Dorothy Virginia Evans Ackerman


Dorothy Evans Ackerman spent most of her career at Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University. An accomplished singer with a rich contralto voice, she was known throughout the Southeast as a soloist who enjoyed singing everything, from classical music, to lighter repertoire, to hymns.

She bore a resemblance to Kate Smith, a popular singer with a similar vocal range and quality, and when, on occasion, she would be stopped by someone who was convinced she was the famous singer, would oblige with Smith's trademark song, God Bless America. A frequent recitalist and oratorio soloist, she also sang on Faith for Today for two years.

Ackerman was born on April 3, 1917, in Barnesville, Ohio, the older of two daughters of Irving Meek and Estelle Mae Long Evans. She began singing publicly to great acclaim at age four and urged by her mother to pursue a career in music, she attended Atlantic Union College, where she completed a music degree in 1940.

That fall, she started teaching at Shenandoah Valley Academy in Virginia. Although Ackerman would subsequently teach at Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, and Atlantic Union and Madison colleges, she is most closely identified with SAU, where she taught for 28 years.

First hired in 1944 when the school was still called Southern Junior College, she taught for five years before leaving for a position at WMC. The following year, disillusioned by the tensions in their music program at that time, she accepted an offer to teach at AUC.

In 1952 she moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where she worked for her brother-in-law, a physician. A year later, she married James E. Ackerman, a teacher at Madison College. She then taught there until they were both offered positions at SMC in 1957.

Ackerman's talent in singing, combined with a warm, open personality, an intuitive sensitivity, and a sense of humor, made her an inspiring teacher and colleague. Because she was a down-to-earth person, many students came to her with their concerns, knowing their visit would be kept in confidence and they could trust her advice. When she retired in 1979, both students and faculty experienced a profound sense of loss.

At the time of her retirement Ackerman was made an emeritus professor. When the new music building at SAU was completed two years later, the recital hall was named Ackerman Auditorium in her honor. She was living in Fletcher, North Carolina, when she died on May 27, 1989, at age 72.


Sources: 1920, 1940 U.S. Federal Census Records; Dennis Pettibone, A Century of Challenge: The Story of Southern College, 1892-1992, pg. 225; Elva B. Gardner, A School of His Planning (1892-1962), pg. 151; Gardner and J. Mabel Wood, Eighty Years of Progress, 179; 1963 Southern Memories, (yearbook); Denominational Employment Record; Interview, Nancy Wilson, (Mrs. Ted Wilson), February 2004. Obituaries: Columbia Union Visitor, 15 July 1989; Southern Tidings, July 1989; and Atlantic Union Gleaner, 6 July 1989