News from the May Dell - May, 2021

Kris Sorrells campus brick building backgroundFrom the Head of School

Dear Friends,

May is one of the fastest and simultaneously slowest months that exists in education. Students see the end of classes and the start of summer just ahead of them. Teachers are ready for a break from planning, creating, and grading. Seniors are anticipating graduation and the start of their next journey. Everyone is wondering, can we get it all done? Does it really need to all be perfect? How close is good enough? When will May 29th get here?

This year has been one that has stretched all of us. The move to our new campus space and navigating both virtual and hybrid classes were initially challenging. All teachers had to redesign their courses and every student began learning in new ways. As a community, we have celebrated birthdays, played kickball, created kites, listened to (or wrote) Chapel talks, did yoga, and participated in many other activities that refreshed us. At times we all were challenged, and we all got tired. The challenges were overcome because our community worked together and supported each other. We kept moving forward.

Our May 29, 2021 finish line is close. I am happy to say that our community is going to finish strong. The smiles and laughter are still there. The excitement for the end of the year is evident and the support to finish strong is available from the Salem Academy community.

“Remember how strong you are. You are here [at Salem Academy] for a reason and even if you don’t believe in yourself there are people around you who believe in you. When you start to feel overwhelmed and want to give up, don’t. Take a breath, say a prayer, and thug it out”.

— Miracle Etim-Andy A’19

Kris Porazzi Sorrells
Head of School
Susan Henking headshot with green background - courtesy Salem Academy and College

President’s Corner

Can you remember how you felt weeks before your graduation from the Academy? As I sat in the audience of a recent Academy play, I tried to imagine myself back all-too-many decades to the weeks before my own high school graduation. The times were very different—and, while I know that high school too is likely very different (and not just because of the pandemic), I suspect there are some continuities as well. There is, I am sure, anticipation of joy and of celebration of successes. I am sure there is also some trepidation—looking forward to the change that comes with the move from high school to college.

We know they are prepared well, prepared to succeed academically, and in more ways than they can imagine. And we know they will look back to these days—and remain as they are now, embodiments of the Academy mission that fosters creativity, courage, character, curiosity, and compassion.

Like you, this year’s graduates will always be part of Salem—and like you, we know they will not only look back to honor their history but stand ready to ignite the future.

Let’s celebrate today’s Academy—our students, our faculty, and our staff and, with them, build the Academy of tomorrow.

Susan Henking
Interim President
Ms. Thelma with oversized encore bonus check

Faculty/Staff Profile: Ms. Thelma Russell

Salem Academy is, of course, an institution. Anything coming up on a 250th birthday certainly is. And, when it comes to an institution within an institution, no one comes to mind at Salem Academy quicker than Thelma Russell, or Ms. Thelma, as everyone knows her.

Ms. Thelma began working at Salem Academy in 1957. Yes, 1957. Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, Elvis was All Shook Up, and Old Yeller was on the big screen. Ever since then—for the past 64 years—Ms. Thelma has been a mainstay in the dining services department at Salem Academy, spending a majority of those years as a cook.  She has cooked up an unfathomable number of meals, particularly her beloved specialty of fried chicken.

A mother to five (all boys!), grandmother to six, and great-grandmother to seven, everyone knows Ms. Thelma, and everyone loves her. She always has a smile on her face and when asked what she likes best about working at Salem Academy, she laughed and said “Well, I love it all, or I wouldn’t have been here for so long!”

Last month Aramark, the company that runs dining services at Salem Academy and College, presented Ms. Thelma with a wonderful token of appreciation, a check for $2,500 celebrating her incredible 64 years of service to all who have come through the doors for a meal at Salem Academy.

Salem Academy simply would not be the same without Ms. Thelma. She is looking forward to getting back in the kitchen in August when school starts and says that she will keep coming back until the good Lord decides that she can’t!

The 2021 Student Oak Award Winner

Sophia SeversThe distinguished Oak Award is given each year to a senior who has attended Salem Academy for four years and has held leadership positions, performed her duties with distinction, made a notable contribution to the quality of life at Salem, and has attained at least a 3.0 grade point average overall. This award is determined by students, faculty, and staff.

The winner of the 2021 Oak Award, which symbolizes the strength, longevity, and resilience of the Oak trees that adorn Salem’s beautiful campus, is Sophie Severs A’21. The Oak Award was announced at the 2021 Founders Day Convocation by last year’s recipient Sarah Kent Trollinger A’20.

Sarah stated, “It is my honor to present the award recipient this year as a fellow student and good friend. This Salem young woman has been very active in service, has participated in every single theater production, was the president of the Honor Cabinet this year, and always leads by strong example. The Oak Award is Salem's highest award given to a four-year senior who has exemplified quality leadership and made a notable contribution to the quality of life at the Academy, and I am thrilled to present this award to my very good friend Sophie Severs.” Sophie will attend Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Reunion Giving Update

Calling all classes ending in 1s and 6s! Every year, Reunion gifts are critical to Salem meeting our Academy Fund goal. The graphic shows giving by class to date. The Reunion giving deadline has been extended to June 30. Give today at, by phone at 336-721-2607, or mail a check to Salem Academy, Office of Institutional Advancement, 601 South Church Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101. Thank you for supporting Salem!

Salem Academy Reunion Giving May 17


Reunion 2021

Although Reunion 2021 was a little different than previous years due to COVID-19, the Office of Alumnae Engagement put together a month-long slate of virtual events to celebrate this year’s Reunion classes.

If you missed them, videos of the following events are available for viewing:

Alumnae Panel

From costume design at Cirque du Soleil to naturalism in Alaska, attendees heard our incredible alumnae share stories about what makes their lives and their careers so personal and meaningful. You can enjoy this fascinating panel here.

Founders Day Convocation

The virtual Founders Day Convocation featured the Oak Award winners and a keynote speech by Liz Baird, C’83. We hope you will take a moment to watch the Founders Day Convocation.

Academy Alumnae Association Meeting

This event featured remarks and greetings from special guests, recognized the work of the Academy Alumnae Association, and celebrated the achievements of the Academy alumnae award winners. Watch the Academy Alumnae Association Meeting.

Academy Admissions—It is Not Too Late to Apply for Fall 2021!

Do you know any young women who might be interested in Salem Academy? Help us find applicants! We are still enrolling for fall 2021. You can refer students and/or families through our Admissions Referral Form.

Or, please use this form to become an Academy Alumna Ambassador.

In today’s competitive and unique (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) environment, we would love your help finding future students!

Career Crafting with Collier

Career Crafting with Collier

Looking for professional change? Hoping to try something new in your career? If so, setting goals is crucial to effective, positive professional growth and change. By helping you gain clarity, purpose, and direction, setting goals can not only give you guidance, but can increase your chances of experiencing success. This one-hour workshop on Thursday, May 20 at noon will walk through the steps it takes to set and achieve many types of professional goals and sample the tools that can help you move from thought into action. Please join the Zoom meeting.

The Road to the 250th: Salem's Seal - Gamma Kappa Delta

Salem Seal
Salem's Seal: Gamma Kappa Delta

This column is adapted from a paper titled “Decoding the Salem Seal” that was written by Rev. Deborah L. Austin, C’78.

The Salem Academy and College seal is the official symbol reserved for important papers and occasions, such as diplomas and school programs. Designed in 1907 by a student named Dorothy Doe, it was drawn to include ribbons in 1948. The symbols on the seal include a scroll that represents learning and a wreath for peace. There is also a row of books that originally was a mountain peak, which represented Pilot Mountain and designated strength. On the ribbons are three Greek letters, Gamma Kappa Delta, which stand for “Gnosis Kai Dikaiosune.” In the 1907 Sights and Insights, the motto is translated as “Knowledge and Virtue.”  

The motto was devised for the Class of 1907 by Bishop Edward Rondthaler, who served as the President of Salem Academy and College from 1884 until 1888. After 1888, he took on the role of Greek, Latin, and Biblical Literature professor. He taught at Salem until his death in 1931. Through the years, a tradition developed for him to compose a Greek letter motto for each college class. The members of the 1907 senior class wore pins with the motto’s letters. One of the seniors, Dorothy Doe, drew a seal for Salem, and Bishop Rondthaler gave the same motto to the seal that he had given to the Class of 1907.

It is intriguing to realize that the gnosis and dikaiosune motto has the capacity to provide fresh new vision for Salem Academy and College, a vision both anchored in Moravian heritage as well as proving relevant for present and future generations. It is a motto that calls us to large living.

Consider how these two Greek words show themselves in various places around Salem. Indeed, do not Salem’s honor code and Honor Council point to learned truth, integrity, and the honoring of both self and the other person? Each student is being challenged to meet her full potential. In our time, Salem is working hard to be a community of diversity, inclusiveness, and social justice.

These Greek words offer depth to the Salem spirit, a spirit which includes our history born out of Moravian tradition and imbued with excellence. As Salem prepares to celebrate its 250th anniversary year, the entire school community is being challenged to dikaiosune, to integrity and honor and inclusiveness and character building. That kind of challenge is not met through the rote practice of learning facts from books. It is a deeper knowledge, a gnosis that comes from living life, from knowing God, from exercising leadership, from experiencing life’s counterintuitive and creative truths, and from glimpsing wisdom. 

Rev. Deborah L. Austin, C’78

Salem 250 logo 1772-2022

250th Celebration

Fall is now just a few months away so don’t forget to mark your calendars for our 250th Celebration events in September and October!

We will be kicking off the 250th Celebration year with: Honor the Past. Ignite the Future: An Evening for Salem on September 25, 2021. This special evening includes a performance by the Winston-Salem Symphony in Salem’s Hanes Auditorium featuring “Gaudeamus,” a composition by Margaret Sandresky A’38 C’42. After that, there will be dinner and dancing on campus (or simultaneous celebration in your own hometown as part of our Dining with Friends events). Tickets will go on sale in June for the Kickoff Concert (virtual and in-person tickets) and for the dinner and dancing.

Registration for the Journey from Bethlehem to Salem, which will take place from September 28–October 26, 2021, will open later this month. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join friends and fellow alums to retrace the historic journey of the Single Sisters from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. You can join for one day or all 29!

You will be able to register for the Journey on the 250th Celebration page of our website. Please check our website often for updates on the 250th Celebration. It is also where you will be able to purchase tickets to the Kickoff Concert and Dinner & Dancing when they go on sale.

Coming in August: an online store for Salem 250th Celebration Merchandise! Stay tuned.

Congratulations to our 2021 Alumnae Award Recipients

The Salem Academy Alumnae Association recognized the following Alumnae Award winners in the 136th Annual meeting. Please join us in celebrating our Alumnae Award recipients!

Alumna Service Award: Sydnor Cozart Presnell A’71

photo of SydnorThe Alumna Service Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the Academy, whether through leadership, fundraising, admissions recruitment, publicity, or other means to promote the school’s mission. The 2021 winner is Sydnor Cozart Presnell A’71. As a Salem Academy student, Sydnor reports that “living with other girls and faculty members during my four years at the Academy helped create a sense of being in community with others and wanting to serve and give back.” Since she graduated, Sydnor has done just that, she has dedicated herself to giving back. From 2006 to 2018, she has served Salem Academy and College as a member of the Board of Visitors, Board of Trustees, and Academy Alumnae Board. In addition, she has served many other organizations, including the North Carolina Museum of History, YMCA of the Triangle, Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer, Raleigh Fine Arts Society, White Memorial Presbyterian Church, FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools, Ravenscroft School, Washington & Lee University, Wake Forest University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Distinguished Alumna Award: Mary Anne Whitesides A’71

photo of WhitesidesThe Distinguished Alumna Award recognizes outstanding service and achievement by an alumna either in her community and volunteer service and/or professional career and achievements. The 2021 winner is Mary Anne Whitesides A’71. After Salem, Mary Anne studied voice at Furman and received her Master of Music at Northwestern University, making her American debut as Nancy in the opera, “Albert Herring.”

After being accepted into the Zurich International Opera Studio, Mary Anne made her European debut as a Flower Maiden in “Parsifal” and later appeared in the Ponelle production of “Idomeneo” in Zurich and Vienna. In addition, Mary Anne performed oratorio and recitals in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. Her operatic roles include: Dorabella in “Cosi Fan Tutti”; Hansel in “Hansel und Gretel”; La Messaggiera in “L’Orfeo”; Maddalena in “Rigoletto”; and Flora Bervoix in “La Traviata”—to name just a few, and under the baton of Helmut Rilling, she sang the role of Mary in Berlioz’s “L’Enfance du Christ.” She was seen in the 100th Anniversary celebration of Carnegie Hall and the Rossini Gala on national television. Alumnae will remember Mary Anne in the lead role in Salem Academy’s musical, “Little Mary Sunshine.”

Mary Anne’s former Voice teacher at Salem and her Glee Club director—Jean Burroughs—writes of her: “Even though she was a serious voice student, I didn’t realize that she had decided to major in voice in college at Furman until she told me in her last semester at the Academy. For years afterwards, the Furman voice chairman would call to see if I had other good students at Salem Academy like Mary Anne. She was beautiful, delightful, serious, and smart and gave a lot of time to her music activities.” As a hobby, Mary Anne shows and breeds standard poodles and is currently a groomer in Gastonia, NC.

Distinguished Faculty Emerita Award: Anne Campbell Dowell 

photo of DowellThe 2021 Distinguished Faculty Emerita Award was presented to Anne Campbell Dowell. As a former member of the Salem Faculty and Science Department Chair, Anne taught many aspiring scientists and developed the curriculum considerably over her 25 years of service. Her impact is best illustrated by the success of her many students in the fields of education, science, and medicine.

Anne graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology from UNC at Chapel Hill and started her career at Baxter Labs in Illinois. She worked in neurology research and development. Her career in research and development work grew at the Walter Reed Army Medical School, National Institutes of Health, and the Bowman Gray Medical School. Anne relocated to Winston-Salem to be with her husband, Bruce, and raise three daughters (Kathy, Betsy, and Sarah). She wanted to begin a career in Science education, so she enrolled in Salem College and then started her teaching career at Salem Academy in 1967.

In the 1970s, Anne grew the Science Department curriculum adding Physical Science and Advanced Biology and expanded the faculty, hiring Jackie Dobbins. In the 1980s, Anne added more Science disciplines and Advanced Placement courses. During her tenure at Salem, Anne also led multiple science trips for the January terms, including trips to the Everglades, Andes Mountains, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, and a barrier reef island off the coast of Belize. Anne retired from Salem Academy in 1992. In retirement, Anne has worked at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art and South Fork Elementary School where she continued her involvement in science and math education leading and tutoring young students.

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