By Jacob Waring
From 1948 to 1952, Carolyn Vanacore attended Southern during the era before campus was bustling with student life. She recalls the days when there were only two structures that housed a collegial community; a classroom and an administration building. She experienced the humble days of the university being a two-year teachers school and lived to see the diverse selection of majors offered today. Tuition, at the time, was $10 to $50, in comparison to the thousands students either pay or take out as loans today
Since graduating in ’52, she still teaches part time while working with student-teachers. She is still very involved with the Alumni Association. She considers herself a linchpin to generations of people in the state since she always was actively involved with Southern. It was a different time, a different era. Vanacore had been part of Southern as a student, faculty, mentor and interacted with the legends whose names are on the buildings.
The best advice Vanacore says she can give to students is to reflect about themselves and decide what they want to do with their own life.
Her generation of women certainly had fewer choices. However, she knew early on she wanted to be involved in education. She says taking an introspective approach to one’s abilities and knowing who they are will determine the path you would want to choose for a career.
“I think I would say to look at your skills, look at how marketable they may be, how they will fit into the outside world and how they will fit into your life so you can be successful no matter what you choose to do,” she says.
Throughout the generations of students who attended Southern, what remained the same was student’s intensity and commitment, she says. She sees this today in the work she does with student-teachers and can witness that intensity and commitment within those she supervises as future teachers.
There is no question the first time I meet a student, that I’m going to supervise in his or her student-teaching. I know from the get-go which one is going to be super good. They’re all good. Everyone has to be good enough, grade point and etc. But there are some people, some of our students we just know are going to be a very good teacher,” says Vanacore.
Every administrator from Hilton C. Buley to Michael J. Adanti and everyone in-between, had their heart in building the university, she says. She followed their lead with her mantra, “This is your job, do it to the best of your abilities for the betterment of these students.”
When she worked at the university, parents with athletic children would be given a tour of the campus. She would invite the parents and their child to her office and tell them their child would be treated as if they were Vanacore’s own flesh and blood.
“If you leave this student here, I’m going to treat them like my own. If they step out of line, they’re going to hear about it. If they do something good, they will be patted on the back,” she says.
Nowadays, she thinks that kind of special handling has been done by coaches to players because the university has grown.
All her advice, compassion for students and commitment to be the best Owl possible for the community has led to her being recognized by the university for the Distinguished Alumna Award.
Despite how the university has evolved from its humble origins, Vanacore believes campus, and the community are better today than when it all started.