Sunnie S. Bates '45

Mary E. "Sunnie" Stanley Bates had a long and distinguished career in public affairs and journalism.

A native of Roanoke, Mrs. Bates graduated from William Fleming High School before earning her Bachelor of Arts in classics from Roanoke College in 1945. One of the College's youngest graduates-she turned 19 just prior to commencement-she also was the first female student to serve as sole editor of The Brackety-Ack, a role she assumed as a 17-year-old junior.

As a young mother Mrs. Bates became active in school and community affairs, and her involvement with the League of Women Voters led to her television career. While arranging for a LWV telecast on WRGB-TV in Schenectady, NY, she met talk show host Ernie Tetrault, who encouraged her to audition to be his co-host.

Though a television novice, she won the spot and went on to become one of the Northeast's leading television celebrities. She became intimately involved in programming and investigative reporting, and her hard-hitting reports on racial prejudice in the North earned her a 1961 Gold Mike award, the highest women's award in broadcasting and one of many awards Bates earned over the years.

Later, Mrs. Bates co-anchored the noon news at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, then the highest-rated daytime program in the nation. In 1962, she moved to Atlanta, where she helped found the Planned Parenthood Association of the Atlanta Area and became its executive director. Later, Bates spent 10 years as a realtor. She remained involved with the League of Women Voters for more than half a century.

A lifelong student of the Japanese people, language and culture, Bates traveled extensively and amassed a large collection of Asian artifacts and books. Her home, modeled after a traditional Japanese sukiya-style home, was featured on the cover of Southern Homes magazine. She and her husband donated over 200 of their books to Fintel Library. 

She was named a Roanoke College Distinguished Alumni in 1992 and received the Alumni Medal in 1993.

Sunnie S. Bates received the Roanoke College Medal in 1993.