When Ann and Morris Taber first ventured onto the campus in rural Zimbabwe, they were already Africa University supporters. However, that 1997 visit was the start of a partnership to which they would commit their time, energy and personal resources for the next 20 years.
The couple were married for 64 years and have two sons—Steven and Mark. In talking about their life together, Ann said that saving and giving were important to Morris.
The Tabers returned to Zimbabwe in 1999, with Morris spending a semester as visiting professor of American History at Africa University, while Ann served as volunteer librarian at the Hartzell Primary School, located across from the campus at the Old Mutare United Methodist Mission Center.
Many trips to Zimbabwe followed—leading Volunteers in Mission teams, with family, or on occasion, just Morris and Ann. They organized book shipments, worked to establish mission school libraries, and supported librarians and teachers in Zimbabwe.
In sharing stories about Africa University and Zimbabwe, the Tabers also invited their friends and neighbors to invest in direct scholarships—providing immediate assistance for financially-challenged students at United Methodist mission schools and at the university. Between 2000 and 2008, the scholarship fund they set up supported hundreds of students.
By contrast, Dr. Harriet King Vivion never visited Africa University, nor traveled to any part of Africa. Born and reared in Austin, Texas, Harriet did her undergraduate studies at the Peabody Demonstration School and Vanderbilt University, while her father pastored McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville. She earned a master's degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI and later returned to Vanderbilt University for her Ph.D. in education.
She learned about Africa University in conversations with her good friends and neighbors, Thomas and Charlotte McAnally. The McAnallys are strong supporters of Africa University. The three friends attended Calvary United Methodist Church in Nashville and socialized together regularly.
Harriet King Vivion and Morris Taber passed away in 2018, within two months of each other. In their estates, they left bequests to Africa University, to endow scholarships for students. These two gifts and the life stories that shaped them share common threads—they honor the values and vocation of the givers.
Ann Taber describes her husband and herself as "ordinary teachers, not rich people…who lived frugally and saved all (they) could over the years."
For Morris Taber and Harriet Vivion, growing up in a preacher's household was a shared experience, and they both had long and impactful careers in teaching.
The Ann and Morris Taber Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Harriet King Vivion Endowed Scholarship Fund at Africa University will support students who are preparing for careers in education.
Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office
A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.