For the first time in forty years, alumni of the historic Whitworth College campus returned for a reunion, sponsored by the Mississippi School of the Arts Alumni Association. More than 25 individuals showed up for the special occasion held in Enochs Hall Art Gallery. Throughout the day, alumni members recalled memories about their time at Whitworth. “Enochs Hall use to be the girls dorm and dining area”, said one alum.
After lunch, Mississippi School of the Arts Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch conducted a tour of the historic buildings to allow Whitworth alumni to see the restoration of their ‘home’. “All of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Mississippi Landmark”, said Hirsch. The tour began in Elizabeth Cottage (circa 1913), the president’s home of Whitworth. “We had our senior reception in here”, said an alumnus, referring to the living area of Elizabeth Cottage. Next, the tour group was led to Johnson Institute (circa 1883) where MSA students participate in arts and academic classes. The hallways echoed once again with the footsteps of former students who received their degree from Whitworth College. “Whitworth is home. My wife and I met here.”, said John Riggs. “This is the room where we had chapel”, referring to the days when privately-owned Whitworth College was a part of the Methodist Conference.
Ending the tour was a trip to Lampton Auditorium. This is where the group came alive. Upon entering the auditorium, an alumna found the grand piano and began playing Whitworth’s alma mater. The remainder of the group pulled out lyrics and began singing the alma mater for the first time in at least 40 years…. ‘Whitworth, dear Whitworth’..
After the tour, the group was led to the Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library for an oral presentation by MSA recruiter and historian, Brianna Moore. Brianna talked about the history of Brookhaven and how Whitworth College played an important part of Brookhaven and state History. “I am thankful for the Mississippi School of the Arts.”, echoed the words from the back of the room.
The alumni reunion came during an interesting time, Memorial weekend. “Many of the guys were drafted, went to war, and never came back. I got lucky, because my draft number didn’t get picked.” said an alum. It became silent in the room for a span of seconds, perhaps remembering those Whitworth students who served for freedom and country.