Ford Auditorium

Entrance Hall Naming Honors Margaret Weaver Faison

Faison 1936

Like a soft, warm blanket, her love surrounded the family for decades. The best wife, mother and grandmother possible, it was only at Berry that she had the opportunity to be “just Margaret.” It is that joyous time in her life that her family celebrates through a very special naming of Ford Auditorium’s entrance hall.

When Margaret Weaver Faison (36C) came to college at Berry in the mid-1930s, it was not the most usual thing for a young girl to do. Berry’s first senior-college class, consisting of only 17 students, had graduated in just 1932. But Margaret, who had finished high school in LaFayette, Ga., and was helping out in her father’s store, was 16, smart and bored.

“Let’s go to Berry and see if we can go to school there,” she reportedly urged cousin Jim Weaver about visiting the fledgling college on the same vast campus where her brother had attended high school.

“Of course, she fell in love with the school once she was there,” said daughter Nancy Faison Bryson, “and her years at Berry were the happiest of her life. She loved being on the beautiful campus and made friends who were important to her throughout her life.”

Margaret also met her husband, John (34C), and they were married about a year after her graduation. John worked with the North Carolina State University Extension Division, and the couple lived in Franklin, Raleigh and Asheville before settling in Shelby, where they raised two children and Margaret worked briefly as a welfare caseworker and a home economics teacher.

After a three-year adventure living in Peru in the 1960s – then an uncommon opportunity – the couple returned to North Carolina, eventually settling into retirement while living in Taylorsville and adding a part-time residence in Florida. After John died in 1992, Margaret lived full time in Florida, giving Florida residents Nancy and son John the opportunity to see her regularly before she died in 2009 at 95.

Margaret’s stay in Peru was exciting but still couldn’t measure up to her time at Berry, where she lived at the Ford Complex and acted on the Ford Auditorium stage. The opportunity to be her own person was exhilarating.

“She was the most incredible woman ever,” said granddaughter Jenifer Faison (92C), whom Margaret encouraged to attend Berry, advice for which Jenifer will always be grateful. “All of her life, she took care of other people. But at Berry, she was totally herself – independent, so happy. At that time, it wasn’t common for a woman to have such independence.”

“She was the most positive woman I’ve ever known and the most loving grandmother figure you can imagine,” agreed Nancy’s daughter, Cathy Bryson. “I have so many memories of sitting next to her on her carport shelling peas and snapping green beans. She was a creative spirit with her painting, sewing and knitting and taught both Jen and I to quilt. But Berry was a time in her life when it was about her – before the wife and mother duties of a woman at that time.”

Through their Bryson Family Foundation, Nancy and husband Vaughn had established a John and Margaret Weaver Faison scholarship at Berry, which later was converted into a Gate of Opportunity Scholarship. But Nancy saw the renovation of Ford Auditorium as a way to honor her mother in a way that was totally hers, and the foundation, now led by Cathy, made a gift to Berry to name the entrance hall at Ford Auditorium in memory of Margaret’s lifelong passion for the school. “Mother needed her own voice – as Margaret, not just as ‘Mrs. John,’” Nancy explained, with her daughter adding, “Scholarships are important and meaningful. But specifically honoring a woman from that era with something that is solely hers is really important.”

Faison 1936

Nancy, Cathy and Jenifer all agree that Margaret would be incredibly honored with the naming, which also delighted her four other grandchildren. They are also convinced Margaret would think it undeserved.

“She is smiling in heaven, I am sure,” Nancy said. “She is very happy. But she’s also saying, ‘Oh Nancy, you didn’t need to do that.’”