Monday, August 22, 2016

Behind the Scenes of State Normal with Lula Martin McIver, part two

In last week's Spartan Stories blog post, we looked at the early life of Lula Martin McIver, wife of the State Normal and Industrial School's (now UNCG) founding president Charles Duncan McIver. This week we will explore her role as the first lady of State Normal and her continued influence on education in North Carolina.

In 1892, the McIvers moved to Greensboro after Charles was named president of the newly-established State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG). As the campus's First Lady, Lula took on numerous responsibilities. She took charge of selecting furnishings for the sole dormitory on campus at the time and attending to much of the campus landscaping and beautification projects. She also was responsible for advocating for the hiring of Dr. Miriam Bitting as the campus's first physician, insisting at a woman's college needed a female medical doctor in charge of the health of the students.

McIver family in 1900
Also, on the frequent occasions when Charles was away from campus, Lula stepped in to handle much of the school's business. She would give a quiz for a Civics class or monitor the campus coal supply or advise with the College Physician about a threatened measles epidemic. She frequently served as a host for guests waiting to meet with Charles, and she often served as a mother figure for the students. In a 1944 memorial tribute, the Board of Trustees of the UNC Consolidated System noted that "her mother's heart embraced the increasing number of young students who were leaving home for the first time and made the McIver home a center of gracious hospitality."

Lula also became a staunch advocate for increased state support for education in North Carolina. She was a founding member of the Woman's Betterment Association, which specifically worked for improved facilities for public schools in the state. Lula assisted county leaders throughout the state, and at one time served as a field director. Only four years after the creation of the Woman's Betterment Association, 1,133 new school buildings were constructed in rural areas across North Carolina at a cost of $490,272. The total value of the entirety of public school property across the state almost doubled in that short four-year period.

Charles died in September 1906, but Lula and her four children remained in the McIver house on the State Normal campus. The two oldest McIver children - Annie and Charlie - were among the ten students enrolled at the first practice school on the State Normal campus. Annie went on to graduate from State Normal in 1905. Their youngest daughter, who was also named Lula, was a member of the Class of 1921 at the institution her parents founded. Charles, Jr. graduated from his father's alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1909. A fourth child, Verlinda, died at a young age in 1908.

Lula Martin McIver,
pictured in the 1921 Pine Needles yearbook
Lula continued to be an active presence on campus, and remained a strong advocate of a number of social causes, including the YWCA, Sunday Schools, the community Art Association, and educational institutions for both white and African American students in the state. Lula suffered a broken hip in 1930 and was wheelchair bound, limiting her ability to be as active as she had been before. But she still attended the annual Founder's Day ceremony on campus every October.

On December 22, 1944, Lula Martin McIver passed away at age 80. At the Founder's Day service the following October, college president Walter Clinton Jackson noted that "death last December broke Mrs. McIver's long connection with this College, but death cannot remove her benevolent spirit from this campus not can it stop the force which she, working with and through her husband, started for the advancement of educational opportunity for women in North Carolina." That year, students placed wreaths on both the graves of Charles and Lula McIver as part of the Founder's Day ceremony, "conscious of the fact that Dr. McIver himself would feel that this was indeed a just and proper recognition of one who may rightfully be called the co-founder of the College."

No comments:

Post a Comment