In 1959, Sandra Simpson Lisk ’63, then a freshman at Pfeiffer College, was singing in a school choir during a Wednesday morning service in Henry Pfeiffer Chapel. A student in the congregation – Bobby Lisk ’63, her future husband – was smitten.
“He kept looking at me,” Sandra recalled. “Later on, he introduced himself and called me. For our first date, we went to the movies in Salisbury. That’s how this roadmap started and has continued.”
Bobby and Sandra dated the rest of their time at Pfeiffer, where he was majoring in business administration and she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Christian education and elementary education. While it was certainly possible for men and women at Pfeiffer to develop romantic relationships when the Lisks were students, “there were a lot of rules and regulations,” said Sandra, who lived in Washington Hall.
“For the women, we had closed study. You had to be in your room at a certain time and studying. If you went out on a date, you had to sign out.”
Bobby and Sandra, who’s originally from Concord, became engaged in early December 1963, and they got married on May 24, 1964, at Main Street United Methodist Church in Reidsville, N.C., where Sandra had begun working as the Director of Christian Education. The late William Robey ’63 was Bobby’s best man.
Their route to marriage looks conventional enough. However, if you dig a bit further, you find an intriguing tale. In fact, except for a few twists and turns, Bobby might never have met Sandra, much less married her. Bobby started attending Pfeiffer in 1956. After his freshman year, he left school, seemingly for good. He reenrolled in 1959 during Sandra’s freshman year.
Bobby hails from Badin, N.C., a small town near Pfeiffer’s Misenheimer campus. His decision to leave Pfeiffer had its roots in his love of playing golf.
During his youth, he played golf well at the now-closed Stanly County Country Club, attracting the favorable attention of Dr. Lem Stokes, who was Pfeiffer’s President at the time. Stokes avidly played golf at the club, often with Bobby, and the two became friends. Stokes wanted Bobby to join Pfeiffer’s then-fledgling golf team, so he arranged for him to attend the school on a golf scholarship.
This was the right call: When Bobby played on Pfeiffer’s golf teams, they enjoyed winning seasons, and he was a major reason for their success. In 1992, he was the first golfer to be inducted into the Pfeiffer Sports Hall of Fame.
Bobby worked summers in the mountainous cool of the Linville (N.C.) Golf Club. When Gene Stout, Linville’s Golf Pro, landed a similar position at the Augusta National Golf Club, the Georgia home of the famed Masters Tournament, he hired Bobby as his assistant, and Bobby withdrew from Pfeiffer.
Bobby’s work at Augusta kept him busy. He gave golf lessons, joined teams that needed an extra player, and worked in the pro shop.
He also enjoyed some extraordinary perks. He got to know Dwight D. Eisenhower, the late President of the United States, who was a club member. Eisenhower viewed playing golf, particularly at Augusta, as a coveted escape from the pressures of his job. He had a makeshift office in a room above Augusta’s pro shop. He chatted several times with Bobby, who remembers the President as a genuinely friendly guy who always seemed interested in how he was doing. At the end of one of his visits to Augusta, Eisenhower gave Bobby a putter with his name inscribed on it.
While working at Augusta, Bobby rubbed elbows with many celerity entertainers and star golfers. One evening in 1958, just after the late Arnold Palmer had won the first of four Masters Championships, he visited Bobby in the pro shop. Palmer complained that the traditional green jacket he’d been given as the tournament’s winner was way too wide at the waist.
“He said, ‘It’s like a bag on me,’” Bobby recalls Palmer telling him. “He had me pin it up around the sides. I always feel honored to have personally fitted Arnold Palmer’s green jacket the first year that he won the tournament.”
A pivotal moment for Bobby at Augusta occurred when he befriended Henry Cullum, a club member who took golf lessons from him. One night, the two started talking about Bobby’s past and about his future plans.
“Why don't you go back to Pfeiffer and finish your education?” Bobby recalled Henry asking. “I said, ‘Well, I probably couldn't afford to do that now.’ And he said, ‘Yes, I think you can, because if you will, I’ll pay for it now.”
Bobby realized quickly that nothing, including the excitement of working at Augusta, could match this opportunity, and besides, he was beginning to sense that he wanted more out of life than working virtually around the clock at a country club. After starting up again at Pfeiffer as a sophomore, in 1959, he stayed at the school until he graduated. He completed work toward his degree in December of 1962 – but didn’t walk at commencement until May of the following year.
In addition to studying at Pfeiffer, Bobby would work a bit more at Augusta and Linville until the fall of 1964, when he and Sandra moved to Lenoir, N.C. He would hold management-level personnel and sales positions in several furniture companies, including Broyhill Furniture Industries and the Lenoir Mirror Company. He has still found plenty of time to play golf.
Sandra would take advantage of her education degree from Pfeiffer to land work as a teacher. She taught elementary school in Caldwell County for 30 years.
Along the way, Bobby and Sandra’s family grew to include three daughters (Cathy, Lisa, and Jennifer) and five grandchildren.
The Lisks became very active in the work of their church, First United Methodist of Lenoir, and of various philanthropic organizations. Bobby was the President of The Rotary Club of Lenoir from 1990 to 1991, earning Paul Harris Fellow recognition. He volunteered for the Lenoir chapters of the United Way and the Heart Association.
Sandra became a member of the Lenoir Service League and she served as one of the United Methodist Women, when that organization was active at her church. Bobby and Sandra have participated in Young at Heart, a ministry that organizes various activities for the seniors of First United Methodist Church of Lenoir.
Throughout the years, the Lisks have maintained strong ties to Pfeiffer. Bobby served on Pfeiffer’s Alumni Board and on the board of the Falcon Club. Sandra still keeps in touch with Jean Ann Long Slate ’63, her roommate in Washington Hall. Her cousin – Dr. David Hollar, an Associate Professor of Health Administration – teaches at Pfeiffer.
“I loved my time at Pfeiffer,” Sandra said. “It was just a close-knit place to be.”
In a sense, the Lisks’ marriage – and all that has evolved from it – hinged on Bobby’s decision to finish up college. He’s now more than happy with how everything turned out.
“I was working eight-day weeks,” he said. “I wanted more of a family life, with nights and weekends off. Because I returned to Pfeiffer, I got all that and more – starting, of course, with meeting and marrying Sandra.”