The writer of the book of Proverbs observed that, “A good name is more desirable than great riches.” The name “Rita” is a good name. Its origin lies in an abbreviated version of the Spanish word, “margarita,” from which we also derive the name “Margaret,” which means “pearl,” that admirable, precious, valuable gem.
Bluefield College has been blessed to have a precious pearl in its midst for nearly the past 40 years in Rita Parsons Blevins, but with the culmination of the 2009-2010 academic year also came the end of Rita’s long and prosperous career with BC as she bid farewell to full time employment in order to turn her attention to retirement and family.
In addition to the name “pearl,” Rita has also assumed in recent years the precious title of grandmother, or “Deda,” as her grandson Noah calls her. Noah has been tugging at Rita’s heart of late, which led to her decision to leave her work at BC to spend as much time as possible with him during these tender years of his childhood.
“Rita will be missed,” said Dr. Robert Shippey, vice president for academic affairs. “She is loved. Like the pearl her name represents, she is of rare value. This college has been blessed by her good name, and all of us are grateful for her faithful service and wish her every good blessing in her retirement.”
Rita came to Bluefield College first as a student in 1971, but a serious car accident nearly kept her from graduating.
“I withdrew from college at one point, but professor Tom Farrar kept calling me and encouraging me to return,” Rita said. “He actually telephoned me while I was having surgery to say he would not take no for an answer. I am thankful for his persistence.”
Rita did return and earned her associate’s degree from BC in 1974. A year later, she was working on staff at the college as an executive secretary to the president, a position she held for eight years before taking time off to raise her children.
She returned to serve four years as secretary to the director of alumni relations, before concluding her nearly 30-year career with the college as a 16-year veteran administrative assistant and office manager for academic affairs, during which time she earned the school’s 2003 Distinguished Staff Award.
“In many ways, the college has been a second home to me,” Rita said. “Staff, faculty and students have been here for me through the good and the not so good times in my life. I can’t help but feel blessed by this institution. It’s only natural that I want to give back as much as I can.”
While still on staff in 2007, Rita returned to the BC classroom to earn a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science. She said witnessing the faculty’s commitment to providing a quality Christ-centered liberal arts education made her “yearn for that full bachelor’s degree.”
“I watched proudly as my daughter, Amy, earned her degree, then married and became one of my co-workers, and as my son, Jonathan, made the brave decision to defend our country in the military,” Rita said. “It seemed I had just closed my eyes and reopened them to find my children were not children anymore, and a still, small voice whispered to me, ‘It’s your turn; go for it!’”
She did and graduated magna cum laude in May 2008, but not before earning the school’ 2008 Wampler Caudill Leadership Award, being named Student Commencement Speaker, taking part in international study trips abroad to London, Paris, Italy, and Greece, and participating in a music mission trip to New York City, where she sang at Carnegie Hall with BC’s select voice ensemble, Variations.
While much has changed at Bluefield College over the past 30-40 years, Rita says that one thing has not, and that’s the school’s commitment to Christian values.
“It is such an honor to work in a place where Christian principles are important,” Rita said. “Bluefield College is not just an institution; it is a ministry and has offered me a unique way to serve God. While I am looking forward to spending much more time with Noah, one thing that will never change is that I love Bluefield College. It has been a blessing to work here.”