Sylvia Little-Sweat is the longest-serving faculty member in Wingate University history. At 60 years in the classroom, she is one of the longest-serving professors in the nation.
Her six decades (and counting) of pouring knowledge and a love of writing into Wingate students will be celebrated this spring as the University hosts “An Evening with Dr. Sylvia Little-Sweat” on Tuesday, April 18, in LaVerne Banquet Hall.
A 1961 alumna of Wingate Junior College, Little-Sweat (then Sylvia Pierce of Marshville) had initially set out for a career in medicine, but a chance to fill in for the Latin professor made her realize that teaching English was her true passion. She is known equally for her willingness to share her life with her students and for her thorough grading of their papers. (She’s drained dry more than a few red pens over the years.)
For Little-Sweat, who still teaches two classes each semester and hasn’t set a retirement date, the goal is and has always been to get students to think more deeply and to distill and express those thoughts with just the right words.
“Really what I want to do is refine their minds, not just grammatically,” she says. ‘I want the writing to show more sophistication, more critical thinking, more attention to style, and not have somebody else’s style. Have your own style, your own voice, your own agenda.
She’s put her own pen to paper consistently over the years, having written countless poems and also authored two histories of Wingate. “The Chalk Dust Chronicle,” a standard prose account of the school, was published in 1995, during the institution’s move from college to university status. “The Dream Sustained: A Poetic Journey Through Wingate University’s History,” came out a quarter century later after Little-Sweat had been deemed Wingate’s official “writer-in-residence.”
Her roles as writer, colleague and teacher will all be celebrated at Tuesday’s event, which will be moderated by Provost Jeff Frederick. The evening will begin with a selection of poems read by Little-Sweat. A panel of current and former colleagues and one made up of alumni and students will then share their experiences with the beloved professor, and she’ll offer her own reflections and reminiscences before President Rhett Brown closes the program with his thoughts on Little-Sweat’s impact on the University.
“An Evening with Dr. Sylvia Little-Sweat,” set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, will be followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Reserve your tickets at www.wingate.edu/tickets.