Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Students in the snow in front of the
Main Building (now Foust), circa 1911

The staff of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season! We're taking a break this week, but please join us on Monday, January 7th for a new Spartan Story.

Jackson Library and the McIver statue in the snow, 1995

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

The staff of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season! We're taking a break this week and next, but please join us on Monday, January 7th for a new Spartan Story.

Snow scene showing the Main Building (now Foust), the Brick Dormitory, Spring Garden Street,  and Greensboro to the east of campus, looking towards downtown, circa 1893

Monday, December 17, 2012

Faculty Service During World War II

Today's post was written by Joseph Winberry, a senior history major. Joseph interned in Special Collections and University Archives during the Fall semester, and completed a resource guide focused on SCUA's World War II era materials ( Here, he writes about Woman's College faculty service during WWII.

Guy Lyle
On March 19, 1942, the News Bureau at Woman’s College released a letter to faculty stating that the organization was “compiling information on the college’s contributions to the war effort.” The letter went on to request that faculty members respond with a list of their individual involvement in the war effort as well as the names of any relatives who were serving in the United States Military. The responses varied in their tone and complexity.

“As you know I am serving as state director of the Victory Book Campaign.” Library Professor Guy Lyle reminded crisply. “This takes up pretty much all of my leisure time.” Professor Lyle’s background as a librarian at numerous academic and public libraries made him an obvious choice for leading an organization whose mission was to boost the spirits of troops by providing them with reading materials.

Sociology Professor Mereb Mossman was even briefer in her response: “I am training chairman of the Greensboro C.D.V.O.” She was referring to the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office which was established in 1941 to keep up public morale and involve ordinary citizens in defense planning.

Mereb Mossman
Hygiene Professor Victoria Carlson wrote in her usual style a long, detailed response to Nell Craig, director of the News Bureau. She explained that her brother was in the service and that she lectured to eight sections of her Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick classes. This class was modified to reflect wartime caveats. Many professors altered their classes during World War II in order to offer students and community members the skills that were needed for a nation at war.

In the same vein, Ruth Fitzgerald lamented that she was “physically unable to take on any extra work.” A professor of education, she joined Professor Carlson in increasing her work load on campus. These increases were sanctioned by Frank Porter Graham, President of the University of North Carolina System, who believed that heavy sacrifice was demanded of everyone in the university from the top down due to the war.

While some professors joined or lead organizations and others taught additional classes, faculty contributed to the war effort in a myriad of ways. These paths to service could be as simple as knitting clothes for soldiers, planting a victory garden in the community, or as involved as joining the military themselves, something a few Woman’s College faculty actually did.

Victoria Carlson
This outpour of faculty support for the war effort, encouraged and facilitated by the university administration, is significant for two reasons. First, there is noticeable (public) unity among the faculty about the nation’s involvement in and goals for World War II, a feature that would be lacking in more recent wars, mostly noticeably the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the involvement of students and faculty alike at an all-girls college demonstrates the social effects that the War brought to the United States. Necessity would shatter glass ceilings as women raced to fill the positions left behind by drafted men. Additionally, involvement of faculty in reaching and helping laymen and women on the home front enforced the image of Woman’s College as a source of civic communitarianism. The school’s service as a bridge between the citizens of the community and a wealth of intellectual, yet practical knowledge helped ready the school for its transition into a co-ed university in 1963, and will guide the university’s future well into the twenty-first century.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chronicling the Founding of the LGBT Student Organization (1971-1975)

Carolinian, Oct. 4, 1971 (p.7)
Although our University enjoys the benefits of a culture promoting equality and inclusivity, UNCG’s reputation for embracing diversity as an educational foundation was constructed over decades by student and staff advocacy. Among the more hidden stories of Civil Rights struggles at UNCG is that of the formation of a university-acknowledged student organization for LGBTQ students.

There are few records on the lives and activities of the University’s LGBTQ students, but the first evidence for the need of such an organization on campus can be found as early as 1971. By this time, the university had been reorganized as a co-educational institution, and although there is some evidence of a lesbian student population on campus for several decades (1), discrimination against gay male students provoked the first plea for tolerance in the student newspaper:

Last year it was decided by some members of the fraternity and a few other males that their image was being threatened by the gay men on campus. It was felt that those gay men were becoming too blatant to be tolerated. They had the audacity to be themselves occasionally...

There was some talk among the homosexuals of starting a gay liberation movement here at school. When this “uppity” talk reached the ears of the other men they decided to act. They all got drunk and set about threatening people with violence. (2) 

It would be unlikely that the victims of such bullying would be willing to report threats, as homosexuality was not (and still is not) a protected class of minority by state law. Additionally, as homosexuality was officially classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association during this time, there was no pressure for University officials to investigate such situations.  However, the landscape for gay rights shifted in 1973, when the APA removed homosexuality from the list of diagnosable mental illnesses. It did not take long for LGBTQ students to organize, and by 1974, a “gay political social group” was forming on campus.

In November of 1974, a flier promoting the first meeting of a gay student organization was attached to a bulletin board in the School of Music. This flier was brought to the attention of Jim H. Allen, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Chancellor James S. Ferguson. In a letter to the Office of the UNC System President, Bill Friday, Allen requested for legal advice, asking:
  • What are the state statues for dealing with homosexuality?
  • What statutory prohibitions, if any, are there regarding the funding of a homosexual organization out of student activity fees?
  • May it be argued that to provide meeting space on the campus for a homosexual organization is to provide a form of support through the public revenues…?
In response, David N. Edwards, Jr., Special Assistant to the Office of the President, advised Allen that withholding institutional support from a student organization meeting the necessary requirements would be legally precarious, providing citations from three federal cases in which the court overruled university prohibitions against gay student organizations. Essentially, a gay student organization, with a mission to support its members and to educate the public, does not pose a danger to the campus or inherently violate university regulations. Also, the cases of the federal court overturning the prohibitions of other universities provided the administration of UNCG with legal support in permitting a gay student organization, should dissension arise from formal recognition.

The documentation formally requesting the recognition of the Gay Student Union of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was submitted and approved in 1979, with Rev. Joe Flora, Presbyterian Pastor for Campus Ministries, as the faculty adviser. The stated mission of the organization was:
  • To educate the public about legal, social and personal aspects of homosexuality
  • To provide a support system for those in the organization
  • To represent the homosexual portion of the student body in matters relevant to homosexual students
The initial meeting of the Gay Student Union occurred in September 25, 1979, but the first meeting as a university-recognized organization occurred one month later, on October 25th. (3-4) Unfortunately, there is not a record of the founding members of the organization, but the initiative of these students established a network of support for LGBTQ students that has lasted over 30 years.

The Gay Student Union underwent many changes and overcame many obstacles over its history. The organization encountered many challenges through the 1980s well into the 1990s, but the struggles have led to the cultivation of a campus culture of support and advocacy. In fact, the 2012 Homecoming included the first homecoming for UNCG’s LGBTQA Alumni. As stated by attending Alumni, it was their first “homecoming-out.”

For those interested in researching the history of our LGBTQ students please contact the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives at scua[at]

(1) Oral history interview with Key L. Barkley, 1991 [OH003]. UNCG Centennial Oral History Project Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
(2) "The Last Liberation," The Carolinian, October 4, 1971 [UA42.4.01]. Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
(3) "Gay Academic Union Formed," The Carolinian, October 30, 1979 [UA42.4.01]. Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
(4) "Corrections," The Carolinian, November 6, 1979 [UA42.4.01]. Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lighting the Campus with Luminaries

At 7am on a December morning in 1969, a number of UNCG students gathered in front of the Elliott University Center with 2000 candles, white paper bags, soufflé cups, and a really big pile of sand. With these supplies, they started a campus tradition which continues today: the annual luminaire display.

Alumni House with luminaries
Before the project could begin, Kim Ketchum, president of the UNCG senior class of 1970, presented the idea for the display to Katherine Taylor, dean of students, and to Terry Weaver, manager of the Elliott University Center. They agreed to allow the students to proceed with the display, and ultimately, the project received the blessing of Chancellor James S. Ferguson. Chancellor Ferguson provided money to purchase the sand and candles from his discretionary fund. The white bags and soufflé cups were donated by the cafeteria.

Throughout the day, students stopped by to help assemble the luminaries. They carefully placed sand and a candle (balanced on the soufflé cup) in each bag. Ketchum and six other students used a Physical Plant vehicle to position the luminaries strategically along the campus streets. Around 6pm, students emerged from the residence halls to light the candles. As the luminaries burned, groups sang Christmas carols around the campus and gathered to drink hot cider and hot chocolate around a bonfire that burned in a metal pit. 

Ketchum recalled, “It was a success then, and it’s very gratifying that our class started a tradition that endures to this day. I think that this probably was the first large luminary display in Guilford County, and the rest of the area picked up on it.” 

Luminaries at Fountain Plaza, 1995
UNCG’s sororities and fraternities have carried on this tradition ever since, preparing the luminaries, lighting them, and cleaning up. In 2011 sustainable luminaires were introduced, which decreased prep-time and eliminated potential hazards. And, as is part of the campus tradition, when the candles burn out, students return to their studies, as Fall semester final exams loom in the immediate future.