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First Lady Marjorie Ball: One of Lander's Greatest Ambassadors

May 11, 2015
Marjorie Ball
Lander First Lady Marjorie Ball; Photo by Caroline Jenkins Photography

From the front windows of their home on Stanley Avenue, retiring President Daniel Ball and First Lady Marjorie Ball have a spectacular view of the university’s iconic Bell Tower. It’s a scene most fitting for two individuals who have done so much for – and meant so much to – Lander University over the past 15 years.

“We have the most beautiful view of Old Main,” Marge, as Mrs. Ball is known, said. “We can sit on our porch and watch Lander students go up and down the sidewalk, walking their dogs, playing Frisbee, and it’s just great. We love it.”

The residence has been the Balls’ home since 2012, when they relocated from the former President’s Home on W. Durst Avenue, which had succumbed to major structural damage and was torn down in 2013. Likened to a scene from the pages of Southern Living Magazine, the Durst Avenue residence had been the site of countless garden parties, employee socials, community teas, elegant dinners and more. It was a home open to the Lander family and the Greenwood community, and Mrs. Ball has made certain their new home has that same sophisticated look and welcoming feel.

With her down-to-earth personality, can-do attitude and friendly smile, Mrs. Ball has undoubtedly been one of Lander’s greatest ambassadors. As First Lady, she has enjoyed opening her home to guests, hosting on average 1-2 events there per week.

When she and President Ball first arrived in Greenwood in 2000, she wasted no time getting to know the people of Lander and the community, serving as president of two study clubs and joining the Morning Glory Garden Club and the Greenwood Woman’s Club. She and her husband frequently ate in the dining hall, along with everybody else, and were regulars at student performances, fine arts activities and athletic events.

Soon, she had started a number of traditions: hosting a faculty and staff reception at the President’s Home at Christmas, entertaining the ladies of Lander with “White Lace and Linen Teas,” and welcoming Lander’s international students with an annual ice cream social. Every holiday season, she bakes Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Cakes for each of the 17 members of the Lander Board of Trustees – that’s 255 cakes in 15 years.

And she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. If she sees something that needs to be done, she does it, from pulling weeds and mulching gardens, to pressure-washing sidewalks.

The Path to Greenwood

Growing up on a farm in a small town in northern Missouri might have helped develop her work ethic. She was taught early on that a positive attitude can take you anywhere. And so far, it seems to have done just that.

While attending Northeast Missouri State Teacher’s College (now Truman State University), Mrs. Ball met a young science major who would later be known to Lander as Mr. President. “Marge took me up to the family farm,” said President Ball, “and I fell in love with both the farm and Marge.”

After they were married, the Balls made a few big moves (Colorado, Indiana and Missouri) before settling in Idaho, where Mrs. Ball worked for the local Public Broadcasting Service affiliate in its development area. At the same time, she started her own business, The Employment Source, a full-service employment agency. When Dr. Ball was offered the position of vice president for Academic Affairs at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark., she decided to try something new. She found a position at Lois Gean’s, a high-end women’s fashion shop in Magnolia, where she quickly became a favorite with those who appreciated her flair for style. “The people I worked with were wonderful, so the job was a lot of fun,” she said.

After seven years in Magnolia, the Balls moved to Greenwood and to the President’s Home at Lander. “I came with the attitude that this was a new plateau in my life,” Mrs. Ball said. “With Dan accepting the position, I wanted to give all that I could to helping him, Lander and the community.”

And she’s done just that over the last decade and a half. Mrs. Ball has served on numerous boards and committees, including the PEO, of which she was president; the S.C. Festival of Flowers Home and Garden Tours Committee; the Greenwood Woman’s Club Board of Directors; and Lander’s Cookbook Committee. She was an original member of Lander’s Arboretum Committee and was instrumental in the development of Lander’s master landscaping plan.

She played a key role in the acquisition of several large gifts, including Cambridge Hall, formerly owned by Greenwood Woman’s Club, now an opulent gathering place for university events.

Beginning a New Chapter

With Dr. Ball’s retirement on the horizon, the Balls have made the decision to stay in Greenwood. Though they have family in Missouri, the lure of Greenwood’s mild climate and convenient location near the mountains and sea, as well as the many special relationships they’ve formed while here, are the main reasons.

 Mrs. Ball’s routine will remain much the same when her husband steps down as president.

“My life is not going to change much,” she said. “I’m still going to be in charge of the house. I’ll work in the yard. I’ll participate in different organizations. The biggest change for us both, I think, is that we want to do a lot of traveling and visiting our 16-year-old granddaughter and 14-year-old twin grandsons in Missouri more often, where they’re involved in sports and other activities.”

Those who know Mrs. Ball might say her legacy at Lander will be her ability to engage others. When asked if she had ever met someone she didn’t like, she replied, “I can find good in everyone. Even though a person is quiet, and you’re not sure how they feel about you, by engaging them in conversation and trying to find out what their interests are, and not pushing yours on them, you’ll discover something positive.”