids wouldn’t have had educations here. I never expected to come to Tech. My mother was divorced with three kids to take care of. This is a kind of payback for all that Tech has done for me.”

Additional ATU Alumni Association breakfast during finals volunteers for the fall 2017 semester included Sabrina Billey, Angela Bonds, Linda Boyd, Twylla Brock, Lauren Bryan, Regina Burris, Hannah Bush, Hailey Canada, Cindy Chaffin, Sue Chiolino, Jim Collins, Ann Davis, Billy Gene Davis, Shawna Davis, Jordan Denton, Peggy Ferris, Tracy Hale, Jill Hendricks, Linda Higgins, Randy Horton, Carolyn Ishee, Kara Johnson, Camille Jordan, Annie McNeely, Johnette Moody, Julie Paladino, Sherry Polsgrove, Howard Ritchie, Dot Stratton, Gary Stratton, Mary Beth Sanders, Betty Snellings, David Snellings, Bethany Swindell, Heather Taylor, Carla Terry, Liz Underwood, Chrissy Vang and Christy Villanueva.

Photographed (from left): Kelly Davis, director of alumni relations at ATU, and Arkansas Tech alumnae Angela Bonds, Shirley Dodd and Sue Chiolino. 

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