Breaking barriers

Terry College’s first black female graduate helped lay the foundation for future minority students, including her son

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Breaking barriers

Margaret Davis Vaughn and A. David Vaughn III

Margaret Davis Vaughn grew up dreaming of attending a historically black college and pledging a black sorority. But Vaughn’s parents and school officials in her hometown of Madison, Ga., envisioned a different future for the Pearl High School valedictorian.

“My decision to go to UGA was not my decision,” says Vaughn (BBA ’70), who was the first African-American female to receive an undergraduate degree from the Terry College of Business. “But because UGA provided an excellent educational opportunity and lasting friendships, I am thankful they made that decision for me.”

Vaughn entered UGA soon after Harold Black and Tyrone Barnett had become Terry’s first black graduates in 1966. She and her college roommate were among the first students to live in Brumby Hall. After classes, Vaughn would socialize with other African-American students at Memorial Hall, but she felt isolated from the rest of the student body.

As Vaughn succeeded in the classroom, the social climate began to change as a few white students started studying with her. As a child, she had accompanied her father, Nathaniel Davis Sr., when he collected money from rental properties he managed—and that influenced her decision to major in accounting. By the time she graduated, Vaughn had a different outlook on her college years: “I was happy to have a degree from the Terry College!”

Vaughn went to work for the IRS in 1972, and she is a licensed CPA. She retired in 2004, but still works as a consultant.

It’s funny how things turn out in life. Vaughn and her late husband planned for their son to attend a historically black college. But A. David Vaughn III (BBA ’00) ended up following in his mother’s footsteps by attending UGA and majoring in finance at Terry.

On a recent visit to campus, Vaughn and three friends listened to black students speaking positively about UGA. “We were so happy to hear that,” says Vaughn, “and we claim some small credit for it.”

 

— Lori Johnston is a writer living in Watkinsville, Ga.