On August 31, 2020, after almost four years of battling cancer, Pauline “Polly” Stone, Chief Institutional Assessment Officer for RTS, was welcomed into the eternal rest of her heavenly Father.
In the weeks leading up to her death, Polly planned her memorial service and funeral with the help of friends and family. She and her friends went page by page through the Trinity Hymnal, picking the congregational songs for her memorial service. She asked that the congregation recite the first question of Heidelberg Catechism — proclaiming together that belonging to Jesus is our only comfort in life and in death. Her friends and family testify to the ways that Polly’s life magnified Christ.
After spending the first 10 years of her life in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Polly, her parents, Frances and Samuel McReynolds, and her brother, Sage, moved to Starkville, Mississippi, where Polly played basketball at Starkville Academy. She stayed in Starkville for college, earning an English degree from Mississippi State University.
Belonging to Jesus is our only comfort in life and in death.During her time in college, she was very involved with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) and also worked as a camp counselor at Camp DeSoto, where she met one of her lifelong friends, Allen Bradford.
“When I met Polly, I was in a particularly hard season after the deaths of close family members and hadn’t quite found a voice for my grief. Being at Camp, where I could slow down and sense God’s loving presence, was so healing for me. Polly was one of the ways God lent his listening ear to me — she was such a good listener, listening with her steady, attentive heart.
“Polly was such a clear, bright, precise thinker, and I relied on her to help clarify my experience with God and life. She always listened quietly, offering her thoughts only when asked, and never fretted if we saw things differently, which was often. She didn’t often waver in her thoughts and she appreciated when I didn’t waver in mine, even if my thoughts were different from hers. Her non-judgmental nature and vast knowledge created a safe space for endless authentic, life-giving conversations between us.”
After graduating, Polly served with RUF at Clemson University, where she met Bob Stone, her husband of 27 years. After they married, the Stones moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they raised their children, Amanda and Robert. Polly was very involved in the lives of her children and husband. As one friend put it, she modeled “profound love for her family.”
Polly supported Bob in his roles as a ruling elder at Ballantyne Presbyterian, manager at Bank of America, and Clemson football fan, watching games with him and close friends every weekend. She and Bob also volunteered at Covenant Day School and cheered Amanda and Robert on at basketball and baseball games.
At Polly’s memorial service, Will Huss, a friend of the Stone family, read a welcome from Bob, Amanda, Robert, and Sage:
“While Polly touched the lives of so many, the children and I have been the most impacted by her life. Her mark and her lasting imprint in our lives will always be there. Christ has used her in our lives to change us and make us more like himself. We will miss Polly and will always love her. She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith.”
Will’s wife, Missy, remembers meeting Polly at Clemson and feeling intimidated by Polly’s confidence, intelligence, and strong faith. Over 25 years of friendship, their differences made their friendship challenging, but they often balanced each other well.
“We would often frustrate one another in the ways that we approached all things in life. But the one thing we held closely from the beginning of our friendship was honesty. We accepted those differences and began to love them about one another. While often hard and uncomfortable, we managed to address and work through all that annoyed us and embrace what the other needed.
“Now that Polly is gone, I realize that these types of friendships are very rare. All relationships will be hard in this life, but few can truly sustain hurting each other, asking for forgiveness, and receiving the gift of reconciliation and fruit of restoration. Polly and I had a friendship that displayed, for us both, the faithful working of a gracious and loving Father.”
“Her mark and her lasting imprint in our lives will always be there. Christ has used her in our lives to change us and make us more like himself. We will miss Polly and will always love her. She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith.”Polly and Bob were founding members of Ballantyne Presbyterian Church, where Polly led the Christian Education Committee. Elder Mark Seeley shared about their work together and their friendship.
“She was tireless and focused… Polly initiated a children’s catechism and Scripture memory program, put together a philosophy and plan of adult education that would cover a wide range of topics from biblical studies to apologetics to church history.
“My own reflections and memories of Polly aren’t so much ecclesiastical or theological. I am a northern Ohio boy, so I’m a Yankee of sorts. Polly introduced me to cheese grits — the first grits I tried and really liked — and some of the notable southern writers like William Faulkner, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’ Connor. One summer we discussed The Sound and The Fury over a couple glasses of wine.”
Mark’s wife, Nancy, reflected on Polly’s knowledge and love of Scripture:
“Teaching the women’s Bible study at Ballantyne was an endeavor that was truly close to her heart; Polly longed for women to develop a deeper love for and application of Scripture in their lives. She faithfully prepared week after week and that sound Biblical teaching continues to bear fruit in the lives of many women she mentored and taught.”
When Helen Miller joined Ballantyne in 1999, she was a “young Christian going through a hard life transition.” Attending the women’s Bible study that Polly taught, she felt intimidated by the group of “biblically articulate women.”
“One of the most amazing characteristics that I came to know about Polly however, was her intuitive ability to understand people and situations. I know she sensed my discomfort, and in her quiet and unobtrusive way, she extended herself and, with the greatest sensitivity, made me feel not only comfortable but important and welcome.”
In Charlotte, Polly earned a Master of Arts (Theological Studies) from Reformed Theological Seminary and started working there in 1994. Over her years at RTS, she advanced through a variety of jobs to become one of the four chief officers, the Chief Institutional Assessment Officer.“At Polly’s best, which was a lot of the time, she consciously thought, ‘I’m trying to do everything for the glory of God.’”
Dr. Bob Cara, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, worked closely with Polly at RTS. In his message at Polly’s memorial service, he remembered:
“A lot of parts of Polly’s job were worrying about little details in academics and other things. And she, at her best, saw these as doing them for the glory of God… If someone didn’t submit their paperwork, Polly would remind them, ‘Paperwork to the glory of God.’ At Polly’s best, which was a lot of the time, she consciously thought, ‘I’m trying to do everything for the glory of God.’”
Angela Queen worked with Polly for years at RTS, where Queen serves as Director of Academic Administration. She called Polly her “friend, colleague, and mentor” in a letter she wrote to the Stone family shortly after Polly’s death.
“I met Polly as a seminary student… Her Ruth Bible study was the first study I ever led while on staff with RUF. She taught me how to appreciate wine. She helped me plan and test out the first meal I ever cooked for my now-husband. She directed my wedding. She trained me in all aspects of my work at RTS… I witnessed her generous service to RTS and the broader theological academy through her work with ATS and accreditation. She had such expert accreditation knowledge and could also dig into theological conversations, yet her knowledge was married with such warmth and humor. She carried herself with such grace and selflessness in these last years. She showed such deep faith and love for Christ, as we saw so clearly in her love of hymns.”
“She carried herself with such grace and selflessness in these last years. She showed such deep faith and love for Christ, as we saw so clearly in her love of hymns.”AT RTS, a large part of Polly’s role included maintaining RTS’ accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). She served on accreditation teams for other schools, and also served on the board of ATS for six years, where her attention to detail and love for learning served her well. Her colleagues from various institutions recall her as being helpful, knowledgeable, and caring.
Dr. Steven Sheeley is senior vice president at SACSCOC. He shared that one of his earliest memories from his time at the accrediting body was meeting Polly Stone.
“I had already learned of Dr. Cannada’s characterization of RTS as ‘winsomely reformed,’ and Polly certainly embodied the ‘winsome-ness’ of RTS. She always made an invaluable contribution to the peer review team, and she often went about leaving the institution in better shape than we found it. Her attention to excellence combined with her evident caring defined collegiality.”Polly certainly embodied the ‘winsome-ness’ of RTS.
ATS’ Director of Accreditation Tom Tanner shared a story that he felt captured Polly well:
“When we were drafting a new set of policies and procedures in 2019, I asked a half dozen people at ATS schools to read the original draft and give me any comments they wished. Polly sent me 125 comments! And her comments were incredibly helpful. When I sat down with her later to review those, I was struck once again with just how thorough and how thoughtful Polly was in everything she did. But most of all, I was impressed with how caring she was. Even when we disagreed, her smile could melt you. She spoke her mind, but what you heard was her heart.”
Dr. Ann Clay Adams, Associate Dean for Academic Administration at Columbia Theological Seminary, reflected on learning from Polly during their interactions through ATS.
“Polly and I served on my very first accreditation team together. Polly was intimidating at first, spouting off both ATS and SACSCOC standard by number, and clearly understanding any abbreviated reference to a standard. I was amazed, but before our time was finished, she and I had become friends. Then she was on my second accreditation team as well. This is when I really got to know her better and found out that she had a vast knowledge and love of red wine.”
Dr. Elsie Miranda works as the Director of Accreditation at ATS, liaising directly with RTS.Even in the hour of death, God’s blessings await those who have been justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
“Polly had a love and mastery of assessment and evaluation processes. She had a gift for taking an intimidating evaluations process and simplifying it to create reasonable goals for a community. She knew her craft, and I think she engaged in it for the love of God. Polly was a woman of conviction and strength, with a joy for life and openness to understand other people and cultures. She was curious about my culture as a Cuban-American and open to my responses; she never assumed or passed judgement — maybe that is why so many people could call her ‘friend.’ I’m grateful for her generosity of spirit, her sharp wit, and her joy.”
There are many more testimonies to God’s faithfulness in and through Polly’s life than could fit in this article. As Dr. Ligon Duncan shared in his meditation on Revelation 14:13 at Polly’s memorial service, “Our confidence today is not in Polly, as wonderful as she was. Our confidence is in Jesus. ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’ Polly died in the Lord… Even in the hour of death, God’s blessings await those who have been justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”
In honor of Polly’s life, the Polly McReynolds Stone Scholarship was established at RTS Charlotte. Each recipient of the scholarship will receive an award of at least 50% of their tuition. Speaking of the scholarship, Bob Stone shared:
“Amanda, Robert, and I are excited about this opportunity to continue her legacy at RTS, a place she loved so much. Our hope is that this scholarship will be used in the lives of future students to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as they pursue Reformed theological education and bless others for the kingdom for years to come.”
To make a gift toward the scholarship, you can give online at rts.edu/give — specifying a gift to the “Polly Stone Fund” — or mail a check to RTS Charlotte at 2101 Carmel Road, Charlotte, NC 28226 with “Polly Stone Fund” in the memo line.