Countless Maryville College alumni credit Clemmie Henry – and not a specific faculty member or dean – with helping them graduate. Practically, it’s hard to argue. “Miss Clemmie” made it financially possible for hundreds of students to afford four years of higher education.
She came to Maryville College as the secretary of the College’s self-help program in 1918 to continue the work of a distant cousin, Margaret Henry, who died prematurely two years earlier. Margaret had raised $123,000 at the turn of the century for scholarships and a self-help fund.
Miss Clemmie’s background included work in an insurance firm and managing the office of a manufacturing company. Highly adept at raising and managing money, she would, in her 32 years at the College, add half a million to that total by telling the Maryville College story to individual donors, churches and other organizations that were sympathetic to her cause.
Ingenious, she developed a rotating loan fund, and her needlecraft program to help women students was the inspiration behind the College’s highly successful College Maid Shop. She assigned students to jobs on campus that benefited them and the College.
Level-headed and fair, she was often the first person sought out for advice.
In 1938, she was one of two women – the first two women – asked to join the College’s Board of Directors. She was the Board’s first female recorder, a position she held until 1962. As a woman in her position, she experienced discrimination, but she staked the claims of women in a male-dominated society. Friend and dean Carolyn Blair once wrote, “not as a militant feminist, but as a Victorian lady armed with a sense of purpose and a sense of humor.”
Two years before she retired in 1952, the College awarded her an honorary degree. As a “Special Assistant to the President” in retirement, she was instrumental in securing funding for the Margaret Bell Lloyd Residence for Women.
She died in 1976, leaving a sizable sum of money to the College to continue the important work she and Margaret began in that first-floor suite of Anderson hall.
In his tribute at Miss Clemmie’s funeral, then president Dr. Joseph Copeland described the occasion as one of “gratitude and celebration.”
Dr. Blair noted that although her long-time friend would have hated being the center of attention, she certainly would have been comfortable in an atmosphere of gratitude and celebration because that’s where she spent her life.
By recognizing her as a “Legend of Anderson Hall,” Maryville College again thanks Clemmie Henry and celebrates her sacrifices and contributions that helped make this college what it is today.