From One Generation to the Next: WPU Legacy Families
Legacy families have long been a tradition at William Peace University. You can find example after example of decades-long family ties to the University. While a “Peace Legacy” has been defined as a student with a grandparent or parent who also attended the University, many other stories of family traditions have emerged.
Stories that include shared college experiences among daughters, mothers, and grandmothers are now joined by mother and son experiences. Both the current and former are influenced by the culture on campus.
Both find their home, their community, and their courageous confidence at WPU. Here are two of their stories:
Mother-Son Legacy Highlights a Growing University
Tiffany Crenshaw ’91, who lives in Greensboro, “stumbled” into WPU in 1989. At the time, it was a two-year program, known as Peace College, and most of the women who graduated went on to UNC-Chapel Hill. Crenshaw always wanted to go to UNC.
“I found Peace by accident,” she said. “I took one step on campus and fell in love.”
Crenshaw’s mom was worried about the cost of private school, but when her financial aid packet arrived, they had a surprise. With a combination of scholarships and aid, it was less expensive for Crenshaw to attend WPU than UNC. So she enrolled, earning her associate’s degree in Art before transferring to UNC for a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
For her, it felt like home.
“What I ended up loving was the small classes and how engaged professors were,” she said. “If I missed French class, my professor would call and ask if I was OK,” Crenshaw said. “And then I got to Chapel Hill, where I was getting taught by a teacher’s assistant in a class of 400. I appreciated Peace more after I left.”
At Peace, Crenshaw was a yearbook advisor, editor of The Peace Times newspaper, helped in the Admissions Office, and participated in many other roles.
“Everything about Peace gave me confidence. As a freshman, I was serving as a hostess, giving college tours, serving at Board of Trustee meetings. Getting tapped for leadership before I even got on campus was huge,” she said. “I don’t know where you can go to college as a freshman and have four or five leadership roles right away.”
Today, Crenshaw is the owner and CEO of a consulting firm that installs software systems in hospitals called Intellect Resources.
Crenshaw fondly recalls her time on campus, citing trips to the beach, mixers on campus, and visiting other universities. She’s still good friends with her classmates from WPU. In 2021, 13 of those women took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina to celebrate their 50th birthdays. During her sophomore year, she met her now-husband, Scott, who became an “honorary Peace girl.”
Now, she says, her son Foster is the honorary Peace guy.
The addition of men to WPU in 2012 also meant the addition of men’s sports. Soccer is what first drew James “Foster” Crenshaw to campus. His high school coach knew the men’s soccer coach on campus.
“Soccer was the biggest factor, the coaching staff,” he said.
Foster said his mom’s experience “played a decent factor” in his decision, but “she was supportive and didn’t want to push.” Now, he’s found a home here, too.
“My mom lived in Ross on the third floor — and now I live there,” he said. “I feel welcome; I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
Foster is majoring in business administration and plays on the soccer team, which just earned its first title win in history.
“Soccer was the catalyst for getting there,” Tiffany Crenshaw said, “but he just happened to like it. He’s really enjoyed the camaraderie of the soccer team. He’s very social — that’s his fraternity. He likes the small classes. Academically, he’s the most motivated I’ve seen him.”
When Crenshaw attended, no one had a phone in their room, and there was a switchboard operator. Everyone walked to a payphone in Finley Hall to make calls. Now, she visits campus, excited to see the changes such as a Starbucks in the library.
Tiffany Crenshaw said it’s “been special for us to have that thing to share.”
Mother and son both find their home on WPU courts
Ginger Shields ’77 remembers when Dr. S. David Frazier, the then Peace College President, recruited her to play on the school’s tennis team.
His offer piqued her interest for several reasons: one: she was passionate about tennis, two: she was drawn to the close-knit campus community and three: she was awarded the second women’s athletic scholarship in North Carolina history to attend. With all of those, Ginger knew she had to go to Peace.
Ginger soon found a home on campus and on the court. Playing on the team gave her confidence in her tennis skills on the court.
After Peace, she went on to play at NC State and then to coach tennis privately. However, Peace Athletics have always held a special place for her.
Little did Ginger realize that decades later her son would be involved in Peace Athletics like she was, but this time coaching a men’s basketball team.
Claude Shields, Ginger’s son, fell in love with basketball in high school and then played on the Junior Varsity team at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. After graduation, Claude found a job at a small, private school as a coach.
A couple of years later, Claude’s high school coach, Kelly Johnson, reached out to let him know of a job opportunity.
Johnson was now at WPU as the Athletic Director and Head Women’s Basketball Coach. However, he explained WPU would soon expand to be a co-ed university, meaning it needed a new coach to create and run a men’s basketball team.
Johnson thought Claude was the perfect fit for the job.
Claude excitedly agreed to join in 2011. “I couldn’t have imagined coaching here — the same school my mom went to,” he said.
Since he’s joined, he’s found a second family at WPU.
“It was humbling as a son to coach where my mom went,” Claude said. “People still say to me ‘Oh you’re Ginger’s son.’ It’s neat to see that the small community WPU had when my mom was there is still here today.”
Claude said his family connection to WPU enables his players to be connected to the rich history of WPU. He often invites players over for Thanksgiving meals where they can hear his mom’s favorite memories or traditions at Peace.
Often, those traditions still exist at WPU — like the tale that new students will gain the “Freshman 15” from visiting Krispy Kreme so often.
When Claude first came to WPU, he explained that it was tough to be the first Men’s Basketball coach as he had to recruit the whole team. Age 24 at the time, he wasn’t much older than the players he recruited.
Now, Claude is entering his 10th season. In 2019-20, the team had their best record yet, finishing 2nd in the East Conference. Additionally, in 2014-15 Claude was named USA South Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. He also serves as Deputy Athletic Director at WPU.
“It’s been amazing to see the team and the players grow each year,” Claude said. “Each year I get to see players find confidence in themselves, whether it’s through the court or the classroom.”
And for Ginger, she’s ecstatic to see him at her alma mater. Having Claude coach has allowed her a first-row seat to watch and helped WPU grow, both as his mom and as a former Alumni board member.
“I love it, I love having him coach at Peace,” Ginger said. “I am his number one cheerleader at games.”