Alison Hearne Atkins, 91

WILMINGTON — Alison Hearne Atkins, 91, passed away on Wednesday, November 3, 2021. She was born on April 30, 1930 in Greensboro, North Carolina, the daughter of Closs W. Hearne and Georgia Pearsall Hearne. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Greenville, North Carolina, where she grew up. She attended public schools in Greenville, graduating at the top of her class in High School. She attended East Carolina University in her home town, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education with a major in voice and a minor in piano. She was an accomplished pianist, but also played by ear. She could listen to any tune and immediately play it.

She sang many operatic roles in her time at ECU, including a leading role in the world premiere of Carlyle Floyd’s opera The Sojourner and Molly Sinclair which was written for the Tercentenary of the State of North Carolina.

She taught in the public schools in Pitt County for several years after her BS degree and then went back to study for a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance. She earned the first one of these degrees to be offered by ECU.

After her Master’s, she moved to Hays, Kansas, where she taught voice and related subjects at Fort Hays State University. It was here that she met he husband, Kent Atkins, who was the Director of Pharmacy Services at one of the local hospitals. There were married on the 28th of May in 1966 in Kent’s home town, Fort Scott Kansas.

While teaching at the university, she filled many roles, teacher of voice, teaching various classes in Music Education and general music studies. As a performer, she gave twenty-nine faculty recitals in her twenty-eight years as FHSU. She also performed in oratorios and some opera while there. She was valued as a musical adjudicator, judging state music festivals in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. She was asked to judge for the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln, Nebraska, when the Met was having it annual auditions around the US.

She was also very active in her various professional organizations. As a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) she took students each year to compete in the NATS regional competitions and always came back with a winner of two. She even had the privilege of awarding Samuel Ramey from Colby, Kansas, a first place in a NATS competition. As it turned out, Mr. Ramey became one of the leading bass singers in the world. She would tease him when whenever they were together by telling him that he owed his most successful career to her judging that contest.

She served NATS in many ways. She was the Kansas Governor for six years and then became the Regional Governor for the four state region of Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

She has had a great many excellent students who are currently teaching in all levels of education, and has one student who sings on Broadway in New York. He performed the role of Billy Flynn in New York and then as the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian in Las Vegas for three years.

Alison was also active in Sigma Alpha Iota, a professional fraternity for women in Music. She worked her way to being a Province Officer for SAI, and was in charge of four universities in Kansas and did a lot of traveling to keep these four schools in line. She also was instrumental in starting a new chapter at Kansas State University which was given the Greek letters KU, which we thought was rather funny since KU and KSU are huge rivals.

She also has been quite active in a women’s organization known as P.E.O. This in an international organization whose prime objective is to help educate women through awarding scholarships. She has served as president in all of the chapters she has belonged to in the various cities in which she has lived in Kansas. She currently belongs to a chapter in Wilmington.

As an accompanist, Alison was asked by Flora MacDonald Gammon of Greenville, to come with her to Grandfather Mountain for the Scottish games and accompany the singers who entertained at the games. This developed into a love of Scottish songs and earned her a spot as a singer, too. She sang the National Anthem at the opening ceremonies and became known as the Musical Voice of the Grandfather Mountain Scottish Games. She and Kent, who was the leader of his Scottish Clan for many years, have attended fifty two of the last fifty five games, missing only for illness or the pandemic when the games were cancelled. For her involvement in these games she was awarded the Agnes MacRae (the Wilmington MacCraes) Morton Award and also was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the Governor for her work in promoting Scottish culture in North Carolina.

After her marriage, she and Kent lived in Kansas (Hays and Lawrence) for forty-two years before deciding to move back to North Carolina, her home state. They chose Wilmington because they wanted to be near the water, and Greenville is not that far away.

She, along with her husband, has been an usher at the Wilson Center almost from its opening.

She was a member of St. Andrews on the Sound Episcopal Church and sang in the choir for many years.

She is survived by her husband, Kent, a son, Reynolds and wife Louise, who live in Rockville, Maryland, a daughter, Alison, of San Diego, California, three grandsons, two granddaughters and one great granddaughter.

Services for Alison will be held on Wednesday, November 10th, at 10 O’clock at St. Andrews on the Sound Episcopal Church on Airlie Road in Wilmington, the Rev. Richard Elliot officiating.

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