Harriett Whipple helped pave the way for gender pay equality at Georgia College
EDITOR'S NOTE: Written and compiled by the Georgia College Office of Communications
At age five, Dr. Harriett Whipple, professor emerita, developed a fascination with flowers.
She and her friends observed roses in her yard and made clover chains in kindergarten. Little did she know that this passion would carry her through to her mid 20s, when she would get her Ph.D. in botany.
Whipple came to Georgia College in 1968. For nearly 50 years she taught botany and biology—a once male-dominated field.
“When I was hired, there were mostly men in my profession,” Whipple said. “I was hard pressed to receive equal pay and rank as my male counterparts for teaching.”
At the time, she thought, “Is that wrong?”
“What was unusual was when I came here, I had my Ph.D. in hand from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, yet Georgia College hired me as an instructor,” Whipple said, “while the men who were hired that year with me became assistant professors.”
Change would come later.
“Back then, women's salaries were not the same as men’s salaries,” she said. “So, we formed ‘Seven Women.’”
The women became active, rallying for Affirmative Action by talking with administration for equal pay.
“The administrators knew we were serious,” Whipple said, “and all that was eventually straightened out.”
This was, in large part, due to the efforts of former Georgia College Vice President Dr. Ralph Hemphill, who Whipple enjoyed working with.
“He helped equalize things with women and men,” Whipple said. “I give him a lot of credit to assure that Affirmative Action was carried out.”
From then on, Whipple became more and more involved with Georgia College. Among other things, she helped start the Community Action Team, now known as the Academic Outreach program.
“It’s where Georgia College students teach science and nature in the local community,” Whipple said. “Those experiences are so valuable. We also used Lake Laurel and Lockerly Arboretum to teach, so students gained experience teaching biology in nature.”
Many of her students work in the education system, and she stays in contact with a lot of them including: Charles E. Lundy, Jr., ’90, ’01, superintendent of Jones County Schools in Gray, Georgia and Aimee Colston Lundy, ’99, ’01, ’06, Elementary Exploratory STEAM teacher at Georgia Military College.
“Harriett Ellis Nelson, ’75, ’80, ’96, and her husband, Marion Nelson, ’76, met in my class in 210 Herty Hall,” Whipple said. “Harriett has the prettiest garden in Baldwin County.”
Marion worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Harriett became a teacher.
Another couple who met in Whipple’s class is Greg Eilers, ’03, and Ruth Braddy Eilers, ’02, ’16.
Ruth has worked for Whipple as a graduate assistant, and is now in charge of Georgia College’s Academic Outreach program. Greg works as the assistant director of Lockerly Arboretum, where he oversees horticulture and education.
Whipple’s relatives who are affiliated with Georgia College include: Katie Griffin Whipple, ’06, ’11, lecturer in Music Therapy, Undergraduate Music Therapy Program coordinator and Music Therapy Clinic coordinator and Helen Menchinger DuPree, ’19, ’21, lecturer, Public Health. Whipple’s children are Fielding Whipple Jr., ’02, Ann Whipple DuPree, ’98, ’99, and her grandson is first-year student Jackson Taylor.
When Whipple started teaching at Georgia College, she lectured to approximately 200 students in Herty Hall’s auditorium. Later, she moved to the College of Arts and Sciences building, but she loved teaching outside the most. Her botany classes were held on campus, at Lake Laurel, the river and Lockerly Arboretum.
Whipple especially enjoyed hosting academic workshops, along with other professors, for students on the weekends. Called “Tripping through Georgia,” groups would travel to different locations for “Cows, Cultures and Connections,” “Cotton Bowls” and “Native Trails.”
For fun, she played tennis with friends and was on the Georgia College Faculty Tennis Team, playing matches with students at the courts behind Beeson Hall, where she lived in the basement. Whipple also played first base for Georgia College softball—the only girl on the team.
Now, she enjoys attending music concerts and basketball games. She also helps decorate Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion (OGM) each holiday season. Whipple recalls when Matt Davis, ’02, ’04, director of Historic Museums at Georgia College, was a docent at the OGM and says he’s always been a pleasure to work with.
In addition to being a faculty advisor, Whipple has worked with Alpha Delta Pi, Inc. since 1974. She also serves as a board member on the Boys and Girls Club of Baldwin and Jones Counties and Lockerly Arboretum.
“We’ve done some great community service,” Whipple said.
As a faculty advisor, Whipple has a special passion for helping students with disabilities and watching them succeed in their studies.
“I've had so many great students over the years and just loved working with these kids,” she said. “I think by helping students get going in college helps them to succeed in life.”