Eager to learn: Nancy Hairston Abasiekong ’74

Abbie Darst ’03Leave a Comment

Nancy Hairston Abasiekong '74

Nancy Hairston Abasiekong '74

“I wasn’t sure they would accept a third person from the same family,” Nancy joked about her college application experience. “Of course I wanted to go (to Berea), but I thought I should apply other places in case they had a quota.”

By 1970, Nancy’s family had visited Berea’s campus several times, attending Black Ensemble concerts and other events. She had listened to the multitude of stories that filtered down from her sisters’ semesters and summers spent at Berea.

She also was very aware of the financial constraints on her family. She knew that for her parents to send a third and soon a fourth daughter to college, she would have to help pay her way. Berea’s labor program made that possible.

“We were no strangers to work,” Nancy said, recalling all the ways she and her sisters had served throughout their childhood. “The good thing about Berea with your job assignments is you didn’t have to know how to do it—they taught us, and we were eager to learn.”

Nancy first was assigned to Fireside Weaving in the finishing room. She had no experience with mending/re-weaving different patterns but learned quickly. She continued there over her four and a half years, eventually weaving on display—along with potters, broom makers and other crafters—for tourists to observe and interact with students demonstrating their crafts. In addition to working at Fireside, Nancy also served as a student assistant for the Issues and Values class under Professor Glen Stassen.

Her first Mountain Day experience remains one of her fondest Berea memories. As a first-year student, several friends from Kentucky Hall decided to hike the Pinnacles together with the assistance of an upperclassman guide, Aniedi John Abasiekong ’73. Along the way, they realized that Aniedi, a transfer student also in his first year at Berea, had only hiked the Pinnacle once before. The group made it up the mountain without incident, Nancy recalled laughing, but that sparked a friendship that eventually led to Nancy and Aniedi getting married in Danforth Chapel four years later. They have been married 44 years and have two children.

Following in the Hairston sisters’ footsteps, Nancy auditioned and was thrilled to join the Chapel Choir. She sang with the all-female Polyesters group and sang with the Black Ensemble for one year.

Nancy remembers her first choir tour as a freshman with Dr. Rolf Hovey to Dearborn, Mich., and other cities. She was introduced to various sights and sounds across the U.S. while on tour. She especially enjoyed singing with her sisters at the National Cathedral and in Williamsburg, Va., at Bruton Parrish.

“Dr. Hovey wanted to introduce new things to students,” Nancy said. “We stayed in people’s homes, and we were learning in so many different ways. It enriched our lives and our awareness.”

In addition to choir outings, interesting convocations and watching movies in Phelps Stokes, Nancy also participated in various clubs and held offices across campus. The home economics major was involved in the Home Economics Club. She was president of the Berea Chapter of the Mortar Board National Honor Society, member of the Inter-dorm Council and served as secretary of the student body one year.

Involvement in these organizations afforded Nancy memories of having a meeting/sleepover at the president’s house hosted by Anne Weatherford, who was one of the sponsors of Mortar Board. She also enjoyed meals in the home of Home Economics Chair Marjorie Hilton, cooking and eating together as a club.

After completing an extra semester for student teaching, Nancy graduated from Berea in December 1974 with a bachelor’s in home economics education. She went on to earn a master’s degree in home economics education from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Nancy has enjoyed a 40-year career as a Cooperative Extension family and consumer science extension agent in Cleveland County, N.C. She has worked with countless families, children and communities helping them improve their lives by putting research-based knowledge to work.

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