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Mary Kathleen Ranson, Class of 1936, Touches the History and the Future of Longwood

Kathleen Ranson's fees for the quarter are OK ­ from Miss Hiner"

Mary Kathleen RansonThese words, hand-written on a piece of paper and not dated, covered tuition for Mary Kathleen Ranson through four years at State Teachers College in Farmville, now Longwood College.

She began making the two-and-a-half-mile walk to campus when she was four years old. That was when she entered kindergarten at the "lab school" of the college. Her home was Scott Green, 250 acres with a house built in 1776, just outside of Farmville. She attended the school through fourth grade, then entered public school.

Ranson was a good student and as a high school senior was salutatorian of her class, "but times were difficult."
Her mother took her to see the man who had been the college president since 1902 ­ J. L. Jarman. It was a fruitful meeting, for at the end, Dr. Jarman reportedly said, "Anybody as eager to go to college as you, we'll certainly find a place for you here. Go to Miss Hiner's desk and tell them I sent you, so that you can get enrolled." In response, Miss Winnie Hiner, college treasurer, wrote the note that Kathleen Ranson still has today.

Looking back to her first years in college, Ranson says, "I majored in elementary education. Everybody assumed
I'd stop after two years. But I had no intention of stopping. I just kept taking one step at a time." Her interests beyond elementary education included the study of French and athletics. She says, "I played everything ­ varsity field hockey, basketball, tennis (I was the only freshman to make the varsity team), plus softball and volleyball."

Even for an athlete, it was a long two and a half miles home after a day of classes and a basketball game. Ranson remembers that sometimes Coach Olive Iler gave her a ride
home: "Sometimes she'd get stuck. We had to get the mules to pull her car out, oh, half a dozen times."

By her junior year, Ranson was working to pay her fees and to repay the college. She had a job in the chemistry lab and as an assistant to Coach Iler.

In 1936 she graduated from the State Teachers College at Farmville with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and physical education. She left for Augusta County where she taught elementary school at Spotswood and coached the high school basketball team. During her first year of teaching, she paid back the balance of her college tuition and fees. She taught in Bedford and then at Georgia State College. In 1939 she started graduate work at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and earned a master's degree in 1941.

That year, she "thought it would be interesting to do something else," so she joined the Navy. She chose communications in Norfolk, coding and decoding messages. "We had to take pistolry lessons. We had to wear pistols if we were carrying a secret message to a ship. Well, of course, that just advertised what we were carrying. I'll never forget going out to a big aircraft carrier, with thousands of sailors on deck. I 'begged permission' to board. As soon as I went on board, the sailors, who had been at muster, were dismissed. All of them looked at me and as if on cue started singing, 'pistol packing momma, put that pistol down.'"

WWII ended and Ranson was eager to get back to teaching. She left the Navy but stayed in Norfolk and started working on a doctorate. She took courses at night while teaching as director of a reading clinic as well as teaching psychology and counseling. Then she moved to Missouri
and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She was 37 years old.

Dr. Ranson soon joined the faculty at Central Missouri State College, near Kansas City. Specializing in reading and educational psychology, she was a professor of education there until she retired in 1981. During this time she served as consultant to several Missouri education associations and worked on professional journals and publications. She initiated the University's off-campus student-teaching program and set up a reading and study skills clinic for students there.

In 1986 Longwood honored Dr. Ranson with the Distinguished Service Award, citing her as "an example of a lifetime of learning and teaching." Dr. Ranson has honored
Longwood with gifts, including the Kathleen Ranson Scholarship in elementary education and the M. Kathleen Ranson Professorship in the School of Education. The current Ranson Professor is Dr. Betty Jo Simmons who helps prepare some of the finest educators in the Commonwealth.

In 1932, Dr. Jarman made an investment in the education of Mary Kathleen Ranson. Her "lifetime of learning and teaching" is the return.

Judy McReynolds
Associate Editor

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