Wanda Montano – Virgil Clark ’50 Distinguished Service Award

Wanda Montano – Virgil Clark ’50 Distinguished Service Award


I was a bad girl – I went to Appalachian
my first two years. But while I was there I was able to sort of figure out what I
wanted to do in life and that was to be a social worker – I wanted to help people.
ECU had the the bachelor’s of social work and that’s where I wanted to
come and so here I am. When I started turning gray a couple years ago – as we age we do that, you know – and so my hairdresser said to me, “Wanda, we need to
put some color in.” And he meant put some brown in to kind of tone down the gray,
and I went, “Well, let’s do purple.” So, two and a half years later, I still have
purple hair. It’s in everything that I do. I bleed purple from my hair to my
toes. If you open my closet, it’s either purple, gold and there’s some Panthers
black and blue in there, but other than that it’s a purple and gold wardrobe. My
house is purple and gold, even the steps when you walk in the front door of my
house, they’re painted purple and gold. My father was a, an interesting man. He
was a blue-collar worker, barely graduated from high school, went off for
the war – served his country – came home and spent 20 or more years coaching Little
League baseball. So, when he died, I had a line of men out the door of the church –
it took me almost two hours to get through, telling me what a force my
father had been in their lives and what an impact he had had. So, it made me
really stop and think: What is my Little League baseball? What am I doing with my
life? The thing that changed my life the most was ECU. The professors that I had
here, the people who challenged me to be a better person, people who taught me how
to think better, how to connect things, how to solve puzzles in that critical
thinking mode. And so, I had this real conscious conversation, and ECU became my
Little League baseball. First-generation college student in the mid ’70s — when I
look back at the statistics of the number of women who are college graduates in 1974, it was 8% of the United States population. I’m very lucky that I made
it. And how do I then pay that forward? By talking to other students, by helping
them figure out what it is the next steps they want to do. I mentored a
scholarship student this past year who’s now in grad school at South Carolina. We
were able to work on her grad school applications together, her essays. I know what a difference that would have made in my life if I had had
that kind of mentorship while I was here. I just got it later in life and I want
to give back. I was not put on this earth to sit on the sofa and watch TV. I was put on this earth to do good and make life better for somebody else. And if you want me to help you, call me.

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