A Wonderful Life

NANCY CAROLYN MEDFORD  (January 11, 1930 – September 12, 2022)
By Don Russell, Professor of Mathematics
Mars Hill University (1973-2020)

The town of Mars Hill, North Carolina and Mars Hill University lost one of it’s best with the death of Nancy Carolyn Medford.  In what follows, I will try to tell her story, including help from Bob Wood and his wife Cornelia.

Nancy Carolyn Medford: Her Family

Nancy Carolyn Medford was born January 11, 1930 in Waynesville, North Carolina.  Her parents were Cuy and Ruth Medford.  Nancy’s younger sister, Dale, was her only sibling.  Dale’s marriage to J. W. “Pern” Messer produced a baby boy, Brad, whom Nancy was proud to claim as her nephew.  Nancy and Dale were very close and took many long vacation trips together throughout the United States. There was at least one each summer after 1956.

Nancy Carolyn Medford: Her Education and Career

Nancy graduated from The Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics.  In 1956, she earned a Master’s Degree in Mathematics from Western Carolina.

Nancy Carolyn Medford (Mars Hill Junior College, Mars Hill College)
Professor of Mathematics

In the fall semester of 1956, Nancy Medford became a member of the Mathematics-Physics Department.  Among the members of the Mathematics-Physics Department were Professors Emmett S. Sams (1947-1992) and Arthur Everett Wood (1949-1991).  The Department Chairman was Professor Jones V. Howell (1938-1971).  Mary Newell Howell (1939-1971) was Chairman of the Home Economics Department.  During World War II, Captain Jones V. Howell served with the U.S. Army.

The Mathematics Department hired a second faculty member in the fall of 1956.  This was William F. Pegg (1956-1983). Professor Pegg earned his B.S. in Mathematics in 1941.  For the next few years, Bill Pegg was a member of the U. S. Army.  During these Army years, Sgt. Pegg had considerable battlefield combat.  In 1947 Bill Pegg earned a Master’s Degree in Mathematics from Peabody College.  Bill did other course work in mathematics at Appalachian State Teachers College in 1948, 1950, and 1953.  Both Nancy Medford and Bill Pegg were excellent classroom instructors.

By the summer of 1958, Nancy Medford knew that Mars Hill Jr. College would become Mars Hill College.  As such, Nancy used these summer months to develop the 4-year curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics.  Emmett Sams developed the mathematics courses that would be needed for non-mathematics majors. Nancy began her task by reviewing the Model Mathematics Major Curriculum that the Mathematics Association of America (MAA) had published.  Nancy knew that the textbook selected for each course was very important.  I learned about Nancy’s concern for textbook selection for each major course from a conversation I had with her after I became Chairman of the Mathematics Department (Fall 1976).  Nancy said she looked for textbooks that explained new mathematical terms assuming the student reader has no experience with them.

As the new Mathematics Curriculum was being implemented in the 1960’s, Nancy Medford was assigned the new 300-level and 400-level major courses that she wanted to teach.  Bill Pegg and J. V. Howell also taught the new 300 and new 400-level courses throughout the 1960’s.  In the summer of 1967 through 1971, Bill Pegg studied at the IBM School and became a Certified Data Educator.  In 1970, he became the Director of the Computer Center at Mars Hill College.

A. My memories of Nancy Medford (1973-1976)

I first met Nancy Medford in March of 1973 when I came to Mars Hill College to interview for a position in the Mathematics-Physics Department.   Four members of this department met with me in a small classroom in the Wall Science Building.  Emmett Sams (1947-1992), Art Wood (1948-1991), Nancy Medford (1956-1994) and Bill Pegg (1956-1983) talked with me for about 90 minutes.  At 11:00 AM I gave my “trial lecture” on the topic, How to Lie with Statistics.  Afterwards the five of us ate lunch in the Faculty Dining Room, and we talked about Mars Hill.

In the afternoon I met President Fred Bentley, and then with Vice-President Dick Hoffman.  After these two meetings, I spent time with Dave DeVries, Chairman of the Mathematics Department.  I had met Dr. DeVries when he came to Clemson University to talk with their mathematics graduate students who would be finished with their Ph.D.s by August 1973.

On the drive home to Clemson from Mars Hill, I knew I wanted to teach mathematics with Emmett Sams, Nancy Medford, and Bill Pegg, and be a colleague of Art Wood.  A few days later, I received a phone call from Vice-President Dick Hoffman and he asked if I wanted the position.  He then told me the salary and that I would be an Assistant Professor of Mathematics.

In early April of 1973, Brenda (my wife) and I traveled to Mars Hill.  During the visit we were shown a rental house on Mountain View Road in Mars Hill.  This house was across the road from Nancy Medford’s home. We lived there for almost two years.

Brenda and I had many adventures that included Nancy.  Brenda will write about some of them:

Nancy Medford was one of the first persons I met in Mars Hill and she became a dear friend and neighbor; and later, a colleague (1981-1994) when I became a member of the Home Economics Department.  Being front-door neighbors, she welcomed us so warmly and took it upon herself to take me to Asheville and the surrounding areas so that I could become familiar with the city and popular shopping areas.  She included Don and me in a lot of fun adventures.  She, Roy Wood (Business Department 1962-1984), Worth Booth (Education Department 1963-1988), and Don and I would go on hikes, picnics, explorations of small towns, plays, concerts, etc.  Especially memorable were the picnics to Craggy Gardens that Nancy encouraged a group of faculty to take after graduation ceremony in May for a number of years.  Among the many who took the trek, Joe Chris Robertson (Art Department 1950-1989) kept us all laughing with his wry sense of humor and story telling.

When I was expecting our first son (1977), Nancy organized a baby shower with the math-science faculty who gave us lovely gifts.  They also came up with creative and hilarious prank gifts for Don. Three years later, she planned another shower for our second son. Nancy was often the person who planned fun times to remember math-science faculty birthdays and other occasions with parties and dinners.  She always wanted to bring joy to others and had a melodious laugh that was contagious. As the years passed, Nancy was always curious about what was happening with our sons and what I was doing with my “creative penchant.” She wanted updates even to the very end of her life.

Nancy was a member of Mars Hill Baptist Church where we joined as well.  In her early years as a member, Nancy was a youth leader and is fondly remembered by persons whom she served.  Through the years, she held other positions and in her retirement she ministered to others by visiting nursing homes in the area.  She continued to be an active member right up until her health prevented it in her last couple of years. We were both members of Delta Kappa Gamma and other organizations where she delighted in including others and making them feel welcome, just as she had always done for me.

B.1  Nancy Medford, Professor of Mathematics (1973-1976)

On the second floor of the Wall Science Building, the classrooms we taught in and our offices were on the south end of the second floor.  My office and Nancy’s office were on the same hall and our office doors were about 20 feet apart.

Nancy Medford’s first class began at 9:00 AM and her last class of the day began at 2:00 PM.  For the years 1973 through 1976, mathematics classes met Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  At 3:00 PM on these days Nancy had office hours.

Her students knew this and Nancy usually had students seeking help on these afternoons. Most of these days it would be close to 6:00 PM when her last student left.  On Wednesdays Nancy came to the office around noon, and her students used this time to get help.

B.2  Nancy Medford, Professor of Mathematics (1976-1994) 

Mars Hill College received a Title III grant in the spring of 1976.  Because Dr. DeVries had a full-time position working with the grant, he had to resign as the Chairman of Mathematics-Physics Department. Since the position of department chairman had to be filled with someone with a Ph.D. in mathematics, I became the Chairman of the Mathematics Department.  However, Nancy Medford’s course assignments did not change from her previous years.  The class schedule that Nancy had the previous three academic years remained the same.  In those three years, no student in any of Nancy’s classes ever came to me about any problems with Professor Medford.

In the fall semester of 1977, Bill Pegg returned to the Mathematics Department full time.  Bill was a very effective classroom teacher.  During these years of teaching mathematics and later computer science courses, Bill’s course evaluations were among the best in the department.

On an April day in 1981, Bill Pegg and Nancy Medford each received a silver tray for 25 years of teaching at Mars Hill College.  President Bentley presented the trays.  Walter Smith, the Director of Public Information was at the ceremony and took the picture below.

Bill Pegg retired at the end of the Spring Semester 1983.  He died in 1985.

In the academic year 1983-1984, Mars Hill College did away with the January Term and the 4-1-4 academic model.  The academic year of 1983-84 had a fall semester in which the first day of class was August 25, 1983.  The last day of classes was Friday, December 9.  Final exams began on December 12, 1983 and ended on December 16, 1983.

The spring semester schedule:

January 18, 1984                        First day of classes
May 4, 1984                                 Last day of classes
May 7, 1984                                 First day of final exams
May 11, 1984                               Last day of final exams

While this was a change most faculty supported, it had a big “plus” for Nancy Medford.  The first course in Calculus was now a “general education course” and the course instructor did not have to have a Ph.D. in Mathematics.  Thus, Nancy Medford’s course load always contained the 12:00 noon Calculus section for lectures and the 3:00-5:00 PM lab.  This was Nancy’s favorite course to teach, and it was always on her course load fall and spring until she retired in 1994.

B.2 Mathematics-Physics Faculty Remembered

Retirement for Emmett S. Sams (1947-1992) required that Mars Hill Basketball had to find a replacement for the only clock operator that Chambers Gym had ever had.

In 2012, the Mars Hill Board of Trustees voted to award Professor Emmett Sams an Honorary Doctorate.  The Mars Hill Faculty voted to affirm this action after Dr. Barbara Cary spoke of Emmett’s work with the Basic Skills Summer Program.

Shortly after this award, Emmett S. Sams (born July 17, 1920) died April 3, 2013…It was a wonderful life. 

Retirement for Arthur Everett Wood (1949-1991), Physics and Mathematics, became a concern for his son, Bob Wood, after Art Wood’s wife Joyce died in 1998.  Bob went to Nancy Medford and asked that Nancy and Helen Castelloe include Art in their “adventures.”  Nancy and Helen were long-time friends of Art and Joyce, and both agreed to include Art in the dinners and concerts they attended.  In December 1999, Art Wood called his son Bob (active duty U S Navy) and Bob’s wife, Cornelia , about coming to the wedding of Art Wood and Nancy Medford on January 1, 2000. Nancy Carolyn Medford became Nancy Carolyn Medford Wood and gladly became part of the happy Wood family. This included four step-children and their spouses, six grandchildren and eventually, ten great grandchildren, who affectionately called her Grandnancy.

After Nancy married Art Wood, the two traveled to New Zealand and to Alaska.  Later, with Bob and Cornelia, Art and Nancy took a 6,000-mile trip (with Bob driving) through the Western U. S. States.  Summer travel for Art and Nancy (and often Nancy’s sister, Dale) included weeklong trips.  The New England States, and the Midwest (with Bob driving) were also done.

The summer of 2016 began a period of declining health for Arthur Wood. While a student at Mars Hill College, Art had lettered in five sports (football, baseball, basketball, tennis and track).  He had remained very active most of his life.

Arthur Everett Wood was born on October 18, 1925, and he died on October 2, 2016…It was a Wonderful Life.

Bob Wood knew about Nancy’s interest in painting.  Nancy and her sister, Dale, took weekly art lessons, and Nancy developed her talent, becoming an accomplished artist.  However, Nancy was shy about her paintings.  One of her paintings was of Jake, the grandson of Bob and Cornelia.  It was done when Jake was two-years old and he is now 20.  Bob and Cornelia’s family are enjoying this painting for the first time.  At the memorial service for Nancy Carolyn Medford Wood at Mars Hill Baptist Church on September 29, 2022, some of Nancy’s paintings were displayed.  These are of professional quality.

Nancy Carolyn Medford Wood was born January 11, 1930, and died September 12, 2022…It Was a Wonderful Life.