Man Gives for 65 Years

Man Gives for 65 Years

Auburn grad invests in his alma mater for more than 65 years

Catesby ap C. Jones ’49 in his Selma home, holding a framed portrait from his days in the U.S. Army. He was drafted in 1944.

A love of Auburn runs deep for Catesby ap C. Jones ’49.

“You know, some people say they bleed orange and blue, but for me, Auburn is in my gut,” Jones said. “There’s just something about Auburn and the Auburn spirit—it stays with you and it’s different from any other school.”

And when something stays with you for that long, you find ways to give back.

Jones is the university’s longest consecutive donor on record, with his first gift documented in 1957. With his support over the course of 65 years, Jones is a member of Auburn’s 1856 Society, one of the university’s most prestigious giving societies.

“I don’t know any other way to say that I just love Auburn,” he said. “It’s special to me and I could do a little to help it be special for other people along the way.”


Born in Selma, Ala. on April 19, 1925, Jones—now 98—is the son of Catesby ap R. Jones and Elizabeth Beers Jones. The family is one of Dallas County’s most historic and uses a Welsh naming convention that places “ap” in the names of its male members, which means “son of.”

After graduating from high school in 1943, Jones enrolled at the nearby Marion Military Institute. He—along with both his father and his brother Roger ap C. Jones—served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Jones was drafted into the war in 1944 to serve with the Army Corp of Engineers in Europe.

“I was in a war zone, but my company didn’t get into any of the fighting part,” Jones said.

He arrived in SouthHampton in England on Dec. 21, 1944 and was assigned to Company A, 1280th Engineer Combat Battalion. The company traveled across France to the German front and began clearing debris and constructing bridges when they arrived in January 1945.

“It was all blown up when we got there,” he said. “Our company did pick up on minefields and worked on highways. And, in fact, our last thing we did was build a Bailey Bridge on the Rhine River. Gen. [George S.] Patton used that bridge for some of his tanks to go all the way to Berlin.”

Jones said that while building the bridge in Germany, he injured all the ligaments in his knee and spent three months in a French hospital before being flown back to the U.S. to rehab hospitals—first in New York, then Mississippi and finally Florida. He came back home to Selma in April 1946 after being released from active duty.


Former Auburn President Luther Duncan once estimated that nearly 800 veterans from World War II would enroll at Auburn through the G.I. Bill, but in his in June 1946 report to the Board of Trustees, Duncan reported that a “tidal wave of students had descended on Auburn”—many were veterans returning home from war—with enrollment growing one academic year from 1,162 to 4,383.

In June 1946, Catesby Jones was one of them.

“A bunch of the guys I roomed with had been in the Air Force, and we lived on South Gay Street with a lady who owned a rooming house,” he said.

Majoring in business administration, Jones said Ralph Brown Draughon, who would soon become Auburn’s 11th president, was a mentor during his studies and inducted him into the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.

After graduating in spring 1949, Jones returned to Selma to work for two years before moving to Mobile to work for his father at Mobile Fire & Marine Insurance Agency. He worked for other companies as well in auditing and management until he moved back to Selma to join his father in an insurance and investment management business, Mabry Securities. He continued work there until he sold the business when he retired in 1985.

Through his success in business he was asked to serve on the board of what would become Regions Bank, a position he held for many years until he retired from the board in 1997.


Jones began giving back to Auburn soon after graduation. Through the years his philanthropy has helped support Auburn University Athletics, the Harbert College of Business and the Ralph B. Draughon Library, among other areas of impact on campus.

In addition to financial contributions, Jones donated a collection of presidential letters to Auburn Libraries and Special Collections in 2017.

The collection included several historical documents, including letters written to Gen. Roger Jones—Jones’ great-great-grandfather—who was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and Army. He was the longest-serving adjutant general in U.S. Army history, serving under Presidents James Madison, James K. Polk and John Tyler. One letter included an invitation for Gen. Jones to attend a dinner honoring the Marquis de La Fayette on his return to the United States in 1824.

Jones said he was proud to have received a letter early this year from Auburn President Christopher B. Roberts thanking him for his lifetime of support and his commitment to the next generation of the Auburn Family.

So proud, he said, that he sent back a note to President Roberts.

“I told him that I love Auburn, and I’m proud to be an alum.”

Read More Alumni Stories

Man Gives for 65 Years

Man Gives for 65 Years

Auburn grad invests in his alma mater for more than 65 yearsCatesby ap C. Jones ’49 in his Selma home, holding a framed portrait from his days in the U.S. Army. He was drafted in 1944.A love of Auburn runs deep for Catesby ap C. Jones ’49. “You know, some people say...

Auburn Faculty Hobbies

Auburn Faculty Hobbies

From painting orcs to racing dirt bikes, Auburn professors have hobbies as varied as their areas of expertiseIt’s nothing fancy. Nothing too involved. It’s not like she has an elaborate dedicated studio. When Lindsay Tan needs to, she throws some newspaper down on the...

John Thomas Vaughan ’55

John Thomas Vaughan ’55

February 6, 1932 — January 13, 2023  Dean Emeritus John Thomas Vaughan ’55 was born in Tuskegee, Ala. and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Auburn University in 1955. He practiced briefly in his hometown, but when he brought a cow to Auburn to have...

Auburn’s Nature Preschool

Auburn’s Nature Preschool

Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool uses its outdoor-based, curiosity-first philosophy to better connect children to nature and learningI’ve just started down the dirt path that leads to the heart of Auburn’s Kreher Preserve & Nature Center (KPNC) when it hits me:...

Pannie-George’s Kitchen Gives Back

Pannie-George’s Kitchen Gives Back

What started out as a “plate sale” to fund a family reunion is now Pannie-George’s Kitchen, a family-owned restaurant that serves more than great soul food “I had the notion that I would just do a little catering business out of my house,” said Mary Key ’91, co-owner...

Auburn’s New Game Room

Auburn’s New Game Room

A deck should be written for each Alumni story. Select the preset "Alumni Stories.Deck" under Text Settings In March Auburn plugged in a new state-of-the-art game room inside the Melton Student Center. The facility features more than 40 high-end gaming computers; 35...

Auburn Rugby Club’s Rise to Greatness

Auburn Rugby Club’s Rise to Greatness

For decades, Auburn’s Rugby Club fought for relevance as much as victory. Then they were national champions. They lined up 15 men to a side, each tense with concentration. Over the next 80 minutes the two teams’ fates would be determined through bone-rattling hits,...

We’ll Meet Again

We’ll Meet Again

Thanks to some passionate supporters, a powerful Holocaust play with Auburn ties will extend its run through September Last year when Auburn Men’s Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl accepted an invitation to attend a musical in Opelika, Ala., he and his wife, Brandy, knew...

80 Years of Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Auburn’s Turning Point

80 Years of Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Auburn’s Turning Point

An alumnus’ life mirrors the changes that Auburn—and the nation—underwent because of WWII

Pearl Harbor at Langdon Hall

Students gathered outside on the steps of Langdon Hall to hear the emergency
news broadcast of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

ALABAMA POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE (API) on Dec. 6, 1941 was much the same as it had been for decades—season after season of football games, dances and generations-old student traditions—but on the following morning, the Plains’ rural tranquility would change forever.

Just weeks before Christmas break, students crowded the steps of Langdon Hall, listening to the newsflash that rocked the nation: the Empire of Japan had launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After resisting involvement in the conflict that was slowly engulfing the rest of the world, the U.S. was now unquestionably at war.

The five years that immediately followed that day would be a watershed moment in the history of Auburn University, profoundly altering everything from the size of the student body to the curriculum and athletic program. David Gardiner ’41 was one of many Auburn alumni who fought in the war, and whose life would be profoundly changed by it.

Gardiner was born into poverty in Farley, Ala., the second of six children. He was 11 when the Great Depression began, and 15 when his father died. As the eldest son, he helped raise his younger brothers and sisters and kept his family afloat.

“You go through things like that, you learn hard work,” said Cliff Gardiner, associate dean for the college of science and mathematics at Augusta University and David’s second son. “You learn lessons of durability and resilience, and not complaining—my father was never a complainer.”

David Gardiner entered API as an agriculture major, intending to graduate and return to his family farm. In his spare time, he played baseball but, conspicuously, also participated in API’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at a time when enlistment was not compulsory. News of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Europe had undoubtedly reached Auburn by then, but Gardiner signed up anyway.

“He knew the world was at war, and he chose to enroll in ROTC,” said Cliff. “Given the patriotism of the time, he may have done it because he believed that was his duty. He understood duty extremely well.”

Gardiner was deployed to Hawaii as a member of an antiaircraft barrage balloon unit, a relatively easy assignment. That changed in 1944. As a second lieutenant in the Army, Gardiner was appointed commander of an anti-aircraft battery and sent across the Pacific to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. The Filipino people suffered horrific atrocities after falling under enemy occupation in 1942, and welcomed the allied Filipino-U.S. forces as liberators.

“I know that his unit got credit for at least one kill of a Japanese bomber,” recalled Cliff. “But I’m sure that his men were probably under attack multiple times. He never talked about that, except for the triumph of getting credit for a kill shot.”

Cliff still has the 40-millimeter shell casing his father brought back, the same kind used to shoot down enemy aircraft.

After the Philippines, Gardiner went ashore at the Battle of Okinawa and remained there until Japan formally surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945. For his service he was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Philippines Liberation Ribbon. But none of that mattered to him. In fact, said his son, he never heard his father mention any service medals. “I got to come home,” he told his son. “That’s what [victory] meant to me.”

 At the time, President Luther Duncan estimated that around 800 veterans would enroll at Auburn through the G.I. Bill. Instead, 1,575 registered in the winter quarter of 1946 alone. At its peak in 1948-49, more than 9,000 veterans were attending Auburn. Because Auburn was segregated at the time, the GI Bill did not fix diversity issues, but the veterans’ arrival would transform everything from student housing and class schedules to campus dining and dress codes. The influx of battle-tested adult men would reshape collegiate athletics across the country.

For alumni like Clarence “Pappy” Boynton ’48, who came to Auburn as a veteran, the war had created a new generation of students. “It gave me added responsibility and a new sense of purpose,” said Boynton, now 101. “The military regimen instilled me with discipline, the value of depending on your fellow servicemen, family and friends and an ever-greater commitment to my country while at war.”

In the years that followed the war, Gardiner became a cotton marketing specialist for the USDA and eventually retired in 1983 as superintendent of the Cotton Division for Georgia. Though he lived to the ripe age of 102, he never spoke out for armed conflict. And to Cliff ’s surprise, he never judged the young people who protested against serving.

Seventy-four years after the war ended, on his 100th birthday, Gardiner was interviewed by television reporters at the Georgia War Veterans Home in Augusta, Ga. where he lived. They asked him what he thought of the conflict all these years later.

 “War is a waste of time,” Gardiner sighed.
“People should learn to get along.”

Campus Concerts: The Big Question

Campus Concerts: The Big Question

What was your favorite concert you attended while a student at Auburn?

“Elton John!! I knew every song on the “Yellow Brick Road” album and it was a blast to sing along! He puts on a fabulous show!!”

Nancy Young ’77

“The Rolling Stones (Nov. 14, 1969).”

R. Stephen  Cooper ’68

“Elvis Presley at Memorial Coliseum in the early 1970s. He was fabulous!!”

Thomas Johnson ’78

“I think one of the best concerts I attended at Auburn was the Commodores in their prime! Given that they were from Tuskegee right down the road, the concert attendees were a great mix of Auburn and Tuskegee students, almost all of whom knew the words to every Commodores song and we sang along at the top of our lungs. And of course, the fabulous outfits worn by the band were the best in late ’70s/early ’80s glittery disco!”

Becky Liner ’81

The Commodores

Jimmy Buffett Poster

“When I was a freshman (fall 1985), Jimmy Buffett came to the arena to perform for Homecoming week. He told stories about being at Auburn, not even knowing where the library was and what good times he had on campus. It was a great concert with lots of new friends and a look into what my Auburn experience would be like: great friends and great times and a lifetime of memories.”

Deirdre Hill ’89

“Tim McGraw and Faith Hill but man do I wish I had gone to Willie Nelson! What in the world was I thinking skipping that one?!”

Alison Eisiminger ’00

Lynyrd Skynyrd

“The best concert for me was the Eagles in 1981. One of my all-time favorite bands—ever! However, my date decided that he would make the concert a better experience for me by singing along with the Eagles in my ear—off tune!!! I dealt with it until my favorite song, ‘Already Gone’ started. I told my date that I was trying to listen to the music—not him—and could he please stop. Needless to say, we broke up almost immediately.”

Betty Steger-Moulton ’82
Neil Diamond on stage singing

Neil Diamond

“James Taylor! He came out on stage alone, no backup musicians or singers, and played and sang for an hour and a half with no intermission. It was AUsome!”

Lillian Quattlebaum ’78

James Taylor strumming his guitar on stage while singing into microphone

Neil Diamond

Lionel Richie on stage singing with microphone in his right hand

Lionel Richie

“Eagles 2/1/80. Had a date with my future wife.”

Christopher Butterworth ’81

“The Beach Boys came to Auburn March 31, 1972. I had turned 21 on the 28th so it was a birthday celebration weekend! What great memories singing along to all my favorites!”

Lillian Quattlebaum ’78

The Sculptures of Jean Woodham

The Sculptures of Jean Woodham

A pioneer for women in monumental sculpture, her work still adorns Auburn’s campus to this day.

Jean Woodham present

By Marilyn Laufer, Director of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

During our first meeting with Jean Woodham in 2010 at her studio and home in Connecticut in preparation for this exhibition, I commented that she was a true pioneer in that she was among only a handful of women sculptors in mid-20th century who worked in large scale. I cited both Louise Nevelson and Dorothy Dehner as being in that same league since I knew that they had been her friends. Woodham’s response was to point out that my comparison wasn’t entirely accurate since she had always fabricated her own pieces while the artists I mentioned had not.

Later I came across a quote in an article on artists and their studios in the magazine Connecticut where Jean had noted to the interviewer, “It’s very unusual for any sculptor––particularly a woman––to work on this scale and not turn a model over to a fabricator.” She concluded, “I simply tackled something I didn’t know was not being done!”

That in many ways sums up Jean Woodham’s exceptional career as an artist. She never considered that there was anything unusual in strapping herself into what is called a bosun’s chair to be raised almost forty feet into the air while wearing a TIG welder’s helmet. She was just doing what needed to be done in order to accomplish her artistic vision.

Suspended by a system of pulleys in her studio, she cut, hammered, and welded the bronze, brass, steel, and copper metals into singular works of abstract art. Fearless and passionate, Ms. Woodham told another writer, “The work has made me glad I’m alive almost every day of my life.”

Born in 1925 in Alabama to parents who were teachers, Woodham recalls a strong thread of artistic creativity running deep through her family which included her mother‘s paintings, her grandmother‘s embroidered quilts, and her great grandmother’s suspended abstract assemblages.

She became certain of her career path in first grade when her teacher remarked on the quality of her art project in clay, and encouraged her young student to become a sculptor.


Jean Woodham welding

In 1943 Woodham graduated from high school and entered Auburn University, then known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API).

While a student she exhibited work at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, received the Burton Prize for highest scholastic achievement by an art major, and served as the first female editor of the API yearbook. She earned her degree in three years and wasted no time to follow her dream of becoming a sculptor. Her father put her on a train to New York City in July of 1946.

In New York, Woodham soon took a work-study position at the Clay Club, an open studio on West Eighth Street that held classes and exhibitions. In exchange for her duties, she was paid a small stipend, given a place to sleep, and provided free tuition. At first, she sculpted in clay, plaster, stone, wax, and wood as exemplified by Bird of Prey (n.d.), and Spring Form (1949). But after seeing the sculptures of David Smith, Jean decided that welding was the expressive process that best fit her aesthetic needs.

Within a short few years, she would be included in group exhibitions with Smith, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Theodore Roszak, Richard Lippold, Jose de Rivera, and Louis Nevelson. The piece Paolo and Francesca (1949) is an early example of her welded work. It is during this time that Jean married an advertising artist and illustrator who had also attended Auburn University and had moved to New York City to work. They began a family and while her daughters were small, Woodham was not able to do much welding.  Still, her reputation as a sculptor resulted in her being nominated for membership in the Sculptors Guild by her friend Louis Nevelson.

The family moved to Connecticut in 1955 where she has resided ever since. Through the 1950s and 60s, Woodham’s work received numerous awards and was included in many prestigious exhibitions in both South America and the United States, including the 1964 World’s Fair. However, in the late 1960s with her marriage ending, she turned to teaching as well as focusing on commissions to support her daughters. In the early 1970s, she was invited to return to Auburn as a visiting professor, where she served on the university faculty. However, her tenure there was short-lived as important commission opportunities took Woodham back to Connecticut where she was able to purchase a home and convert the garage into her extraordinary studio in Westport.

Jean Woodham Art
Above: Reunion, welded bronze (1963)

In the 1980s, Woodham was able to make her first trips to Europe. It was also at this time that she met and married Harold Friedman, a Clio award-winning producer of television commercials. Jean Woodham’s career flourished in the 1980s and 90s with strong exhibitions and impressive commissions. In 1990, she was elected the president of the Sculptors Guild and was included in the exhibition The Coming of Age of American Sculpture: The First Decades of the Sculptors Guild 1930s–1950s held at the museum at Hofstra University. She was also given a 50-year retrospective at the Foy Union Gallery at Auburn University under the auspices of the Franklin Lectures in Science and Humanities, in 1996.

Sadly her husband died after a hard fought illness in 1995. Linda Dente, who served as the Art in Public Spaces manager for the Connecticut State Commission on the Arts for 27 years, noted of Jean Woodham’s sculpture, “Her acute understanding of all the variables of which make up Public Sculpture—space, volume, light, texture, and place along with her mastery of materials––puts her work among the very best large-scale sculpture being done today.”

Indeed her large-scale works are remarkable and create a complementary dialogue with the architectural elements they often share. But it is also in her smaller work as evidenced in this exhibition that we can readily consider those elements that are so essential to her perceptive creations.

Themes such as rivers, forests, and birds in flight suggest an awareness of the ebb and flow or the passages of the natural world. There are also references to guardians (Argus) and gateways (Western Tori I) that reflect safe passages of another kind.

Ms. Jean Woodham has traveled the course of her creative career overcoming obstacles and embracing those triumphs en route and we her audience are the beneficiaries of both her historically significant achievements and her noteworthy artistic realizations.

Helen Krauss Leslie ’43

Helen Krauss Leslie ’43

World War II put a quiet end to her time at Auburn, but 70 years later her spirit is as strong as ever

Helen Leslie '43 present day

In her condo building, on the shores of St. Petersburg, they call her “War Eagle.” Outside her door is an inscription of the Auburn Creed beside a porcelain tiger draped in orange and blue, a hard hat from the groundbreaking of Lowder Hall of the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business over its ears. Parked nearby is her blue car with orange stripes, perfectly matched to Auburn’s official colors.

“People in my building seem to know I’m from Auburn,” said Helen Krauss Leslie ’43. For more than 70 years Leslie has been as dedicated an alumna as they come, an astonishing thought for someone who had never heard of the place before her freshman year. “The first thing that I ever heard about Auburn was when my brother was a student at Georgia Tech; I went up to a football game and they were playing somebody called Auburn. I didn’t know who Auburn was, or where it was. Then my brother went to Auburn for a summer course and he calls my dad and says it’s a good place for me. That’s how I got there.”

Helen Leslie was born Helen Krauss in New Jersey in 1921, but moved with her family to Palmetto, Fla., in 1923, then just up Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg in 1929. She remembers not wanting to immediately go to college after high school, intending to be a “concert pianist, or something radical,” but decided to continue studying at a St. Petersburg College, a junior college close to home, taking basic courses in typing and shorthand.“Then, when my brother made me go to Auburn, I got on a train right downtown in St. Pete,” Leslie said. “I had no idea where I was going. Took an hour and a half to get to Tampa, we backed into the train station in Tampa, then took off, stopped in Albany and from there went to Opelika.”

Leslie vividly remembers her mother’s last, stern warning when she arrived in Opelika: don’t take a ride with anybody; it didn’t last. “When I got to Opelika there was a lady there seeing a student off to Atlanta and she said to me, ‘I bet you’re going to Auburn, aren’t you?’ I said, yes I am. She said ‘well, I’ll take you to Auburn,’ which she did, and dropped me off at the train station.”

Though she had arrived in Auburn, she didn’t know where Auburn was. Departing on foot from the Auburn train station, she made her way through downtown “looking for Auburn,” with little luck. “A couple people when I went by and they said ‘hey!’ I thought ‘well, they’re not talking to me, they don’t know me,’ [so] I turned around and looked and there was nobody behind me. That was my introduction to Auburn.”

The Alabama Polytechnic Institute Leslie arrived at in the Spring of 1941 was dramatically different from today, with only 4,000 students (3,000 men to 1,000 women), limited transportation and a familial insularity around town that affected all walks of life.

Leslie’s was the first wave of students to live in the new dormitories that now comprise the Quad, back when roads around it were still unpaved red clay. Outside, behind what later was the fraternity houses, was the drill field where ROTC cadets practiced, much to the enthusiasm of female students who watched from their doorsteps.

“That, for me, was quite an experience. We were very proud of the soldiers when they marched over the fields there in practice, cannons and all.”

“That, for me, was quite an experience. We were very proud of the soldiers when they marched over the fields there in practice, cannons and all.”

Helen Krauss Leslie circa 1943

In each of the four dorms was a ballroom-style basement that served as sorority headquarters and event space; Leslie was in Theta Upsilon when they became Delta Zeta, which, like most Greek institutions at the time, promoted wholesome, conservative values—sometimes competitively. “The sororities used to have a campaign on how many people they could get to Sunday School or church on a particular Sunday, so we’d walk from one to another trying to get more churches in. [We’d] at least get to two in one day.”

Though women were no longer shepherded from dorm to classroom and immediately back, there were still plenty of stringent rules governing female students that, seemingly, didn’t apply to their male counterparts. “We had to sign in and out of our dormitories and during the week we had to be back in by 9 o’clock. On the weekends you had a little extra time, if you had permission from your parents. Sometimes we’d sign out to go to the library, but we didn’t always get to the library…”

Leslie remembers the dorm’s House Mother’s nightly checks to make sure everyone was in, but none too fondly. A common phrase secretly passed around dorms for late arrivers was ‘grease your belly and slide under.’

At Auburn, Leslie was thrilled to have choices of business, home economics or education as a major when many schools had fewer options. She had her heart set on becoming an engineer, but, at the time, only the colleges of education, business and home economics were admitting female students, so she settled for business while taking as many engineering courses she could.

“I decided on business, then took some engineering courses, because I didn’t want to be a teacher and didn’t want to be a home economics person. I still had to take one home economics class–that was the acceptable profession for females at the time.”

Leslie was required to complete core undergrad classes like chemistry and history, but made a point of taking as many engineering-related courses as were available. Often the only female in any of them, there were times, like in mechanical drawing, where male jealousy threatened her to impede her studies.

“When we had to do lettering for our plates, the fellows would tell the teacher that I used a ruler to do my lettering—that I had cheated—so the professor came over and I had to prove to him that I was doing it freehand. They were jealous. I didn’t really experience too much [sexism] besides that while in class. [But] even in chemistry we didn’t have many females.”

Leslie was just one of two women who graduated from the college of business in 1943, a distinction she has never forgotten. But, while it’s easy to assume that women chafed against their limited options, in retrospect Leslie says the female students didn’t necessarily feel that way; many just wanted an opportunity to prove themselves.

“I think what we did was, we wanted to be proficient in what we were working on,” Leslie said. “Most of them were home economics people and educators because those were the choices and courses that were offered. If I wanted to go into engineering, it wasn’t open to me, and I don’t know how I would have done it.”

Despite the popularity of women’s sports only a few years earlier, enthusiasm for co-ed athletics had waned by then. Women were not encouraged to pursue physical activities and even basic outings to Lake Chewacla were few and far between. “The only women’s sport I remember is volleyball. And I think that was between the sororities, not even intramural stuff.”

Like most students, Leslie regularly attended football games at the old Alumni Stadium and distinctly remembers the wooden bleachers, wearing hats and gloves with their dates and the thrill of the Auburn Marching Band signaling kickoff. For such a small student body, the school spirit was contagious. “Football would always bring us together, basketball didn’t do much for us, but the band would play at the entryway, they made us real proud of Auburn. You always wanted to be there when the band started coming in.”

Organizations and sporting events were one way to pass the time, but the most important social events of the time, besides football games, were the dances. Organized by special committees and well-attended by students from all grades, school dances were one of the few ways to fraternize with the opposite sex before curfew.

“Where we ‘hung out’ was at the Women’s President’s office,” Leslie said. “They had curtained-off areas there where you could meet someone and study–almost like a dating parlor–but that was about it. On [College] street there was a restaurant and residence, the drugstore you hung out at, the Alumni House, but I guess we didn’t do much ‘hanging.’ There were so few of us, I don’t even remember going to the movies and, of course, no TV. But we did have electric calculators, finally.”

Students, and especially women, needed permission to leave campus, further insulating the student population from the outside world. Leslie fondly recalls day trips to “that dirty old pond” Lake Chewacla and how Phenix City was off-limits to students, but for the most part, student life revolved around the library and Toomer’s Corner. “There were only about 10 cars. I could count them on my hands, and we knew who all owned the automobiles. One of my friends had a boyfriend with a car and when he drove up, we’d all be there. But we walked every place other than that.”

Even Opelika, today only a five-minute drive from Toomer’s Corner, seemed as far away as New York City. “There was nothing between us and Opelika at the time,” Leslie said. “I don’t think the outside world affected us at all.”

Helen Krauss Leslie 43

As insulated from world affairs as Auburn was, the conflict happening overseas was unavoidable, even if it seemed destined to remain distant. Limited understanding of the scope and impact of the Nazi Party mitigated concern and life carried on as usual for the students. That all changed with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

Leslie’s biggest concern at the time was for her then-boyfriend, a student from Cuba who wanted to enlist but was barred from joining the US Army. “People from Cuba and other countries, non-residents of the U.S., were not accepted into the Army, but they felt compelled to be helpful. So my boyfriend flew up to Canada with a group one Sunday afternoon, signed up and then came back.

That was the beginning of that, I think, for all of us.”

The military cadets who had trained year-round, pride of the A.P.I, began disappearing from class as their draft numbers were called. As their numbers dwindled, the relentless drilling in the fields began to take on a more ominous tone. Everyone paid a lot more attention to the military then, whether it was on the field, flying in the sky or with the sailors arriving for training. Everyone was worried.

“[The men leaving] was critical and made us very much aware of what was going on in the world. People would leave and sign up and they were drafted, so they had to go. There wasn’t a thing we could do about it.” With so much focus put on the war effort, it was difficult to concentrate on school, or anything else, Leslie said. “It was tough. Almost like the world today, it seems like we can only do so little to help, to return to a safe and sane country.”

The graduating class of 1943 was shortchanged, Leslie remembers; a greatly diminished student body, an increased workforce demand and a bleak outlook on the world all seemed to contribute to their rushed commencement ceremony. The ceremony was held in February, more than three months earlier than usual, and the winter weather forced the typically outdoor event into the theater. International travel restrictions blocked the travel plans of their planned commencement speaker, so the ceremony proceeded quickly and quietly in an almost funereal atmosphere.

“We had an impromptu graduation in the theater, with no cap and no gown,” Leslie said, her disappointment still audible even 74 years later. Whatever disappointment harbored at the time was quickly pushed aside after graduation. The war effort at home was in full tilt and everyone had a part to do. Considering a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Leslie was summoned back to St. Petersburg by her father, an engineer with Carrier Air Conditioning since 1919 who ran his own supply company.

“Basically, it was my family’s business. When the war was on my dad called and said, ‘I need you back here in St. Petersburg,’ so I said OK. I had no choice. Of course, one thing led to another…” Leslie worked as secretary, treasurer, president and eventual owner for several roofing and supply companies in the Tampa Bay area, in addition to doing layout work for the Tampa Shipbuilding Co. and present-day MacDill Air Force Base. Then, as now, she encountered Auburn connections along the way.

“My suitemate, after she left college, went to Washington, D.C. and got a job in the Pentagon. My interest was there because of Carrier Air Conditioning, but when she was in the Pentagon I took a trip up there to see her and she took me on a tour to see all of that before it opened.”

Besides her business work, Leslie served on the local chamber of commerce, board of directors for the St. Pete College Foundation and in local government. Nationally, she served as chairman for the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, the National Advisory Council for Small Business Administration, National Safety Council’s Women’s Conference, the Committee on Employee Recruitment and Job Development for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Visitors for Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Leslie played international chairman for the Congress of Business and Professional Women of the Americas and the Hemispheric Friendship Committee of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. She made six Hemispheric Friendship trips to Central and South America and was a guest of the West German government in 1965 to promote international understanding, the same year she received the Certificate of Achievement from the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China for her outstanding service.

Behind it all, Leslie says, was Auburn.

“I love Auburn; I’ll always love it. Auburn led me to all the other events of my life, it took me to Central and South America, as a guest of the West German government before the wall came down; all these things probably wouldn’t have happened if not for that first experience.”

She’s paid for her opportunity in kind; an emeritus member of the Board of Directors for the Harbert College of Business, she served for decades and helped break the ground for the Lowder Building in 1988. The Helen Krauss Leslie Endowed Scholarship was created for rising sophomores in financial need from Florida, with preference given to students pursuing non-traditional career paths.

“I think my heart is still in Auburn, it always will be,” Leslie said. “When my brother pulled away that morning after his summer school was over and I found the Auburn dormitory, he got in his car and said, ‘Is there anything you need? I’m going back to Atlanta.’ He left me there all alone in Auburn. That was the beginning of a wonderful experience, of the new me.”

Helen Krauss Leslie 43

He left me there all alone in Auburn. That was the beginning of a wonderful experience, of the new me.”