In a Memorial Day celebration on May 28, three generations of the family of a beloved pillar of the Davidson community, the late Giddy Erwin Dyer (1919-2008), have scheduled a celebration in her honor.
Giddy Dyer and her parents, the late Edward Jones Erwin and Mary Browne Erwin, are the donors of Erwin Lodge, a stone building on the Davidson College campus used for small gatherings by students and community residents. The family constructed the lodge in 1945-46 in memory of Giddy Dyer's two brothers, George Pfifer Erwin and Edward Jones Erwin, both Davidson College graduates who were killed in World War II. For many years portraits of the Erwin parents and two sons have hung on walls in the lodge. On May 28, family members will complete the family gallery, hanging a portrait of Giddy Dyer to join the rest of her family members. The family will unveil the portrait, painted by Atlanta-area artist Tracy Snyder, at a special by-invitation gathering that day, which would have been Giddy Dyer's 93rd birthday.
In recognition of her family's longstanding connections to the college, Giddy Dyer also created the Erwin Scholarship, which has provided for 14 students to attend Davidson.
Edward Jones Erwin was an English professor at the college, teaching Shakespeare, Tennyson and Browning from 1920 to 1954. Mary Browne Erwin was a librarian at the college from 1942 to 1956. As a faculty daughter, Giddy Dyer was able to attend Davidson herself for a year as a member of the Class of 1938, even though Davidson was still an all-male school. She finished her degree at Agnes Scott College.
Giddy Dyer's devotion to the Davidson community was evident in her service on the founding board of The Pines, the town's first senior living community. She and other members of Davidson Presbyterian Church spent years working on logistics and fundraising to bring the nonprofit home to fruition. Dyer and her husband, the late Robert C. Dyer, who preceded her in death in 2004 after 63 years of marriage, spent their final years at The Pines surrounded by devoted groups of friends, many of whom still live there today.
Public service was a hallmark of Giddy Dyer's life. After college she moved to New York City, where she worked as an assistant children's librarian at the New York City Public Library. There she met and married Robert, then moved with him to the Chicago area. She became active in many community organizations there and ultimately ran for public office. In 1960 she became the first woman elected to the DuPage County Board of Commissioners. She held that office until 1968, when she was elected to the first of six terms in the Illinois state legislature. Her legislative efforts focused on health, education, conservation, and issues affecting women and children. She was the Republican House sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, and successfully pushed it through the Illinois House in 1975.
Following their retirements in the 1980s, Giddy and Robert returned to Davidson. At the May 28 gathering, family members will also unveil a self-published memoir Giddy Dyer wrote, reflecting on the years from her childhood to her enjoyment of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"My grandmother has been an inspiration to me and everyone in her family, and we are proud to spend this Memorial Day celebrating her legacy," said Leigh Dyer, a former editor of Lake Norman Magazine and Charlotte resident. "We hope that this portrait will become a further enhancement of Erwin Lodge, a facility that means much to our family and can help connect today's Davidson College students to their college's history."