When Ann Wright would come to Dalton State College, the students reacted "like a rock star" was visiting, said David Elrod, the school's director of institutional advancement.
Marilyn Helms, dean of Dalton State's C. Lamar and Ann Wright School of Business, named for Wright and her husband, agreed.
"Students, particularly our female students, really gravitated towards her," Helms said.
Wright, an educator and philanthropist and the wife of businessman Lamar Wright, passed away on Wednesday. She was 77.
“My heart is broken for the loss of a tremendous leader for this community," said Dalton State President Margaret Venable. "Ann led with the quiet humility of a servant leader. Her devotion to her family and to her faith were unmistakable and I admired her example more than I can say. I feel the loss of Ann Wright deeply. She left an important legacy and I will do my best to celebrate her life more than I mourn her death.”
In 2016, Ann and Lamar Wright donated $5 million to Dalton State. Along with $5 million in state funding, the money was used to renovate and expand Gignilliat Memorial Hall, which is now home to the Wright School of Business. The school held the ribbon cutting for the building in September.
"She was an educator and she knew the value of education," said Helms. "She knew the impact it had on her life and her family, and she knew the impact Dalton State had had on Lamar, so this was something very important to her."
Lamar Wright was one of 524 students in the first freshman class in 1967 at what was then Dalton Junior College and was in the first graduating class in 1969.
Ann Wright nee Williams was born in Aragon and grew up in Polk County. She and Lamar, who was also from Polk County, met at a 4-H camp in Dahlonega.
Ann Wright graduated from Rockmart High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics education at the University of Georgia, where she also completed her master’s degree in textiles.
The Wrights married in 1965 and moved to Dalton when Lamar took a job in the poultry industry. After graduating from Dalton Junior College and later the University of Georgia, Lamar Wright got into the floorcovering business, founding his own company.
Ann Wright worked in Catoosa County as a home economist with the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service until 1970. She taught home economics at Eastbrook High School in Dalton from 1970 to 1975.
The couple had two sons and five grandchildren.
"She was a den mother to her sons' Cub Scouts. She served on the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She was on the board of the boys group home," said Elrod. "Personally and professionally, her life was about education and about helping young people."
Helms said the Wrights often took part in the business school's professional development class.
"We take our junior students to The Farm," Helms said. "They have an etiquette presentation and then they sit with friends of the Wright School of Business. Lamar and Ann always sat at separate tables. Most of all the young women gravitated towards Ann. These are mostly first-generation college students. She shared her faith, her life experiences, her value of education. She was really a mentor to these students. She has really been a role model to young women across the campus."
The family will receive friends on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. in the atrium of Dalton First United Methodist Church, with the funeral service at the church at 4 p.m., according to Love Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements.