Frankie Needham ’55H retires after 47 years of service to the college

Frankie Needham ’55H, director of advancement services, concluded her 47-year tenure at the college this week. Her retirement marks the longest-ever service in the history of the institution.

After graduating from Avery County High School in 1972, Needham began at Lees-McRae under the guidance of then-President Dr. H.C. Evans Jr. as a secretary within the alumni affairs office. Needham said she wanted to stay in the High Country because of her family who lived and worked in Banner Elk and the local area.

“Banner Elk and the college [since I was little] was always such a nurturing and supportive community,” she said. “So when it came time to find a job, I knew I wanted to stay close by.”

With a focus on Alumni Affairs and Institutional Advancement, Needham worked her way through the ranks becoming the director of prospective research in 2001 and then taking on her current role as the director of advancement services in 2010.

Throughout the years, Needham has experienced seven presidential transitions and countless changes to campus in the form of additional buildings, varied academic programs, and new faculty and staff.

“I have loved this campus during my time here, and I have loved spending time with everyone over the years,” she said. “Everyone is like family to me, and of course it will be sad not seeing everyone everyday but I plan on visiting campus when I can. I certainly don’t want to lose the connections and the friendships that I have made here at Lees-McRae.”

On the final day of her career, Needham reflected on the very first day she stepped on campus 47 years ago.

The Rock House, now the office of the president, used to be the location for Alumni Affairs, she said.

“I didn’t know a single person, so for lunch I just sat out on the front porch of the Rock House,” she said. “It’s crazy to think how much things have changed across campus, and not just the places and buildings, but also the people. I have met so many wonderful people, and I want to thank every single one of them for making my time here so special.”

Though this chapter in Needham’s life is ending, a new one will be beginning.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends, and doing some traveling too,” she said. 

Leading to her departure, faculty and staff gathered in the King-Shivell Gallery for a retirement reception. On behalf of the entire college, President Lee King presented Needham with a watercolor image of the entrance arch and shield in front of the North Carolina Building in the Historic Commons on campus. Later that month, faculty and staff came together once again in Swank Park for a surprise ice cream reception.

A final farewell, open to all college community members, is scheduled at the Alumni House on Friday, July 12 from 2–3 p.m. The event is part of the annual Frolic weekend.

Dr. King shared a few more thoughts as she completed her final days on campus.

"No one has served Lees-McRae for as many years, or with any greater passion and dedication, than Frankie Needham,” he said. “She is a living historical treasure trove on the college and its thousands of alumni, and the respect she garners from all corners of the Lees-McRae family is a testament to her kindness, humility, and selfless service to our community. Few people are irreplaceable, but Frankie is certainly one of those rare individuals."

By Nina MastandreaMay 31, 2019