Donna Netherland, soon-to-be centenarian, to speak at graduation


Donna Netherland

  JOHNSON CITY -- Six years ago, at age 93, Donna Netherland accepted East Tennessee State University's invitation to deliver the fall commencement address. Planning to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 31, 2005, Netherland has again agreed to speak at her alma mater and will keynote the graduation ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 10 a.m. in Memorial Center.
  In telling her story and that of ETSU, as each touches two centuries, Donna Perry Netherland of Elizabethton offers an unparalleled perspective. She first came to East Tennessee State Normal School in 1921 -- just 10 years into the institution's history -- and was awarded her teaching certificate on the campus two years later. In 1949, Netherland graduated from East Tennessee State College with a bachelor of science degree in English; in 1998, she was named ETSU's "Adult Learner of the Year"; and, just last year, she claimed accolades as the university's "2003 Outstanding Alumna."
  At age 18, she began teaching at a small rural school in Montezuma, N.C., and later married Houston Netherland, an avid sportsman who was working for the Clinchfield Railroad. They met in Johnson City, married in New York City where she was attending a summer study program at Columbia University, and celebrated 47 anniversaries before his death in 1976. She retired in 1970 following a career in education that spanned 46 years and during which she taught mainly first-graders, primarily at West Side School in Elizabethton.
  Netherland has traveled the world, touring Russia and the Scandinavian countries, England, Greece, Yugoslavia (before its division), Egypt, and the Holy Land. Interestingly, she made her first trip to Europe by ship in 1927 -- the same year that Charles A. Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic.
  A charter member of ETSU's Institute for Continued Learning, Netherland's devotion to "learning for a lifetime" is legend. She is an avid reader in the Elizabethton Book Club, is lauded as a talented practitioner of the culinary arts, serves as an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, and maintains membership in the Franklin Garden Club.
  For more information about Donna Netherland or the university's commencement exercises, call the ETSU Office of University Relations at (423) 439-4317.