Monday, December 12, 2016

Chancellor Jackson Retires in Style

When Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson stepped into the role of Chancellor of the Woman's College (now UNCG) in 1934 he had big shoes to fill.   Dr. McIver had built the State Normal & Industrial School from the ground up and President Foust had kept it growing and expanding after McIver's death, but Dr. Jackson brought with him a strong belief in the importance of education that would serve him well in his new position with the college.
Dr. Jackson, undated
Dr. Jackson was born and raised on a cotton farm near Hayston, Georgia.  His mother was a big proponent of education and encouraged her son to pursue an advanced degree.  He entered Mercer University at the age of 16, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1900.  He taught in public schools in both Georgia and North Carolina before coming to Greensboro in 1905 to serve as the Principal of Greensboro High School (Now Grimsley High School).

In 1909, Dr. Jackson joined the faculty of State Normal as a professor in History.  He was a popular teacher and students flocked to take his course on "Representative Americans."  In fact, so many students took this class that chairs had to be brought in from other classroom to accommodate the size.  His passion for the history showed in his teaching and the past came alive for those he taught.  So much so, that one former student recalled a day "when his enactment of a duel brought forth from a girl, at whom he lunged his imaginary sword, a piercing and hysterical scream."

Throughout his years at State Normal (and then Woman's College), Dr. Jackson moved into new and in more responsible roles.  Shortly after coming to the college, he became head of the History Department.  From 1915-1921 he served as Dean of the College, before taking the newly created position of vice president in 1922.  He left Woman's college in 1932 to serve as the dean of the school of public administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but returned to Woman's College later that year to serve as the Dean of Administration after Dr. Foust retired.

Dr. Jackson had been groomed for the position and was the obvious choice as Dr. Foust's replacement. Dr. Frank Porter Graham, president of the consolidated university, said that Dr. Jackson was the unanimous choice of faculty, students, and alumnae.  Porter spoke with a number of people at the college, and finally conferred with Zeke, who had been at the school since the very beginning. Virginia Vanstory reported the encounter:
When Dr. Graham spoke to Zeke, the venerable staff member confessed that he had been praying over the matter.  
'With what results, Zeke?' Dr. Graham asked.
'Well, the Lord's on Mr. Jackson's side,' Zeke replied, and that, Dr. Graham felt made it unanimous. 
Over the sixteen years that Dr. Jackson served as chancellor, he saw the school through many changes, including including the expansion of the student body to more than double (2200 students) at his retirement in 1950.

Dr. Jackson was a well liked and well respected chancellor.  In his welcoming address to the Freshman class each year, he advised students to come by his office to see him, if only to say 'hello.'  And Freshman took him up on his offer, showing up at his door to report how happy they were with the college or how homesick they felt.

Perhaps the students love for Dr. Jackson was best expressed in the generous retirement gift that the alumnae presented him with, a brand new car!
Car presented to Dr. Jackson by the alumnae in May, 1950.
L to R: Jane Wharton Sockwell, Betty Brown Jester, Dr. Jackson, Jane Summerell, Laura Weil Cone



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