Kathy Alsberry Temple: 1972 alumna loved Laurel Ridge so much, she returned 40 years later for a second degree

Kathy Alsberry Temple

Kathy Temple is a trailblazer – her life is made up of many firsts, including being the very first person to graduate from Laurel Ridge.

Her maiden name is Alsberry and members of the class of 1972 were called in alphabetical order. She graduated with an associate degree in secretarial science.

A 1970 alumna of Strasburg High School, Temple is the youngest of 11 children. She started school at Sunset Hill Elementary in Strasburg, a school for African-American children.

While schools were integrated while she was still elementary-aged, some of her older siblings had to go to Winchester to attend the all-Black Douglas High School. Two of her older brothers were entrusted to drive the school bus while attending the school themselves. They had to drive down to Woodstock to pick up students and make stops along the way up to Winchester.

“In my mind I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t have the means to do so, and didn’t have scholarships available,” she said.

Temple’s high school counselor suggested she consider Laurel Ridge. She liked the idea of being able to continue living with her parents, Roberta and Jordan Alsberry, and saving money.

Her father worked at Avtex Fibers in Front Royal until the year Temple graduated when he suffered an illness.

Temple recalled, “He told me, ‘I don’t have enough money to send you away to college, but I will put gas in your car for you [to get to Laurel Ridge].”

Making her mark

She described being “so happy and so apprehensive” on her first day at college. Temple discovered she could help pay for tuition by getting a job as a work-study student. She ended up working for the college’s word processor, Agnes Creasy, who was in charge of printing all of the college’s exams amongst other administrative duties.

“She was so kind to me, she taught me so much,” Temple said. “The first summer I worked there, we made the first brochure for the school. Mrs. Creasy put me on the front cover. I really loved working with her. She was a wonderful mentor and taught me a lot.”

While at Laurel Ridge, she and some other female students started a sorority, Tau Alpha Epsilon. She was in Phi Beta Lambda and was elected class secretary her first year.

“I was very happy to be there,” Temple said of her college days. “That was one of the most exciting times of my life, aside from getting married and having my kids. I was just so happy that I got to go to college.”

Temple was also the very first Miss Laurel Ridge. She ended up in the pageant by circumstance. Temple found out about the pageant when she typed up information about it. She then encouraged other African-American women at the college to sign up for the pageant.

“I said, ‘We’re here, too,’” Temple remembered.

However, she didn’t submit her own name. When it was time for a rehearsal at the Wayside Inn, none of the women Temple had recruited came. A male friend encouraged her to enroll in the contest.

“I said, ‘I don’t have time for this pageant,’” Temple said.

Not only did she work at Laurel Ridge, but Temple also had jobs working at a department store in Woodstock and at a law office in Winchester. She called her sister, who was studying at James Madison University – and the first African American woman to earn her nursing degree there – and told her she didn’t have a dress nor the extra money to buy one.

Temple’s sister told her to get some patterns so she could make the dress when she came home for the weekend. Still, on the day of the pageant, she balked at going.

“I was so exhausted and said, ‘I can’t go. I’m so tired,’” she said, adding she had lain down because had worked all day in her work-study position and it had started snowing. “My sister said, ‘You need to get up and get ready. I didn’t make this gown for nothing.’”

Also, Temple didn’t want to disappoint her parents by not following through with her commitment.

Being selected as the winner came as a shock to Temple, and to the audience, and even to her young nephew, Gregory, who supported her throughout the whole process and even came to the rehearsal. The judges said they chose her for her poise and for how well she answered the questions.

A doctor in Winchester sent Temple’s mother a front-page newspaper clipping of Laurel Ridge President William H. McCoy crowning her.

“He wrote, ‘You have to be very proud of your daughter,’” Temple said.

Her mother didn’t know the doctor, but kept the clipping for the rest of her life. Temple has the clipping and accompanying letter now.

Life after Laurel Ridge

After graduating, Temple managed chalets at Bryce Resort, and she later worked at Capitol Records in Winchester. Several months later, she received a call about an application she submitted to IBM in Manassas. On her first day on the job, she discovered she was assigned to a typing pool. Temple told the manager she had a two-year degree and could do more.

“She said, ‘This is a start, you’re at a large company,’” Temple said.

She hadn’t been there long when a new secretarial position opened up. Temple found herself responsible for establishing the position, and when her boss was promoted, he took her along to his next assignment.

Her 27-year career at IBM would take Temple to Boulder, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., and Charlotte, N.C. In 1997, she was awarded the Management Excellence Award by IBM.

“I worked my way up from secretary to procurement management,” Temple said. “I was going to make my mom and dad proud. I just kept working my way up and finding my avenues.”

She decided to take early retirement after the death of her husband, Harry Thomas Temple Jr. She returned to Strasburg, with her son, Torrence, who was in high school, while her daughter, Tasha, remained in Charlotte while attending Winthrop University in South Carolina.

Lifelong learning

Throughout her career, Temple continued to take college classes, including English, accounting, management, business law and economics. She’d always wanted to finish her bachelor’s degree.

So, once again, Temple enrolled at Laurel Ridge. Her advisor at the time was Larry Friedenberg, who is now a professor of sociology and human services.

“He was very encouraging,” Temple said.

In 2012, Temple graduated with her second associate degree, this time in liberal arts. Her mother, who lived to be 97, was still alive for this second commencement. She transferred to Eastern Mennonite University, earning her bachelor’s degree in organizational management in 2014.

“It was like a dream,” Temple said. “Ever since I had graduated from Lord Fairfax the first time, I always wanted my four-year degree. I kept saying I’m going to do it some day.”

She made sure her children, too, received good educations. Her son went to Laurel Ridge for 1½ years and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and her daughter, Tasha, has two master’s degrees.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, wanting to help the children in her community, Temple had been working as a substitute teacher at the public schools in Strasburg.

She is the financial secretary of her church, is a member of the Citizen Advisory Team in Strasburg, and serves on the alumni committee of Sunset Hill School.