Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ghosts of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Spencer Residence Hall
Tales have long circulated about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the campus.  In the late 1960s, the Spencer Residence Hall ghost was known simply as “The Blue Ghost” or “The Woman in Blue.”  In the early 1980s, students gave her the name “Annabelle,” possibly alluding to the subject of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “Annabel Lee.” 

Legend has it that Annabelle is the spirit of a student who hanged herself many years ago in one of the building’s bell towers; however, no such suicide has ever been documented.  A member of the residence hall staff reported that Annabelle had “appeared as a blue shadow on two occasions in the Spencer’s main parlor and when the building was closed for the Summer in 1976, the same staff member heard the ghost “dragging something on the floor out in the lobby.”There have been other reports of a blue haze passing by a second-floor laundry room and of objects being flung across rooms.

In South Spencer in the early 1980s, an apparition reportedly awakened two different staff member on two separate occasions by walking into their rooms. The building had been closed for vacations both times. It is not known whether this was Annabelle or another ghost or ghosts.

Mary Foust Residence Hall
Build in 1928, Mary Foust Residence Hall was named for Mary Foust Armstrong, daughter of the college’s second president, Julius Isaac Foust.  Mary was a member of the class of 1920 – she died in childbirth in 1925. Some believe that her ghost took up residence in the dormitory that bears her name, because rumors have floated around for years about random “unexpected crying” and “funny noises” on the hall’s second floor.  Mary Foust’s portrait, which had hung above the fireplace, disappeared some time back without a trace.  Another rumor about Mary Foust Hall was that in the 1950s, three nursing students hanged themselves from the rafters in the attic.  Investigations have shown that the structure of the beams would make hanging very difficult but still the rumors persist.

The campus’ most well documented ghost reportedly inhabits Aycock Auditorium, which opened in 1927.  An interview with Raymond Taylor who taught drama and play presentation and was the director of dramatic activities on campus from 1921 until his retirement in 1960, reveals that Taylor not only believed in the ghost of Aycock Auditorium, but recounts his personal experiences with the ghost. 

Raymond Taylor
According to Taylor, “at one time a sort of colonial mansion stood on the corner where Aycock is.  There dwelt in this mansion an old lady all-alone.  After a while she became extremely unhappy about her lonely state and went up in the attic and suspended herself from a rope on the rafters.  Having committed suicide there, she determined to stay on as a ghost.  When they tore down the building, she haunted the area for a long time until Aycock was finally built, and then she adopted that for her home.  She seemed, when I knew her to delight in the upper reaches of Aycock foyer where she assumed the guise of lights that flitted from ceiling place to ceiling place and dragging chains and clanking objects over the floor down in the lobby up to my office door.” 

Taylor goes on to tell the story of an incident that occurred one afternoon when he and the Aycock janitor were working on the set for a play.  The whole building was locked up, and since it had been an extremely hot afternoon, he and the janitor undressed down to their briefs to work.  Taylor had left his clothes neatly in a pile.  During the afternoon, a storm came up that raged and roared for quite a while and after the storm was over, Taylor went upstairs to dress and found that his clothes had been disarranged.  He had been wearing a vest with a watch chain across it, and his watch chain had been arranged on the table in the form of a cross.  His other clothes were “helter skelter all over the place.” Taylor just knew this was the work of the ghost of Aycock Auditorium.
Aycock Auditorium

Many nights, while working in the auditorium, Taylor would hear all sorts of strange noises.  He tried to explain some of them by saying that they were the echoes of passing cars or the reverberations of the passing trains shaking the building, but one night he and a colleague, Jimmy Hogue, were sitting in his officer around midnight talking.  Hogue was sitting with his back to the door.  All of a sudden the door opened, and a cold air came in, and they heard the receding clank of chains.  They got up and turned on the lights in the hallway and looked all over, but could never find an explanation for that occurrence.

Jane Aycock
Students have given the Aycock spirit a name, Jane Aycock, and say that she is the daughter of the man for whom the auditorium was named; but Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, whose two wives bore him nine children, had no daughter by that name.  Supposedly she killed herself in the auditorium, a noose around her neck, her body dangling from the fly-loft over the Aycock stage. But the only deaths the auditorium has witnessed have been those acted out on stage, not over it.

According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal in 1977, written when Aycock Auditorium was 50 years old and was getting ready to reopen after renovations, the drama majors were so attached to the specter that it became something of a tradition to introduce her to new students. “An unsuspecting freshman would be handed a lighted candle and shown the stairway leading to the attic, reportedly the ghost’s favorite turf.  Then the drama majors… would solemnly watch as the flickering flame floated away into the gloom.  They knew there was a certain spot in the attic where a draft always blew out the candle.  It would take a few minutes for the novice spook chaser’s eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then, the victim would see a shape – a human shape – shimmering in the inky blackness.  The drama majors always got a kick out of hearing the screams that usually followed.  It’s surprising what a coat of luminescent paint can do for a manikin borrowed from the theater’s prop shop.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chancellor's Residence on the Move

In 1922, the Building Committee of the Board of Directors at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) reported that the state government had approved a measure to allow for the construction of an official home for the president of the institution. This home, according to the official meeting minutes of the Board, would give the president a residence "where he can be at all times in close touch with the faculty and student body." Greensboro architect Harry Barton (who also designed the Quad, Aycock Auditorium, and four other campus buildings) was tasked with the construction.

Chancellor's Residence, circa 2003
This stately Georgian home served as the official residence for campus leaders from President Julius Foust through Chancellor Patricia Sullivan. During the years, it served as a home and a site for hosting special events and dignitaries. Robert Frost, Eleanor Roosevelt, Madeleine L'Engle, and William F. Buckley were all entertained there. But in 1996, Sullivan moved from the residence to a home in Irving Park, which the campus continues to use rent-free thanks to a contribution from the Bryan Foundation.

The Chancellor's Residence stood vacant for three years, and campus trustees and administrators began to debate the home's future. Could it be renovated, or should it be demolished to make way for new construction? In September 1999, the Board of Trustees voted to raze the building, noting that a major renovation of the home into office space would cost more money than constructing a new building  and citing an opportunity for development of new office space on the valuable site.

Alumni and other concerned citizens quickly spoke up. Letters flooded into offices of campus administrators, and letters to local newspaper editors were published asking the Board to reconsider. But in 2000, the demolition recommendation proceeded with approval from the UNC Board of Governors and the Council of State. The organization Preservation North Carolina (PNC) began advocating for the residence's renovation, arguing the building's importance based upon its connection to UNCG's history, its contribution to the appearance of the campus, and the prominence of its architect. Just three weeks before the house's scheduled demolition date, UNCG administrators gave PNC until mid-2001 to raise the estimated $1.8 million necessary to relocate and renovate the building. PNC was able to privately raise the necessary funds (after a few deadline extensions), and on June 7, 2003, the 420-ton home was moved to its new location (900 feet from its old site). Private donors also funded necessary interior and exterior renovation work.
Chancellor Sullivan and former Chancellor William E. Moran
with the Chancellor's Residence on its moving day, 2003

In 2005, the Chancellor's Residence officially reopened as the Jane Harris Armfield and Emily Harris Preyer Admissions and Visitors Center. As PNC noted in a letter to supporters of the project, the house could continue its usefulness and "provide enticing space for student recruitment and alumni development ... [and] bear witness to the major advances in the higher education of women made during the 20th century in North Carolina, while helping shape the future of the university."

Monday, October 15, 2012

William Friday and UNCG

On Friday, October 12, 2012, former UNC President William ("Bill") Friday passed away at the age of 92. He had a great impact on all aspects of education in North Carolina, including the institution we now know as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Friday's relationship with UNCG (at the time, it was Woman's College) began in 1951 when he was named Assistant to the President in the offices of the Consolidated University, which included W.C., N.C. State, and UNC Chapel Hill. His task, as outlined by President Gordon Gray, was to "work with and through" alumni secretaries at the three schools to plan and promote an annual alumni giving campaign.

In 1956, Friday was asked to lead an investigation into W.C. Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham. He brought together a panel of campus leaders (including university Vice President William D. Carmichael as chairman, acting Provost William M. Whyburn, and graduate school Dean William W. Pierson) to conduct hearings that lasted five full days. Over 130 individuals provided confidential testimony to the panel on Graham's leadership of the campus, and ultimately Graham was persuaded to submit his resignation effective at the end of the school year.

Invitation to the inauguration of Friday as
President of the Consolidated University of
North Carolina, 1957
Soon after the hearings, Friday was tapped as the next President of the Consolidated University of North Carolina after Gray left for a position in the Department of Defense. His handling of matters at W.C. was cited as evidence of his ability to lead the organization. He was officially inaugurated on May 8, 1957 at a ceremony at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.

Four years later, North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford created a Commission on Education Beyond the High School, which was headed by Winston-Salem lawyer Irving Carlyle. Friday was a member of this group, which became known as the Carlyle Commission. The Commission's report, published in 1962, predicted a near doubling of college enrollment in North Carolina by 1975 and called for a major overhaul of the state's higher education system. This report led the 1963 state legislature to create a community college system and elevate existing state-supported two-year colleges in Charlotte, Asheville, and Wilmington to four-year institution. These campuses joined the existing Consolidated University schools to form the UNC System.

Directly impacting W.C., all of the schools in the UNC system were to be made coeducational, and the name of the Woman's College was officially changed to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Most alumnae opposed the change, and the current student and faculty populations were divided. But ultimately the name change was made effective in July 1963, and the first male undergraduates were admitted to UNCG in Fall 1964.

During his time as UNC President, Friday supervised the consolidation and growth of all of the schools in the UNC system. He fought against a 1963 state-legislature-supported speaker ban, which would have forbidden all colleges and universities receiving state funds from bringing on campus a speaker who was "a known communist or who had pleaded the Fifth Amendment in refusing to answer a question about communist affiliation." He managed the System through the turbulence of the student and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. And in 1986, after 30 years at the helm, Friday retired from his position as UNC President.

Friday speaking at UNCG's 1988 commencement
After retirement from UNC, Friday continued to be a champion for education, leading the William R. Kenan, Jr., Fund and serving as a founding co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. He returned to UNCG as the speaker for the 1988 commencement ceremony. There, he stressed the importance of access to educational opportunities for all North Carolinians. Stating that (at the time) one million North Carolinians lived in poverty, and over 800,000 faced illiteracy, he implored the graduates to take responsibility to the quality of education in the state. Friday concluded his speech to the students, saying, "You must now take your place in that great tradition of responsible and useful citizenship to build an even stronger society where no child will suffer the bondage of poverty and illiteracy and no citizen will fail to know the joy of personal freedom, of reassuring self-respect and the integrity of his or her own person. This is your new assignment and it's going to take a lifetime of courage, of diligence and service."

Monday, October 8, 2012

McIver Statue Centennial, 1912-2012

Charles Duncan McIver, ca. 1895
Charles Duncan McIver was born on September 27, 1860, to Henry McIver and Sarah “Sallie” Harrington McIver in Moore County, North Carolina.

He entered the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill in 1877 and graduated in 1881.  After graduating from UNC, he accepted the assistant headmaster position at the Presbyterian Male Academy in Durham, North Carolina.  McIver was elected principal of the newly established graded high school in Durham in 1882.  After two years, he resigned his position in Durham for a teaching position at the Winston Graded School in Winston, North Carolina, where he met his future wife, Lula Martin.  They were married on July 29, 1885 and had four children.
McIver accepted the position of head of the literary department at Peace Institute, a girl’s school in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1886.   While in Raleigh, he lobbied for a normal or teacher training school for women.
In 1889, he and Edwin A. Alderman were chosen by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to conduct a series of teacher institutes to instruct teachers and enlighten the public about the need for a normal school in North Carolina.
With an annual salary of $2,500.00, McIver was appointed the first president of the newly established State Normal and Industrial School in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1891.
The McIver Statue in front of the
McIver Memorial Building,ca. 1956
Unfortunately, he died on September 17, 1906, at the age of 45; however, he did see his dream of founding a college to educate women in North Carolina realized – that institution is now known as The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Shortly after McIver’s death, a committee was appointed by Governor Robert Glenn to raise funds to erect a statue in McIver’s memory.  Two bronze eight-foot statues of McIver was sculpted by French-born American artist Frederick W. Ruckstuhl in Paris, France, and cast by the Fonderie Nationale des Bronzes in Brussels, Belgium. The original statue costing $7,000 and was erected on the State Capitol grounds in Raleigh, North Carolina, and dedicated on May 15, 1912.  A duplicated statue costing $1,100 and was erected on the campus of the State Normal and Industrial College now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  The statue was dedicated on Founders Day, October 5, 1912, and stood in front of the McIver Memorial Building.

The McIver Statue after restoration, 1990/91
After the McIver Memorial Building was razed in 1958 and the current McIver Building erected in 1960, the statue was relocated to the area in front of Jackson Library, a more central location on campus.  Starting in the late 1950s, students began to paint and decorate the statue, so by the 1980s, the statue was in disrepair due to the weather and being periodically cleaned with cleaning solutions.

In November 1990, the statue was shipped to Karkadoulias Bronze Art, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio, to be cleaned and restored.  After the restoration, which totaled $7,500, the statue was returned to campus on May 10, 1991 in time for the university's centennial celebration.
Since its dedication 100 years ago, the McIver Statue has been and continues to be one of the most recognizable images on campus.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Starting Classes at State Normal

The institution now known as The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was originally chartered by the State of North Carolina in February 1891. The school was founded to train female teachers and instruct 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 what would be called 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. After a year spent planning the new school and constructing its facilities, the State Normal officially opened its doors for an initial class of 198 female students from across North Carolina on October 5, 1892.

Classes offered at the State Normal 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, except that 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 years after the first classes took place, the legacy remains.