PILOT MOUNTAIN —The passion for education and dedication to students of Beulah Gray Perkins was celebrated at East Surry High School Wednesday night as hands were raised all over the gymnasium to signify lives touched by the 37-year veteran’s tireless efforts.
The ceremony held before the Lady Cardinal varsity basketball game Wednesday marked the official announcement of establishing the Beulah Gray Perkins Endowment Fund by the Surry County Schools Educational Foundation. Prior to the presentation, long time co-workers with Perkins Judy Jones talked briefly about here colleague. Jones said Perkins, who served as a counselor at East for 25 years, began her career teaching at Copeland Elementary.
“She always got here early but left late and she never closed her door to students,” said Jones. “She would tell them I wish you’d apply for a scholarship and back then we had to personally type up the applications.” Jones praised Perkins’ personal contact and encouragement to ensure every student had an opportunity at a scholarship. She said the 89-year old is still busy today and plants and tends her own garden.
Jones said Perkins recently donated 99 quarts of homemade vegetable soup and couldn’t estimate the amount of green beans and fruit jellies Perkins also routinely donates to the community.
At the ceremony held at half court of the gym, Surry County School’s Chairman Brent McKinney explained the endowment was part of an ongoing effort by the group to enhance education for county students. He said the foundation has raised more than $3,000 as it looks to mark its three-year anniversary this year.
“We are proud to be a part of the creation of an endowment program to give back to the school and have an impact from now on,” McKinney said.
School Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves told the group the foundation’s efforts had helped buy books for elementary schools, costumes for dramas, support JROTC and field trips. Reeves, who had been at a Leadership Surry Class earlier in the day, had mentioned he was proud to be a part of the presentation.
“This man (Van Cooke) jumped up out of his chair and told me Beulah Gray Perkins had changed his life,” said Reeves. He went on to recount how Perkins, who heard Cooke talking about vocational classes, convinced Cooke to run for student body president and encouraged him to apply for a scholarship.
Reeves said at that time, no one in Cooke’s family had gone to college. He later graduated from North Carolina State after having received a nearly full scholarship and later commanded a ship in the U.S. Navy.
“It’s wonderful to see all of you here tonight,” said Perkins. “When I came through the doors it was like coming home again. That is always a joyous feeling. A big part of my heart will always be with East Surry High School.”
Others present at the ceremony included Board of Education members Sue Stone, Clark Goings, Board Chairman Earlie Coe, Sheriff Graham Atkinson, Foundation Liaison Melissa White and Principal Diane Beane.
A reception was held after the ceremony in the School Media Center, which was almost filled with well wishers, former students, family and friends. Perkins said she had been surprised about being given the honor. She said the reward for her was seeing the successes of students and that education had almost been a divine calling for her.
“I’m still shocked to receive this. My speech would have been longer if I’d known,” joked Perkins. “I don’t know who did this but I sure appreciate it. I was inspired by my fifth grade teacher Mary Bet Haymore of Dobson. she was the best teacher. From then on I wanted to be like her. I’d do it all over again. Like being a pastor, teaching was almost a divine calling for me and I miss it and I have never regretted my decision.” She said she retired from the profession to enjoy traveling with her husband, the late Carol Perkins.
The foundations has another endowment fund which will be named to honor Ralph O. Lanier. A ceremony is being planned and has been tentatively set for Feb. 7 at Surry Central High School.
The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation began in January 2011. According to White, the foundation was created by a group of local business leaders who believe investing in children’s education will impact the future of Surry County’s economy. The Educational Foundation’s mission is to increase the level of education by helping county students pursue higher education and rewarding teachers with professional learning opportunities for extraordinary classroom projects.
Interested persons may contact the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 336-386-8211 for more information.