Monday, July 25, 2016

Louise Brevard Alexander: Raising “Fewer Dahlias and A Lot More Hell”

Louise Brevard Alexander was a woman ahead of her time. A strong advocate of suffrage and of women’s education, Alexander would make her mark in North Carolina as a lawyer, a judge, and an educator. Described as scholarly, conscientious, dynamic, and inspiring, she became one of the most popular teachers at Woman’s College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) from her arrival in 1935 until her retirement in 1957. Hired to replace her friend, Harriet Elliott, who had been appointed to the staff of the Democratic National Committee, Alexander taught history and political science to young women for the next two decades.

Louise Alexander
 Louise Alexander and Harriet Elliott had been fast friends since they arrived in Greensboro in the early 1900s. Bonding over their devotion politics and to the Suffrage Movement, they were active in the League for Women Voters and tireless advocates for the 19th Amendment supporting women’s right to vote. Alexander’s captivating speaking style rallied the women of North Carolina to endorse the ratification of the proposed amendment, declaring “Raise fewer Dahlias, and a lot more hell! The place is here, the time is now. The opportunity is yours. It is not the time for women to be alone. They must work together.”
Alexander remained outspoken about world politics, and her activism continued through the years of World War II. Attempting to give a historical background for understanding national and world events, she taught courses in political science and history to her students and gave presentations to the community. She also dispersed recruitment information to young women on campus who might be interested in joining the military. Alexander became known at the college and in the community as a “Human Reference Library” for legal issues as well as national and international political affairs

Epicurean Club, Presbyterian College, 1907
 Her interest in government and political activism was a natural progression of her early life and career choices. Born in 1887 in Hickory, North Carolina, she graduated from Presbyterian College (now Queen’s College) in Charlotte, where she was the president of the student body, the president of her literary society, the editor of the yearbook, the captain of the Daddy Rabbit Tennis Team, and a member of many clubs, including the Epicureans. After graduating from Presbyterian College in 1907, Alexander pursued graduate studies at the University of Tennessee before taking a faculty position at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk. In 1911, she moved to Greensboro to teach history, civics, and economics at Greensboro Senior High School (now Grimsley High School).

Deciding that she needed to expand her horizons, Alexander changed the course of her life by deciding to attend law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After being admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1920, she returned to Greensboro as the first woman lawyer in Guilford County. She was appointed as Clerk of Municipal Court in 1923 and served concurrently as juvenile court judge until 1935, when she began her tenure as an extraordinarily popular political science professor at Woman’s College. She continued her interest in politics for the rest of her life. Alexander and Harriet Elliott, both influential forces in the Democratic Party, had a standing dinner date for the next thirty years, listening to the election night returns on the radio.

Presbyterian College, Class of 1907
Known for her love of reading, music, cooking, baseball, but especially for her chief hobby of “dogs, dogs, and more dogs," Alexander was a favorite among the students at Woman’s College. Referred to as “Miss Alex,” she made her classes “a lively experience of the living past in which leaders and people live again in their political struggles and aspirations for freedom and democracy.” Her courses were extremely popular, both because of her ability to make politics vital and timely and her reputation for being an easy grader. Often more than 150 students would squeeze into her classroom to hear her to explain “how to live.”

Woman's College Judicial Board, 1949
Her dedication to teaching and to her students culminated in being honored with the first O. Max Gardner Award in 1949, presented to “that member of the faculty of the Consolidated University of North Carolina who in the post academic year has made the greatest contribution to the human race.”

In 1960, Alexander was further honored by the dedication of a conference room in her name in the Elliott Center (now the Elliott University Center) in recognition of her service to the college as a professor and as an advisor to the Judicial Board. After a long and incredibly active life, Alexander died at High Point’s Maryfield Nursing Home on May 30, 1978, leaving as a legacy a generation of students to whom she taught the importance of political activism, public service, and women’s rights.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A History of Disability Services at UNCG

In the early years of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) the 1890s, one of the admission requirements was that students must be "in good health." Of course, "good health" was never clearly defined by these requirements. In the papers of our second President Julius Foust, we have a letter concerning a potential student who was diabetic. She was denied admission to the school because it was decided that her health wasn’t "good."

From that time, we jump the story forward to the 1970s. Unfortunately, little documentation exists in University Archives to shed light on any policy changes or accommodations for special needs that may have existed in the in-between years.

UNCG Disabilities Student Services
brochure cover,
circa 1990
The Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 surely spurred the greatest change to campus accessibility. It is generally regarded as the first national civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. In fact, much of the language used was the same as that used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section 504 in particular had a strong impact on the campus at UNCG and other public and private colleges and universities across the United States. This Section declared that "No otherwise qualified person with a disability should be denied access to, the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any institution or entity receiving federal financial assistance." In Subpart E, it continued by emphasizing that colleges and universities must make appropriate academic adjustments and reasonable modifications to policies and practices in order to allow the full participation of students with disabilities in the same programs and activities available to non-disabled students.

These regulations became effective in 1977, and colleges and universities were provided with a compliance schedule that they had to prove they were meeting. Immediate compliance in terms of accessibility to programming was required. In response, Chancellor Ferguson named the Vice Chancellor for Administration – Charles D. Hounshell – as UNCG’s compliance officer, making him responsible for facilitating the school’s compliance with the Federal Rehabilitation Act. Soon thereafter, the University complied with another required part of the implementation of the law by issuing a memorandum to all faculty, staff, and students regarding the institution’s commitment to non-discrimination. The memo read: "The University of North Carolina at Greensboro reaffirms its policy not to discriminate on the basis of handicap in the programs or activities which it operates."

Accessibility of course content was a key component of compliance that had to be met by the start of the 1977-1978 school year. The law required schools to make reasonable accommodations to facilitate studying, working, and living activities on campus so that all people can participate in them fully. A 1979 brochure focused on "Services for Students with Special Needs" listed a number of campus services available to provide "equal opportunities for academic achievement to all students." Included is mention of "special services and equipment" available in Jackson Library, a "reader service" for visually impaired students, and "interpreting services" for hearing-impaired students..

Administrators also began examining physical accessibility on campus. In September 1977, Facilities Services requested an allocation of the capital improvement funds for the year to assist in the "removal of barriers for handicapped people." Major issues existed on campus that limited access to key services. Offices such as Academic Advising, Adult Student Services, the Cashier’s Office, and many campus administrators were located in a building which had "very deficient access to many handicapped people and no access for people in wheelchairs." This funding was key in order to comply with another aspect of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, which stated that, by June 1980, "reasonable" accommodations must be made to structures to ensure access to classrooms, dormitories, dining areas, student services offices, and other key areas of the university.

Dr. Diane Cooper
In July 1985, UNCG hired Dr. Diane Cooper to a dual position as both "international student advisor and coordinator of handicapped student services" [note: responsibilities for coordinating international student services were delegated to the newly-created International Student Services Office in April 1988]. With her hiring, responsibility for adhering to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 shifted to Cooper. Two years later, in 1987, over 100 students with physical or learning challenges were receiving assistance from Cooper's office. Cooper also provided workshops for faculty and staff on "Working with Disabled Students." These workshops covered "a basic understanding of various disabling conditions," "accommodation techniques used in classrooms and activities," and "resources available for working with students who are disabled."

In 2013, the Office of Disability Services received approval for a name change to the Office of Accessibility Resources and Services (OARS). OARS continues to "provide, coordinate, and advocate for services which enable undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities to receive equal access to a college education and to all aspects of university life." In addition to providing adaptive technology, interpreter, note taker, alternative testing, and other services, OARS staff members work to broaden "disability awareness within the university community."

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Birth of the North Carolina State High School Music Contest-Festival

Over the next two weeks, UNCG will play host to hundreds of students attending Summer Music Camp. The Summer Music Camp, which began in 1983, has grown to be the largest university music camp in America. In two one-week sessions, students are instructed in band, mixed chorus, orchestra, and piano. But the Summer Music Camp is not the first program for younger students on the UNCG campus. On Friday, May 7, 1920, thirteen pianists from high schools across North Carolina arrived on campus (which was then known as the North Carolina College for Women) to compete in the first musical contest for students ever to be held in the state.

Wade R. Brown
The North Carolina State High School Music Contest-Festival was the brainchild of Wade R. Brown, who had begun his work on campus as the Director of the Department of Music in 1912. During this period, music was not part of the standard curriculum in secondary schools in North Carolina. Rarely were music teachers employed in public schools, and, when they were, this was typically only to teach private piano lessons in a designated classroom. As Brown wrote, "in our own state (and over most of the South) our educational leaders and the public as a whole seemed indifferent to the cultural value of music in education and to the final contribution it had to offer in a social democracy such as ours."

In hopes of improving this situation, in 1919, Brown decided to attempt to organize a music contest aimed at high school students in North Carolina. Due to the fact that piano performance was the only type of music taught in public schools at that time, they determined to focus the contest on that instrument alone. With the blessings of President Julius Foust, Brown wrote a letter to high school principals and piano teachers across the state announcing that this piano contest for high school students would be held at the North Carolina College for Women on May 7, 1920. Each school was invited to send one pianist to represent them in the contest.

Brown turned the competition into a weekend-long event. Competitors and their teachers were invited to be guests at a performance by E. Robert Schmitt, a celebrated French pianist. On the day of the contest, they were treated to another special piano performance by one of the members of the senior class at NCCW.

Performance program from the 1920 competition
While fourteen student enrolled in the competition, only thirteen appeared on the day of the contest. Beginning at 10:30am, each student performed a solo piece before a panel of three judges. The judges were faculty members from Salem College, Greensboro College, and NCCW. From among the thirteen, those judges selected six to play again that evening at 8:00pm in the finals. The contest drew a large number of students, visiting teachers, and the general public to observe the final competition. After the six finalist performed, the audience was entertained by "an informal program of community singing" and a short lecture on the importance of music education while the judges conferred.

In the end, the judges selected Jessie Mercer of the Wilmington High School as the winner of the first contest. She was awarded "the silver loving cup, given by the Euterpe Club of Greensboro, which was to remain in her possession until the next State Contest."

Competitors at one of the contests in the late 1920s
The state contest continued to grow over the years. In 1922, competitions for glee clubs and violin soloists joined the piano contests. Orchestra competitions were added in 1925. Additional contests for strings (1927), woodwinds (1928), and brass (1928) also appeared. By 1929, the contest had grown so popular that students were divided into classifications based on the enrollment of their high school. Additionally, students in smaller high schools (those with enrollments under 500 had to survive a "District Elimination Contest" prior to traveling to Greensboro.

Ultimately, these contests also helped impact the music education curriculum in North Carolina secondary schools. As Brown noted in his introduction to the 1946 pamphlet The State Music Contest-Festival: A History, "these great annual gatherings ... have done so much to make a real beginning in musical appreciation and artistic development among the youth of North Carolina."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ronald A. Crutcher: from Cellist to University President

Ronald A Crutcher, 1989 
It is always heartwarming to see musicians ascending to high places in academia. Dr. Ronald A. Crutcher served as professor of cello and head of the strings department at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1979 to 1988. At age 17, he won the Cincinnati Symphony Young Artist Competition. As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Crutcher studied cello at Yale University with Aldo Parisot, serving as Parisot's teaching assistant. Additionally, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, allowing him to study in West Germany with Siegfried Palm and Enrico Mainardi. Crutcher toured throughout Europe and the United States, making his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985. He was a founding member of the Chanticleer String Quartet and performed with the Klemperer Piano Trio, and with the UNCG Piano Trio. He held numerous positions as principal cellist. Among Crutcher’s recordings is the Barber “Sonata for Violoncello and Piano” with the Austrian Broadcasting Company in 1976. In 1979, he was the first cellist to be awarded a DMA from Yale University, after which he joined UNCG faculty.

At UNCG, Crutcher carried a heavy class load of sometimes four to five classes per semester, including Applied Cello (MUS 051), Chamber Music (MUS 396), and Afro-American Music (MUS 344). He was heavily active on faculty committees, including the Academic Cabinet, the School of Music Council, and the Phi Beta Kappa Executive and Fundraising Committee. He also served on the committee to develop a Black Studies minor at UNCG. Within the greater Greensboro community, he served as a board member for the Greensboro Cerebral Palsy Institute, as a member of the Guilford College Board of Visitors, and he served as chairman of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra Committee. Crutcher was a professional consultant for the North Carolina Arts Council and the Chamber Music/New Music Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts.

After serving as acting Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs from 1988-1989 at UNCG, Crutcher was elevated to Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. Sadly, in 1990, Crutcher was lured away from UNCG, joining the Cleveland Institute of Music as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. Continuing a career of excellence, Crutcher held senior leadership posts at the University of Texas at Austin and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He became President of Wheaton College, where he also was elected chair of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

In 2015, Ronald Crutcher became President of the University of Richmond, where he continues his career-long commitment to higher education administration. However, Crutcher remains dedicated to his first love – music – serving as a professor in the School of Music at Richmond.

Monday, June 27, 2016

“Wanted – A College Song”

In November of 1908, it was decided that State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) should have a school song. The small woman’s college opened its doors in 1892, and although class songs, cheers, and poems were popular with the students, the school did not have an official Alma Mater. An alumnae committee was established to select a song and decided to hold a competition, which was publicized in the State Normal Magazine. In an announcement titled, “Wanted – A College Song,” the committee offered a prize of “ten dollars in gold” to the person writing a song that best represented the “spirit of the college.” Words could be adapted to an established song, or an original composition could be submitted, in which cases “musical critics” would be called in as judges.

Laura Weill

Although there was no immediate response to the competition, Wilmington native, Laura Weill (Class of 1910), did submit a song shortly before her graduation.  Incorporating a tune by W. A. White that she discovered in an anthology of college songs, Weill penned “The College Song,” with a focus on loyalty and the school’s devotion to service. Service had always been an important part of State Normal’s mission, but it was the motto of the Class of 1910 and they “willed it” to the college during graduation. It was during the May 1910 Commencement ceremony that the song was first performed, and was thereafter incorporated into the college handbook and other campus publications, including “Twenty-Five Songs for Community Singing,” which included patriotic songs such as “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Old North State,” as well as folk tunes like “Barbara Allen” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” Belle Kornegay (Class of 1918) later arranged the composition for sheet music.

"The College Song" Score

After the college became co-educational in 1963, there was discussion that the song should be replaced with a more relevant choice. The argument came up again in the early 1980s. Ultimately, it was decided that Weill’s song would be kept, although the words would be adapted to include, “your sons and daughters” and “university,” reflecting the more diverse student body. The renamed “The University Song,” is still played at Commencement and other university events.

The words, written by Laura Weill, are as follows:

We raise our voices; let them swell
In a chorus loud and strong;
The rolling hills send back the sound
Of our triumphant song.
For in one great unbroken band
With loyal hearts and true,
Your daughters stand, and hand in hand
Sing college dear to you.

Our college days run swiftly by
And all too soon we part;
But in the years that are to come
Deep graven on each heart
Our motto, “Service,” will remain,
And service we will do,
And as we serve, our hears will turn,
O college dear, to you.

Dear Alma Mater, strong and great,
We never shall forget
The gratitude we owe to you—
A never-ending debt.
All honor to your name we give,
And love we pledge anew,
Unfailing loyalty we bring,
O college dear, to you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Dr. Albert Keister and the Debate over Evolution

Dr. Albert S. Keister arrived at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) in 1924, halfway through completing his PhD in economics at the University of Chicago (a degree he completed in 1927). Upon his hiring, he taught courses in sociology and political science, as the school had no formal economics department. He also taught a number of extension classes around the state of North Carolina. It was in one of those extension classes in 1925 that Keister became embroiled in the debate over evolution that was sweeping the country.

Keister, from the 1945 Pine Needles yearbook
On January 25, 1925 in Charlotte, Keister taught an extension class in sociology. At one point during the class, according to a letter written by Keister in 1963 after being asked about the incident, a student asked Keister "what a belief in evolution did to one who believed in the Bible?" Keister responded that accepting evolution "forced the person to hold that account of creation in the Book of Genesis was not literally true but only the attempt of a people to explain a mystery of life in a pre-scientific age, hence a form of mythology." He also expressed that he "admired a teacher who was brave enough to speak plainly on both sides of the question."

In a January 19, 1925, NCCW vice president Walter Clinton Jackson wrote a report on his understanding of the "incident" for president Julius Foust. In it, he highlights another point of controversy related to Keister's class. In addition to being asked about evolution, Keister was asked his opinion on "the Negro." He elicited further disdain from members of his class by stating that 'he would have considered it an honor to have had Booker Washington dine with his family in his home." This statement is rarely mentioned in contemporary newspaper accounts about Keister.

But there were many editorials and articles written about Keister and his statements on evolution. President Foust received letters from citizens throughout North Carolina, some supporting Keister and others demanding for his immediate dismissal. On February 6, 1925, the Parent-Teachers' Association of Laurinburg (NC) issued a formal petition calling for Keister's firing. They also called for the immediate halt to "teaching that evolutionary hypothesis or any other unproven theory is a settled fact, and especially using such unproven theories as a criterion to establish the correctness or falsity of the truths of the Scripture and thus undermine the faith of our girls, yet too immature to properly think through these matters themselves." The Presbyterian Ministers' Association of Charlotte followed suit on February 16, charging Keister with "having made attack upon foundation principles of the security of our social and moral welfare and highly repugnant to the Anglo-Saxon people that compose this Commonwealth."

The beginning of one of the editorials calling for Keister's firing. This is from
the January 14, 1925, issue of the Charlotte Observer. This editorial was
written by Al Fairbrother of Greensboro. 
The uproar continued and on March 10, Keister broke his silence with an official statement sent to Foust. Keister wrote, "it has come to my attention that various person throughout the state charge me with being an atheist, an infidel, and an unbeliever in the Bible." He asked Foust to "interview any of my students regarding the spirit of my instruction," stating that he leads his students (as well as his own children) "to think what Jesus' way of life points to." He concluded, "if I were an atheist and a destroyer of the faith, is it likely that I would be serving as a teacher for the Men's Bible Class of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant?"

Ultimately, Foust worked behind the scenes to convince the College's Board of Directors that, in spite of the challenges, Keister should remain. In an April 1 letter to Judge J.D. Murphy of Asheville, Foust wrote that he considered Keister "one of the best men fundamentally whom I have ever met." He added, "I know the phrase 'academic freedom' has been much overworked, but the board of directors might discharge almost every member of the faculty and attempt to reorganize the college to meet what some people in the state are demanding ... The only solution to this whole matter from the standpoint of some people is to abolish all colleges and schools in North Carolina and have an educated clergy who would do all the thinking for the people. We can not build at this place a great college based on fear, nor can we grow a great democracy in North Carolina based on timidity." Ultimately, the Board chose simply not to act on the calls for Keister's removal.

For his part, Keister later went on to serve on the Greensboro City Council from 1932 to 1938. During World War II, he served on the National Labor Relations Board. He also was a director of the Gate City Savings and Loan Association and the North Carolina National Band. he served as president of the Southern Economics Association. And, throughout his life, he remained an active member of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, where he headed their Campus Christian Life Committee following his retirement from the Woman's College in 1956. This Committee was responsible for building the Presbyterian Student Center on the WC campus. Keister died in 1974 at the age of 86 after a battle with Parkinson's Disease.

Monday, June 13, 2016

O. Max Gardner Award

The O. Max Gardner Award is the highest faculty honor awarded by the North Carolina Board of Governors and has been given annually since 1949. It is named after Oliver Max Gardner (1882-1947) who was the Democratic Governor of the state from 1929-1933. One of the pinnacle achievement of his tenure as governor was the consolidation of the University of North Carolina, State College, and the North Carolina College for Women in 1931. The Consolidation Act was designed to reduce the economic costs during the Great Depression and to reduce duplication of courses and programs. At the urging of Gardner, Frank Graham was appointed the President of the newly created Consolidated University System. Along with serving as a politician, Gardner was a businessman and a lawyer.

Oliver Max Gardner
Gardner continued to be a strong supporter of the University system after his death. In his will, he stipulated that that the Board of Trustees of the Consolidated University of North Carolina “shall pay annually the net income from a trust fund to that member of the faculty of the Consolidated University of North Carolina, who during the current scholastic year, has made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” Each year, one nomination is submitted by the chancellors and presidents of each of the 16 schools within the UNC system to Oliver Max Gardner Award committee. Winners of the award are announced at the April meeting of the UNC Board of Governors and receive a cash prize of $20,000.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) has had several winners since the award was first given, including the first recipient Louise B. Alexander who was a professor in the Department of History and Political Science. Other notable UNCG award winners have included Mereb Mossman (1959), Randall Jarrell (1962), and Fred Chappell (1986). The Office of the Provost is responsible for managing the nomination process within the University and the selected UNCG nominee receives a $1000 award. The 2016 nominee was Dr. Deb Cassisdy who is a professor of Human Development and Family Studies. She was selected for her significant contributions to the field of early childhood education.