By Sabrina Bates
Raising more than 50 guys seems like a daunting task. But for Jerrie Conley, being a housemother to AGRs has been a way of life since 2011.
Monday through Friday, Conley is “mom” to more than 50 members of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity as part of the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Conley is carrying on the tradition of “Momma Childress” — who was housemother before Conley took over. Conley said she often joked she was “mom to a house full of boys who all have a different dad.”
From sewing on suit buttons to mending ripped pants during rope pull (which do not get washed that week as they might bring the team a bit of bad luck), to wiping away tears when one of the boys gets his heart broken, and helping them prep for interviews, Conley said being a mom for the AGRs isn’t much different to raising her own children.
The house has chore charts. The brothers of the fraternity take turns cooking and cleaning. Conley serves as their life guide when needed and helps them along the way with everything from classwork to relationship advice.
As a mother to two girls and one boy, Conley has spent her life as a “mom” to not just her kids, but others who share their children with her.
She was a schoolteacher for 34 years. The difference between first-graders and the college students? These children are much bigger.
With many of the students staying in the house for up to four years of their life, it is easy for Conley to get attached as she considers them family members.
Just this year, she started making scrapbooks for the students who graduated from UT Martin this semester. She is also making scrapbooks for her children that have already moved on.
“Being there for them, helping them out and watching them go through this part of their life is very rewarding for me,” Conley said.
Even after they graduate and some have moved on, Conley still travels to attend weddings and visit during significant times in their lives post college.
She gets excited when they do well academically. And helps them celebrate milestones in their relationships.
Conley said one of her memorable moments is when she discovered a bouquet of flowers that she thought the boys had picked up for Miss Greek. The bouquet was actually for Conley as a gift from the AGRs.
When they have outside activities, Conley is found on the sidelines cheering them on as one of their biggest fans. As hosts of Miss Greek, AGR receives suggestions from Conley for activities and provides tidbits for the boys to help them be the perfect gentlemen.
Throughout the year, the fraternity members dedicate time to raise money for worthy causes. They also host mixers with sororities. They even hold a Bible study at the house each week.
Conley said she is incredibly proud of the group of boys that call her “mom” at their home away from home. While it can be emotional for the retired schoolteacher, her rewards reach well beyond the walls of the fraternity house on University Street in Martin.
The Weakley County Press brings national holidays home with special feature pages and sections. Check out the May 9 edition for our #localnews look at Mother’s Day.