New endowed scholarship honors the history, legacy of first May Queen

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In 1931, Margaret “Nell” (Grandstaff) Midgett (’32) was named David Lipscomb College’s inaugural May Queen. Elected by their fellow students, Nell and her successors, through 1961, were chosen for their beauty, character and academic ability to reign over the college’s May Day celebration.

Midgette_LARGEAccording to the May 22, 1931 edition of The Babbler, Lipscomb’s student newspaper, “the basis of selection was to be not only beauty, which of course would be essential for a queen, but one in whom could be seen the true ideals of the institution and would uphold its lofty standards wherever she might be, one would be a true representative of the school on all occasions, one possessing the character of a true Christian, and one having true popularity among the students.

“The queen, Miss Grandstaff, is an outstanding member of the student body, being elected as best all-around girl. She also is a leader in the music and dramatic departments. She was one of the best on the basketball court, always having a smile upon her face and willing to help one and all. Nell has found a place in the heart of D.L.C.”

Today, Nell’s Christian character and commitment to academic excellence will carry on and impact future generations through Lipscomb University’s newest endowed scholarship.

Recently created by Nell’s son Don C. Midgett and his wife, Carolyn G. Midgett, the “Nell Midgett First May Queen Endowed Scholarship,” will benefit one student each year that displays the same qualities that characterized Nell Midgett.

“I am just so proud that we can do this scholarship,” said Don, a retired engineering project manager from Arnold Engineering Development Center, located near Tullahoma, Tennessee. “I want to help all of these students coming forth, and I hope they enjoy their studies like my mom did.” 

Midgette_Side2Although the Midgetts did not attend Lipscomb, their children Jenifer (Midgett) Gregory (’87) and Jennette (Midgett) Sockwell (’90), as well as grandchildren Hunter Lee Wright (’13) and Carolyn Alice Sockwell (’15) are all graduates of Lipscomb.

“Lipscomb was a wonderful experience for grandmother Midgett and for my daughters and grandchildren who went there,” Carolyn said. “We are so happy about this scholarship and hope some people who wouldn’t have gotten to go to Lipscomb will now have the chance to do so.”

Born in September 12, 1912, in Lebanon, Tennessee, Nell was the granddaughter of William Haskell Neal, who developed Neal’s Paymaster Corn and was the first inductee into the Tennessee Agricultural Hall of Fame.

She started at the then two-year David Lipscomb College in the fall of 1930, and graduated in the spring of 1932 with a degree in home economics.

“My grandmother was in school at a time when it was difficult for women to go to college and she had to work for the school,” said Jennette. “She had a very strong work ethic and did whatever it took to go to Lipscomb. And it’s cool to see the lasting impression she had during her time there.”

A member of several clubs including the Glee Club, Van Hooser Music Club, Tennessee Club, Worker’s Club, Dramatic Club, Schubert Choral Club and Home Ec. Club, Nell was voted Most Popular and Best All-Around Girl by her peers in 1931 and 1932. She was also member of the “Octette,” an exclusive singing group, was captain and assistant coach of the girls’ basketball team, and co-editor of the Backlog and social editor of The Babbler during her time at Lipscomb.

The honor of being the first May Queen was one Nell was very fond of throughout the years, but one she carried modestly.

“I remember talking with my grandmother about her being Lipscomb’s first May Queen and she never made it seem like it was a big deal, but now looking back and reading about the attributes and reasons she was selected, I realize it was a big deal. I think this is such a reflection of her humble character,” said Jenifer.

Don says he is thrilled to memorialize his mother through this scholarship and hopes her spirit of humility and hard work will carry on not only through her family but also through the lives of those who will one day receive the Nell Midgett First May Queen Endowed Scholarship.

Jenifer echoed this sentiment saying, “As a family, we are excited for grandmother’s legacy to continue at a place that means a lot. I think this scholarship is important because Lipscomb is a great place, but higher education is expensive, so to get to help a student who really wants to go but maybe can’t afford it, that’s when a scholarship can help.”