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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ponder's mother encouraged him to succeed in college

Ponder entered Mars Hill College at an early age with assistance from his mother, Emma Ramsey Ponder, and two future sisters-in-law. Though the first year was difficult, he persevered because he knew his mother was determined to see him succeed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BILL FINGER:
You were fifteen when you went to college?
ZENO PONDER:
Yes sir. So I attended school there two years. Managed to pass my work. Wasn't easy. I wasn't prepared. Very ill prepared for college. I had two prospective sister-in-laws during my elementary education out at Pleasant View where we had six grades in one room. And these two prospective sister-in-laws had each double promoted me. It wasn't that I was smart. They were each just trying to make real good friends with my brothers. (laughter) So I graduated from Mars Hill College in 38 and from 38 on down to North Carolina State College and graduated from there in 1940 at the age of 19. And still was not old enough to register for World War II even though . . .
BILL FINGER:
You had a college degree.
ZENO PONDER:
. . . had a college degree. I went back and did one full year on my master's degree and still wasn't old enough to register for the draft. I was 20.
BILL FINGER:
Well your mother must have had an incredible influence on pushing her children to go on with their education. Where did that . . .
ZENO PONDER:
My mother had one of the most dogged determinations of any person I've ever known. She was sweet, she was wonderful, she was good to me. And some of the things that I knew basically that she believed in . . . I didn't know how strongly she believed, I guess. Long after I was out of college my father told me, jokingly, one day a story that happened between he and his wife, Emma. Said "Zeno, I'm real proud you went on to college. Proud you finished." And said "And I don't want credit for it. I was perfectly willing to let you drop out at Mars Hills because you were having considerable trouble that first year there. Under the care of a doctor. We didn't know what was wrong, really. And I was perfectly willing to let you come on back home. But," he says, "Emma there told me, she says 'Zadie, he can do college work and I have buried six of my sons, four with polio, two with measles and whooping cough combination and I would rather bury him as to see him quit. I want that boy to go to college."' And I said "Well, did she mean it?" He said "You went to college, didn't you?"
BILL FINGER:
That would have been a lot of pressure if you'd known that at the time.
ZENO PONDER:
I didn't know it until years later. I knew that she was very determined that I further my education from high school. And like most teenage boys I would have been very happy to have dropped out at sixteen or seventeen. Come back and started farming. And again, I would have been ill-prepared for farming. About as ill-prepared as I was for college. But I didn't disappoint my mother. I went on through and I'm proud that I did.