East Tennessee State University

Retirees Association (ETSURA)

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Powell Hall



    The following was part of a series of articles on campus name origins published by the East Tennessean in 1985. A journalism class taught by Dr. Jerry Hilliard wrote the stories, which are being reprinted periodically. This segment’s author was Michelle Watkins.


    Margaret Hayes Powell felt a little uncomfortable having a building named after her because most of the buildings at ETSU bore the names of people who were deceased.  “She really didn’t want the dormitory on the campus named for her,” said Florence Powell of Johnson City, her daughter-in-law. Nevertheless, the three-floor women’s dorm known as Margaret Hayes Powell Hall was dedicated in her honor in 1961.  Born Aug. 15, 1889, at Hayesland in Williamson County, Mrs. Powell was the daughter of Lysander McGavock Hayes and Hortense Cocke Hayes.  On Oct. 10, 1911, she married Ferdinand Powell of Whytheville, Va., at Midway, the family’s ancestral home. According to Florence Powell, the couple had been introduced at a dance at the Whytheville home of James McGavock.


    Ferdinand Powell, a graduate of Virginia Polytechnical Institute, was a civil engineer for the Clinchfield Railroad and also worked for Atlantic Life Insurance.  When he was ill with Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Powell encouraged his wife to get involved in civic and cultural organizations.  Mrs. Powell served on the State Board of Education from 1935 to 1959 by appointment of four governors of Tennessee. It was primarily in recognition of her long service on the board that the dormitory at ETSU was named.


    On campus, however, she also was instrumental in development of the University School, which her three children attended.  Other activities of Mrs. Powell included serving for many years as First Congressional District representative on the State Democratic Executive Committee. In addition, she was a presidential elector in 1944, and, after World War II, was appointed by President Harry S. Truman to the President’s Committee on the Armed Forces.


    Mrs. Powell was president of the Tennessee Diocesan Woman’s Auxiliary of the Protestant Episcopal Church from 1943 to 1945, and represented Johnson City at provincial and triennial meetings.
Because of her concern for better education, Mrs. Powell became involved in the PTA and served as First District president of the Tennessee Congress of Parent-Teachers. In addition, she was four-term president of the Monday Club, a literary and civic organization in Johnson City, and an active member of the National Society of Dames of America and the Ladies Hermitage Association. “She was well-read to the end,” Florence Powell said, and remained a member of the State Board of Education until shortly before her death at age 80.



"Tales of the University" is a regular column provided by the ETSU Retirees Association about the university and the people associated with it through the decades.  Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to share their memories of ETSU for consideration for future columns. Stories, comments and suggestions may be sent
to Dr. Chesla Sharp at rsharp@planetc.com.

Mailing Address:  Office of Human Resources
ETSU Box 70564
Johnson City, TN  37614-1707
Telephone:  423-439-4457
Fax:  423-439-8354
TDD:  423-439-4710

Office Hours:  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. E.S.T. Monday - Friday
Office Location:  Rooms 307 and 311, Dossett Hall

Updated on 09/07/10