Forty-seven years ago, Elizabeth “Liz” Strickland began riding a bus from Pembroke to Bellville in neighboring Evans County, and then riding it back home again.
Strickland was a pioneer of sorts, the first student from her hometown to make the 40-something mile round trip to attend Pinewood Christian Academy, which opened its doors for the first time on Sept. 2, 1970.
Strickland will go back there this weekend for the 40th anniversary reunion of PCA’s Class of 1977.
To her, this reunion matters because it’s a gathering of Pinewood’s first-ever students. Since then, Strickland has learned the school has1,596 graduates who have gone on to earn 55 doctorates, including some in medicine. Many PCA graduates have gone into education, and the school has drawn students from 14 counties.
It was a small band of boys and girls, initially.
“That first morning on the bus there was only me, from Pembroke,” Strickland said in an email. “There were three people who were driven from Hinesville to board a small bus with me, Drew Kemp, Gil Sikes and Charla Purser. The Hinesville students had to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to Pembroke by 7 a.m.”
After that first year, others from Pembroke joined in the trek to PCA, including Bob and Larry Williamson, Susan Dickerson, Tammy Barnard and Devon Duggar. Geraldine Williamson, Bob and Larry's mother, drove it after Duggar.
By 1973, PCA had its own full sized school bus, and in the seven years Strickland rode the bus, Pembroke’s Lois Duggar was the driver and Pembroke’s Nancy Bazemore was a teacher at PCA.
Among the members of the 1977 senior class still in the area are Dr. Keith Cobb, who lives in Savannah; Devory Dowdy, Savannah; Kevin Dutton, Savannah; Beth Tippins Groover, now in Brooklet, and Gail Girardeau Watson, who lives in Pembroke.
Also living in Pembroke now is Joe Eason, who taught history to the class of 1977. Science teacher Dennis Folker now lives in Guyton.
Strickland, who during high school helped lay out grocery ads for The Pembroke Journal and wrote a weekly column called “Literary Wit,” went on to Armstrong State where she got degrees in math and computer science.
From there, Strickland’s been around the world while making her mark as both a computer programmer working for nationally known companies and by founding her own, such as Intellinex, LLC, which was bought by Xerox.
She’s on a leave of absence these days to spend time with her parents, who were pioneers in their own right. Strickland’s mother, Evelyn, was the first woman to be Bryan County area director of the Agriculture Stabilization Conservation Service and a private pilot. Her father, Cleveland H. Strickland was a Bryan County magistrate court judge, a pilot and businessman who founded his own tennis court paving business, headquarter in Dublin. Both now live with Strickland, who has homes in Atlanta and Marietta.
This weekend, Strickland will spend Friday night with her classmates at the Patriots’ football game against Robert Toombs Christian Academy. Saturday, they’’ll gather in Metter at Dutch Ford Farm for a dinner and dance. The Class of 1977 will wind up its 40th anniversary get together with a Sunday service at Trinity Baptist Church in Nevils.
For some of the members of the 1977 class, this weekend's reunion will be the first time they've seen one another in 40 years.