Amanda Surgner’s Life As A Cougar

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Amanda Surgner, Vice President of Advancement, in her 1983 Senior Torch photo. 

My mother, Amanda Surgner (‘83) has been a part of the Collegiate community for nearly 40 years. On January 29, 2016, she announced to the community that she would be retiring at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Surgner began her Collegiate experience as a student in 1975, and since 1994 she has made her impact as the Associate Director of Admissions, the Director of Admissions, and as the current Vice President of Advancement at Collegiate. Over the years, Surgner has seen faculty come and go, the construction of the Lower School and the Seal Center, and the development of the Robins Campus and the Academic Commons. She has served as both a witness and an integral component to so many significant developments and changes that have made Collegiate what it is today. Over the years, Surgner has also experienced traditions that maintain Collegiate’s steadfast character and motto: Parat. Ditat. Durat. “It prepares, it enriches, it endures.”

When Surgner transferred to Collegiate in 5th grade from A.B. Norrell Elementary school, she became a member of Ms. Petteson’s advisory. She transferred with two friends from A.B. Norrell, Beth Reames and Joy Nevill, during the busing era, a time in which local governments began attempts to redress the segregation of schools. When asked why parents decided to transfer students to Collegiate during this time, she replied, “I think parents felt that Collegiate was the most open of private schools in terms of acceptance during a time when private schools weren’t known for being overly inclusive.”

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Junior girls perform “Monster’s Inc.” in Brunch 2015. Photo by Taylor Dabney.

Surgner’s descriptions of her memories at Collegiate are not dissimilar from how I would depict my Collegiate experience. Prior to her time at Collegiate, Surgner had never had to take a foreign language. “I was overwhelmed having to jump into a French class with Madame Powell” recalls Surgner. One of her most distinct memories of being a student at Collegiate is “having a lot more homework than I ever had before.” That is definitely something that has not changed over the years. (Related: Excellence Perry (‘17) writes about student stress levels.) One of Surgner’s better memories was her first Brunch as a 5th grader. Brunch has been a tradition since Collegiate first came of age, but it has changed dramatically over the years. According to Missy Herod, Associate Director of Student Life, “Brunch was started when the school was on Monument Ave. Originally the skit was put on by the Health and Wellness Department to show students what a healthy ‘Brunch’ should look like. Food (lunch) was served at Brunch until Brunch moved out of the cafeteria and went into Oates, where we can’t serve food. Back in my day we had Sally Bell boxed lunches!” Surgner recalls brunch as being “significantly less loud… We sat on the floor of Memorial Hall [now McFall Hall] and enjoyed the play.” Nowadays, juniors dance around the stage of Oates Theater, making inside jokes while following the plot to a well known childhood story.

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Surgner today. Photo courtesy of The Torch.  

Surgner graduated from Collegiate in 1983: “We graduated in long white dresses in Grove Avenue Baptist Church.” After graduating from Collegiate, she attended Hollins College, where she majored in English. When I asked if she knew she would eventually work at a school, she said no. Surgner worked at First Union Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, following her graduation from Hollins. “It wasn’t until I worked in the admissions office at Hollins when I realized I enjoyed working in a school environment. Working in a school is more personal. The relationships matter.” In July 1994 Surgner returned to Collegiate to begin working in the admissions office. “I was hired by Rob Hershey. I give him a lot of credit because he knew I wanted to work there, and he also knew I had young children. He allowed me a great deal of responsibility on a part-time basis. I thank him for that.” Since her return, Surgner has noticed a great deal of change. Serious reconstruction and additions to the Lower School, the new Centennial Hall, H2L2 Studios and numerous other changes big and small have been made since her return. Changes in technology have also stood out to Surgner. “Technological changes, both in terms of the way the school is run, and in terms of the students’ work and assignments,
continue to amaze me.” One thing that remains the same, however, according to Surgner, is the honor code. “The Honor Code is a constant– It was important when I was a student here, and it is equally as symbolic and character building today. It goes to show that being a good and honorable person is more important than being ‘smart.’”

As the school’s retirement announcement stated, when my mother retires she “will be taking this opportunity to enjoy and participate more fully in the last few years of high school for [her] daughter Kate (’17) and son Tucker (’19). She is also committed to the ongoing care of her mother.” Collegiate will be losing an extremely valuable asset when she retires. She has experienced and enjoyed every aspect that Collegiate has to offer. Surgner is able to attest to the incredible change in our community over the years, along with the strong values and goals of Collegiate. Many are sad to see her go; however, I am selfishly and extremely excited my mother is retiring. She undoubtedly deserves a little free time after 22 years at Collegiate and 22 years of being a great mother. 

About the author

Kate Surgner is a junior at Collegiate School she likes dancing even though she isn't good at it.