Terry Sanford, Nona Fisher, William Walker

This is part one of a three-part series, “MU Loyalty: Time, Talent, and Treasure” as found in the Spring 2024 Edition of MU Today.

Methodist University boasts a rich history of preparing students for a lifetime of meaning and purpose. MU alumni have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, educators, psychiatrists, first responders, social workers, business executives, and much more.

Most of all, MU alumni are champions of change – making their community better through intellectual values and ethical principles such as truth, virtue, justice, and love. None of the success would be possible, however, without one key ingredient – LOYALTY.

For nearly 70 years, members of the community – on campus and off – have put their faith in MU, creating a legacy of success for the students who walk onto the beautiful 617-acre campus or enter online programs from wherever they may be. But loyalty is more than conviction; it leads to action.

Loyalty can be displayed in many ways including through time, talent, and treasure. This three-part series will highlight some difference makers of MU’s past and present who have devoted themselves to the institution. This edition showcases three shining examples of difference makers who have shown loyalty to Methodist University through “Time.”

From one of MU’s founding fathers in Terry Sanford to devoted alumna Nona Fisher ’88 to a champion of students in Dr. William H. Walker, it becomes clear that loyalty can come from many different places. All you need is some time and desire to make Methodist University an even greater institution.

As you explore the stories of Sanford, Fisher, and Walker, ask yourself: “How can you be loyal to Methodist University through your time?” To get started, visit the Loyalty page.

Terry Sanford: A Visionary Who Brought Methodist College to Life

Terry Sanford
Photo courtesy of Duke University

The fingerprints of the late Terry Sanford can be found all across North Carolina history in the mid-to-late 1900s – including his time as one of the founders of then-named Methodist College.

In early 1956, the Fayetteville attorney joined the “Fayetteville College Steering Committee” with hopes of bringing a new college to Fayetteville. As a master politician, Sanford prided himself on asking the community to become loyal to his mission of starting the school.

In a telegram to Dr. R. L. Pittman, chairman of the committee, Sanford had this message*:

“…Vision, courage, and sacrifice have been the beginning of every great school. I am proud to tell the church leaders out here they can look to the people of Cumberland County, North Carolina, for vision, determination, sacrifice, and leadership in founding this new great college. I know we will reach our financial goal. I hope that every family in Cumberland County will pledge something and become numbered among the founders of an educational institution which will bring centuries of enrichment to North Carolina.”

Sanford’s vision came to life in more ways than one. Not only did he help attain the land and money to secure a deal with the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church to bring the Methodist College (a name Sanford was first to suggest) to Fayetteville, but it has become a staple in the community ever since.

Methodist College was chartered by the state of North Carolina on Nov. 1, 1956 and Sanford was elected the first chairman of the Methodist College Board of Trustees (a spot he proudly held for 11 years). He was a Trustee until 1993.

Sanford went on to serve as governor of North Carolina (1961-65) and then U.S. Senator (1986-93).

Sanford never forgot his roots in Fayetteville, routinely visiting and speaking at Methodist College and even serving as honorary chair on the “Come of Age” and “Expanding the Vision” fund drives until his death in 1998.

Because of Terry Sanford’s steadfast loyalty – and the valuable and precious “time” he put into building the solid foundations of something the Fayetteville community both desired and needed – Methodist University continues to bring enrichment to the city, region, and state he loved.

*As published in “From Cotton Field to University: A History of Methodist University 1956-2006”

Nona Fisher ’88: An Alumna, Former Employee, Volunteer, ‘Host Mom’ and More

Nona FisherWhen Nona Fisher ’88 visits Methodist University, it is easy to spot the joy she brings to faculty, staff, alumni, and current students – something that has come naturally to her since stepping foot onto campus in the mid-1980s.

Fisher transferred to then-Methodist College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting with a minor in Economics and speaks glowingly about her entire experience as a student.

“I absolutely loved it here,” Fisher said. “From the moment I got here, I just loved it. The professors were amazing. It led me to becoming proactive on campus.”

After graduation, Fisher earned her first full-time job: Director of Human Resources at Methodist College. She also immediately joined the school’s Alumni Board, where she later served two terms as president.

Although Fisher left her HR position in 1998 to become a managing partner of her own accounting firm, she has remained loyal to her alma mater – serving on both the Foundation Board (which has since merged with the Board of Visitors to become the Founders Council) and the Alumni Board’s Homecoming Committee through the years.

In 2003, Fisher received the Outstanding Alumni Service Award and continues to be one of the most (if not the most) active volunteers for the Alumni Board more than 20 years later. Fisher even, typically, mentors one MU student per semester at her accounting firm, teaching them the ins and the outs of the business.

With all of the different ways Fisher has used her time to walk alongside Methodist University, she would tell you one of her biggest passion projects is providing a helping hand to MU’s international students. She gives international students rides to and from the Fayetteville Regional Airport at the beginning and end of each semester. She then takes it a step further by becoming those students’ unofficial “host mom” – checking in on the students throughout the semester and occasionally making campus visits to provide them with hugs.

“It’s important because my grandfather came from Italy to Ellis Island when he was just eight and had to make it by himself,” she said. “For these international students, many of them don’t have someone here that can just give them a hug, so I’m always here to give them that love. It’s very important.”

For Fisher, loyalty through time is a key aspect of her life as a Methodist University alumna.

“Something I ask the alumni is, ‘What can you give? How can you give back? How can you make MU better?’ All of us have a small way we can help the University to make it a better place for the students.”

Nona Fisher

Dr. William H. Walker: A Champion of Students and Pioneer of Change

William WalkerThere are a lot of reasons why there is a sense of community among students at Methodist University, but one of the main reasons is Dr. William H. Walker.

Joining Methodist in 1997 as the Director of Residence Life, the Fayetteville native moved up the ranks and became the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students in 2011. Walker prides himself on removing as many obstacles as possible for students outside of the classroom.

Walker oversees several departments at MU including Residence Life, Health & Counseling, Student Belonging & Inclusion, Dining Services, Campus Engagement, and Campus Recreation. With Walker’s 25-plus years at the school, he has experienced a lot of memories at Methodist University – including 2016 when Hurricane Matthew caused campus-wide damage.

“I remember I had tears in my eyes with the thought that students could be without power and water. But our staff worked all day and night to support our students to make sure they had what they needed,” he said. “Whatever obstacle has come our way, we get over it.”

Walker’s devout loyalty and care for MU students is undoubtedly noticed by the students themselves. As a pastor of a local church, Walker is proud of the fact that he has officiated the weddings of several students he has built relationships with over the years.

One of the areas of improvement that Walker has noticed the most at Methodist University is diversity, equity, and inclusion. In fact, Walker became the first African American to sit on the MU President’s Administrative Cabinet after becoming a vice president 13 years ago.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth in the University over the years,” Walker added. “We’ve seen more African American faculty and staff. Although there’s more work to be done, I’ve seen a lot of growth among our students in this area. When I first got here, our students may have been diverse, but they stayed with their own groups. Now, when I go to the Green & Gold Dining Hall, I see a blend of students sitting and interacting together. I’m so pleased by it.”

In his valuable time at MU – 27 years since his first day on the job – Walker said his loyalty to Methodist University is due to the love and care from the community.

“This University has been so good to me, and in return, my family has invested into this University.”

Dr. William H. Walker