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My Furman hero is longtime Collegiate Educational Service Corps (now Heller Service Corps) director Betty Alverson, who was affectionately known as “Miss A.” There is so much I could say about her that it’s hard to know where to begin. So I’ll begin at the beginning.
The first time I remember seeing Miss A was in 1993, my freshman year. A bunch of students were gathered in McAlister Auditorium, and she made some remarks before we separated into groups and went to various people’s houses for dinner. She said something about being courteous to our hosts and offering to clean up after their dog (assuming they had one) if it “did its thing.” I sat there thinking, “This lady must be crazy!” Such was my first impression of Miss A.
Truth be told, I might never have gotten involved with CESC had it not been for Beta Theta Pi. I pledged the fraternity my freshman year, and one of my pledge tasks was to go with two of the brothers to the Blue Ridge Pre-Release/Work Release Center, which was one of CESC's sponsored activities. When I got there, I noticed that there was a nice digital piano and no one to play it. Being a Christian musician, I saw an opportunity, and what started as an assignment to get a signature in my little black pledge book became a bi-weekly affair that I continued until I graduated.
As I became involved with Blue Ridge and CESC, I quickly learned that my first impression of Miss A was wrong. She was a loving, caring person who demonstrated through her actions what it means to be a Christian servant. She would move mountains for you if you needed help.
More than that, she encouraged me both musically and spiritually. She loved to hear me play and sing. When I had my own “Coffeehouse” show my freshman year, she and Nancy Cooper, her assistant, served doughnuts and coffee afterward. When I performed a recital of my own compositions my senior year, she was there. I even played for a couple of CESC-sponsored banquets.
I found out that in addition to being CESC director, she was also an ordained minister, which led to us planning Sunday services together. She would pick me up in front of my dorm on many Sunday mornings, and we would have church services for the residents of Oakmont East Nursing Center. I would play and sing hymns and special music, and she would deliver the message. These mornings often ended with lunch at Carson’s Country Kitchen.
Of all the faculty and staff I encountered during my years at Furman, she is by far the one I was closest to. My college experience absolutely would not have been the same without her, and her Christian example continues to inspire me.
— JOHN “FIGARO” NORRIS ’97