News & Stories
January 5, 2024

This MBS member has memories of Martha Berry

Inclusion in the Martha Berry Society of annual leadership supporters is one way we honor those who share the same generous spirit as Berry’s founder. But the passage of time makes it increasingly rare that we get to recognize someone who attended school here prior to Miss Berry’s death in 1942.

Imagine our excitement last summer when a letter and gift arrived from Emma Ruth Elder Catlett (45c), a student from January 1941 to 1944 whose love for Berry burns brightly despite the fact that she graduated elsewhere after returning home to help care for her younger brother while two older brothers served in World War II.

image_memories_1.jpgNow 101, the retired teacher informed us in her correspondence that she still lives on her own but is no longer driving, declaring: “Aren’t you glad!” During a subsequent visit by a college staff member, she shared memories of Berry days as vivid as when they were made.

Catlett recalled working in the weaving room and the boys dining hall, as well as meals eaten in close proximity to Miss Berry herself (the seats right next to Berry’s founder were reserved for senior girls). She even had the opportunity to meet Henry and Clara Ford, though her favorite memory was serving as a student candleholder during a visit by Emily Vanderbilt Hammond and the famed Berry Pilgrims.

Catlett ultimately finished her degree at the University of Tennessee, but her devotion to Berry is evident in her desire to help “needy students” as a Bronze-level supporter in the Martha Berry Society and through stories told and retold over many years.

“She got her degree from UT,” noted son Larry. “But all I ever heard about was Berry, Berry, Berry.”

Click here: to view the 2022-23 list of MBS members.  

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