The women of the Class of 2021 participated in the 94th annual Signing of the Book ceremony Saturday in the Bowie Arts Center, reciting the school’s honor pledge and adding their signatures to those of generations of Erskine students.
This year’s speaker, Sally Creel Roberts, a member of the Class of 1988 and mother of freshman Maya Roberts, serves as director of human resources for several divisions of Morris Communications Company, which is headquartered in Augusta, Ga.
When she was a freshman, Roberts said, the Signing of the Book was in Memorial Hall, “in the same room where my mother, aunt, and sister had signed the book.”
Roberts recalled the signing of a different book during her college years, when she was inducted into Erskine’s history honor society in a solemn ceremony that included the lighting of candles. “The club president had sworn us in after we had repeated the honor code. We were then invited to sign the book. I was the first to do so and leaned over to add my ‘John Hancock,’” she said.
“When I straightened up, the president patted me on the head with great vigor. I thought, ‘Well, that’s a strange custom, but it must mean something.’ Then I smelled it. Most of us know that smell, the smell of burning hair.”
Roberts noted that the “big hair” styles popular in the 1980s required the use of highly flammable hair spray.
“Yep—my hair had caught on fire,” she said. “After that, we all tried to maintain our composure, for this was a very serious induction, but we kept snickering for the rest of the ceremony.”
Later that evening, she and some friends went out dancing and an upperclassman, a member of the history honor society, asked her to dance and even had the deejay announce a song “dedicated to Sally Creel,” which she thought was sweet until she realized the song was Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.”
Speaking more seriously to the freshman women, Roberts told them her four years at Erskine College “gave me the academic foundation and confidence to be successful.” She then read portions of Proverbs 31, telling the students, “I’m going to make a few points based on this passage—not to prepare you to be an excellent ‘wife,’ but to help prepare you for an excellent ‘life.’”
Prefacing her challenge to the young women embarking on their college careers, Roberts said, “The decisions you make, the habits you form, and the relationships you build during these four years will impact your career, spiritual life, and your family life.”
Roberts noted first that the woman described in Proverbs 31 “seeks and works willingly—no one has to convince her to do her work.” At Erskine, she said, “this is someone who takes the initiative to study, be involved, and [be] positive.”
The Proverbs 31 woman also “rises while it is still night and she is not idle,” Roberts said. “You will be stretched while at Erskine —welcome to the real world, my friends.” She encouraged the students “even when it gets hard, get up early to get ‘it’ done,” whether it is studying or finishing a project.
Citing the reference to strength in Proverbs 31, Roberts said, “Being ‘strong’ only comes with work—not many of us are born strong. The academic rigor, musical training, and sports discipline offered at Erskine will build the foundation for what lies ahead for you.”
For students in college, the “poor and needy” to whom the Proverbs 31 woman shows generosity and kindness could be a classmate. There will be “breakups, family crises, deaths, crushed dreams” for students, Roberts said, adding that she experienced some of these while at Erskine and turned to her friends. “We cried together back then and we’ve cried together recently. I prayed for them then, and I definitely pray for them now and know they do the same.” She stressed that Erskine is a small community and urged the women to “pick up your pace and strike up a conversation” when they see someone walking alone. “I challenge you to be inclusive, engage, and reach out.”
The description in Proverbs 31:25—“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come”—is a favorite passage for Roberts and her daughter Maya, she said. “I challenge you to take on your college years, especially your freshman year, not with fear or trepidation but with dignity, strength, and confidence.”
Finally, Roberts explained the “secret to our friend’s success,” referring to the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, which is found in her fear and love of the Lord. She advised students, “As you are stretched, look to the resources Erskine offers for spiritual support—RUF, small-group Bible studies, weekly worship. Many of you are accustomed to worshiping every week—don’t stop. Pray for each other, pray with each other. You are building a foundation for the rest of your life and Christ can be that sure foundation.”
Participants in the evening’s program included Ruth Burton, director of the Bowie Arts Center and for many years residence hall director in Carnegie Hall; residence hall director Kathy Busby, who served as pianist; and Vice President for Student Success Dr. Wendi Santee. Also assisting were students Halley Ham, who led the opening prayer, and Cori Damron, who led the pledge; and alumna Clarissa Stiving ’17, who led the singing of the Alma Mater.