Monday, August 24, 2015

The Rise and Fall of the McIver Memorial Building

After the Brick Dormitory fire of 1904, the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) constructed Spencer Residence Hall to serve as the primary residence for students at the school. Once the site of the former Brick Dormitory had been cleared, however, administrators set to work on a much-needed classroom building for the growing school. Until this point, the overwhelming majority of the classes (as well as all of the laboratories and campus offices) met in the Main Building (now Foust Building). Enrollment had more than doubled in the 12 years since the school opened its doors for students. Class offerings had expanded, and the need for more instructional space was apparent.

McIver Memorial Building postcard image, 1910
Administrators initially envisioned a large classroom building with a central core and two wings, bigger overall than the Main Building which sat next door. The construction budget, however, restricted them to the central core only. And in May 1908, the McIver Memorial Building -- named for the recently-deceased founding president of the school -- opened for use.

The McIver Memorial Building quickly became the hub of instructional activity on campus and served as the primary home for chemistry and many of the other science departments and their laboratories. Additions were made to the building over the years. The McIver Statue (which currently sits in front of Jackson Library) was added to the front of the building in 1912. Also, as originally planned by administrators, two wings were added -- an east wing in 1920 and a west wing in 1922.
McIver statue in front of McIver Memorial Building
But the building itself proved unsound rather quickly. By 1913, there were reports of faulty plastering in the building. As early as 1928, the central core of the building, then only 20 years old, was declared by Science Department head J.P. Givler to be both obsolete and a fire hazard. He referred to the electric wiring as "a patchwork of peril." A small fire in 1932 was caught early and caused little damage to the building itself.

While most of the science departments left the McIver Memorial Building in 1940 after the construction of the Petty Science Building, McIver was still heavily used by other academic departments, particularly liberal arts departments. Yet, a 1950 report from state engineers proclaimed that, while the timber frame and brick veneer of the building were sound, the structure itself was at high risk of fire. They reported that it would cost more to fireproof the building than to replace it altogether.

The biggest blow to the McIver Memorial Building, however, came in February 1956 with a partial collapse of a plaster ceiling in Room 215, one of the heavily used classrooms. Luckily, at the time, no class was in session and no one was injured in the collapse. But an engineer who was called in to assess the structural damage recommended the closure of the third-floor of the building due to the plaster collapse. He noted that a large number of students in the building could cause a "considerable vibrational load" and might "increase the hazard of plaster crackings."

An example of damage to McIver Memorial Building
Also, the building was once again labeled a fire hazard. "No Smoking Anywhere in McIver" signs were quickly posted around the building. Previously, instructors had been allowed to smoke in their offices and some allowed smoking in laboratories. The engineer's report declared that "if a fire were to commence in the basement while a large number of classes were in progress, this department sees no way in the world that all students would be able to escape from the building before the open interior stairways had enabled the fire, smoke and other lethal fumes to engulf the entire building with the inevitable loss of many lives."

Campus administrators were forced to close the building in July 1956 and reassign all classes to other building around campus. That same month, they met with state legislators to discuss funding for a replacement building, as the McIver Memorial Building had fallen to such a state that repair was much more costly than new construction. Administrators requested a building of "comparable size, on the present site of McIver and under the existing name." Talks continued into Spring 1957, with students joining administrators in lobbying state politicians for funds for a new building.

Demolition of the McIver Memorial Building, 1958
The 1957 Legislature appropriated $1 million for a new building to replace McIver Memorial (campus leaders had initially asked for $1.3 million). In December 1957, a contract for demolition of the structure was awarded to W.W. Rike, Jr., of Winston-Salem, with a completion time limit of 120 days. By March 1958, the McIver Memorial Building was no more. And on October 5, 1960, the campus celebrated the dedication of the new McIver Building (which stands today) on the same site.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dr. John H. Cook: A Progressive Advocate for North Carolina's Teachers

On March 25, 1936, North Carolina Republican Chairman William C. Meekins expressed his disappointment that Woman's College's dean of the department of education Dr. John H. Cook would not accept the party's nomination as candidate for the state superintendent of public instruction. Cook declared that while he was "tremendously interested in public education and [he] expect[ed] to continue to work for its advancement along soundly progressive lines," he felt that his calling was to be a professional, not a political, leader in the fight for public education improvements in North Carolina. Cook had been a staunch advocate for public education and educators in North Carolina since arriving in Greensboro in 1918, and he would continue that fight until his unexpected death from a heart attack in 1941.

Cook began his work at the State Normal and Industrial College (later Woman's College, now UNCG) when he was hired as head of the department of education in 1918. After a campus-wide reorganization in 1922, his title was changed from "head" to "dean." In 1921, he worked to organize the campus Education Club, a professional and social organization for seniors doing their student teaching and education faculty. He also served as director of summer school, which primarily provided teacher training courses, for 15 years. During his time leading the department, Cook was a strong proponent in specialized training for teachers, with a practical internship component.

This emphasis on education as a unique discipline often led to conflict with the college administration. In 1928, President Julius Foust (himself a former education professor) put forth a proposal to eliminate the education major for undergraduates and instead require students to acquire a major in the discipline in which they planned to teach (history degrees for history teachers, mathematics degree for math teachers, etc.). Cook disagreed vehemently, citing the college catalog's statement of the chief mission of the school being "the preparation of teachers." In an April 3, 1928, letter to Foust, Cook wrote, "how queer it would seem that students were forbidden to major along the line of the chief purpose of the college." Foust dropped the proposal and the education major remained.

In addition to Cook's contributions to the betterment of the department of education, he sought to better the welfare of public school teachers across the state of North Carolina. He was a prominent speaker at civic and education groups across the state. At a January 31, 1936, meeting of the Greensboro Civitan Club, Cook took the progressive stance in favor of allowing married women -- even married women with children -- to continue teaching. He declared, "let a woman go ahead and marry and have one or two children if she cares to; then she is all the better prepared to work with the children of others."

In particular, he was a staunch advocate for establishing tenure and a retirement system for the state's teachers. Cook argued publicly for "a permanency of tenure that would preclude the influence of politics and allow participation in the progressive life of the community without so much fear of public opinion." He also served as chairman of the Committee on Retirement Legislation of the North Carolina Education Association. In this role he worked with teachers and legislators to develop a retirement plan for state employees. This plan provided for matching contributions by the state and the individual.

In a brochure written by Cook for members of the North Carolina Education Association, he wrote that "insecurity for old age is a specter that has persistently haunted ninety-five per cent of our people from early middle age until life ends." He cited an "examining physician for a well known life insurance company" in writing about the importance of a life-long annuity in providing stability in retirement and freedom from "financial worry." He wrote "release an old man by means of an annuity from all this worry, and he throws off his years and walks erect, happy and fearlessly young."

Sadly, Cook did not live to see the implementation of the retirement system he'd fought so hard to develop -- a system that, while changed over the years, continues to benefit state employees today. On January 16, 1941, at the age of 59, Cook suffered a heart attack in his office in the Curry Building. He was carried to his nearby home, where he died shortly thereafter. Services were held at West Market Street Methodist Church, where Cook had served as a steward. The WC faculty wrote in a memorial tribute praising Cook's "friendliness, his tolerant attitude, his tendency to see the good in people, his sincerely tactful consideration for others, his sense of humor, his fearlessness in standing for his own convictions." They added that "we are enriched in that he lived among us and worked with us. Through his deeds his life continues to speak to us and motivate us."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Julius Foust and Harry Barton: Partners in Design

1930s Campus Map Showing the Barton Additions

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) has one of the most beautiful campuses in the state, in most part because of the efforts of past college president, Julius Foust and architect Harry Barton. Although Barton had many important commissions throughout North Carolina, it was perhaps his relationship with Julius Foust, which would provide some of his most important commissions and one of the most prolific periods in his career.

During the 1920s, the small women’s college had an unprecedented expansion. With the student body almost doubling in size and the faculty growing to meet the demands of extra courses, Foust began planning an enlargement of the campus, including residence halls, classroom buildings, and a large auditorium. In Barton, he saw an architect who could make his vision of the school into a reality. Foust commissioned the architect to design seventeen of the buildings constructed on campus during this state-wide building campaign.

Advertisement for Harry Barton's Architectural Firm, 1912

Although Harry Barton was a native of Philadelphia, he became an important part of the architectural legacy of Greensboro. He earned a degree in architecture from George Washington University and did postgraduate study at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. After graduation he worked in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., before moving with his wife to Greensboro in 1912. Barton believed that Greensboro was a “city with a future,” benefiting from being a pivotal part of the prosperous Piedmont region of the state. Quickly gaining his own clientele of notable Greensboro businessmen, he received the lucrative commission for the Guilford County Courthouse (1918-1920), as well as many other courthouses, schools, churches, governmental buildings, and schools. Incorporating Neo-Classic, Gothic, Art Deco, Tudor, and Georgian architectural styles into his designs, Barton proved that he was a versatile and talented young architect.

 Construction of Aycock Auditorium, 1927
Foust trusted Barton to form the newer architectural design of the campus. While most of the original buildings on campus were of the Romanesque style, Barton chose the more popular classical revival design. Many of Barton’s other architectural projects focused on residence halls - not surprising with the growth in student population, but buildings that would meet the physical and academic needs of the students were also prioritized. An Outdoor Gymnasium was an early structure that served as the primary physical education structure until the completion of the Rosenthal Gymnasium, also designed by Barton, which was completed in 1925. 
Outdoor Gymnasium, 1922

The building campaign, which lasted almost the entire decade, included the Shaw Residence Hall (1919), Gray Residence Hall (1921), Outdoor Gymnasium (1922), Hinshaw Residence Hall (1922), Bailey Residence Hall (1922), the President’s Residence (1923), Cotten Residence Hall (1922), Coit Residence Hall (1923), Jamison Residence Hall (1923), Brown Music Building (1925), Physical Education Building (1925), Curry Building (1926), [Aycock] Auditorium (1927), Mary Foust Residence Hall (1927), Guilford Residence Hall (1928), the Home Economics Building (1928). While these structures were being completed, Foust also had College Avenue paved in 1928, further modernizing the look of the campus.

Brown Music Building, 1925

Barton became one of the most notable architects in the state. He was one of the first licensed architects in North Carolina as well as a member of the National American Institute of Architects, the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the State Board of Examiners in Architecture. He was also a well-respected member of the community, heavily involved in the Presbyterian Church, as well as the Kiwanis Club and the Masons. But one of his greatest legacies is his contribution to the beautiful UNCG campus.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Consolidation and WC: Building the UNC System

In 1930, North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner proposed bringing together the state-sponsored institutions at Chapel Hill, Raleigh (then State College), and Greensboro (then the North Carolina College for Women) into a single consolidated university system, sharing a single president and board of trustees. The 1931 legislature passed the consolidation bill, and the University of North Carolina as a consolidated system was born. The following year, Frank Porter Graham was elected the first president of the Consolidated University.

Dr. Frank Porter Graham,
from the 1934 Pine Needles yearbook
With consolidation, the North Carolina College for Women saw its name change to the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina. The intent of consolidation was to increase efficiency and minimize a competition that had existed between the three schools from the beginning. The newly-renamed WC and its fellow institutions in the consolidated University of North Carolina, however, did not always see eye-to-eye in terms of enrollment, academics, or funding. As the system's woman's college, WC saw the enrollment of the top female students in the state as a priority. But both Chapel Hill and State allowed women to enroll as undergraduates, although a 1925 agreement between Chapel Hill and WC did limit freshmen and sophomore women from enrolling at Chapel Hill unless they were entering programs not offered in Greensboro. State added a school of education open to women in 1927.

Alumnae and administrators in Greensboro also didn't feel as if they were receiving equal representation in the leadership of the new consolidated university. When the first board of trustees was selected in 1932, legislators chose a majority of Chapel Hill graduates to serve on the governing board for the consolidated system. Two years later, in 1934, 11 of the 100 trustees were women, and only five of them were Greensboro graduates.

In the years following World War II, differences in legislative support for the campuses became even more apparent. WC administrators sought expansion for their campus in 1945, but the state legislature instead focused on helping Chapel Hill and State cope with a deluge of returning military veterans with GI Bill support (although there were a smaller number of returning women veterans who attended WC on the GI Bill). Enrollment at Chapel Hill and State both nearly doubled in the postwar boom. WC, on the other hand, saw a growth of less than 300 students.

Chapel Hill, WC, and State students lead cheers
at Consolidated University Day
To promote unity among the students at the three institutions, a Consolidated University Council was created in 1948 to "act as a liaison among the three campuses and to represent the opinions, interests, and welfare of the students." The Council consisted initially of 11 members, with meetings held quarterly. Membership grew to 13 in the mid-1950s.

The Council was also responsible for managing special events that aimed at uniting the three student bodies. Consolidated University Day was first held in April 1953 at WC's new student union building -- Elliott Hall. Hundreds of Chapel Hill and State students traveled to Greensboro to a day of activities, including bowling and "other light sports," "a spirited talent show," and "a dance that lasted until midnight." The selection of a Queen of Consolidated University Day was added in September 1954, when "the girls [wore] skirts and sweaters, and [were] judged on poise as well as appearance." The Queen, selected from a slate of five WC students, three UNC students, and two State students, was crowned at halftime of the afternoon football game between Carolina and State.

After 38 years, the Consolidated University saw its first growth in membership in 1969 when three new campuses were added -- Wilmington, Asheville, and Charlotte. Then, in 1971, legislators added the remaining ten publicly-funded universities to the system, creating a 16 campus UNC System. The North Carolina School for Science and Mathematics was added in 1985 to form the system as it stands today.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Like a Duck to Water: Spotlight on the Military Life of Alumna Geraldine Cox

Geraldine Cox (1918 - 1988) was a small town girl from Washington, North Carolina, but she accomplished a great deal during her multiple careers. Cox entered the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG) in 1935 and earned her degree in English four years later. Directly after graduation, with plans to become a librarian, she enrolled in the School of Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her career as a librarian took her as far afield as Salt Lake City, where she worked at the University of Utah. Letters home spoke of her enjoyment of the library work, skiing lessons on the weekend, and her interest in Red Cross work.

Geraldine Cox, US WAAC
The prior year of her life had seen many changes. Not only had she moved across the country in search of a new career, but the United States had entered World War II. Perhaps, it was her involvement with the Red Cross that led her to enlist in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) only a month after it was formed as the women’s branch of the United States Army. Joining the WAACs in the summer of 1942, she went through training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and was later transferred to Daytona, Florida, where she worked as a training instructor in the Motor Transportation Division. Cox test drove tanks and jeeps, and instructed other WAACs how to drive and care for large Army trucks. She was amazed that, in many cases, the smaller, frailer women made the best drivers.

Periodically, she wrote Miss Clara Byrd, the Alumnae Secretary at Woman’s College, to keep her up-to -date about her activities. One note expressed how well-suited she was to military life and compared her Army training to her college experiences. She wrote honestly of her belief that her academic education had fallen short. She believed that the applicable education and training that she received in the Army better prepared her for life’s challenges than a liberal education focusing on “manners and culture,” both integral parts of a 1930s woman’s education. Her letter even commented that “there’s much in the education and handling of women that educators could learn to their profit from the Army.” Perhaps reflecting her feelings about her past college experiences, she found in the Army an impartial environment, where “neither money, social position, or graces count.” 

Senior Photograph and Notation from the 1939 Pine Needles Yearbook
While in Florida, she sent a letter to Miss Byrd describing her experience in the WAACs. She found it amusing that people believed that women could not thrive in the military life. She reported quite the contrary, writing that “Girls seem to take to the life like ducks to water!” She described her fellow WAACs working long hours at tedious and difficult jobs, with little rewards. Sometimes working over forty hours per week without overtime, Cox reported that they “belonged to Uncle Sam twenty-four hours a day, including Sunday!” She especially marveled at the positive attitudes and fun-loving spirits of her comrades. Proudly, she informed Miss Byrd that the WAACs were well respected by the men, who seemed surprised that the women could keep up with them. Cox closed her letter by stating that even with the hard work and long hours, “you won’t find a harder working or happier bunch of women in the world than WAACs.”

 Cox later attended Officer Training School, gaining the rank of First Lieutenant, and spent the last years of the war as a recruiter for the Army Airs Forces in Minneapolis, Minnesota and at an air field at a WAAC Detachment in Denver, Colorado. Like many women, she did not remain in the Army after the war. She left the services in 1946 and returned to her work as a cataloger in the library at the University of Utah and spent her later life, once again, in the role of a teacher in Bath, North Carolina.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mary Channing Coleman: Physical Education Pioneer

On March 25, 2015, a re-dedication ceremony was held on UNCG's campus to rename the former HHP Building in memory of Mary Channing Coleman, founding head of the Department of Physical Education. At the ceremony, acting chancellor Dana Dunn noted that "the work that Mary Channing Coleman did on this campus for 27 years not only changed the lives of countless Woman’s College students, but also improved the health and fitness of generations of North Carolinians."

Coleman was well known around campus
for her keen fashion sense
Mary Channing Coleman was born on July 11, 1883 in the small community of Ware Neck, Virginia. She was from a prominent Virginia family, and was reportedly a descendent of Pocahontas as well as two signers of the Declaration of Independence. Coleman was educated by private tutors until she went to Virginia's State Normal School for Women in Farmville (now Longwood University), where she received a diploma in 1900. She continued her education with degrees from Wellesley College (1910) and Columbia University (1917). She served as a professor of physical education at Winthrop College in South Carolina, assistant supervisor of physical education in the Detroit Public School System, professor of physical education at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, and instructor in physical education at Columbia University.

President Julius Foust himself recruited Coleman to North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) from her position at Columbia. Coleman was excited about the opportunity to train teachers, but she was also aware that the Greensboro campus had no gymnasium building. Still Foust was able to persuade her to come to NCCW as assistant to physical education director Fay Davenport. Davenport left in 1921, and Coleman was promoted to the role of head of the Department of Physical Education.

One of Coleman's primary goals as department head was to build the facilities for physical education on campus. The first structure build was a 50 x 90-foot outdoor gymnasium. The structure consisted of little more than a floor and a roof supported by posts, but served as a dedicated space for physical education. Soon thereafter, Rosenthal Gymnasium was built (Rosenthal Gym is now part of the Coleman Building). Completed in 1925, Rosenthal contained a swimming pool, basketball court, and other amenities. Campus legend states that, prior to the construction of Rosenthal, administrators gave Coleman a choice -- either a swimming pool or a gymnasium, but not both. Coleman wisely chose the swimming pool, knowing that a gym was so obviously needed that it would have to be completed shortly. Outdoor playing fields and tennis courts were added as well.

Coleman with her terrier Bonnie, who was said
to be "just as equally ferocious as Miss Coleman."
Responding in large part to a state legislature mandate that physical education be a required course in public schools, NCCW added to the curriculum a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in 1923. Coleman hand-picked her physical education majors, weeding out those interested only in sports along as well as others she saw as "academically unfit." She was known as a challenging and intimidating instructor, but she was devoted to her students. It was said that saying "I'm one of Miss Mary Channing Coleman's girls" could open professional doors.

In addition to her work as department head, Coleman was very active professionally. She wrote numerous articles for professional magazines and journals, and was a frequent speaker at many educational and civic group meetings. She was one of the founders and the first president of the North Carolina Physical Educators' Society, and she served as president of the Southern District Association of both the American Physical Education Association (APEA) and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). She was named Southern Regional Director of the American Folk Arts Association in recognition of her service in the collection and publication of folks songs, games, and dances of the South. And in 1935, she received the Honor Award Citation for Meritorious Service, the highest award of the AAHPER.

On October 1, 1947, Mary Channing Coleman taught her 8:00 am class, met with staff members in the Department of Physical Education, and left Rosenthal Gymnasium just before 11:00 am. While driving away from campus, Coleman suffered a heart attack, causing her car to crash into a five-ton gate pillar at the campus entrance on Spring Garden Street. She died soon after at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.

The 1948 Pine Needles yearbook was
dedicated in Coleman's memory.
Upon her death, a graduate of Coleman's physical education wrote in an Alumnae News tribute (November 1947) that "there are many things that we will always remember about Miss Coleman; her teaching which leads you to the very threshold of your own mind; her firm belief in the value of physical education; her rich cultural offerings; her eight o'clock (not any later) classes in the history and philosophy of physical education; ... and most important, her belief, trust, and confidence in her 'majors' and their ability. These things are a part of us because we were once a part of them."

In a meeting with physical education staff members the morning before her death, Coleman spoke of her plan for retirement at the end of the year and asked her staff members not to throw her a big party or hold a celebration in her honor. She simply wanted to "say goodbye and leave" -- which is exactly what she did. But her legacy remains both at UNCG and within the field of physical education.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Little Log Cabin on the Campus

The Log Cabin
It must have been an odd sight to see a log cabin on the back of a truck, being slowly moved off campus to its new home. In July of 1990, when the building was removed from its original location on the corner of Walker Avenue and Aycock Street, it had stood on The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s campus for fifty-five years.

Originally a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, it served a variety of purposes throughout the years. Initially, it was used by students for meetings and outings – even for small dances. Later, when the campus’ nine-hole golf course was completed, it became associated with the school’s golf program. After World War II, a faculty member and her family actually lived in the cabin, as post-war housing was hard to find. The interior was designed as one large room, but it was later divided into several smaller rooms when used as a residence.

Moving Day

The cabin served as offices for athletic staff from 1976, until The Health and Human Performance Building (HHP) opened in 1989. Eventually, the cabin was forced to make way for campus expansion. It had been slated for demolition when Eleanor Dare Taylor Kennedy (Class of 1945) stepped in and purchased the building from UNCG. She paid the additional sum of $9000 to have it moved to a lot on Walker Avenue - barely a half mile off campus.

Eleanor Dare Taylor Kennedy with Her Cabin

After almost twenty-five years in its current location, the little log cabin is barely noticeable next to the other residences on Walker Avenue. Few people recognize it as an early UNCG building, with a rich history of campus service.