Reinhardt alum to have plenty to celebrate Saturday
by Jon Gargis
Oct 07, 2010 | 1884 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Frances Linn sits in front of her piano, which once belonged to Augustus Michael Reinhardt, one of the founders of Reinhardt University. Linn, the school’s oldest living graduate, is one of more than two dozen members of her immediate and extended family to attend the school.  Special/Louis Tonsmeire Jr.
Frances Linn sits in front of her piano, which once belonged to Augustus Michael Reinhardt, one of the founders of Reinhardt University. Linn, the school’s oldest living graduate, is one of more than two dozen members of her immediate and extended family to attend the school. Special/Louis Tonsmeire Jr.
Current and former students, staff and faculty members of Reinhardt University in Waleska will be among those on campus Saturday celebrating the school's annual Fall Family & Alumni Weekend. But alumna Frances Linn of Pine Log won't be celebrating with them -- she will be the focus of a celebration of her own.

Linn, of the school's 1929 graduating class, is currently the oldest living graduate of the university. Saturday will mark her 100th birthday and will see her milestone recognized with a party in the fellowship hall of Bartow Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Highway 140, Rydal. The event will run from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

"I feel very blessed," said Linn, who is the third member of her family to reach 100 -- her mother and sister both lived to be 102. "God has just let me live this long. I never dreamed of doing it."

Though Linn will not be on the campus to celebrate with other alums, the college and its supporters will be represented at her birthday party. JoEllen Wilson, the college's vice president of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs, will be at the party to present her with a proclamation that states she will have a scholarship created in her name.

"Every year, Reinhardt chooses an honoree to name a scholarship for. Jenny Tonsmeire had suggested interviewing her, and then after interviewing her, we just felt it was a perfect fit because she had taught so many people in this area for so long, that we felt like a lot of people would want to give in her honor," said Jennifer Wiggins Matthews, director of alumni for Reinhardt University, who added that the total amount of the scholarship has yet to be determined as donations are still being received and will continue to be taken.

"Her whole life has been about education, therefore, we're turning around and giving this money that people have given in the name of education so other students can continue their career at Reinhardt," Matthews added.

Linn's studies led her to a 44-year career in teaching, which began at the age of 19 in Taylorsville. "I had students the same age I was," she said of her first year in the field.

Linn would also teach at the Pine Log School and Adairsville High School before making it to Fairmount High School, where she would retire in 1974. "I would have taught longer, but I had to take care of my mother," she said, adding that history and American government were the subjects she taught for most of her career.

"I think what got me hooked on history -- I think it was sixth grade -- we had a history book called 'Old Europe and Young America,' and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I decided then that's what I wanted to do," Linn said. "The early days, I taught a little bit of anything. Whenever an extra teacher was needed, why, you filled in. I even taught second-year algebra one year.

"I liked to know my material that I was teaching and know my students. You put the two together, and you have a fair blessing," she added about what she enjoyed about her long career in education.

Linn's history with the Cherokee County college began at the age of 10 when she enrolled in the fourth grade at Reinhardt Academy after moving from Pine Log to Waleska, which was spelled "Walesca" at the time. Reinhardt was then an elementary, middle and high school and college.

"Grammar school, or elementary school, was in the basement -- it was one big building -- and high school and college was upstairs, so you just worked your way up," Linn said. "We were fortunate in high school because we had the same teachers as the college. That gave us a little advantage."

Debate was a popular subject during Linn's time at Reinhardt, and she recalled a tradition involving the campus' teams.

"There used to be a big ol' water tower, and somehow or another, the night after the championship debate, the colors of the team that won always appeared on that water tank. It was against the rules for anybody to climb it, but somebody did every time," she said.

Matthews said stories like that are what she and other Reinhardt officials look for as they work to maintain a history of the school.

"She is a history book, a living history book," she said. "We're taking all the information she's given us and keeping that in our archives. It's very important because you're not going to have an alumni director who is there for 100 years, so you have to keep that information the best you can."

Linn would go on to finish first in her high school class and become valedictorian of her college class. Her college education continued at LaGrange College and concluded at the University of Georgia.

The 99-year-old is just one part of a long family legacy at Reinhardt. More than two dozen immediate and extended members of Linn's family have attended the college, including her uncle, who graduated in 1893. "It's always good, because I love Reinhardt," she said of the strong familial connection to the school.

Though the family is a part of Reinhardt history, a piece of that history resides in Linn's Pine Log house, which was originally built in 1848 but expanded and refurbished throughout the years. In the house's parlor is a piano that belonged to Augustus Michael Reinhardt, one of the founders of Reinhardt College, purchased from one of the college's presidents by Linn's father. The college became Reinhardt University on June 1.

Even at her age, Linn still remains as physically and mentally active as she can, though she says she does not walk around much since she has to use a walker.

"I can walk around a little bit without it, but the doctor said it was just common sense to use it" following the breaking of her hip a couple years ago, she said. But she still goes to church, the beauty shop, her doctor's office and sometimes the grocery store.

She still subscribes to The Daily Tribune News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as several magazines, including National Geographic, Reader's Digest and Good Housekeeping.

"I read a lot. I always have," she said. "I like to know what's going on. I'm not dead yet."

Matthews said she hopes Linn will be able to visit the college following the observance of her birthday, adding that keeping past students connected with their school is an important duty, even if the campus has changed since their time there.

"I think it's important that you work with your alumni, whether they graduated last year or whether they graduated 70 years ago," Matthews said. "College is a big part of people's growing up, so we always want to stay connected to alumni, we want them to remember the college, the university, and come back and visit. We want them to always feel like it's their place."