A Hallowed Place Honors an NC State Icon
“It is often said that gratitude is the heart’s memory; if this be true, then our hearts are filled with memories of you.”
These words, spoken to Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough at a ceremony soon after her retirement from the faculty of Meredith College in 1972, captured the feelings of many who knew her in life. Decades later, our Wolfpack community still owes a debt of gratitude to this bold trendsetter.
A Trailblazing Life
Born in 1904 to Louis T. Yarbrough, a member of NC State’s first graduating class, and Lula Ellis Yarbrough — granddaughter of Andrew Jackson Ellis, a local landowner known widely among the university’s early community — Yarbrough grew up within sight of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now NC State.
From her family’s home on Hillsborough Street, where early students of the college broke bread, a young Yarbrough explored our campus, struck up friendships with faculty and even sat in on courses during her summer breaks. After graduating high school from Saint Mary’s School near downtown Raleigh, however, Yarbrough was barred from attending the university she’d grown up alongside due to NC State’s rules against admitting female students.
Instead, Yarbrough took her ambitions to nearby Meredith College. There, her hard work and resolve to push through any obstacle enabled her to complete dual degrees in chemistry and mathematics in 1926.
Written for Mary Yarbrough on May 23, 1910, on the occasion of her sixth birthday.
May is the month of beautiful flowers,
And of sweet little gray-eyed girls;
Rose-bud mouths that were made to kiss,
You’ve seen them with teeth like pearls.
You’ve also seen the mischievous look,
As the eyes are demurely cast down —
Rough and ready for play, always merry and gay,
But with sympathy sure to be found.
Right now I am thinking of one little girl,
Outside the fair city of Raleigh;
Upon Hillsboro Street, this miss you may meet;
Greet her thusly, “Good morning, Miss Mollie!”
(However her real name is Mary)