Mississippi's First Alumnae Association Board Member Lillian Wade of Columbus, photographed in front of a portrait of the first member of The Long Blue Line in her family, Frances Minta Bell who graduated from II & C in 1907.

To give you an opportunity to know them better, each edition of our Newsletter will profile a member of your alumnae association’s Board of Directors, focusing this time on Mary Lillian Harris Wade, class of 1969.

By Jimmie Meese Moomaw

When you hear stories of how alums ended up attending the W, you find there were a variety of paths. Some were sent by determined parents, others came to be with a good friend, others received a good financial aid package, and still others seem to have tossed a coin.

Lillian Wade was destined to go to the W. She was born in Columbus Hospital on Main Street. According to the family version of the story, while her mother was still in the hospital, her father went over to the W, enrolled her for the class of 1963 and took out an insurance policy to pay for her education.

Living just a block away from the campus, Lillian began her introduction to “all things W” when she was only five years old. That’s when her older cousins, one a W student at the time, took her to the campus to watch Miss Pohl’s Zouave drills and the Magnolia Chain during graduation exercises.

In addition to the impressions of the W she formed by virtue of living so close to the campus, Lillian says “much of my perception of MSCW came from regular exposure to student teachers at all levels of my elementary and secondary education”

Lillian did follow her father’s plan and enroll at the W in the early 60s. As she put it, “though I never lived on campus, I felt like I did because I was so close.” She describes vivid memories of her life as a student, and recalls the fads of the 60s as short skirts, teased hair, folk music, and moving into the Age of Aquarius with war protests, Woodstock, and a new wave of radical feminism.

In 1969 Lillian received her BFA with a major in Graphic Design and a minor in Journalism and headed into the work world, convinced by her professors that there were no limits to what she could achieve.

Lillian’s talents are varied and reflected in the diversity of her interests and work experience. For a few years in the early 70s she worked in advertising design and feature writing for the Orlando Sentinel. In 1976 she began work at MSU in the Institute for Clean Energy Technology as a post-award contract management, marketing and public relations specialist. She received her MPPA degree in 1995 with an emphasis in rural government and later taught political science as an adjunct professor at the W.

Lillian has consistently worked for and supported causes to advance the position of women in society. Her University Service at Mississippi State included membership on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. She served the Commission as Chairperson in 2004-05, chaired the Outstanding Women Awards in 2005, and co-authored the Report on the Climate for Women on the MSU Campus in 2003. She is also a member of the Mississippi Network for Women in Higher Education.

Versatile as she is, many alums know Lillian best for her dedication to her alma mater through her involvement in the historic MUW Alumnae Association. After serving as Lowndes County Chapter President, Homecoming Chairperson, and Secretary and Vice President of the national Association, Lillian was chosen President-Elect in 06-07. She was denied the opportunity to serve in that capacity because of a new IHL policy that prohibited employees in the state higher education system from serving as association officers. Now retired from the system, Lillian is once again eligible to be an association officer and is in line to succeed Anne Teague as President.

Coming full circle in her connections with the W, Lillian can be counted on to assist the Association and support the W in any way possible. She is an outstanding special events coordinator, often leading the way in making local arrangements for special events and planning and implementing some great parties and celebrations. The success of the Association’s Homecoming Party at the Lee Home last year was but one example of the fruits of Lillian’s labors.

Lillian’s vision for the W’s future is clear and consistent: “The W deserves nothing less than our best efforts on her behalf, “she says. “I pledge my best efforts to the MUW Alumnae Association as we support the alma mater we have served continuously since 1889. I consider it a privilege to be able to give back to the college that gave me so much more than just a baccalaureate degree.”