Nannie Lee Smith

Young NL Smith

Miss Nannie Lee Smith
The College’s Champion

Greensboro College owes its existence today in large part due to the efforts of a sprightly lady by the name of Miss Nannie Lee Smith (Class of 1893), who fervently believed in the college’s mission of educating women.


Click here to see the 1951 Echo dedication
and Miss Nannie Lee Smith’s response.

Her Story…

While Nannie Lee was a very modest lady, who probably would not wish to take credit for saving the college from being sold in 1903, she did play an integral role in ensuring that the college was saved. She was the driving force who became the spokeswoman for the alumnae association at that time and who led the way in organizing the fight to save the college.

According to the short History of Greensboro College that Miss Smith wrote for an orientation program in 1941,

“In 1882, the church found the burden of clearing the debt incurred by the re-building of the college to heavy and they found it necessary to sell the college. At that time a band of loyal laymen of the church bought the college and saved it from ruin. Dr. L.W. Crawford, Dr. Jones, Mr. J.A. Odell, and others bought the college and carried on the work of the college for the church for several years. In 1903, these men having become weary of carrying the college for the church, unaided by any individuals or the church, decided that they couldn’t carry the burden any longer, so on June 19, 1903, they announced they would dissolve the college and the college would be closed. That was a thunderbolt, alumnae overwhelmed with grief, realized the college must be saved, so the alumnae association called a meeting in West Market Street Church, and determined to come before the Board of Trustees who were meeting at the college that afternoon and ask for a thirty-day period in which to raise $25,000, the amount of stock, subject to $1,000 bonded indebtedness. [The 25,000 represented the amount that those men had supposedly lost in running the college.] We appeared before the Board of Trustees and asked for the 30-day period in which to secure the $25,000. They said, “You women can’t raise that much money; we’ve run the college for years and haven’t been able to get anything; but they gave us the time to try.”

Working together with Dr. S.B. Turrentine, the pastor of West Market Street Church, Mr. C.H. Ireland, a layman of the church, Governor Charles B. Aycock (governor from 1901-1905), and many other volunteers, Miss Nannie Lee Smith and the alumnae association were able to raise the $25,000 in the thirty days.

“We bought the college without money but with a list of subscribers. We put up our list of subscribers and backed it with our faith in them. This is the only college I know anything about that was bought outright on faith – faith in a list of names.”

Faith Note

One of the promissory, or “faith,” notes that was used to secure money for the reconstruction of Main Building after the 1903 fire and to prevent the sale of the college.

Later Achievements and Honors

Miss Nannie Lee Smith became the first woman to serve on the college’s Board of Trustees, serving from 1921-1958. And in 1960, Mr. & Mrs. J. Harold Smith established a scholarship at the college in honor of Miss Nannie Lee Smith. Mr. Smith was longtime Board of Trustees member, and his wife, Mrs. Peggy Haywood Smith, graduated from Greensboro College in 1945.

During Dr. Harold H. Hutson’s term as the college’s president, 1952-1964, Mrs. Nannie Lee Smith was presented with a portrait in her honor.




Portrait NL Smith

1951 Echo Dedication

Echo Dedication

Miss Nannie Lee Smith’s response. (Retyped)

Dedication Response 1

Dedication Response 2