As most of you probably know, each fall Meredith College’s Young Alumnae Board sponsors a Ring Essay Contest for the current juniors. This contest gives one junior per year the opportunity to win her onyx class ring. The Young Alumnae Board has been holding this contest each fall for the last 9 years. This year’s ring went to Elizabeth Hawley Oates, ’13. Below is her winning essay; enjoy reading it!
The Onyx: Its Connection to Past and Present
As I sit here typing this essay, around my neck lays my most precious keepsake on a simple gold chain – it is my grandmother’s onyx. My mother proudly handed me this gift one summer day over two years ago, telling me to take very special care of it. It was her mother’s and she knew that my Granny would want me to have it as I prepared to become the next Meredith College graduate from my family. From that day on, her onyx has rarely left my neck; the only times are sleeping and on the occasion when pearls are called for. Receiving my onyx today is not only a dream of mine, but also of one of the major influences of my life, my Granny.
Mabel Hawley Yarborough Bullock was a proud graduate of Meredith College, class of 1933. She was a music performance major who eventually became a church pianist and teacher for over 76 years. Her alma mater was a very special place that left her with great memories and an even greater sense of pride and accomplishment. Upon her retirement in 1999, the Meredith Chorale came to my home town and performed a mini concert in my Granny’s honor. It was one of her favorite parts of that day because it connected her back to the school where she learned to not only hone her musical talent but also become a proud, independent woman; a true Meredith Angel. My Granny loved her alma mater and began to prepare and groom me from an early age to become a Meredith girl, constantly dropping subtle hints and suggestions for my future college education.
Her efforts were indeed successful as and I am now a proud Meredith Angel. From the moment I received my acceptance letter, I could not wait for this night to come. Once we put that onyx on our hands we will become part of a sisterhood of women all over the world; we will be able to recognize each other instantly, even from across a crowded room. Meredith is a very special place, and these rings are just one of the symbols that connects us all. And every time I look down at my onyx on my hand, and my Granny’s around my neck, I will think of her and what Meredith means to both of us.
On the surface, Meredith was a very different place back when my grandmother was here. There were curfews and room cleanliness checks, and going out with a guy meant being featured in the newspaper the very next day. But at its core, Meredith was the same place it is today. In its essence, Meredith stands for sisterhood, loyalty, leadership, and so much more. And the onyxes we place on our fingers tonight will be a constant reminder to us as we continue on our life journey; these rings will remind us of what we learned here, both academically and socially, and the great memories we shared with friends and classmates.
Although my Granny’s onyx and mine look different, at the core they still connect us back to the same place; they connect us back to traditions, to family, and to memories and lessons that will remain with us forever. When I finally put my onyx on my right hand it will mean I have done it; I will have realized my Granny’s dream of a daughter/granddaughter becoming a Meredith Angel for eternity, realized my dream of becoming a part of a community larger than myself, and realized my dream of wearing that pretty little black ring around forever. And even more, once I cross that island in the amphitheater, it will mean finally being able to say, “I am a Meredith College alumna!”