Megan Benoit, Campus Carrier Features Editor
Leo Narrison, Asst. Features Editor
|Photo courtesy of Sam Harris|
|Freshman Sam Harris and grandmother, Martha Dodd McConnell at Oak Hill. Harris now works at Oak Hill as a historical business inspector. He plans to major in history and political science.|
At 88 years old, Martha Frances Dodd McConnell is one of the few remaining people who attended the first schools on Berry’s campus.
McConnell moved to Berry when she was seven years old, after her father, William Vestus Dodd, received a letter from Martha Berry asking him to work in food services for the school. Dodd had attended high school at Berry and graduated in 1928. He worked for Miss Berry while he went to school.
Miss Berry made such an impact on Dodd that he named his daughter after her. Martha Frances Dodd McConnell grew up attending Possum Trot, the middle and high school on campus, and then graduated from the college in 1950 with a degree in English and History.
When McConnell first met Martha Berry, she joyfully welcomed her and her family to the campus by giving McConnell and her brothers each a toy. It was a moment that McConnell said she will never forget.
“That is the kind of person she was,” McConnell said. “She recognized that we were the new kids, and brought us all a toy.”
Miss Berry died when McConnell was in the seventh grade, but has many fond memories of her from her childhood.
“Mountain Day was always so important,” McConnell said. “When I was in elementary school, when we were at Possum Trot, Miss Berry came up for her birthday and brought a cake as long as she lived. We would always look forward to Mountain Day and doing the Grand March.”
McConnell had several jobs throughout her time at Berry. When she was in high school she worked at Sunshine Cottage, which was the weaving room at the time. In college, she worked in the sewing room, where she helped to make the girl’s uniforms. During the summers, she worked in the Cannon Plant on Mountain Campus.
McConnell did not live in the dorms during college, since her family lived on campus, but she was still very connected with the social life at Berry.
“The Moon Building is what they originally called the ‘college store’, and it contained the grocery store, book store and the uniforms were sold there,” McConnell said. “One end of it was the socializing area called the tea room. That’s where you could go in between classes.”
Following her time at Berry, McConnell pursued a career in education. She became an elementary school teacher and then moved on to educational supervision and administration. She got married and had two daughters. Even though she still views Berry as home, she now lives in Powder Springs, GA.
Returning to campus now is very different for McConnell. Many buildings have changed, been added or taken down. Her childhood home was called Fairfield Cottage and was located where Morgan and Deerfield now reside. Her parents are also buried next to the College Chapel.
“You had to have worked so many years for Berry, and had to have known Miss Berry in order to be buried by the chapel,” McConnell said. “You had to earn your place, and my mom and daddy earned their place.”
McConnell continues to visit campus quite often because her grandson, Sam Harris, is a freshman at Berry. Harris grew up coming to Berry and always knew that this is where he wanted to come to school. He is a history and political science double major, a part of the Winshape Program and works at Oak Hill as a historical building inspector for main campus.