"I'm telling you, I really go deep with Catawba," says Randy Southard of Stokesdale, a 1974 College alumnus, and as he explains, one realizes how truthful his statement is.
Southard describes himself as "just a little wet behind the ears kid from Stokesdale" who ended up as a student at Catawba thanks to two people with ties to the institution, both of whom were named Ron. Ron Shelton '72, Southard's next door neighbor growing up, chose to attend Catawba and was a member of Catawba's basketball team. The late Ron Ball '61, who was then football coach at Northwest Guilford High School, brought Southard, the Northwest team's trainer, and his other players to the Catawba campus to see a football game. Between the influence of the two Rons, Southard was sold. "The tie of those two guys to the institution is the reason I went to Catawba," he remembers. "It was like having family there."
Southard and his wife, LaBreeska, want to assure that students from their home county in North Carolina, Guilford, have an opportunity to have a Catawba College experience of their own. To that end, they have made a gift to create the Southard Family Endowed Scholarship Fund. Preference for that scholarship will be given to upper-class students from Guilford County majoring in business or religion.
"I had an opportunity to go into business with a couple of guys in 2003," Southard explains. "We were more than blessed with five good years in that business (selling and servicing group insurance). We sold it in the fall of this year and for a profit, so the scholarship was a natural way to say thanks to my Catawba family."
Dr. Ken Clapp '70, Catawba's senior vice president and chaplain, was also someone Southard knew when he first came to Catawba. The two were in 4-H together as young men in Guilford County. "He and I weren't on campus together, but because of my respect for Ken, his leadership, and the need to create new witnesses of God's blessings, I chose to add religion as a possible major for students receiving the scholarship."
Southard, who majored in business at Catawba, says his Catawba education "gave me a real perspective on how business people think." Professor Al Carter, he recalls, could explain economics "in a real world way that I could get my head around." Carter, he says is "a very special professor who is good at filling in the gaps between a book education and a real education." Professor Millard Wilson made Southard and other students make "presentations in class like we were sales people from companies, and although we hated them, it turned out to be the best thing he could have done for us."
Southard remembers with fondness the late Ruby Butner, his dorm mother in Abernethy Residence Hall. "She was such a sweet lady and she made it feel so much like home. Even though I was only 60 miles away from home, I would have been homesick without her."
Life in the residence hall was a wonderful experience for Southard. He roomed with Jim Moore '74 of Mt. Holly, N.J. for all four years and remembers delighting Jim and his other roommate from New Jersey with his Southern accent. "That was their great joy to hear me talk," he says.
Southard, who just finished up six years of service on the Catawba College Alumni Board, is now in his first year of service on the College's Board of Visitors. This service and frequent visits keep him in touch with his alma mater. "It feels the same to come back to campus," he explains. "The campus still has the same wonderful personality. Although it has changed in appearance, it has kept the persona that makes the Catawba experience so special."
When Southard's not working or serving his alma mater, he spends time as a volunteer firefighter, something he has done since 1968. "You know how every little boy at some point wants to be a firefighter; I just got the chance to do it and never got over it. I get to drive the trucks and serving in this capacity is one of the best things I've ever done. I served as volunteer chief for eight years and I'm now serving my third year as deputy chief."
Southard and his wife are parents of two children, Justin and Brisha, both of whom are students at UNC Greensboro.