Love for Wesleyan: Becky Wilhite Foor
By Becky Wilhite Foor
As I look back, I can see that I was meant to go to Tennessee Wesleyan for my college education. Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, many of my classmates were headed to the University of Tennessee, but I was a bit anxious about attending classes of several hundred students. My thought was to go to a bit smaller school for my first two years, then transfer to UT. I applied to East Tennessee State, was accepted, and assigned a roommate, but I realized I knew no one there or planning to go there. Again, I felt that it was just not the right place for me. Listening to friends about their school choices, I did know several that were headed to Tennessee Wesleyan. I applied, was accepted, and had a feeling of peace come over me that this was the right decision to at least start my college years. So, in the fall of 1965, I headed to Athens.
Within my first several days of being on campus, I knew that it was the place for me to be at that time. I enjoyed meeting new people and I especially liked that my class sizes were no more than 30 students, if that. Campus activities called to me and I soon had many things to do, along with studying. I was fortunate enough to be selected as an Ambassador for the school as a representative to visitors, whether they be potential students with their parents or visiting board members. It gave me a chance to learn even more about the school and to share that with others.
Other activities took my time as well, but the memory that stands out the most was an actual job I had on campus. I worked, part time, for the chaplain on campus, Rev. Bob Irwin. I answered his phone and typed bulletins for chapel. What I remember the most was the time he gave to me. He was a true friend, listening, asking, and just being there. My own father had died before my fourth birthday and Bob Irwin became a father figure to me. He was supportive, encouraging me to seek my own way, probably one of the reasons I stayed at Wesleyan for all four years of college. I appreciated the smaller classes and the camaraderie, so I really did not consider moving back to Knoxville for UT.
After graduation in 1969, I headed to Orlando, Florida for my first teaching job at a local elementary school. While there, I became involved in Young Life as a counselor and even accompanied high schoolers across country to a Young Life camp in Colorado the summer of 1970. Yet I never lost touch with Bob Irwin. He knew that I was looking for a summer job in 1971, so he contacted a fellow pastor, Rev. Bill Kilday, who would be heading up the YMCA camp in my area of Florida and I was hired. It was that year that I met my future husband, Bob Foor, this time through my Young Life connections. We were married that December; and, yes, Pastor Bob Irwin performed our wedding ceremony.
Four years later found us moving to northern Virginia for my husband’s job. I continued to teach along with raising our two sons there, but I would travel back to Knoxville to visit family. Years later, my mother went to an assisted living facility. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from her telling me about a new neighbor assigned to the room next to hers. It was Bob Irwin! We had lost touch over the 40 years due to various moves on both our parts, but there he was. I was delighted to see him again. His wife said, “Bob, remember Becky Wilhite? Here she is!” He replied, “The Becky I know is much younger!” We all laughed and had a dear time visiting. His memory was not the same, but every time I visited, he would be singing hymns in his room or counseling people in the main room. That had not changed for him; his belief in God and helping others was still a strong part of his life.
We have since moved to south central Pennsylvania and I retired from teaching. Who knew that this Tennessee girl would be living in a small rural area? My husband and I are involved in church and our community. Our two sons and their families s have remained in the northern Virginia area which is not far away.
I have so many wonderful memories of campus life at Tennessee Wesleyan where I received many learning opportunities, from the classrooms, the professors, the students and friends, various activities, and, of course, Bob Irwin. So, you can see why I feel I was meant to be at Tennessee Wesleyan.