Charles and Gwyn Davis were able to attend the endowment signing with Patricia and Don Johnson in December 2019. Pictured left to right: Don Johnson, Gwen Davis, Pat Johnson, and Charles Davis.
Pat Armstrong Johnson, ’70, arrived on campus in September 1966 only three months after the death of her father, CWO Eugene G. Armstrong, U.S. Army, who passed away in Vietnam. At the time, there was enormous social and political upheaval and Johnson had ongoing responsibilities to her grieving family, but she still came to Meredith for freshmen orientation.
During orientation, Johnson was immediately directed to speak with Gwyn Davis in the Financial Aid office to discuss ways for her to stay at Meredith beyond her fall semester. Johnson was anticipating a painful discussion.
“Mrs. Davis looked at me with a huge smile and asked ‘Are you willing to work to stay at Meredith College?’ I said, “Yes ma’am, I am willing to work.”
Davis coordinated immediate employment for Johnson in the dining hall. At that time, there were family-style meals and Johnson was a waitress who was responsible for prepping, setting up, and serving two tables that welcomed 16 fellow students each day. In addition, she worked daily at the BeeHive in between classes doing whatever Dru Hinsley, who was responsible for the BeeHive and campus bookstore, needed. In her junior and senior years, Davis helped her add additional work hours as a homework and test grader for the freshman math classes taught by Charles Davis and LaRose Spooner.
Collectively, this campus employment allowed her to remain at Meredith.
“I worked my way through and graduated with no debt,” said Johnson. “The Davises, Mrs. Spooner, and Ms. Hinsley along with Chaplain Bud Walker were my support network for all four of my years at Meredith.”
Johnson met Chaplain Walker during freshmen orientation week as well. He found her sitting in the chapel and started a conversation. Chaplain Walker offered timely and crucial mentoring. He nurtured, encouraged, and offered invaluable insight to Johnson and as a former Marine, he understood her military heritage and mindset. He was a great source of comfort during the war years and helped Johnson direct the discipline of a military heritage into her academic goals.
“I was taught early on that ‘no excuse is a good excuse’ and that ‘you are responsible through discipline to chart your own destiny.’ Chaplain Walker mentored me through grieving to my focused goal of graduating from Meredith College,” said Johnson.
These committed faculty members offered timely support, campus work options, and encouragement that enable Johnson to complete four years at Meredith and graduate with a degree in mathematics – debt free and Meredith strong.
After graduation from Meredith, Johnson earned a master’s degree from North Carolina State University and an additional post-graduate degree in Municipal Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill. She went on to work in city management in both North Carolina and Virginia for 12 years. She and her husband, Don, who received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from NC State University, have four grown children whom they raised globally while on the corporate circuit with his career.
Together, Johnson and her husband are strong believers that life provides you daily opportunities to give back, be it a kind word, a simple gesture, or an opportunity to mentor.
In this spirit, they have endowed The Patricia Armstrong Johnson Scholarship in Mathematics and Sciences at Meredith in honor of Charles and Gwyn Davis, Dru Hinsley, and Bud Walker. According to Johnson, all represent the supportive nature and commitment of faculty within the Meredith College community.
The gift will support students who demonstrate strong work ethic, perseverance, and academic potential in the mathematics and natural sciences.
“My hope is that this scholarship fund, along with the mentoring of current faculty, will enable future Meredith students to achieve their goals. Then, they too may have the opportunity to pass the torch to others,” said Johnson.