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Family celebrates tradition of a Concord education

Louise Hess ‘60 of Mullens and her great granddaughter, Melissa Dawn Mills Shifflette ‘10 of Corrine, are part of the same Wyoming County extended family. And, as of Saturday, May 8, 2010, the two share more than a family tree.

Both women marched in commencement ceremonies at Concord University that day. Melissa, wearing a gold stole signifying her cum laude status as an honor graduate in the Class of 2010, participated in the 2 p.m. ceremony. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Earlier during the 10 a.m. program, Louise, adorned with a maroon sash printed with “50-Year Class” in silver letters strode in with members of Concord’s Class of 1960 back on campus for their 50th reunion.

Surrounded by family, Louise and Melissa celebrated the milestone achievement of receiving a college degree. A span of 50 years separates these two Concord alums. A rich heritage joins them.

The story begins with a determined young Louise intent on becoming a teacher. Married and living in Wyoming County, she had to travel the mountainous roads each day to attend class at Concord.

Perhaps the trip was easier because of her traveling companion, Ellen Folden, who like herself had aspirations of becoming a teacher. And, as if to make Melissa’s Concord legacy even deeper, Ellen like Louise, would one day be called great-grandmother by Melissa Dawn.

Five decades later Melissa, newly married in her senior year, found herself driving across those same mountains with the same destination – a Concord education.

Several of Melissa’s other relatives rank among Concord alumni. “Granny Lou,” as Louise is known by her grandchildren, supports and encourages the family’s youngsters in their higher education pursuits. According to Melissa’s mother, Dawn Mills, she helps with purchasing books, moving into the dorm, visiting them on campus, and, as with Melissa, attending commencement as a proud grandparent.

Graduate studies are also tradition for this family. Louise received a master’s degree in education administration from Marshall. Melissa, continuing in her Granny Lou’s footsteps, is planning to attend graduate school.

Louise’s teaching career covers more than three decades. She taught grade school (first through eighth graders) for 33 years. The last five years prior to her retirement were spent at Mullens High School as a special education teacher. A certified Braille instructor, she worked with visually impaired students.

A lifelong teacher and learner, Louise recently completed her certification to teach GED classes. She said she has received job offers to work with students pursuing the GED.

Louise has an impressive record of service to her community and has been recognized on several occasions for this volunteer work. She was named Female Citizen of the Year for the Mullens Chamber of Commerce in 2001. AARP recognized her with an award for outstanding community service. She was honored by 4-H for a scholarship in her name that sends children to 4-H camp each year.

She remains busy with volunteer activities. She is a member of the Ministerial Association of the Mullens District representing her church St. Andrew’s Episcopal. She is a member of Eastern Star, the Wyoming County Retired Teachers Association, and the Mullens Dogwood Festival Committee.

Melissa is compiling her own record of achievements. She was valedictorian of her class at Wyoming East in 2006. She received several scholarships to attend Concord including the Joseph F. Marsh Scholarship and the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship.

The family’s legacy of academic endeavors and their tradition of a Concord education continue with Melissa’s sister, Laura Beth Mills. She is a rising sophomore at Concord majoring in sociology.

Created on Oct 28, 2013. Report incorrect information.