UNCP’s oldest living alumna reflects on her college experience

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Beulah Ransom
Beulah Ransom Kemerer, UNC Pembroke's oldest living alumna, celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 6, 2019

Homecoming is a time when alumni, faculty and friends reflect on UNC Pembroke’s storied past while taking part in time-honored traditions such as bonfires, tailgating and parades.

Recently, Beulah Ransom Kemerer offered insight on the time she spent while a student in the 1930s. Kememer, UNCP’s oldest living alumna at 100 years old, shared memories when she attended the school known then as Cherokee Indian Normal School.

The graduating class of 1935 included Kemerer and three others. They were the first students to earn a two-year teaching degree. G.G. Maughon was the superintendent.

Kemerer taught several years in a tiny, country schoolhouse in Maxton before returning to UNCP to earn a second degree in 1952. By then, UNCP transitioned to a four-year college. Her name is engraved on two bricks in front of Old Main, which serves as a permanent monument to the school’s earliest graduates.

She was born Sept. 6, 1919 in the Hopewell community near Rowland. Her parents, Conly and Cottie Lowry Ransom, stressed the importance of family values and a strong educational foundation. Six of the eight Ransom children graduated from UNCP.

And like many of her siblings, Kemerer chose a career in the classroom. She relocated to Maryland and taught elementary school for 26 years. A framed proclamation signed by the former governor of Maryland hangs on her wall at Rolling Ridge Assisted Living in Newton Grove.

“I must’ve been good because I taught quite a bit. I just wanted to be a good teacher and a good person. That’s why you go to school. You don’t go to school for nothing.

“I enjoyed working with the children and their parents. I tried to teach them right.”

Kemerer said she strived to be a great teacher, but more importantly, a role model. 

To this day, she continues to live by those values and a motto often repeated by her mother, which was ‘always do your share.’

The love for education was not only ingrained in Ms. Beulah, but she became the cornerstone for the extended Ransom family. Of the 28 grandchildren, more than half received college degrees–the majority from UNCP. Many went on to teach and work at the university, including Kemerer’s brother, Dr. Andrew Ransom, a physics professor for more than 35 years.

Her niece and UNCP alumna Sharlene Ransom Locklear has worked the past 25 years in the Department of Kinesiology. The family can also trace their roots to Ira Pate Lowry who from 1935 to 1957 served as chair of the music department.

Kemerer is the reason Melissa Ransom Locklear decided to become a teacher 19 years ago.

“She was a huge influence,” said Locklear, a teacher at Prospect School who was selected as the county's Beginning Teacher of the year for the 2019-2020 school year.

“I grew up across the street from Aunt B, so we would sit and talk for hours. Her talks were always motivational. I remember how she would correct my grammar. She gave me so much guidance and made a huge impact on me. She is someone I’ve always looked up to.”