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1937 graduate embodies University’s spirit

In 1928, LaGrange, Tenn., – now an easy drive from Memphis – was a world away for Lorine Reid Potter. Potter (BS ’37) had graduated from Messick High School that year and then entered West Tennessee State Teachers College, which eventually became the University of Memphis. But during her freshman year, her journey to a four-year degree was interrupted by a call to teach in the small town of LaGrange, located 50 miles east of Memphis.

“To be the only teacher of grades one through eight, this was a big decision I had to make because I was so young, never had been away from home and had to pay board,” said Potter, who was 18 at the time. Potter had to endure the Great Depression, too, which complicated matters.

Dr. Dan Beasley (standing), director of Donor Relations, brought greetings from the U of M to Lorine Potter as she celebrated her 100th birthday. At right is her brother, William Reid.
Dr. Dan Beasley (standing), director of Donor Relations, brought greetings from the U of M to Lorine Potter as she celebrated her 100th birthday. At right is her brother, William Reid.
“The county had no money to pay the teachers,” she said, noting she often received IOUs for wages earned. “And I was having to pay board but not making any money.”

Since she was the school’s only teacher, she was also made principal and received an additional $5 a month for this added duty. She lived for three-month periods with student families to cover her expenses.

Potter weathered the tough times and in 1937 earned a bachelor’s degree from the University. She subsequently returned to teach at her high school alma mater, Messick, which was located about two miles from campus.

At 100 years of age, Potter, who now lives in San Antonio, is still going strong. With the University set to celebrate its centennial in 2012, U of M President Shirley Raines has made it a point to honor alumni who have helped make the school the outstanding institution it is today.

“Her perseverance to not only teach school but to earn a degree during the difficult times of the Great Depression epitomizes our ‘Dreamers. Thinkers. Doers.’ mantra,” Dr. Raines said. “She truly is a Dreamer, a Thinker and a Doer.”

The University sent Dr. Dan Beasley, Director of Donor Relations, to represent the U of M at Potter’s recent 100th birthday celebration in San Antonio, an event organized by her brother, William Reid, and attended by relatives from around the country. Beasley presented Potter with a gift from Raines and the University recognizing her as a Centenary Alumna. She also was honored with a gift from the U of M Alumni Association.

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Last Updated: 1/23/12