The Early Days: Roberta (Shackelford) Simmons

Roberta-Simmons

Miss Roberta Shackelford had just graduated from Eastern Nazarene College and was living in Massachusetts, when her aunt and uncle wrote her about a new Nazarene college in Ohio — Mount Vernon Nazarene College. Roberta, originally from Warren, Ohio, was thrilled to seize an opportunity to work closer to home and was employed as a secretary to Academic Dean Lloyd Taylor in July of 1968. Roberta was also familiar with MVNC’s founding President Stephen W. Nease, who was also fresh from ENC.

“It was exciting to come to MVNC because Dr. Nease was here. I was familiar with their family so I wasn’t afraid to start this new opportunity. They gave you a comfortable feeling; they were kind,” Roberta said.

“Coming here was like family. Everybody came from all around but we didn’t know anybody, we were just here together. We became family to one another. That was the most special part of being a part of something new.”

Roberta described the early days of MVNC just as one would describe coming into a new family: welcoming, exciting, challenging.

“Those early years were so special. In the summer we would have dinners together, games, and after school started we would come together. We were all family,” Roberta said.

As a single woman in the late 1960s, Roberta said families like The Morrisons and Roland and Juanita Ferguson took her in and made her feel at home.

Roberta said that Juanita Ferguson gave up a good job in Akron to work at MVNC. Juanita would live in Mount Vernon during the work week and drive home on the weekends to be with her husband and children. Roland later left his job in Akron to be with Juanita in Mount Vernon where they lived on one salary while MVNC got off the ground.

“That’s a common theme you found in the early days at MVNC: self-sacrifice. You never felt that it was a sacrifice, it’s just God’s calling on your life,” Roberta said.

“God’s hand was on all of them that were here.”

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