Monday, October 30, 2017

Two Decades of Turbulence: Leadership in the School of Education

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by Arlen Hansen, a PhD student in History. Arlen worked in Special Collections and University Archives during Summer 2017, assisting with research related to the University's 125th anniversary celebration.

Robert O'Kane

Education has always played a significant role at UNCG, having been founded in 1891 as the State Normal and Industrial School to educate women as teachers. However, from 1966 to 1986, the university faced what can only be described as a time of turbulence and uncertainty with education. This stemmed from the challenges faced by the two deans of the School of Education at that time, Robert O’Kane, and his successor, David Reilly.

The School of Education was created in 1949 and include both undergraduate and graduate level courses. In 1966, the Dean of Education Kenneth Howe departed UNCG for Kabul, Afghanistan, to become an education adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development. His replacement, was Robert O’Kane, a Harvard Ph.D. graduate who came to UNCG from Rutgers University. His initial major focus as dean, was the recruitment of outstanding faculty to the school. However, what this turned out to mean in practice was hiring fellow Harvard graduates like himself. It became something of a joke among the “non-Harvard” faculty of the school to call O’Kane and his group of new hires the “Harvard Mafia.”

But O’Kane’s real troubles began with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education Programs (NCATE). During his tenure as Dean, the NCATE began to exert profound influence on university’s teacher education programs across the country. The first UNCG review by NCATE was in 1962, under Dean Howe’s tenure. During that visit, the NCATE team focused on how the teacher education program was organized, and were particularly concerned by the fact that control of teacher education seemed to be spread across the campus, rather than being centralized within the School of Education. Although UNCG did receive full accreditation for its teacher education program in 1964, NCATE would continue to ask for modifications. These contentious differences between UNCG and NCATE would persist for years, and in 1972, the University received another poor NCATE review.

The focus of criticism in the 1972 NCATE review remained the same as it had been in 1962. The teacher education program was cited for the absence of central control over its programs. Following the disappointing NCATE review, Chancellor Ferguson decided a leadership change was in order. He removed Dean O’Kane as the chair of the council that managed teacher education campus-wide, and appointed education professor Dwight Clark to serve as the coordinator. This move effectively removed teacher education from the purview of the Dean’s office which was a major blow for O’Kane. He subsequently stepped down as Dean in 1973.

David Reilly
O’Kane was replaced by David Reilly, who had previously been the chair of the psychology program in the School of Education.  During Reilly’s tenure as Dean, some long simmering conflicts with the School of Education escalated, and owing to his management of these issues, and of the School in general, Reilly would ultimately come to be viewed by many as a divisive figure. To his credit, Reilly made repeated attempts to reorganize and centralize the teacher education program. However, Reilly was opposed in his efforts by roughly half of the School’s faculty members.  Ultimate Reilly lost his battle, and the teacher education policies and practices remained as they were when he took the Dean’s chair. Then in 1985, Reilly tried and failed to abolish the Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, whose members had consistently opposed his policies. The fallout from this was the resignation or early retirement of several prominent faculty members, including former Dean Robert O’Kane. Reilly resigned as Dean in 1986, and resumed his professorial duties in the School.

To a significant extent, the problems which beset the School of Education under the administrations of O’Kane and Reilly were not of their making, and should not diminish their lifetime of contributions as educators.  The resignation letter of Robert O’Kane as Dean, dated August 1, 1973, captures his sadness in his struggles.  “I am in need of renewal,” O’Kane wrote, “a chance to reconsider my stance as a professional…and make judgments about how I shall spend the rest of my…career.”  In a sense, the same could figuratively have been said about the School of Education during those turbulent years.

Monday, October 23, 2017

History of the Service League

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by Arlen Hansen, a PhD student in History. Arlen worked in Special Collections and University Archives during Summer 2017, assisting with research related to the University's 125th anniversary celebration.


The Service League was established in 1942 as a student organization at the Woman’s College (later known as UNCG) to help U.S. troops during World War II. That year, according to the Greensboro Daily News, more than 100 students from the college volunteered for secretarial and lab work at the Greensboro chapter of the American Red Cross. During the 1944-1945 academic year, the League raised $11,700, which was enough monies to purchase six field ambulances for the Red Cross. Dropping the “War” part of their moniker at the of WWII in 1945, the Service League continued as a campus organization to help the less fortunate in the United States and throughout the world.

Campus Purse Drive totals
During the years of the Korean War (1950-1953), the League was very active. In 1952-53, the League was proud to report on their work “of conservation and improvement of the grounds and the soda shop,” as well as the placing of “KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs…in various spots on campus.” Other initiatives that year including collecting clothing donations and fundraising. Much of the donations were raised by going “dorm to dorm,” in what had become known as the yearly Campus Purse Drive. The other major fundraiser for the year was a faculty talent show.  Among the organizations which subsequently received the $3,400 dollars raised were the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and other nonprofits for cancer and polio research.

Additionally, the Service League sponsored a semi-annual blood drive in which a “Blood Mobile” would come to the campus each semester to collect blood donations. Most of the blood was shipped to South Korea for use in U.S. field hospitals there. The Blood Mobile visits would continue each year even after the Korean War, lasting until the 1980s. Also during the 1950s and 1960s, the Service League helped to fund the Foreign Scholarship Fund, which helped a foreign student’s study at the University.   

The exact causes are not clear, but in 1971 the Service League disbanded.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Romanesque Revival Architecture on the State Normal Campus

When plans were made public that The State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) was to be built in Greensboro, North Carolina, many architects were considered to design the primary campus buildings. Ultimately, it was decided that the firm of Epps & Hackett of Greensboro would construct the two main buildings in the Romanesque Revival style, for a cost of $500. A fashionable 19th century, Romanesque Revival was influenced by 11th and 12th century European architecture, and was often used on American college campuses. Henry Hobson Richardson made this style popular in late 19th century, and it would continue to be used for decades after his death in 1886.

Main Building and Brick Dormitory (now Foust), ca. 1896




The State Normal and Industrial School was a very large commission for the new firm of Epps & Hackett and they designed two imposing buildings, which would rise dramatically from land recently used for cornfields. Typical of Romanesque Revival style, the architects incorporated semi-circular arches and heavy frontal towers constructed of brick with granite trim to create an impressive fa├žade. Thomas Woodroffe, the owner of the notable Mt. Airy Granite Company, was hired as the contractor.
When the school opened its doors in October of 1892, students were welcomed into the new buildings. Main Building included classrooms, administrative offices, recitation rooms, a library room, a gymnasium, and an assembly room, which was also used as a chapel. When the legislature appropriated additional monies for the school’s improvement in 1895, two flanking wings were added, allowing for additional classrooms and laboratories.

Brick Dormitory, 1900
Brick Dormitory was situated directly beside Main Building, with the two structures being joined by a large circular drive. The first floor of the dormitory housed the infirmary, as well as the dining room, which sat 150 students, while the large kitchen was located in the basement. When the building first opened, thirty-six rooms on the first and second floors were designated for students, and when the third floor was completed, it added twenty-two additional rooms. Eventually, a wing was added to the rear of the building, which created a new dining hall that sat 400 students and faculty and created additional bedrooms, increasing the capacity to 330 students and faculty residents.

Students' Building, 1915
As the student population grew, additional space was needed for campus gatherings, administrative offices, and social activities.  To meet these needs, Students’ Building was constructed on the site of college president Charles Duncan McIver’s barn. Built with monies raised by students and supporters of the school, the cornerstone was laid on College Avenue in 1902. The large three-story brick and granite structure reflected the Romanesque Revival style of Main Building and Brick Dormitory. It incorporated a 700 seat auditorium, literary society halls, reception areas, and meeting rooms. A special room dedicated to the Bailey sisters, who died in the school’s 1899 Typhoid epidemic, faced the front of the building and featured beautiful stained-glass windows. The third floor included bedrooms that could be rented by alumnae.  The college’s administration found a practical use for the basement by designating it for the domestic science and manual training departments.

Brick Dormitory in Ruins, 1904
Sadly, these Romanesque Revival buildings met varied fates. On the night of January 20, 1904, Brick Dormitory caught fire. While all of the students escaped unharmed, the building was totally destroyed. Considered dilapidated and out-of-fashion, Students’ Building was razed in 1950. Only Main Building continued to be used by the student body for classrooms and offices. In 1960, it was renamed Foust Building, in  honor of the second president of the college, Julius Foust. Now considered the most iconic structure on campus, the Foust Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, as one of the most important examples of the Romanesque Revival architecture in the state.

Monday, October 9, 2017

William Raymond Taylor’s Journey

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by Arlen Hansen, a PhD student in History. Arlen worked in Special Collections and University Archives during Summer 2017, assisting with research related to the University's 125th anniversary celebration.

William Raymond Taylor may be one of the more colorful characters to have populated the ranks of Woman’s College (later UNCG) faculty. He was certainly one of the most challenging of faculty members for Woman’s College President Julius Foust, and a figure who always “pushed the envelope” of what was possible at the WC.

William Raymond Taylor was an English professor at the Woman’s College from 1921 to 1961, but he is better known for being the founder of the University’s Drama and Speech Department. UNCG’s Taylor Theater is named in his honor. A native of North Carolina, Taylor received his B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1915, and his M.A. from Harvard in 1916, where he studied with prominent Shakespearean scholars, and became a close friend of the playwright Eugene O’Neill. He taught at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (later Auburn University) from 1916 to 1921, where he founded the drama department there, before coming to the Woman’s College. UNCG historian Allen Trelease writes that knowing Taylor’s love of and involvement in drama, then President of the Woman’s College, Julius Foust was reluctant to hire Taylor and allow him to begin to pursue drama once on site at the Woman’s College.1  It would be the beginning of a long history of tension between Foust and Taylor.

Throughout his 40 years at the Woman’s College, Taylor would divide his time between teaching language and literature, and building the theater program at the Woman’s College. He organized the first drama group at the Woman’s College in 1923, called the Play-Likers. The Play-Likers would evolve into the Drama Department (now the School of Theater and College of Visual and Performing Arts). Taylor would direct more than 200 plays during his years at the Woman’s College. In the early days, Taylor took the Play-Likers on the road, performing plays in small theaters for townspeople in towns throughout the Piedmont and Eastern North Carolina. Also for the first several years of the Play-Likers’ existence, Taylor and his wife, promoted further interest in theater by taking groups of Woman’s College students to New York City to see Broadway plays. On some of these trips they would pack in multiple performances, seeing almost a dozen plays on the trip.2

During this time, Taylor began urging a reluctant Julius Foust to build an auditorium. He, and an associate traveled all over Europe looking at theaters and opera houses for design inspirations for the prospective building. In 1927, when the new Aycock Auditorium made its appearance at the corner of Tate and Spring Garden Streets, Taylor prevailed upon a skeptical Julius Foust to make the building a theater as well. Foust only half-jokingly referred to Taylor’s growing assortment of backstage props, set pieces and paraphernalia as “the devil’s workshop.”3  Taylor would “push the envelope” with some of his 1920s productions, particularly his version of the Broadway hit “Tarnish.” Foust opposed the play’s “low moral tone,” but allowed the production to go forward. Apparently, Foust did not know just how “low” he would consider the moral tone to be. Foust did not go to see the play, but when hearing about its debut, he called Taylor into his office and nearly fired him. Taylor would later say that he never regained Foust’s confidence after “Tarnish.”4

Taylor (left) and members of the Play-Likers
preparing for a performance in 1932
In the late 1940s, Taylor’s position and stature at the Woman’s College began to suffer and diminish. He found himself increasingly incompatible with his associates in the drama division, and critics began to charge Taylor and the Play-Likers with sloppy business practices. The Play-Likers began to disintegrate, audiences declined, and the organization began losing money.5  These problems would eventually lead to drama acquiring status as its own department “in 1953—a development that,” Trelease writes, “involved the removal of W. Raymond Taylor from its leadership.”6  Taylor would return to teaching full-time until his retirement.

After his retirement in 1961, Taylor started a successful stage production and theater supply business with his son. It became one of the largest such firms in the nation. During this time, Taylor and his son designed and installed staging for Las Vegas casinos, and materials for theaters all over the United States, and even in South America. He became an award-winning rosarian (a cultivator of roses). His garden eventually contained over 1200 rose bushes of 250 varieties. In his later years, Taylor also did extensive research in the field of theology, as well as studies in New Testament Greek, after experiencing what he called a “spiritual awakening” at the age of 75. Taylor would tell the Greensboro Daily News in 1972, that around 3:00 AM on the morning of April 3, 1970, he had found himself wide awake and was aware of a voice speaking to him. “I did not hear the voice” he explained, “but in the place of audible sound there was the completely experienced “consciousness of voice.” Taylor said the message of the voice was crystal clear: “You are weak. You are all alone in your loneliness. You need the strength and comfort of my spirit.” A few days later, Taylor, who had never been a church-goer, would tell his wife, a lifelong church-goer, that he wanted to go to church with her on Sunday. Taylor’s “spiritual awakening” would lead to him traveling all over the South, preaching in dozens of Baptist churches, during the last years of his life.7

Taylor died in 1976, at the age of 81.


1  Allen W. Trelease, Making North Carolina Literate: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro from Normal School to Metropolitan University (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2004), 103. 
2  Elisabeth Ann Bowles, A Good Beginning: The First Four Decades of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1967), 150, and Trelease, Making North Carolina Literate, 119. 
3 Trelease, Making North Carolina Literate, 88. 
4 Greensboro News Record, September 23, 1990. 
5 Trelease, Making North Carolina Literate, 169. 
6  Ibid., 247. 
7  Greensboro Daily News, June 18, 1972.

Monday, October 2, 2017

125 Years Ago: Starting Classes at State Normal

On October 5, 1892 – 125 years ago this week – the doors of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) opened its doors for an initial class of 198 women from across North Carolina. The institution was originally chartered by the State of North Carolina in February 1891, with a mission of training female teachers and instructing them in “drawing, telegraphy, type-writing, stenography, and such other industrial arts as may be suitable to their sex and conducive to their support and usefulness.” Leading the charge in the establishment and development of the school was Charles Duncan McIver, a staunch advocate for public schools, teacher education, and higher education for women. After the state legislature approved funding, McIver was named the first president of the State Normal.

View of the State Normal campus from Spring Garden Street, 1894
Four North Carolina communities put forth offers to be the home for the new school: Durham, Graham, Thomasville, and Greensboro. Ultimately, Greensboro won due to its relatively central location and the convergence of railroad lines from six directions (see this post for more information on the selection of Greensboro as the school's site). McIver and other school boosters quickly set about identifying a location in Greensboro where the new institution could be built. Ultimately, in November 1891, the site that was selected was one referred to as the "Pullen Site," located about a half mile west of Greensboro Female College on Spring Garden Street. This site was also within view, but not directly on, the railroad line. Two Raleigh real estate speculators and philanthropists, Richard Stanhope Pullen and Robert T. Gray, donated the ten acres that would house the school.

After a year spent planning the new school and constructing its facilities, classes began at the State Normal on October 5, 1892 (the date we now celebrate as Founders Day).Courses of study were divided into three departments: normal (teaching), business, and domestic science. The normal, listed as the leading department, included pedagogy classes as well as coursework in English, history, math, science, foreign language, art, music, and physical culture. This department also served as the academic home for McIver. In addition to serving as President of the school, he taught courses in pedagogy, education, and civics – courses that maybe went on a bit longer than anticipated. A memoir written by a staff member noted that “both in class and in chapel, he kept the students after the appointed hour so frequently that faculty members tried to avoid having their own classes scheduled in the following periods.”

President Charles Duncan McIver and the State Normal faculty, 1893
The standard course load for these new students included 22 to 27 class meetings per week, divided among six or eight individual courses. Study time was curtailed by the dormitory lights-out rule from 10 pm to 6 am, designed to ensure that students got adequate sleep. Every freshman regardless of major took the same eight courses in algebra, English, general and English history, Latin, physical geography and botany, drawing, vocal music, and physical culture (although domestic science students substituted sewing for drawing).

Founding the State Normal proved to be a milestone in education – and particularly women’s education – in North Carolina and throughout the United States. McIver and the early educators and students at the State Normal set the groundwork for UNCG as it stands today. One hundred twenty-five years after the first classes took place, the legacy remains.