Alumni office’s new home once housed the first First Lady, Home-Ec program

With the opening of the new McLeod Admissions & Financial Aid Center, the Office of Alumni Engagement was presented with a new opportunity — to move into the house previously occupied by the admissions department. Located in a prime position on Leslie Campbell Avenue, the house has been a part of campus history since its construction in 1935.

The house’s first occupant was Cornelia Pearson Campbell, wife of university founder J.A. Campbell. After her husband’s death in 1934, Cornelia moved into the house, where she lived for almost three decades, passing away at the age of 97 in 1963.

Upon Cornelia’s, or “Miss Neely’s,” death, the Home Economics department, founded in 1965, discovered a way to put the house to good use.

According to the 1968 Campbell College course catalogue, the two-story building was a perfect fit for its occupants to practice homemaking skills. Within its walls, the students learned to decorate, plan meals and successfully run a house, all in a safe and forgiving environment. Eight women lived within the house, decorating and managing it just like they would a real home.

The former chairman of the Home Economics department, Lenore D. Tuck, spoke to the Pine Burr yearbook in 1985 about her goals for the department. She was quoted as believing “in the philosophy of Home Economics as it was put together as a discipline to advance family living.” In her mind, the purpose of the Home Economics department was “to instill goals and values that will be conducive to a Christian way of life. If we’ve done that then we’ve done our mission.”

One of the biggest purposes of the house was to allow students to create “life spaces,” an engaging way for them to practice decorating and curating their own space according to their unique style. The 1986 issue of the Pine Burr described the process as “a realistic, creative project where students design a room to fit personal life styles…using architectural concepts, colors, furniture styles, and textures.”