Monday, March 25, 2013

Pearl Eugenia Wyche, class of 1903

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by junior Rachel Sanders, who is a student worker in Special Collections and University Archives. For a research paper for Dr. Lisa Tolbert's course History 430: Historical Methods for Social Sciences, Rachel used the University Archives to learn more about Pearl Eugenia Wyche, a 1903 graduate. Below is a condensed version of her paper.

Pearl Eugenia Wyche, born in 1878 in Vance County, North Carolina, attended the State Normal and Industrial School for Women (which is now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) from 1897-1903. During her time at the Normal School, she had some unique work and social experiences which separated her from her classmates. She served as a makeshift nurse during the typhoid epidemic of 1899 (assisting her older sister who was on the nursing staff at that time), was chosen for a scholarship by the governor and the faculty of the Normal, and was hired immediately after graduating to work for the Cone Mills Corporation, where she was the head of the welfare department for 47 years.

Mary Lewis Wyche, Pearl's older sister
Wyche’s application gives us some especially significant information about her life. She had a twin sister, Ruby, who applied with her. It would appear that Ruby was not accepted because Ruby’s name never appears again in the university records. We also learn from the McIver Collection that Charles D. McIver, founder and president of the Normal, helped Wyche get a job on campus working as a secretary and bookkeeper for Dr. Anna Gove, who was on the faculty at the Normal School at the time.

Also interesting is Pearl’s older sister, Mary. Mary Lewis Wyche was working as a nurse at the Normal School during the typhoid epidemic of 1899, during Pearl’s second year at the Normal School. Pearl and Mary worked together during the epidemic, with Pearl working as a makeshift nurse and medical assistant. In a letter to her mother and Ruby, Pearl describes her efforts to assist others in the epidemic. She mentions the symptoms that those affected were experiencing and she mentions several of the doctors working at the school by name, including Doctors Richardson, Scott, Gove and Beall. Pearl says, “I was very busy trying to get some of the bills made out today. I act as a druggist sometimes, and Dr. [sic] too. Several of the teachers wanted medicine, but hated to bother Dr. Gove so they came to me for medicine.” It likely would have not been uncommon in 1899 for a student like Pearl to fill prescriptions and nurse others. Pearl was not a certified nurse; in fact, she mentions that she plans to let the more experienced nurses take over for her in the days to come.
Caesar Cone, one of the founders of Cone Mills

After the epidemic, Pearl went on to finish her education at the Normal School. She graduated in 1903. Caesar Cone, one of the founders of the Cone Mills Company, was present and heard her read an essay at the commencement exercises. Very shortly after that, he hired her. She would go on to work for Cone Mills as Director of Welfare from 1903 to 1950, and she developed the first Industrial Welfare Department in North Carolina. Pearl never married and died in 1951 in Greensboro, shortly after her retirement from Cone Mills. Pearl’s life was not only impressive; it was exceptional.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Many Faces of Minerva

Minerva has been with the university almost since its inception, but her image has undergone many transformations during her tenure as UNCG's representative goddess.  The first extant image appears on an 1894 diploma.  Indeed, many of the very early images we have of Minerva come from diplomas bearing the university seal.
The next seal, from 1897, not only reflects the change from "School" to "College," but also shows a completely different image of Minerva.  By the time the school's name changed again in 1919 to the North Carolina College for Women, Minerva had once again transformed, and unfortunately it wasn't her best image.  When the name changed again, it was no more kind to Minerva than the previous version.

The 1937 seal shows another revision of Minerva's image. Around this same period, yet another image of Minerva appeared concurrently, but on different forms of media.  A strong departure from the previous seals altogether, this seal from the 1943 Bulletin of Courses shows perhaps a more artful version of Minerva.
This seal was used on the letterhead during the period of the "Consolidated University".  A time when the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (also known as Woman's College of the University of North Carolina) were governed together as a system.

The origin of many of the seals is unclear. Changes might be attributable to style of the time, name change requiring a new seal, type of object upon which the seal was placed, or even (lack of) talent of the artist.

Letter from Bill Friday explaining need for new seals -note the letterhead using the "1943" Bulletin seal posted above
Official seal adopted 1963/1964

In 1963, when the university's name changed to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, an official seal was created to adorn diplomas and official documents and it has a face very familiar to those who have had a connection with UNCG's recent history.  Never a cause for concern before the university was to become coeducational in 1963 and admitted it's first male students for the fall semester of 1964, suddenly even Minerva's gender was challenged.  Helen P. Yoder, administrative assistant to Chancellor Singletary, said, "Some people thought Minerva looked too much like a woman" and Hoyt Price, long-time Registrar (1960-1987) agreed that one objective of the 1963 redesign was to make Minerva, "less feminine."*

This is just a small sampling of the many, many different images of Minerva from the Archives.  Please take a look at our online exhibit featuring even more diverse images of our goddess!
(*quotes from "Today on Campus" Oct. 2, 1983)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ezekiel "Zeke" Robinson

Robinson with the college's horse and buggy
When the doors opened at the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) on October 5, 1892, school president Charles Duncan McIver had 15 well-qualified faculty members and nearly 200 young female students. While cooks, janitors, handymen, and others worked behind the scenes to keep the school running, McIver felt that he needed a single individual to manage the facilities and the support staff on the growing campus. He called upon Ezekiel “Zeke” Robinson, a young African American man who had worked as a servant for McIver during his time teaching at Peace Institute in Raleigh. Robinson arrived mere weeks after the campus’s opening, and took up the duties of “General Factotum.”

In this role, Robinson managed the school’s large support staff – as many as forty-two individuals in the 1894-95 academic year. Nearly all of these workers were African Americans, and many (including Robinson) lived in a small segregated neighborhood several blocks west of campus. There, Robinson and his wife raised their four children – three boys. One son, named Charles Duncan McIver, died at a young age. The other two sons, Ed and Milton, moved to New York City where one became a prominent orchestra leader. Robinson’s only daughter Annie, named after McIver’s daughter, graduated from Bennett College in 1932 and became an educator in Greensboro.

Robinson (front center) with other members
of the maintenance team
In addition to supervision of other support staff, Robinson performed numerous tasks that were critical to the function of the school. He rang the school bell, assisted with campus landscaping, lit fires to keep offices and rooms warm, waited table at state dinners, and delivered the campus mail. He also served as a porter to the college presidents, seeing that they kept appointments and helping with their coats and umbrellas. In his role as the campus chauffeur, he drove the college presidents to meet visiting dignitaries such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Anna Howard Shaw. In the earliest days of the campus, he manned the college horse-and-buggy, providing students with their primary means of transportation into the city. During his time at the school, he saw the transition from horses to automobiles, from oil lamps to electricity, from fireplaces to central heating, and from wells and pumps to running water. He served three college presidents (McIver, Julius Foust, and W.C. Jackson). He saw the acreage of campus increase tenfold, and saw the student body grow from 200 to over 2,200.

Robinson in front of the McIver Building, 1944
Ill health forced Robinson to retire in 1944 after a 52-year career, although he noted that he planned to “come to work on his good days, and that the college will have to get along as best it can when he can’t make the grade.” At his retirement, faculty and alumnae presented Robinson with a $300 gift to symbolize their “appreciation of his long and faithful service to the college.” He returned to campus numerous times after his official retirement, typically at the annual Founder's Day celebration in October.

On December 1, 1960, Ezekiel Robinson died at a local nursing home at the age of 93. Robinson was the last surviving member of the faculty and staff from the first year of the State Normal. He was interred at Maplewood Cemetery near the North Carolina A&T campus.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Birth of the Spartans

One year after the era of co-education was ushered in with the enrollment of male undergraduates in 1964, Frank Pleasants was hired to coordinate competitive athletics for male students at UNCG. Campus administrators saw a robust athletic program as a significant way of encouraging male enrollment.

UNCG men's basketball head coach Jim Swiggett
In 1966, Jim Swiggett, a highly successful coach at a nearby high school, was hired as UNCG’s first men’s basketball coach. His inaugural squad was developed from the existing student body, with open tryouts for players across campus. In October 1967, after the first two days of team practice, Swiggett reported 14 men participating in workouts. He stated, “We have some boys who have played some basketball, and some who haven’t,” adding he had “15 uniforms, and if these boys who are out want to play, we’ll carry them.”

Also in October 1967 after discussions with athletes and other students, UNCG athletic teams officially adopted the “Spartans” as their mascot. Pleasants noted they “were looking for a name which had a masculine ring, and one also which had associated with it a tradition of courage.” Additionally, they avoided duplicating names of other teams in the region, specifically veering away from “animal names,” like the Wolfpack, Catamounts, or Tigers, for that reason. Strong consideration was given to the “Generals” and the “Brigadiers” in an effort to honor Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene. But Pleasants noted that Greensboro’s professional hockey team at the time was named the Generals, and argued that the Brigadiers “sounded a little too jazzy.”

Brian Emerson
With a roster and mascot in place, the first Spartans squad prepared for their opening game on November 20, 1967 against the College of Charleston. Days before the game, Swiggett noted, “The spirit on the team is excellent, and we’re really looking forward to beginning intercollegiate play. But actually, I don’t really know what to expect. We want to win, but we want to look good whether we win or lose.”

While the match with Charleston was a close one, ultimately a lack of height coupled with a lack of experience resulted in a one-point loss for the Spartans (80-79). The team lost its first seven games, with five defeats by a margin four or fewer points. The Spartans earned their first win against N.C. Wesleyan at home in Coleman Gymnasium by a score of 87-65. They finished their inaugural season with a 2-11 record, and secured their spot in the history books as the first in a long tradition of UNCG Spartans.