College campuses. I love ‘em. Especially my favorite, which happens to be the nation’s oldest state-chartered university where I have been employed — with the exception of one brief separation — since the ’60s.
When I traveled Ga. Highway 15 to enroll in Athens, the Classic City, I had no idea where life would take me. After a few weeks on campus, I knew I never wanted to live anywhere else. If you are affiliated with a college, you have unending cultural and social options. You often realize that you don’t know how much good work takes place on campus. Learned faculty researching, innovative and creative, with the goal of making life better for the world.
We too often measure the campus in terms of what happens with the football team. I am proud of every championship the Bulldogs earn, in all of the sports, and take pride in countless notable achievements on the fields of play. Proud, too, of our noted academic reputation, which results in research dollars and exalted praise for accomplishment.
A campus life brings about an opportunity to interact with faculty and students. My exposure is for the most part with the latter, principally with athletes and aspiring students who work in the sports information office. They all embrace learning, due diligence and work ethic. They are nice, friendly, well-behaved, generous and enterprising. Sometimes they come and depart before you have time to get to know them. Life moves at a swift pace, and we often don’t know much about those welcoming, smiling faces and the depth beneath their youthful appearance.
Recently, a charming journalism aspirant came into my office to conduct an interview. Before long, I found myself delving into her interests and background. I was sad for our conversation to end — I wanted to learn more about this engaging coed who has an insightful grasp on life.
A graduate of the Wesleyan School in Norcross, Anne Noland was attracted to athletics and journalism in her formative years. She became a Georgia fan, listening to the radio broadcasts. She volunteered as a student trainer for the football team and also was the statistician. Pre-game, you would find her in the locker room, taping ankles and tending to the medical needs of the football team. As the team moved on the field for kickoff, she raced up to the press box to keep game statistics. As the first half ended, she bolted for the locker room to re-tape ankles and provide medical attention to bruised and banged-up players.
When the team returned to the field for the second half, it was another dash to the press box to finish her job with the statistical sheets. She was more than a fan. She talked to the coaches about personnel and game plans. She learned about blocking schemes. She was given a play book to study formations and plays. She was allowed to review game tape to learn more football and to make sure she got the stats perfectly in order. If a back ran for nine-and-one-half yards and she wrote it down incorrectly, she used the game tapes to get it right.
Since her grade school days, she aspired to enroll at Georgia to study journalism. Then she found work at the Bulldog sports information office. It was almost too good to be true. However, she made a decision in the fall of 2012, which reflects an altruistic bent that warms your heart. Through Wesleyan, an independent school with ties to the Methodist Church, she volunteered to spend four months in Africa.
This is a coed who elected to skip a season of Georgia football to serve the disadvantaged in Uganda, working in an orphanage that adopts abandoned children. She gave up the creature comforts of her middle-class upbringing for the austerity and depression of a Third World country. She learned about the unselfishness of people who literally have nothing. One of the nannies at the orphanage, whose salary is about $300 a year, spent a month’s pay to buy Anne a set of earrings. Anne was overwhelmed.
When Anne’s father, Michael, died of liver cancer, the football team came to the visitation before the funeral en masse. “The football team became my brothers,” Anne, an only child, says. One player, Bobby Fulton, who had enrolled at Hampden-Sydney, predicted that she would be in the homecoming court her senior year and that he wanted to come home to escort her on the field. That night, you would have found her in her semi-formal dress, taping ankles and scurrying to the press box in cowboy boots (in lieu of high heels) to keep statistics.
The best was yet to come. She couldn’t believe her ears when the public address announcer delivered the good news that she was homecoming queen. Queen Anne! How nice it is to have a modest and selfless queen on our campus, one who will do some good for the world.
Long live the Queen.
Loran Smith is co-host of “The Tailgate Show” and sideline announcer for Georgia football. He is also a freelance writer and columnist.