Terry Rodriguez ’69 a visual design major, is an artist that hails from a time where Auburn women could not walk barefooted outside the dorm and had to wear a skirt. She worked her way through college in the midst of growing up in the tumultuous times of the Vietnam War, tail end of the civil rights movement, Second Wave Feminist Movement and height of the Watergate Scandal.
“I was an art student; I was not a sorority girl. I was in a different stratum than them. My sorority was the art building,” Rodriguez says. Passionate, Rodriguez protested about issues that mattered to her and others.
“I went to protest because as art students, we sit around on the floor to draw, being an artist is a messy proposition and it was ridiculous that we had to wear skirts to class. So we went to protest that to get pants, and we got that. It was around 1967 or 1968.”
She remembers Auburn for the culture, the memorable living conditions and the once-in-a-lifetime concerts the university provided such as Ry Cooder, Ike and Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. During her four years there, Rodriguez lived in the Hill dorms built in the 60s.
“I wanted to be in the quadrangle to be close to the building I had a lot of classes (Smith Hall), but I was in a triple in the new dorm (the Hill) and it was a horrible experience. The girls I was with were very mean to me because I was not in a sorority.”
Besides living in a triple, where three girls had to share dorm space built for two, Rodriguez dealt with the coed dorm rules of the time.
“We had to sign in and out of the dorm, be in by 10 o’clock. We had to sign out saying where you’re going, what time you left and what time you were coming back. When you brought a male in the dorm, you had to yell ‘man on the hall!’ It sounds absurd now, but that was the laws we had.”
Rodriguez found her escape through tough times in the art studio, being with art friends and her job as the first nude model at Auburn University.
“It was a good student job,” Rodriguez says.
She took on the job partially because it was in Smith Hall which housed the art studios and classes. It was a four-hour time slot, and models wore a bikini at the time.
A friend of Agnes Taugner, Rodriguez’s art instructor at the time, presented drawings of a completely nude model from a life drawing class in Florida. Seeing the difference in the work modelled off a nude model in comparison to partially clothed one, Rodriguez was inspired to propose working completely nude. Taugner approved of the idea and found a way to loophole around Auburn’s rule against the practice: Rodriguez would work for two hours, but would be paid for four. Rodriguez’s pay doubled from $1.60 to $3.20 an hour.
“I didn’t feel embarrassed or nervous or anything like that except for a certain student who would turn beet red!” Rodriguez says.
She modeled the middle of her sophomore year until her senior year and even modeled pregnant after she married her husband her senior year.
Before marriage and graduation, Rodriguez also had a memorable experience with the Dean of Women Katherine Cater. Leaving her living arrangement at The Hill, Rodriguez, age 21, found a basement to live in at Webster’s Lake in Thad Webster’s house. The basement had a kitchen and was big enough to house several coeds.
While living there, Rodriguez received a letter saying that she was living off campus illegally. The rule at the time was that a woman had to live on campus until she was 24 years old or married.
“Even if you were a graduate student you still had to live on campus,” Rodriguez recalls. She went to go see Dean Cater, the assistant dean Mrs. Jordan (Shug Jordan).
“[Cater] was a force to be reckoned with, she was formidable, she was the dean of women students,” Rodriguez says.
After a discussion, Assistant Dean Jordan came out to see the living conditions.There were stairs that went up into the main floor. Jordan insinuated that Webster could come down and harm them, even though the “man was pushing his 70s” according to the coeds living there. Jordan would return with Rodriguez to the Dean of Women office (Cater Hall) to discuss the situation in detail.
“There is a man living upstairs,” Jordan told them. “This is unacceptable.”
Rodriguez argued that Webster was kind and would not do anything to harm them.
According to Rodriguez, Jordan then told her, “Well I hope you realize, if you continue to live there, we will withhold your grades and you won’t be able to graduate.”
Teresa and her friend Milo.
Rodriguez would respond, “I am 21 years old and my parents know where I am living and it’s alright with them. And I really don’t think you can legally withhold my grades.”
Jordan left after that and Rodriguez did not hear back from Dean of Women again, and received her grades.
Since graduation, Rodriguez worked as a draftsman and later as a graphic designer for the College of Agriculture for 33 years, starting from age 24 and retiring at 58. Now she creates art in her studio with her two cats.