Bob Gulledge ’68, the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Alumni Award, keeps coming up with ways to thank Pfeiffer College. He remembers his time on the baseball field and his days in the classroom as pivotal moments that continue, more than 50 years later, to influence his life and his dreams.
“I wouldn’t trade my time at Pfeiffer for the world,” he said. “It turned out to be one of the very best things that happened in my life. I met my wife of 53 years (Becky Barkley ’68, an English major) there, along with a lot of my best friends.”
One of those friends, Griggy Porter ’69, said that Gulledge was “most deserving” of the Outstanding Alumni Award because he “works tirelessly” to promote and advance Pfeiffer and encourages others to do the same.
Gulledge had double majors in economics and business administration and earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, paving the way for a successful career in commercial banking. His first employer was Wachovia Bank and Trust in Winston-Salem, N.C, now part of Wells Fargo. He later worked for First Virginia Bank and then BB&T in Norfolk, Va., when it acquired First Virginia. Now retired, he and Becky live in Camden, S.C.
Gulledge has expressed his gratitude to Pfeiffer in a myriad of ways, most notably as a painter atop the spire of Henry Pfeiffer Chapel. In the late 1980s, he began participating in “Tom Sawyer Days,” an all-volunteer effort in which the University’s key stakeholders came together to repaint or refurbish every building on its Misenheimer campus. The effort became a meaningful way to re-engage alumni in the advancement of Pfeiffer.
Gulledge took the lead in repainting Henry Pfeiffer Chapel, which had begun to look unattractively rough after an earlier coat of paint started peeling away. Gulledge, then a resident of Winston-Salem, traveled to Pfeiffer on weekends for the better part of a year. He painted the chapel with Gerald Carpenter (’85 Hon.), who was at Pfeiffer from 1983 until his retirement in 2013 and Sheila Prevatte (’94 Hon.), who served as Pfeiffer’s Director of Health Services from 1987 to 2004.
Carpenter, an Assistant Professor of Business and, between 1989 and 1993, the VP for Advancement, praised Gulledge for being “brave enough to risk getting into the rented lift to paint the tallest campus structure.”
“Bob was steadfast throughout the entire Tom Sawyer effort,” Carpenter added. “He tirelessly recruited participants from his class, fellow trustees, and other alumni and friends. As the effort grew, Bob was always totally involved, and more importantly, as the effort was reaching its goal of totally enhancing the curb appeal of Pfeiffer, Bob never waned in his participation to complete the job of painting the chapel.”
For more than 50 years, Gulledge has remained loyal in his support of his alma mater. Led by Thad Woodard ’68, their Class President, Gulledge and other Class of 1968 members began working, even before graduation, to raise money for a significant class gift. Eventually, at the request of Pfeiffer’s administration, the ’68 alumni earmarked a portion of the money they’d raised for renovations that transformed the Merner Center into the Visitor and Welcome Center, which began operating in the 2017-18 academic year.
Gulledge’s most recent way of thanking Pfeiffer was inspired by his association with Joseph S. Ferebee, Sr., the late coach of Pfeiffer’s baseball teams from 1956 to 1987. Ferebee, who remains the winningest coach in North Carolina college and American Legion history, coached Gulledge when he played second base for Pfeiffer behind Porter.
Gulledge conceived of His Field, Our Dreams: A Lifetime of Baseball with Legendary Coach Joe Ferebee (Palmetto Publishing), in which 67 of Ferebee’s former players and friends pay tribute to him through remembrances. Gulledge and Gary Weart ’71, who nominated Gulledge for the Outstanding Alumni Award, compiled the remembrances for the book, which was edited and proofed by Margaret Whitt ’68. Larry Monaghan ’68 joined Gulledge to promote the team’s effort throughout the region.
His Field, Our Dreams has attracted positive attention in the press, and has been the subject of several news articles. Proceeds from sales of the book have benefitted Pfeiffer’s baseball program. What the book’s contributors wrote “says something about the quality of people who were at Pfeiffer then, and I suspect, still are,” Gulledge said.
Gulledge also honored his former coach by joining forces with several other Pfeiffer alumni to fund an endowed scholarship honoring Ferebee. Between the 2007-08 and the 2016-17 academic years, $25k in aid was awarded to seniors on Pfeiffer’s baseball team.
The criteria for the Joseph E. Ferebee Endowed Scholarship changed in 2017 when Pfeiffer became a DIII school and, thus, could no longer award athletic scholarships. The fund now supports students who have academic merit and financial need and who exhibit the qualities of a campus leader.
And, as Weart pointed out, Gulledge orchestrated many alumni events around birthdays and activities for Ferebee before his death in 2020.
Gulledge, who received the 1990 Distinguished Alumnus Award of Pfeiffer College, has also served on Pfeiffer’s Board of Trustees (1991-2004), provided financial support for its baseball program, and served as President of the Pfeiffer College Alumni Association. He is a member of the Falcon Club.
Gulledge believes he has many reasons to be thankful for his experience at Pfeiffer.
He came to Misenheimer on a $3k scholarship from East Rowan High School in Salisbury, N.C. His capability and diligence as a student soon found favor with Ret. Col. James Williams (U.S. Air Force), a Professor of Economics who chaired Pfeiffer’s Division of Economics and Business Administration from 1961 to 1971. Williams knew the admissions director at Wharton and told Gulledge he would help him gain acceptance if he applied. Gulledge views this as a foundational component of his successful banking career.
Gulledge had played second base at East Rowan, but he wasn’t on Ferebee’s radar before he graduated high school, and he had no plans to play at Pfeiffer. His plans changed when Art Small ’67 went through Plyler Hall, Gulledge’s dorm during his freshman year, encouraging people to come out for fall ball. Gulledge had been enrolled for just a couple of weeks. He didn’t have a glove, but he went to the diamond anyway.
After a few weeks of practice, Ferebee, sensing that Gulledge was in it for the long haul, ordered his newest second baseman a coveted A2000 glove, which replaced the one he had been borrowing. An A2000 cost $19.95 in 1964; it now costs $279.95. Gulledge still has his Pfeiffer glove -- which “fielded a lot of my memories of playing baseball.”
He would come to credit Ferebee with imparting a number of life lessons. One of the most important would be the value of hard work: Ferebee would hit grounder after grounder to Gulledge and others with the goal of ensuring perfectly executed double plays.
“All that was more than about baseball,” Gulledge said. “The older I got the more I realized that this practice-makes-perfect stuff doesn’t make you perfect, but it makes you a lot better than you would have been otherwise. I trace that back to Coach Ferebee.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.