Mary Louise Ott Spain, ʼ43, and Jean Davis Newell, ʼ46, began chatting while standing in line for a ferry on lecturer Elliot Engel’s organized trip to Scotland in 1998. They have been the best of friends since that day. For two people who did not know each other in college, their story illustrates the bond that Meredith women can form long after graduation.
Their nickname “Double Trouble” has quite a story and anyone who has met them before knows the name fits them perfectly.
Spain is originally from West Virginia, but at the age of eight her family moved to Charlottesville where they lived until she graduated high school. She did not know what she wanted to do, so after her father spoke with a customer whose daughter attended Meredith, they came for a visit.
“I remember during the visit thinking this place is for me,” said Spain, “So we all moved to Raleigh, my brother went to Wake Forest and I was a day student, because we could not afford to both live on campus.”
Newell was from Selma, NC and decided to come to Meredith because she had a voice coach in high school who told her about the wonderful reputation of the music department.
“Beatrice Donley from New York City was my Meredith music professor and I received an A in her classes,” said Newell, “However, she was not amused that I was the first winner of the hog calling contest during the first Cornhuskin’ in 1945.”
In 1998, more than 50 years after attending Meredith, they met again on a Meredith organized trip to Scotland. They have visited Italy, Egypt, and Africa to name a few places. Their instantaneous friendship has led them to go somewhere at least once per year and Spain has spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with Newell and her family since 2005.
“Jean is wonderful, loving, giving, generous, and takes me in,” said Spain.
Many know these ladies as “Double Trouble” but how did they get the nickname? In 2007, Spain and Newell were invited to attend the Golden Oak 50th reunion at the Massey House. It was a cold and windy night. Once inside, they went to the library where Newell got on her hands and knees to start the logs. Tracy Rose, a catering employee, brought them hot tea, a plate of food and said, “You know you two are a lot of trouble. In fact you are Double Trouble.”
The name has stuck with them for the last nine years, and in the fall of 2015 anonymous donors, who would only identify themselves as their Meredith fan club, gave a bench in their honor.
“They are the royal women of Meredith,” says Erin Cleghorn, Director of the Meredith Fund. “They were absolutely speechless when I called to tell them about the bench and so humbled. These two ladies are a wonderful example that a Meredith friendship can happen after you leave campus and honestly they are just a lot of fun to be around.”
Spain and Newell come to reunion every year. They love the comradery of their fellow sisters and they are pleased that this bench given in their honor will be seen and used by students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and friends of the College.
“I want people who see the name Double Trouble etched on the name plate to know friendships made at Meredith College are lasting if you want them to be,” says Spain. “They can be loving and helpful and bring love, joy, and light to your life.”
The bench can be found on campus between the Alumnae House and Jones Chapel.
Newell says, “There is something about being a Meredith alumna. Something special. I want people to know our bond happened many years after we walked the campus grounds as students and we are so pleased our story of friendship will have a permanent place on campus.”