Monday, August 31, 2015

Death Mask of Charles Duncan McIver

Death mask of Charles Duncan McIver
On the morning of September 17, 1906, Charles Duncan McIver passed away from apoplexy at the age of 45, leaving behind a lasting legacy as the founder and first president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG). Immediately following his death, Wells L. Brewer, a prominent Greensboro architect, designer, and sculptor, was commissioned to create a death mask of McIver. Arriving at the undertakers with his tools in hand, Brewer worked diligently for several hours taking detailed measurements of McIver’s features and sculpting the mask. Unlike typical death masks, which only take impressions of the face, a cast of McIver’s entire head was done in order for busts of him to be created at a later time.

The casting of a death mask was not an uncommon practice in the 18th and 19th century. Since the time of ancient Egypt, they have been used by portrait sculptors to create life-like replicas of an individuals. They were often valued as mementos of the dead. Several famous death masks include that of President Abraham Lincoln, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, scientist Sir Isaac Newton, and even movie director Alfred Hitchcock.

After McIver’s death, a committee was formed with the purpose of ensuring that his love and service to the school and education in the state of North Carolina was preserved in the form of a memorial statue. In 1909, Brewer sent the death mask to Frederick Wellington Ruckstuhl who had been commissioned to create the sculpture. Following the completion and dedication of the statue, Ruckstuhl maintained possession of the death mask until 1915, when he returned it to Edward K. Graham, President of the University at Chapel Hill. It was placed on display in the Peabody Educational Building for several years.

In March 1962, Dr. James W. Patron, Head of the Southern Historical Room in the University Library at Chapel Hill, wrote to Woman’s College (WC) Chancellor Otis Singletary, inquiring if he might be interested in obtaining McIver’s death mask. Following up on the query, WC Librarian Charles M. Adams happily accepted the offer and on May 22, 1962, he drove to Chapel Hill with Lula Martin McIver, the daughter of Dr. McIver, to retrieve the mask. Today, the death mask resides in the Special Collections and University Archives at UNCG where it has become a unique and popular oddity.

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.