Esther A. Whitaker

Published 4:42 pm Sunday, October 6, 2013

RALEIGH – Esther Adams Whitaker, age 92, of Springmoor Retirement Community, Raleigh, NC, died October 4, 2013 at Rex Memorial Hospital.  A celebration of life service will be held at 2 p. m. Tuesday, October 8, 2013, at Wake Forest Baptist Church, Wake Forest, NC, with reception following.

Esther Whitaker was preceded in death by her late husband, Dr. Bruce Ezell Whitaker, former President of Chowan College, with whom she was united in marriage on August 22, 1947.

Esther Whitaker was born in Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, North Carolina, July 30, 1921.  She was the younger of the two daughters of the late Doc Fred and Ada Capps Adams.  Her father moved the family to Catawba County, North Carolina, when the girls were quite young.  There Esther attended the public schools graduating from Newton (NC) High School with the Class of 1938.

Upon graduation from high school Esther enrolled at Appalachian State Teacher’s College, Boone, North Carolina, receiving a B.S. degree in Elementary Education in 1942.  She was later awarded graduate degrees from Woman’s Missionary Union Training School for Christian Workers (later Carver School of Missions and Social Work), Louisville, Kentucky (M.R.E., 1946), and George Peabody College, Nashville, Tennessee (M.A., 1956).

Subsequent to her employment at Chowan, Mrs. Whitaker pursued additional graduate studies at Union (NY) Theological Seminary and through Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, while also keeping abreast of the latest developments in her primary academic discipline through participation in the programs and through reading the journals published by such professional organizations as the American Academy of Religion and the society of Biblical Literature. In 1965, she attended Hebrew Union Biblical and Archeological School in Jerusalem, Israel where she participated in an archeological dig.

She began her career at Chowan College, Murfreesboro, NC, as an instructor in physical education for women but quickly shifted her focus to the Department of Religion and Philosophy, where she remained a popular classroom teacher until the date of her retirement in 1989.

Earlier employment experience has found her as a teacher, Startown Elementary School, Newton, North Carolina, 1942-1944; Director, Baptist Student Union, Birmingham (AL) Baptist Hospitals, 1946-1947; teacher, Louisville (KY) City Schools, 1947-1950; and teacher, Nashville (TN) City Schools, 1950-1953.

Esther Whitaker combined her roles as classroom instructor and “First Lady” of the campus – being wife of the College’s President, 1957-1989 with and appropriate blend of giftedness as a teacher, on the one hand, and grace as the efficient “hostess” for numerous campus functions, on the other hand.  She was recipient of the annual Excellence in Teaching Award in 1989, a selection made by vote of her faculty colleagues.  Students, likewise, honored her with the dedication of The Chowanoka in 1978 and, again, in 1989.   Upon her retirement in 1989 Esther Whitaker was honored as Faculty Emeritus.

While residing in Murfreesboro from 1957 to 2003 she was a member of Murfreesboro Baptist Church, serving over forty years as a Sunday School teacher and as a Deacon along with other numerous activities both in the church and the larger community.

In 2005 Esther Whitaker moved with her husband to Springmoor Retirement Community where she was an active member of Springmoor Endowment, The Atlantic Monthly Society, the library volunteers and other organizations there.  She was an active member of Wake Forest Baptist Church.  Along with her husband, Esther received the North Carolina Baptist Heritage Award in 2009.

In addition to her late husband, Esther Whitaker is preceded in death by her parents and late sister, Evelyn Adams Land, formerly of Laurel, MD.  She is survived by her sons, Barry Eugene Whitaker (a banker who currently resides in Raleigh, NC) and his wife, Rebecca Goff Whitaker, and Garry Bruce Whitaker (an attorney who currently resides in Winston-Salem, NC) and his wife, Pamela Dickenson Whitaker; and survived by her grandchildren, Amy Whitaker Tamayo of Davie, FL and Jean Ann Whitaker Gilfus, Fayetteville, NC, and two great grandchildren William Radford and Jackson Kerr Tamayo.

In her brief autobiography, “My Life as I  Remember It,” she closed saying, “I am grateful to God for blessing me in many ways–husband, children and grandchildren, many friends and relatives, a satisfying professional life, good health, safe travel, many celebrations, an overall and good and happy life.”

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bruce and Esther Whitaker Scholarship, Chowan University, 1 University Place, Murfreesboro, North Carolina 27855

A service of Bright Funeral Home & Cremation Center, 405 South Main Street, Wake Forest, NC. (919-556-5811)