Anne Prince Cuddy: Trailblazer in SGA, IBM, and more
Anne Prince Cuddy ‘64 has been a trailblazer in her career and in retirement. In breaking norms, she got her start at Woman’s College.
As a freshman, “I was the nerdiest nerd,” she recalls. “I was tall and clumsy.” By the time she was a junior, she won the race for Student Government president, running on a dorm policy of a later (1 p.m.) curfew on weekends. Her proudest policy victory as president was not the later curfew but the SGA endorsement of the student-led effort for full integration of Tate Street businesses. In a pivotal move, the SGA supported the student boycott of three Tate Street. businesses that remained racially segregated in 1963.
Now, nearly 60 years later, she is preparing to downsize and move to a retirement community in Durham in the next few years. “I set myself the goal of filling up a big trash bin every two weeks.”
Until the pandemic, she met with a dozen or so other graduates from her class on a regular basis. “We’ll do that again,” says Cuddy with her typical optimism.
Her major in math led to graduate school at Ohio State and a career in computers. She was one of the first women hired by IBM in her position. A student in the honors program all four years, she sees “what really good teaching can do,” and she has endowed a fund at UNCG to reward and enhance teaching at UNCG.
Her undergraduate experience – in and out of the classroom – prepared her not only for her career but for the avocations that sustain her today. Professor Rosemary McGee’s class in “Water Safety Instruction” back in 1961 propelled Cuddy into a retirement job as a lifeguard and swimming teacher. Another freshman class in 1960 – in English – encouraged a passionate interest in opera.
She has renewed her Water Safety Certification, which includes lifeguarding and CPR techniques, every four years since McGee’s class. Until the pandemic, my favorite thing in retirement has been teaching adults to swim at the Durham YMCA. That program will start up again as soon as everything opens up.”
At the Y she first volunteered and then was hired as a lifeguard. Some patrons of the Y were older women who had never learned to swim. The public pools in Durham were segregated when they were young, and many Black women, including retired professors from NCCU, had never learned to swim, Anne explains. Anne developed an instruction program for older swimmers, and it works. One of her students won Second Place in a Seniors Swim Competition. She was 94.
As for opera, Cuddy credits her English teacher, Mr. Harry Firestone. “I always had an interest in music. My parents dragged me and my sister to classical music concerts. And they listened to the Met radio broadcasts on Saturday afternoon. I played violin in the college orchestra, although not very well,” she laughs. But it was Firestone’s class that ignited an eternal interest in opera. A doctoral candidate from Yale, he required his freshmen to write a paper about a work of art, music, or literature, absorbing themselves in it on their own for half a semester – no secondary criticism allowed. The second part of the semester, they read criticism of the work and produced another paper. Cuddy chose Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
“I listened to it almost every single day in the library those weeks before I wrote the first paper.”
She served for ten years on the Board of Directors of North Carolina Opera. And she joined the Patron Program at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and attended Met auditions in North Carolina and Atlanta. Recently, she thoroughly enjoyed attending Greensboro Opera’s “Porgy and Bess.” Before the production, she was able to recommend some singers to GO’s artistic director, David Holley.
She treasures the memory of a strange coincidence that once occurred at a Met Patrons’ reception in New York. She was talking to a fellow patron who, when he learned Anne was from Durham, told her a good friend from Yale, who had been his Best Man, had taught at a “woman’s college” somewhere in the South. His Best Man was Harry Firestone. Anne sent a letter to Firestone expressing her heartfelt gratitude for that freshman class so long ago.
Cuddy’s gratitude to UNCG goes beyond individual professors. She received excellent career advice from Dean Katherine Taylor, for example. And she is “most proud” of the part she played in the Tate Street integration campaign.
By Lollie White ’80 MA, ’87 PhD