In the early 1900s, a student at Tech helped wire the original Hale Hall to get assistance with his tuition.
About 100 years later, his great-granddaughter is enrolled in her first quarter at Tech, walking on the same grounds that more than 20 of her relatives walked.
Danielle Whatley said she felt coming to Tech was expected of her, but the decision to come here was all hers.
“After I came to Ruston and toured the campus, I just fell in love,” said Whatley, a special education and clinical psychology double major.
Whatley said she has had a member of her family at Tech almost since its founding.
“My great-grandfather was here in the early 1900s, but he didn’t graduate,” she said. “There’s no record of him here, unfortunately. He didn’t stay very long.”
Over the years, the Whatley family has carried on a tradition that seems to manifest even against some members’ wishes.
“I had always had it in my mind that I didn’t want to go here,” Whatley said. “There was no pressure at all from my family, but I felt like they assumed I probably would.”
Whatley said everything changed when she toured the campus.
“I was in Ruston with my mother, so we just decided to tour the campus,” she said. “I decided this was where I wanted to be.”
Carol Whatley, Danielle’s mother, said she was proud of her daughter’s choice but was not worried about her breaking tradition.
“I would have supported her in whatever college decision she made,” Carol said. “But I am proud of her choice. Not many families have fifth generation college students at any college.”
Danielle said Tech was a large part of her parents’ life.
“My parents met at the Wesley,” she said. “My dad proposed on Tech’s campus.”
Danielle said over the years she was brought to Tech for various events, so it has always been a part of her life.
“My mom and dad were in the band when they came here, “she said. “Whenever we’d come to games we’d get to sit with the band, and they even had a little band uniform for me.”
Whatley’s mentors and professors have expressed their pride in Tech for being able to create such a legacy.
Mary Livingston teaches Danielle’s university seminar class and was surprised when she heard of Whatley’s family ties to Tech.
“I was shocked and happy that this university could have such an impact on an entire family,” said Livingston, a professor of psychology.
Rick Simmons said Tech was honored to be part of the Whatley family’s legacy.
“It shows we must be doing something right. It’s such a great thing to see legacies. It speaks well of the university,” said Simmons, a professor of English and the Director of the Honors Program.
Danielle said her family’s legacy helped push her to do well, but not in a stressful way.
“I feel like I should do better,” she said. “It’s definitely an incentive to do well, knowing that many people here know your family. You’ve got all these historical connections.”
Danielle said her little brother could even carry on the tradition.
“My brother graduates in four years, and he’s talked about coming here,” she said. “Of course, he’s still young, so he has plenty of time to make that decision.”
As for her, Danielle said she is going to make the most of her time here.
“I want to try everything and get involved in any way I can,” she said. “I’m rooming with my best friend, and I love Ruston, so college so far is pretty great.”
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