Lemay Irene Atlee
The Campus Queens’ Gallery on the second floor of the Student Services Center is a testament to the legacy of royalty that has long been a part of student life – perhaps as far back as the Princess Anne Academy era.
Though campus lore indeed suggests the tradition of selecting a campus queen dates to 1932, the earliest known student sovereign of record was Amelia Merchant, who reigned during the 1948-49 school year. Merchant, the first queen of Maryland State College, was the college sweetheart and future wife of Hawk football great Sylvester “Swifty” Polk.
A recent discovery found among the university’s special collections records reveals the reign of a Queen Lamay I, who preceded Merchant one year earlier.
John Taylor Williams arrived in Princess Anne during the summer of 1947 and led a year-long transformation that saw not only an institutional name change, but also an emphasis on extracurricular activities to create a vibrant campus life for students.
On Oct. 25, 1947, the Princess Anne College Trojans faced the visiting Broncos of Fayetteville (N.C.) State Teachers College for PAC’s annual homecoming football game. Representing her college was Lamay Irene Atlee, playfully described in a football program for that day's game as “Her Majesty – Queen Lamay I.” Thus, Atlee, not Merchant, was the first campus queen of the Williams’ era, holding that honor during the final year the institution was known as Princess Anne College.
When the 5-foot 1-inch Atlee won the crown, she was a junior studying home economics education who enjoyed doing needlework. Lady Lamay chose the orchid as her flower decades before the campus became a place where it is grown commercially and was no stranger to being first. She was the first president of the Eta Beta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., which was chartered on the campus in June 1947.
It is unclear who deserves credit for the striking portrait of Atlee published in that 1947 football program.
-- KIMBERLY CONWAY DUMPSON