Tracy R. Frist Establishes Fund To Support Ferrum College and Blue Ridge Institute’s Preservation of Appalachian Literature and Folktales

This November, former Ferrum College student and longtime supporter of the College, Tracy R. Frist, made a generous gift to Ferrum College to support the College’s Appalachian Literature project (AppLit) and the digitizing and archiving needs of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum (BRIM).

Tracy Frist at Ferrum’s annual folklife festival in Ferrum, Virginia

“Tracy’s generous gift to the BRIM archive will provide us with the resources we need to digitize collections of folktales and songs so that they will be easily available for public use,” affirmed Bethany Worley, director of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum.

AppLit is an online resource created by Tina L. Hanlon, professor of English at Ferrum College, to serve as an archive of Appalachian literature for children and young adults. Frist’s own original animal tale, “Mountain Marbles: An Appalachian Tale,” is archived on the site and is an example of how the project includes student and faculty authored works as well those gathered from oral traditions.

Frist’s support will help in preserving folk literature of the region and enhance the educational resources available to students.

“One of the magical threads in the tale of my three decades in Virginia has allowed me to cross paths with Tracy Roberts Frist periodically: from studying Appalachian folktales in a graduate course in the 1990s, to publishing Tracy’s original animal tale and teaching materials in our website AppLit, collaborating in Ferrum’s Teaching Appalachian Literature project, discussing Appalachian books at conferences, and bumping into Tracy and her sweet mother at Ferrum’s folklife festival over the years,” Hanlon recalled. “I’m so grateful Tracy has established this fund that will enable us to upgrade AppLit as well as continuing to engage students and alumni in the important work of preserving and sharing folklore and literature of the region.”  

The AppLit project was originally funded in 2000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities and serves as a resource for educators and dramatists. Reflecting Hanlon’s background as a librarian, it features a rich bibliography of works as well.

In addition to Frist’s gift, Ferrum College received a Humanities Research for the Public Good grant from The Council of Independent Colleges to fund student work on the project. Abigail McGovern, a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, is one of four Ferrum College students whose work with the Blue Ridge Institute digitization as well as AppLit has been critical to these preservation projects. McGovern was invited to present at the Appalachian College Association Summit in September highlighting the college-community collaboration. 

“One of the things I learned from working on this project is how folklore can connect community. Folklore is perceived as historic and no longer relevant, but in reality, we create folklore daily – it represents values and culture that connect us all together from the past into the present,” said McGovern.

“The value of the AppLit resource and the BRIM archive is the themes and stories. What makes Ferrum College unique is the local culture and these resources celebrate it and drive engagement with it. Appalachian folklore is part of our story as students,” McGovern continued.

Frist shared how Hanlon’s course enlightened her about the value of folktales and inspired her to support the ongoing preservation work through Ferrum College.

“Dr. Tina Hanlon taught me preservation of culture, history and diversity lies in storytelling. Ferrum College and the greater Appalachian community is full of powerful and transformative stories. I wanted to be a part of saving these stories with this rich cultural evidence and making them accessible to everyone,” stated Frist.

To support the AppLit and digitizing efforts of Dr. Hanlon and the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, select “Other” in the drop down menu and type “Tracy R Frist Fund” on Ferrum’s giving form here.

Bill and Tracy Frist enjoying Ferrum’s annual folklife festival in Ferrum, Virginia

# # #