Dr. Nancy Howard Gallups
Woodward Academy changed the trajectory of my life. I grew up on a farm in McDonough, Georgia and attended a small private school there through my ninth-grade year. I was labeled “smart,” not necessarily a compliment in an environment that rewarded athletics over academics. Seventh grade was a particularly bad year as I was bullied for my academic achievements. My parents knew that they had to get me into a different environment. My mother went back to work after ten years of being out of the work force so that they could afford Woodward. I still remember receiving my acceptance letter in the mail and the excitement that ensued.
Woodward did not disappoint. I remember one of the first things I noticed and told my parents was that it was suddenly cool to be smart. In that supportive academic environment, I soared. To this day, one of the greatest teachers I have ever encountered was Ms. Elaine Carroll, my 10th grade biology teacher. I already knew that I wanted to be a doctor so I wanted to succeed in her class. She was tough, but she was exceedingly fair and a gifted teacher. In her class that year, she pushed me to want to succeed in a way I had never experienced before. I found a fire in myself for the love of learning.
In 11th grade, I had the pleasure of taking Latin from Major Abe Ferguson. Major Ferguson was a teaching legend, straight from the G.M.A. days. He inspired fear but also incredible loyalty from the many, many students who passed through his classroom. Bill Lineberry, my senior year, created a love of U.S. history and politics that I still enjoy today. He inspired my interest in the current events that affect our world every day. Ron McCollum, Missy Sanchez, and so many others pushed me to think beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving. The gifted educators whom I encountered at Woodward influenced me more profoundly than any others I met in my entire academic career. The life lessons I learned in their classrooms were so much more than the tests I took. Character development, as promised in the Academy motto, was of paramount importance.
I worked hard at Woodward and graduated as the salutatorian of my 1984 class. As I mentioned, I knew that medical school was in my future so scholarship opportunities for college were very important. The counseling department at Woodward, led by Missy Sanchez, worked exceedingly hard to help me. In the end, I was awarded a Robert W. Woodruff scholarship to Emory University, a single event that changed my life as much as Woodward had changed the girl from McDonough into a worthy college student. I was able to attend college and acquire no debt so that my parents were able to finance my medical school education. When meeting Mr. George Woodruff my freshman year at Emory, he said to us that he and his brother asked only one thing of us: that when we were in a position to repay their investment in us, we would.
I took those words to heart. I knew that I would not have been the person I am today if I had not had the opportunities that Woodward Academy afforded me. When the time came, my husband was very supportive of my desire to give back to the institution that had given me so much. I started with remembering a close friend, David Cook ’87, who had started Woodward on the same day I did and, unfortunately, is no longer with us. From that starting place, my commitment grew to see Woodward become the national model for excellence that it continues to be today.