Monday, April 25, 2016

Transforming Spring Garden Street

Upon arriving at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro campus, many visitors are struck by the long line of beautiful trees on Spring Garden Street. They might not realize that the tree-lined street, brick pavers, and manicured grounds are the result of a 1998 safety and beautification project. The project was envisioned to transform Spring Garden Street into an inviting “front door” to UNCG.

Spring Garden Street c. 1897
Throughout the school’s 125 year history, Spring Garden Street has served as an important traffic corridor that brought people to campus. At the college’s opening in 1892, the original administrative building and student dormitory all faced an unpaved street. By the early 1900s, Spring Garden Street was paved and trolley tracks were installed. As the school expanded during the following decades, more land was acquired and administrative buildings and dorms were built on both sides of the busy street. With the growth of the college and the city of Greensboro, the number of motor vehicles traveling on the street also increased.

By the 1990s, the University sought to transform the portion of Spring Garden Street (between Tate and Aycock Streets) that passed through the UNCG campus. Student and faculty safety was the motivation for the construction project. Lacking clear crosswalks, the News and Record newspaper reported that “pedestrians darted from between cars parked on both sides and dodged traffic to get across the street.”

1993 Engineering Report
A preliminary engineering report was issued in 1993, creating a “design character” that was of a pedestrian friendly “parkway.” Thus, the project’s goal was to slow traffic with a narrower roadway that was divided by a median. In addition, the renovation project would accommodate new bike lanes, brick crosswalks, and widened sidewalks. Street parking would no longer be allowed. The engineering report included the costs for: new roadways, curbs, and drains, electrical work for “decorative” street lights, and landscaping for the new median and along the sidewalks. UNCG and the City of Greensboro agreed to split the costs of the $3.2 million dollar project.

During the summer of 1997, Spring Garden Street was closed and construction work began. The renovation project would last for the next twelve months. The street closure did disrupt local businesses. The owner of Yum Yum Ice Cream noted that his walk-in business declined by twenty-five percent. Moreover, there were also a number of challenges with the landscaping portion of the project. A summer drought caused some of the newly planted trees to die and a significant summer storm toppled fifteen older established trees. Because of the continued drought and summer heat, the University would delay the planting of an additional ninety trees and shrubs until after the August 1998 reopening. Nevertheless, the project came in on budget and on time.

Ceremonial Drive on Spring Garden Street
On August 17, 1998, UNCG and the City of Greensboro commemorated the completion of the “Spring Garden Streetscape” project and the reopening of Spring Garden Street. At the corner of College Avenue and Spring Garden Street, a large celebration was held, with special remarks given by UNCG Chancellor Patricia Sullivan and Greensboro Mayor Carolyn Allen. The Greensboro City Council voted to bestow the honorary name of Lee Kinard Boulevard on the portion of Spring Garden Street between Tate and Aycock Streets. Kinard, a UNCG alumnus and a well-known television news anchor at WFMY-TV was asked to speak at the festivities. The event concluded with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony and a drive down the reopened street with Kinard chauffeuring the UNCG Chancellor and Greensboro Mayor in a red convertible.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Bachelors Bench: A Forgotten Campus Monument

Long forgotten and hidden by branches and brush in what is left of Peabody Park, sits the “Bachelors Bench.” Engraved with “Bachelors of 1903,” one might initially think that it refers to unmarried men at the turn of the century. If this were true, it would truly be a mystery as The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) was a school for young women until 1963. In actuality, it commemorates something quite different. This granite bench memorializes the granting of the first bachelor’s degrees at the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG).

The Bachelors Bench

As it is tucked away in an area of the campus that is overgrown with natural vegetation and poison ivy, the bench goes unnoticed by the many students and faculty who walk by the location each day. It is likely that the significance of this granite slab was forgotten only decades after its creation. Even in the 1930s, students asked about the meaning of the bench had no idea of its importance. They may not have realized that for the first ten years of the school’s existence, the college did not offer degrees. Students were awarded diplomas for mastery of the limited curriculum.

Seven out of the Nine Students Who Received Bachelor's Degrees in 1903

The following years saw an expansion in the curriculum and an improvement in scholarship, leading the college to change its name in 1897 from the State Normal and Industrial School to the State Normal and Industrial College.  In 1901, the North Carolina State Legislature gave the State Normal the authority to grant its students actual degrees. While the college's president, Charles Duncan McIver, did not feel that the school’s standard curriculum warranted a degree, he did agree to an expanded program of graduate study. McIver invited students who had previously graduated with diplomas, to return to the college and take additional coursework to earn an official degree. Nine young women received their bachelor’s degrees in the spring of 1903. The Class of 1909 was the first to receive degrees for four years of standard coursework.

Traditionally, classes placed their commemorative markers in Front Campus, now known as Foust Park, where their graduation exercises were held. The graduates receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1903, marked their accomplishment with a bench placed in Peabody Park. This wooded area, located near the current School of Music, Theatre, and Dance Building, was named after Englishman George Peabody, who donated a large amount of money to support teacher training throughout the South. Many of the smaller granite memorials that commemorated the early classes have been removed, stolen, or lost. Perhaps it is because of its unique placement, its sturdy granite construction, and the overgrowth of the area surrounding it, that the Bachelors Bench has survived into the 21st century.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Lost Statue of Minerva

Minerva has been associated with The University of North Carolina at Greensboro since its beginning, when she appeared on the seal of the first diplomas awarded. But she has appeared elsewhere as well. The Class of 1907 gave the College (it was at that time the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College) a statue of Minerva which was installed in the entrance of the Students’ Building (no longer extant). The seven and a half foot plaster statue of Minerva stood on a wooden base (given by the class of 1908) in that spot from 1908 to 1950.

Photo from 1909 Carolinian (Yearbook)
In 1950, the Students’ Building was razed and Minerva no longer had a place to stand watch over the students. From the 1950s to about 1980 she was placed variously around campus. She spent time in Aycock Auditorium, in storage and in the lobby, and then was moved to the new student building (the Elliott Center, completed in 1953), where she spent time in Cone Ballroom, sometimes on stage, sometimes behind the curtain. At one point, she served as a prop for the Greensboro Garden Club’s flower show in 1965. Throughout all of her journey across campus, she slowly lost pieces and limbs. The plaster statue was designed from the beginning to be taken apart by pieces for ease of shipping and movement, but unfortunately this meant that by the time she ended up in the attic of the Alumni House in the 1980s, she had lost fingers, part of an arm, the snake, and eventually her head!

In 1985, she, or what was left of her, was brought down from the attic and propped up (for her base had become to broken to hold her up) against a wall in the Virginia Dare room for the 13th Annual Senior Day. A movement led by SGA president Lorie Tyson was attempted to restore the statue. Pat Wasserboehr, a faculty member of the art department, thought that the statue could be restored on campus, although she did think it would be “a major task,” since “two arms and a head” would have to be made from scratch. She also estimated the cost in excess of $2,000 dollars.

Minerva in 1985. Photo from Alumni News, Summer 1985.
Unfortunately, the historical record leaves us with no answer as to what happened to the statue after this restoration campaign. What is clear, is that the statue was gone by the 2000s, and a new statue of Minerva was commissioned by the Class of 1953. This newer, beautiful statue of Minerva, sculpted by UNCG Alumni James Barnhill, now stands in the east courtyard of the Elliott University Center, greeting the newest generations of students of UNCG with opportunities for personal growth through education.

We will revisit the story of the Class of 1907 Minerva Statue in the near future on Spartan Stories, and give more background on the statue itself!

Monday, April 4, 2016

WC's Department of Nursing Education

While the school now known as UNCG offered some individual courses in nursing in its early years, it was not until 1942 that a recognized series of courses were offered to lead to a Bachelor of Nursing degree. Spurred by a shortage of nurses during WWII, the college provided 2½ years of liberal arts and science training, followed by another 2½ years in an approved hospital nursing school. The college did not offer the full four-year curriculum. Later, the program shifted to two years at the Woman's College and three at a hospital.

The program got off to a slow start, however, and was struggling in the early 1950s. In 1950, UNC Chapel Hill began offering the first full four-year baccalaureate nursing degree program in the state. Students no longer had to transfer to another school to complete a BSN degree. The program at WC, in turn, saw decreased enrollment as many students chose instead to attend the new program in Chapel Hill.

But in Greensboro, Moses Cone Hospital was under construction and would soon need a large number of qualified nurses. The Moses Cone Hospital Board of Trustees met with the Woman’s College representatives and appointed Laura Weil Cone (alumna of Woman’s College), Mereb Mossman (Dean of Woman’s College) and Carolyn Keller (Director of Nursing at Moses Cone Hospital) to investigate the possibility of an associates degree program. After visiting the associates degree programs at Fairleigh Dickinson College and the National League of Nursing, it was decided that the Woman’s College in conjunction with Moses Cone Hospital would establish the first associates degree program in nursing education in North Carolina. This would also be one of the first twenty-eight programs in the United States.

In February 1957, WC established the Department of Nursing Education to administer the associates degree program. This program required students to spend two years at the college, followed by three months at Moses Cone Hospital. A mandatory summer session focused on Psychiatric Nursing was also spent at the John Umstead Hospital in Butner, NC. Classes for the program were held in the basement of the Gove Infirmary and the students lived on campus.

First graduating class of the
Department of Nursing Education, 1959
The classes offered by the Department of Nursing Education included Fundamentals of Nursing, Maternal and Child Care Nursing, and Medical and Surgical Nursing. Additionally, students were required to take specific English, Psychology, Chemistry, Biology, Sociology, and Home Economics classes. The course load over the two years was also included two half-credit Physical Education for Nursing courses. In total, the students took 63 course hours over their two years at WC.

194 Associate Degrees in Nursing were awarded from 1959 through 1967. The 1960s, however, saw the rise of the community college system in North Carolina, and UNCG shifted its focus away from two-year associates programs (in addition to the associates degree in nursing, the college also offered a two-year commercial/business degree option). In 1967, the Department of Nursing Education its associate degree program were phased out when a full baccalaureate nursing school opened at UNCG.