From winning Miss PHCC 1970 to judging Miss PHCC 2017
Wednesday February 1, 2017
In the spring of 1970, a group of young adults urged 19 year-old Pegeen Baldwin to enter the Miss Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) pageant. Baldwin was a very busy and shy art major who was putting herself through college. Working, studying, and living in a family of five kids as the middle sibling, Baldwin didn’t see herself as the type of girl who would be chosen as Miss PHCC. Doubting her chances and swept up in her responsibilities, Baldwin did not think about the pageant again until she found herself holding a bouquet of fresh flowers, wearing a glittering crown, and posing for the camera.
“I was very flattered, and totally floored when I became queen. It was such fun, and honestly, one of the nicest surprises I have ever had,” Baldwin recalls.
Baldwin says she was honored to represent PHCC, which was only a few years old at that time and rapidly growing. PHCC moved to its spacious and beautiful campus the year before and was preparing for the ribbon cutting of the Learning Resource Center in 1971.
Although the crowning came as a surprise, Baldwin quickly began to embody the ideal of Miss PHCC. She was just like the campus, bustling with life and looking ahead to a bright future. Today, she recalls fondly her time at PHCC remarking that her education was the foundation for the rest of her life.
“It was such an exciting time. I met so many great professors and students. Studying at PHCC broadened my horizons and helped me make connections that I would never have made otherwise.”
Baldwin transferred from PHCC and landed a job that took her all over the world. Eventually, she settled down far from Martinsville. She probably would never have seen the college again but, forty-seven years after her crowning, Baldwin (now Pegeen Sites) received another surprise from Patrick Henry Community College.
In 2016, Jane Leizer, PHCC’s former performing arts director, had a dream of reviving the Miss PHCC pageant – which had not taken place in over three decades. But, she wanted to run it quite differently.
In the 1970’s the crowning of Miss PHCC was very similar to the crowning of a prom queen. The young women entered their names, and the students voted. Little was gained from winning, but a crown and the title. And, little was required of the winner but a few pictures. Leizer’s plan for the new Miss PHCC pageant changes all of this.
On February 4, 2017, several young women will compete for scholarships by boldly supporting causes they believe in, demonstrating talent, and exhibiting poise and eloquence. The winner receives far more than a crown and title. The pool of scholarships the contestant are competing for exceeds $20,000. The winner advances to compete in the Miss Virginia pageant, which offers even more scholarship opportunities.
Although, this year’s Miss PHCC pageant is very different from the pageant of years past, Leizer knew the Miss PHCC pageant of the 1970’s still had something of value to add to the newer version – namely, the experience and wisdom of the 1970 Miss PHCC winner.
“When Jane called to offer me a position on the judges panel of this year’s Miss PHCC, I thought ‘who me?’” says Pegeen Sites. “I was very flattered, but at first, I told her ‘I’ll think about it.’”
Sites was initially concerned the focus of the pageant was on the appearance of the contestants, but as she discovered more about it, she realized it highlighted the value of education and the potential of each woman.
“When I discovered the difference between a beauty pageant and a scholarship pageant, I realized it’s not about a pretty face or a little talent. The academics are an important part of this pageant. It makes me so proud that PHCC is investing in the futures and minds of these ladies,” explains Sites.
The more she learned about the pageant, the more excited Sites became. She believes that this pageant is bringing many institutions and individuals together to show their support for the education and aspirations of women. Sites points out that those that have donated to the pageant’s scholarship pool have chosen to invest in the futures of these women.
One of the things she is looking most forward to in judging the pageant is hearing the contestants’ aspirations. Sites says that when she was going through college, young women aspired to a very limited range of socially acceptable occupations. Today, young women can become anything and pursue any field of education. Women’s budding freedoms excite Sites because she believes that education is one of the most vital and enriching components of life.
“Education is so important. It defines the opportunity of your life. If you don’t have an education you just won’t experience life as fully. The more education you get, the more helpful you can be to this world.”
She believes that the pageant not only celebrates the education and aspirations of women in the modern area, but also is enabling these women to pursue their dreams by awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships.
“The sky’s the limit and these ladies can do anything they put their minds to. Whoever wins should be very proud of themselves.”
Sites knows the pageant will help the contestants grow in confidence and it will be an educational experience in of itself.
“For me, winning Miss PHCC helped me understand that I could reach for the stars. It gave me confidence in myself. This year’s Miss PHCC contestants can learn confidence and so much more. They are working hard and putting themselves out there. The commitment, the interviews, having a cause – it all builds poise, professionalism, and social skills.”
Sites concludes that with the way the community is investing in these ladies by providing scholarships, learning opportunities, and the chance for them to build their confidence, she is proud and honored to sit on the first judges panel of the newly revived Miss PHCC Scholarship Pageant.
The community is invited to attend the pageant on Saturday, February 4 at 6 p.m in the PHCC Walker Theatre. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets can be purchased from the Martinsville Visitor's Center (located at 191 Fayette Street, Martinsville) or at the PHCC Switchboard (located in West Hall Lobby).