“She was an angel for us,” remembers O’Neal’s founding Board Chairman Ted Taws. “She kept us alive in the early years.” He is referring to Elaine McAlpin Tate, whose three granddaughters and one great grandson are O’Neal graduates. Elaine Rockefeller McAlpin was born in 1905 in Manhattan, NY. She married Henry Clinch Tate in 1931. O’Neal’s Tate Gymnasium built in 1974 is named in memory of her late husband. Mrs. Tate gave to the School generously every year until her death at age 80 in February 1986. It was only a few months before her passing that O’Neal’s first lower school building was dedicated as the Elaine McAlpin Tate Educational Building at the School’s first Founders Day celebration on October 27, 1985. One can only assume that Founders Day in October was on account of the School moving from the Campbell House to its campus at this time.
Shortly after Mrs. Tate’s death, her daughter, Gay Tate Duncan, is taken by cancer. On Founders Day in 1987, the first upper school was dedicated in memory of her. It was called the Gay Tate Duncan Math and Science Building and was funded by her husband and her sisters.
In keeping with the times, Mrs. Tate, like many others from the northern states, used to vacation in Southern Pines and stay in the Highland Pines Hotel on Massachusetts Avenue. In the 1960’s, her daughter Gay was an avid equestrian and migrated down to the area. Not long after, her sisters and Mrs. Tate followed suit.
It was Mrs. Tate’s daughter Lainey (Baillie) who was part of O’Neal’s founding families. Mrs. Tate was very interested in supporting the School where her grandchildren were attending. When asked about her mother’s generous support during the early years, Mrs. Baillie replied, “There were many of us who wanted to see this school survive.”
Lainey Baillie herself was on campus for many years assisting those students who needed extra help. “Someone did this for me years ago and it was my way of paying it forward,” says Baillie. “All I wanted was to see improvement with these students.”
In 2014, Lainey and her husband Bob joined 21 other donors, called the Landmark Society, to assist in the relief of debt incurred upon the School with the completion of the campus master plan.
For many families, there has been much physical and monetary investments in seeing the success of this “Gem in the Pines”.
As O’Neal celebrates its 50 years, it also plans for future stability and growth. Learn more about the Growing Strong at 50 Capital Campaign.
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388