When Gail (Warner) Fielding walked across the stage to receive her diploma at Whitworth’s 1962 commencement ceremony, she promised herself that she would someday return to the school to work. She fulfilled that promise in 1975, when she was hired as the circulation and inter-library loan specialist in the Whitworth library. The path that led her back to Whitworth was unexpected, however; she owned a craft and hobby shop in California, where she lived with her husband and two young sons, and one day her husband left the marriage. That very day, Fielding said, “I made two phone calls in half an hour: One was to a lawyer, the other was to the college to say that I was available [to work] if they wanted me.”
Fielding credits divine providence for the events that followed. She was one of two candidates for the library job at Whitworth. She offered to fly to Spokane to interview, even though she didn’t know how she would pay for the ticket. Her father called her shortly thereafter to ask if she needed anything. When she told him about the Whitworth interview, he provided the funding for the ticket. She got the library job and found a house within walking distance of campus. When she returned to California to prepare for her move, she held a garage sale that covered all but $25 of her total moving expenses.
“Over the years, I didn’t have money to give to the college but I could give my time,” she said. In addition to working in the library, Fielding coordinated Christmas festivities for the campus; helped to run a birthday cake program for the alumni office, which delivered parent-ordered cakes to students; and coordinated childcare during commencement. She also handled many other unofficial duties – providing food for meetings and goody bags for traveling athletes, and helping her colleagues across campus as needed.
In 1990, Whitworth’s benevolent Mystery Man learned of Fielding’s dedication to the Whitworth community. He called and offered to help send her on a vacation. When she told him she would love to visit her two sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Seattle if only her car weren’t “terminally ill,” he offered to pay every other payment on a new car (whose license plate read “Godsend”).
Fielding’s family is strongly tied to Whitworth: Her brothers, Kim Warner, ’67, and David Warner, ’68, and sister, Cinda (Warner) Gorman, ’71, are alums; her father, Donald Warner, received an honorary doctorate of letters from Whitworth in 1971; and her son Mark is a member of the university’s Class of 1989. “As we say in our house, we just bleed black and red,” Fielding said. Even her grandson, Ryan – named for Bucs’ basketball standout Ryan Nelson, ’01 – is already determined to attend Whitworth.
Since retiring in 2013, Fielding continues to serve on the Whitworth Auxiliary board and with the Whitworth Institute of Ministry’s children’s program, Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church, and the Crimson Club. She also continues to cheer on Whitworth’s athletics teams and to fulfill her longstanding role of “team mom” for men’s basketball. For her dedication and volunteer efforts, Fielding received the 2014 Alumni Service to Whitworth Award.