DOBSON — A telephone message to the Surry Community College Foundation office simply said “I want to speak with you about a scholarship.” Upon returning the call, a fascinating story came to light that will benefit generations of nursing students and the patients they will serve.
Frank Blalock, who had left the message and who is the Godson of Vannie Allred Rouse, began his conversation with Marion Venable, executive director of the SCC Foundation, with the following story.
Vannie Allred was born in Rockingham and raised in Sanford, child of the late James and Mattie Allred; the oldest of six brothers and sisters. A child of the depression Vannie left school early to take care of her invalid mother and to help raise her siblings. She had numerous jobs beginning with cleaning Doctor Blue’s office in the evenings, working at the Temple Theater rising to the position of the cashier, working at Heins Telephone, then moving to Mount Airy to become a manager at the largest drug store. At every stop in her career her attitude, work ethic and native intelligence so impressed her employers that she was always given more promotions and responsibilities. Her lack of formal schooling never blocked her desire to learn and succeed, and created an acute appreciation for the value of an education.
One of her fondest memories was helping teenage girls in the Mount Airy area buy their first cosmetics, and she developed a lasting relationship with many young women in the area. She also met Herman Ashburn, a successful Mount Airy business man, and they married in 1959. Herman had two daughters and Vannie became a strong mother for them.
Her life was about friends, too. After Herman’s untimely death, Vannie began traveling with those friends. She never met a stranger, and during those travels she met Linwood Rouse, and a long distanced courtship began. They were married in 1969 and Vannie and Linwood continued their travels, always returning to their home in Winterville. Both were very active in church and civic affairs, and have left an enduring legacy with their generosity. During her jaunts with Linwood, they would pull their car off the Interstate every morning at the first small town they came across. They would stop at a gas station and ask where the “coffee club” met, go there, and spend an hour or two making friends among the locals. At every stop in her life Vannie made friends of all ages. She forged a very strong relationship with Sonja Blalock, her “adopted daughter,” and Godson Frank, that continued right up to her passing. They loved like family, argued like family, and touched each other’s lives in so many special ways.
Unable to have children of her own, Vannie became a second mother and grandmother to those of her many friends. She loved the visits when they came together to play games, cook, work on arts and crafts, and to discuss school and future plans. She always stressed the importance of a good education and the value of a strong work ethic.
Despite her success and many friends Vannie felt the lack of a formal education had left a void in her life. She was always supportive of anyone that was continuing their schooling, and that interest led her to make arrangements to create several perpetual scholarships at schools across the state. Vannie will impact the lives of the young people across North Carolina forever.
Vannie Allred Rouse died on April 15, 2015, leaving funds to establish the Vannie Allred Rouse Scholarship. The $400,000 value of the scholarship will support first year Associate Degree Nursing or Practical Nursing Program students who are graduates of a North Carolina high school and demonstrate financial need.
John Willingham, chair of the Surry Community College Foundation Board, confirmed, “The Foundation Board of Directors, Board of Trustees and college faculty and staff celebrate the impact that this monumental gift will make in continuing the legacy of excellence that Surry Community College has earned. It is with the most sincere appreciation that the Surry Community College Foundation accepts this gift and opens a new pathway for nurses.”
Vannie Allred Rouse’s love of Mount Airy and her time spent there and her understanding of the value of an education will empower students to change their lives and to build a future committed to the profession of nursing.