For 24 years, Oliver Scott of Salisbury has planned luncheons, dinners, retreats and other special occasions for the Catawba College Board of Trustees. But on Valentine’s evening, the tables were turned, and trustees honored Oliver during an event held at the home of Mona and Lee Wallace.
With her family, friends, colleagues and trustees looking on, Catawba College President Robert Knott made a surprise announcement that the trustees had collectively decided to honor Oliver by refurbishing and renaming the walkway between the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel and the Robertson College-Community Center “Oliver’s Way.” The walkway will be relit, replanted with indigenous North Carolina plants, and provided with appropriate seating. The trustees, when gathered on Tuesday, Feb. 15 for their annual meeting, voted unanimously to formally authorize that announcement.
Oliver agreed to work at Catawba in 1981 for one year as the assistant for special events to late College President Dr. Steve Wurster. But 14,400 events later, she’s still on the job, now serving as assistant for special events to Dr. Knott. Not only does she plan menus, entertainment, and decorations for Catawba’s special events, she is responsible for overseeing decorating projects on campus, including color schemes, furnishings and accessories in meeting rooms, offices, residence hall lobbies, and the College guest house.
Knott made reference to her distinctive taste and style during the Valentine’s event at the Wallace home. He noted that people on campus have coined a new term, “to Oliverize,” when describing a space which has been redecorated under Oliver’s able hand. In addition to the Scotts’ many gifts of record, Knott told trustees that Oliver has silently assisted students, faculty and staff, both emotionally and financially, over the years.
Oliver grew up in Elizabeth City, N.C. as Oliver Windsor Gilbert. She graduated from Salem Academy and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She taught English at Knox Middle School in Salisbury for 13 years before joining the staff at Catawba in 1981. She is married to retired Salisbury physician Dr. Alan Scott.
The Scotts are members of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury and parents to six children including Alan, Jr. of Stuart, Fla.; Stuart of Tampa, Fla.; Susan Winkler of Shreveport, La.; Elizabeth Poole of Greensboro; Mary Henderson of Charlotte; and Margaret Barber of Charleston, S.C.
Oliver and her husband are long time benefactors of the College. In October, 2003, they became members of Catawba’s Tower Society when they made a $100,000 gift to Catawba in the form of a charitable remainder annuity trust. The Alan F. and Oliver G. Scott Trust will pass to the college upon their deaths and is designated for the endowment and support of the College’s Cloninger Guest House. The Scotts had previously established the Alan F., Betty R. and Oliver G. Scott First Family Scholarship at the institution and are members of Catawba’s President’s Circle.
Catawba College Trustee and Salisbury Attorney Mona Wallace along with Oliver's dear friend, Julie Pinkston of Salisbury, penned the following poem for Oliver, which she shared at the Valentine’s Day gathering for fellow trustees at her home:
In 1980 or 81 we are not sure
An energetic young lady offered the College a cure.
The President’s wife had three young kids in tow
And needed a part-time assistant to make things go.
When Jean met Oliver at a party one night,
She knew she had found the one to make social events right.
A one year job as an events coordinator was tendered
And who would have guessed what it would have rendered.
Oliver set her standards high in such a way
That when an event was planned it made the day.
She entertained in her home so often and well
That soon major contributions began to swell.
The Presidents’ Circle Dinner has been such a success
That it has evolved into a black tie event nonetheless.
The Endowments, the First Family Scholarships and the like
Would never have been achieved had it not been for her psyche.
Her contributions to renovating dorm rooms and such
Have caused us all to part with very much.
From Salisbury to Blowing Rock she has planned
Retreat after retreat and they were all so grand.
The Author’s Symposium has been such a treat
So many famous writers we have had the opportunity to meet.
If you are visiting Catawba for the night
Feel free to stay at the Cloninger house to be treated right.
The food, the silver, the flowers, and the wine
Must all be perfect so the evening will shine.
A Southern lady she was born and bred
And with her creativity Catawba she has led.
Loaded with charm and social grace
Catawba has been blessed with her impeccable taste.
For 24 years she has given us her time
Her heart, her soul and much more than a dime.
Her family, her friends and her peers are all here
Because of her love for us over the years.
A toast to our friend, one who is dear to us all
And truly tonight she is the belle of the ball.