Long-time Stillman Employee Annie Mary Gray Plans for Retirement
Tuscaloosa, Al (June 18, 2014) – Annie Mary Gray was born on Stillman’s campus 70 years ago, grew up about ten blocks away and has worked for the College for the past 47 years. She is also a Stillman graduate. The novelty of her story never fails to attract attention. In the past two years, she has made the headlines of the local newspaper, The Tuscaloosa News, twice.
Gray was born in Snedecor Hall, which was formerly the Emily Estes Snedecor Nurses' Training School and Hospital. For many years the building, which is now used for offices and classrooms, was the only health care facility for black people in West Alabama.
Although her work in the College’s Division of Institutional Advancement entails assisting alumni and serving as an adviser to the Pre-Alumni Council, she is also among a handful of long-time employees who are viewed as keepers of Stillman history.
For many, she is an invaluable link to the past. She knows the stories behind the buildings, the people and even the magnolia trees on campus. As she strolls across campus, she points to an area on the lawn where there used to be more magnolia trees. “Some were lost in a storm,” she recalls. She also remembers the day in 1982 when students and employees gathered around as a time capsule was buried outside the Batchelor Building, where her office is now located, and the excitement surrounding the first game held at the College’s football stadium.
Because she has worked for so many years, Gray can testify to just how drastically technology has changed the workplace. While a paper jam at the copier may aggravate employees today, she remembers a time when making a copy was a serious undertaking. “You had to put on an apron before you made a copy because you would end up covered with powder,” she says.
At the end of June, Gray plans to retire. Although she lives in walking distance from the campus and promises to remain active in the National Alumni Association of Stillman College (NAASC), many people feel as though Stillman will lose a bit of its history when she leaves.
Long-time Stillman employee and former NAASC President Willie Mae Wells calls her a “Stillman icon.”
Current NAASC President Jean Sykes-Wilson, who served as Miss Stillman in 1989, muses that because Gray was born on campus, lived on campus and worked on campus, she is a Miss Stillman in her own right.
Luvenia Cain, who has worked for Stillman for 37 years, says, “I feel almost too emotional to speak about her retirement. She’s been here so long and she really knows our alumni and works so well with them. The entire campus will miss her. ”
Gray admits that she will miss being on campus each day. “I’ll really miss serving as adviser to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Pre-Alumni Council. I traveled often with the students, and it was always such a joy to work with them.”
Fortunately, she promises to maintain contact. She is a board member of the NAASC, the secretary for its Tuscaloosa chapter, secretary of the Stillman Tiger Varsity Club and a member of the Stillman Women’s Council.
“I won’t be in my office every day,” she warns. “But after this many years, Stillman will always be a part of me.”