Is It Win-GATE Or Win-Get? Wingate University Settles On...
Back in the mid-1800s, settlers arrived in an area of what was then called Ames Turnout to build a church. Eventually, a school was established. A community grew and Ames Turnout became a town. That town was named after a Baptist minister Washington Manley Wingate. Or maybe it was Wingate, we'll get to that shortly.
Here's how Mayor Bill Braswell describes his town, population 3,500:
"When one goes to the post office, quite often, if you don't know the person's name, you've seen their face often enough that you feel comfortable in town," Braswell says. "If you go to the grocery store, you feel very comfortable. It's a very pleasant place."
It has a homey feel. Even the town hall is an old, white two-story home. But Mayor Braswell says without the University it would just be another small town along Highway 74. So how does the mayor pronounce the name of his town?
"As I was growing up, almost everyone I knew pronounced it Win-get and I did too," Braswell says. "Maybe about 15 years ago, some people started pronouncing it Win-gate and then I chose to do so."
Braswell says that now about half the town's residents call it Win-GATE and the other half stick with Win-GET.
University officials found this to be too confusing for prospective applicants and their families. Here's Vice President of Student Life Rhett Brown.
"When I started working in Admissions and started talking to families from Long Island, or Atlanta, or you name it and I would say Winget and they were confused, you could tell, I started changing and so I would most often say Wingate," Brown says. "There's just been so much inconsistency. It's almost like having a logo or graphic design or image and everybody's using a different thing."
Brown has lived in the town for more than two decades. So he understands both perspectives. When he would say "Win-GATE" at church:
"People would think 'Oh, so you're too good for Win-get now.'"
He changes his pronunciation depending on who he's speaking to. And he says most students, about 20 percent of whom are out of state, say "Win-Gate". The school hired a marketing and branding consultant to help settle the issue.
Their recommendation? Call the school Win-GATE University, but continue referring to the town the University is located in as Win-GET.
But don't think the president of the University is onboard. President Jerry McGee grew up 40 minutes away, so to him, it will always be "Win-get".
"And I always grew up knowing this school as Win-get. It was always Win-get," McGee says. "And when I was named president here, I told all my friends that I was president of Wingate University. It was Wingate College at the time."
But neither the branding campaign nor the alma mater song is enough to get him to change his pronunciation.
"It's regional, the alums who grew up in Charlotte and Laurinburg and Albermarle and Wadesboro, they all say Win-get," McGee says. "But those who grew up in Texas or Florida or New York, they all say Win-gate. We just kind of laugh and smile and go about our way."
At the student union, Keaton Hendricks is playing pool with his friends. He's a junior majoring in sociology. He's from Matthews, so as someone who grew up nearby, he prefers Win-get. But he laughs it off, for the most part.
"I mean I really don't care. I say it my way, others say it their way," Hendricks says. "It's a big debate apparently."
Something tells us this debate won't be settled anytime soon.