Upon the Past


ethridge_vertAbove: Etheridge is a member of all five of these teams pictured in the 1944 yearbook. She’s on the front row left in basketball and field hockey, and she’s second from left in the others.

Whatever happened to Amanda Etheridge?

Amanda Etheridge’s picture is scattered throughout the 1943, ’44 and ’45 yearbooks. You see her as a member of five sports teams, the Jarvis Forensics Club, as SGA secretary and—in her junior year in ’45—as the president of the SGA. But in the 1946 annual there’s not one picture or any mention of the honor-roll athlete from Manteo. In what should have been a senior year filled
with accomplishments in the classroom and the playing field, Amanda Etheridge vanished.

Why she did is a cautionary tale of a gifted student who dared to live the ideals she was learning, only to be crushed when those principles led her to challenge authority.

In the summer before her senior year, Etheridge withdrew from school rather than be expelled by the Board of Trustees on charges of fulminating student unrest against President Leon Meadows, who had been forced to resign and eventually convicted of mishandling $14,000 in student funds.

Because it was student money allegedly being misused, the SGA called meetings of the student body that spring to discuss the charges. Accounts of those raucous meetings mention Etheridge’s skills with the gavel. When trustees initially exonerated Meadows, Etheridge wrote a letter to Gov. Melvin Broughton asking him to intervene. Citing the letter, the governor ordered a probe that forced Meadows to step down and which provided the evidence for his later indictment. Trustees appointed an interim president and then launched an ill-advised attempt to restore calm on campus by weeding out what they considered the trouble-makers. Three tenured faculty members were fired, including M.L. Wright, for whom the circular drive around the fountain is named. A list of dissident students was drawn up and 16 were told not to return for fall classes. Upon appeal, most were allowed to stay, if they kept quiet.

Not Etheridge, who had been watched for weeks. When she failed to sign out of her dormitory one evening that spring to meet a professor—a minor infraction of residence hall rules—the authorities pounced. She was forced to resign as SGA president, which further inflamed the campus. Students elected her editor of the Teco Echo student newspaper. Trustees then brought her up on charges of being “out of sympathy” with the administration. She also was accused of swimming in the Tar River on Thanksgiving Day and picking up trash on the tennis courts on a Sunday. Obviously knowing the die was cast, Etheridge stood before trustees and spoke like the polished debater she was. “I have always had compassion for those leaders who lack the qualities that enable them to command the respect of their followers through wisdom, reason and cooperation, rather than by force and dictatorial domination.” Etheridge then withdrew from school with the “sincere hope for the progressive development of East Carolina Teachers College.”

From there she disappears from the records of an embarrassing era that the college quickly, even eagerly forgot. Whatever happened to her remained a mystery until Mary Jo Bratton wrote her book on East Carolina’s early years. And even there the answer lies buried in a footnote deep in the appendix. Family members we contacted added details.

She transferred to Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) where she received a B.A. in 1946 and an M.A. in ’47. She taught at Mankato State Teachers College in Minnesota—the first U.S. public college led by a woman president—from 1948 to 1952. She was among the first winners of a Fulbright Scholarship in 1952 and taught in Amsterdam. There she met Richard Salet, son of a Minnesota merchant family who had a Harvard MBA. Later she was a psychologist for 12 years at St. Peter State Hospital for the insane. There, she worked with the Minnesota State professors who developed the MMPI, which continues to be a widely used personality test.

She had three daughters and for years they summered among her family on Roanoke Island. After she divorced, they moved permanently to Manteo in 1975 and—30 years after she disappeared—enrolled as a part-time student here. She battled alcoholism and died in 1977 at the age of 51 after suffering a fall at her home.

ECU Timeline

100 years ago


Leon Meadows arrives

In his first year on the faculty in 1910–11, Leon Meadows becomes admired as much for his good looks as his Yale pedigree. As the only eligible bachelor on campus among 400 single teachers and students, his classes are full and his evenings are booked. Among his admirers, few “did not succumb to a schoolgirl crush for at least a week, though for some it was of considerable duration,” according to Mary Jo Bratton’s book of early ECU history. He marries music teacher Lida Hill in 1919; in 1934 he is named president of the college upon Robert Wright’s death. His tenure ends in disgrace in 1945 when he resigns for mishandling student accounts.

 75 years ago

Thanks, Josephus!

East Carolina marks its 25th birthday in 1936 by remembering old friends like Josephus Daniels, to whom the ’36 yearbook is dedicated. The Raleigh newspaper editor and ambassador to Mexico, a native of nearby Washington, was the school’s first graduation speaker in 1911 and has ties to the school that date to 1909 when, as owner then of the Kinston paper, he served on a committee charged with determining if state appropriations to build the new college were spent properly. He editorialized that founder and former governor Thomas Jarvis “had made a dollar go further than it had gone since George Washington threw one across the river at Fredericksburg.” In 1901 Jarvis helped get Daniels acquitted of contempt of court charges for editorially criticizing a federal judge.

50 years ago


Can you say Hootenanny?

East Carolina catches folk music fever at a Feb. 5, 1961, campus concert by the Kingston Trio. The group agrees to select the Buccaneer queen from the photos of five students nominated. At the concert they announce the selection of Juliane Cannon ’62, a Delta Zeta education major from Kinston. Interest in folk music reaches fever pitch on campus the following fall when a new singing group called The Highwaymen, in one of their first big concerts, sings Michael Row the Boat Ashore.

25 years ago


Bate rises

The last vestiges of Davis Arboretum disappear in the spring of 1986 to make way for construction on what was then and still is the biggest classroom building on Main Campus. Constructed at a cost of $12.4 million, the General Classroom Building, as it’s called when it opens two years later, is huge; at more than 166,000 square feet, it offers 65 classrooms and labs—30 of which are large tiered seminar rooms—and 180 faculty offices. It becomes the new home of the colleges of Business and Arts and Sciences. In 2001 the building is renamed for Harold H. Bate, a timber industry executive from New York who had adopted New Bern as home. Bate had given more than $2.7 million to ECU when the university renamed the building in his honor upon his death in 2001.

                  Images courtesy University Archives