Monday, July 29, 2013

Farming and Feeding the Campus

Looking at the current site of the Quad, you might never guess that it was once the home to a campus farm and dairy barn that supplied State Normal (now UNCG) with milk, pork, and produce. But in 1897 Charles Duncan McIver established the first campus farm on a newly-acquired plot of land on the western side of the campus. In addition to providing the school with food products, the farm also served as a teaching laboratory for horticulture classes.
Campus dairy farm (near site of current Aycock Street), 1922

Initially the farm was managed by Thomas L. Brown, an English horticulturalist who was then working at the Biltmore Estate. McIver, however, did not allow the farm to proceed without his direct supervision and impact. In fact, he bought much of the livestock himself. The campus also constructed a substantial dairy barn near the current site of Shaw Dormitory.

It took seven years (as well as Brown’s replacement and a reduction in the livestock herd) for the farm to begin turning a profit for the school. After 1904, however, the farm operations grew substantially. By 1910, the cattle produced more milk than the students could consume, allowing the college to sell and profit from the surplus.

Soon, however, campus expansion (specifically the newly-constructed Woman’s Dormitory) led administrators to search for new sites for the barn. In 1913, the livestock and their barn were moved further west, closer to Dairy Street (now Aycock Street).

Only four years later, however, the campus farm had proven too small for the growing student body, and the land it occupied was needed for other purposes. The Quad was carved out of the farm’s eastern side, and there were plans for a physical education building and golf course to occupy the remaining area. While the college had use of an additional farm southeast of Greensboro, it needed more space to produce more foodstuffs.

So, in 1923, president Foust purchased a 250-acre plot of land in Friendship Township about eight miles west of campus (near the current Piedmont Triad International Airport). Primarily, this site was used as a dairy farm, with Holstein cows providing milk for students and extra milk being sold to local dairies. The old campus barn was demolished, physical education facilities were constructed where the farm stood, and farming operations fully moved away from the immediate campus area.

During World War II, the campus experienced a shortage of workers for the farm. As a result, forty to fifty German prisoners of war were bused in daily from Winston-Salem to provide much-needed labor. Once American soldiers returned from overseas, however, the labor shortage continued. Foust and later president Walter Clinton Jackson were advised – but refused – to sell the farm as it began to lose money. Both cited distrust in the quality and quantity of milk available from local dairies as the primary reason for retaining the farm.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mary Webb Nicholson: First in Flight

Courtesy of Greensboro Historical Museum
While many women of her time were grounded by more domestic roles, Greensboro native Mary Webb Nicholson yearned for the skies. Her passion for flight would earn her many "firsts" in women's aviation, but would also lead to her untimely death in the service of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II. 

Nicholson entered The North Carolina College for Women (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) in 1924 to study music, but after her first airplane ride in 1927 her true interest became flying. She received her first flying lessons free of charge by agreeing to parachute from a plane as an advertisement for the flying school and continued to take jobs as a stenographer and a bookkeeper to support her passion. Soon, she gained enough experience flying at Lindley Field (now Piedmont Triad International Airport) and as a stunt pilot to become the first woman in the state to earn a private pilots' license, a commercial license, and a transport license. By 1931 Nicholson had set the North Carolina light plane altitude record.

By 1937, this North Carolina girl was living in New York City and working as a personal secretary to Jacqueline Cochran, another pioneer in flight, who was directly involved with the formation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). As the Second World War raged in Europe, Nicholson and Cochran formed a group of American women pilots who assisted the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) by delivering planes from factories to various RAF bases, transporting service personnel, and performing air ambulance duties. By fall of 1942, Nicholson was in England ferrying British planes. She flew her operations without benefit of radios or maps so they would not fall into enemy hands in case she, or her fellow ATA pilots, was shot down.

Nicholson was asked to make a speech for The North Carolina College for Women's fiftieth year celebration. She was in England at the time, but her speech on women in aviation was read by her mother. The speech foretold a greater involvement of women in aviation and the military. She wrote, "[It] is not too much to imagine that women will be given an even greater part in protecting the freedoms of our Democracy. And if they are called upon to give this service, the women of America will not be found wanting." In May of 1943, Nicholson's plane crashed in flames in Worcestershire County, England, after an oil leak caused the engine to freeze and the propeller to fly off mid-flight. Even though she never took her flight skills to the battlefield, she cleared a path for the over 600 women pilots who currently fight in combat zones for the United States military.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Streaking Record!

In the 1973-1974 academic year, a new fad spent across the nation's college campuses -- streaking. As described in a March 1974 opinion piece in the Greensboro Daily News, "when the guys and gals finish booking, instead of talking about Marx ... they strip down and run en masse across the old campus while their friends look on and cheer." On the night of Sunday, March 3, 1974, the UNCG campus experienced a record-breaking night of streaking.

The crowd cheers on the streakers
According to a March 4 article in the Carolinian, between 1000 and 1500 people watched and cheered as UNCG students ran naked down College Avenue in what was dubbed the "First National Streaking Competition." According to the Carolinian, various streaking records were set during the night. Over 250 students streaked, including at least 75 women. Both of these numbers set a new "national streaking record," with the total number breaking the mark of 209 streakers who ran at UNC Chapel Hill the week before. Other records noted in the article include: "one for two nude persons (one man, one woman) who rode a motorcycle for one-half mile, one for five people in a Porsche, and one for six in an M.G.B."

Streaking enshrined in the Pine Needles
Needless to say, campus administrators and local civic leaders were not pleased with the campus's new fad. After similar streaking events occurred at Greensboro College, High Point College, and Elon College in a one-week period, Guilford County District Attorney Douglas Albright urged the local college campuses to take disciplinary action against the streakers. He implied that if the campuses would not punish the students, he would encourage the local police to begin making arrests. "We're getting the word out that this is a violation of the law, and that the college campus is not a sanctuary for those who would break the law," he argued.

In a March 6 memo to the University community, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs James H. Allen stated that "the University Administration does not in any way condone the violation of the law. Indeed, the Administration recognizes and accepts responsibility to uphold the law and seek its enforcement as fairly and as reasonably as possible."

Ultimately no students were arrested and no formal criminal charges were brought against the streaking students. 1974 was the peak of the streaking fad (the year also brought us Ray Stevens' #1 Billboard hit "The Streak" as well as the appearance of a streaker on the 1974 Academy Awards broadcast), and no further reports of major campus streaking parties were made.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Walter Clinton Jackson, Race, and WC Resources

Throughout the first seven decades of its existence, the institution now known as UNCG grappled with a number of questions regarding facility use by students from neighboring colleges, particularly the nearby African-American institutions such as North Carolina A&T and Bennett College.

Interior of the College Library, circa 1923
As early as February 1929, administrators were discussing use of the Library by students from A&T. Then Vice President (and later Chancellor) Walter Clinton Jackson wrote College President Julius Foust on February 15, 1929, requesting that an A&T student be allowed to borrow books from the College Library. Jackson wrote, “it seems to me rather incongruous that we should refuse a little courtesy of this kind to a neighbor institution, even though a negro institution. It is a very small matter, in a way, but it has large consequences so far as the Negroes are concerned.”

Foust agreed to discuss the matter with the College Librarian and “do anything we can to aid these students.” He quickly added, however, that Jackson should be acutely award “that certain embarrassments may arise in our attempt to do what they request” and that he “doubt[ed] the wisdom of permitting negro students to take the books out of our library.” While he agreed to consider the idea, Foust added that he would ask the Librarian to consult with Dr. Anna Gove, the student health coordinator, to learn more “about the danger that may arise from disease if these students are permitted to take the books and use them when our students must use them when they are returned to the library.”

Jackson’s decision to support the use of the WC Library by African-American students ran counter to the Jim Crow laws that were prevalent across North Carolina at the time. Jackson, however, was well known as a champion of racial equality. He arrived at the institution then known as State Normal in 1909 to lead the history department. A native of Georgia, he studied at Mercer University and spoke frequently on the topic of race relations in American history. Although he was forced to work within the framework of the segregated South, he served as chairman of local, state, and southern regional Commissions on Interracial Cooperation. From 1938 to 1953, he served as chairman of the Board of Trustees at Bennett College.

Walter Clinton Jackson, 1948
Throughout his sixteen-year tenure as Woman’s College chancellor (1934-1950), Jackson opened many venues for progress and collaboration between WC and its neighboring educational institutions, including those that were African American. In a June 17, 1935, letter to Charlotte Hawkins Brown, he expressed dismay that WC would not be able to openly welcome students from Brown’s Palmer Institute, a school for African Americans in Sedalia, North Carolina, just outside of Greensboro. After Brown declined to bring her students to a music performance at the WC due to the segregated seating requirements, Jackson wrote, “I hope the time will speedily come when difficulties which confront us may be more easily resolved.”

State laws and regulations, however, did not support open sharing of resources between WC and its African-American neighbor institutions. “Separate but equal” policies resulted in the segregation of public schools, public spaces, transportation, restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains. Since 1901, North Carolina state law had explicitly required separate facilities for the consumption of library materials by white and black citizens. While a number of prominent North Carolinians, including Governor W. Kerr Scott (1949-1953), believed in extended some degree of civil liberties to African Americans, the general consensus across the state favored the continuation of segregationist policies.

Jackson’s willingness to push these boundaries and search for concessions whenever possible led to him being recognized as a “pioneer in the field of better race relations” when he received an honorary doctorate from Bennett in 1949. While Jackson was no longer Chancellor when the WC was officially desegregated in 1956, he stood as an early leader in creating a more open and accepting campus.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Celebrating 50 Years of UNCG

The institution now known as The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has undergone a number of name changes since its founding in 1891 as the State Normal and Industrial School for White Girls. Other names include State Normal and Industrial College (1897-1919), North Carolina College for Woman (1919-1932), and the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (1932-1963). It was not until July 1963 that the school was called The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a name that it has now held for fifty years.

Modeling new UNCG sweatshirts, 1964
This final name change came about after newly-elected North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford created a Commission on Education beyond the High School in 1961. Headed by Winston-Salem lawyer Irving E. Carlyle, this Commission’s final report (issued in 1962) called for a major overall of the state’s higher education system to deal with a predicted near doubling of college enrollments by 1975.

The 1963 Legislature acted on the report’s recommendations and created a community college system, elevated the two-year state-supported institutions in Charlotte, Asheville, and Wilmington to four-year institutions, and designated the three existing UNC branches to be known as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at Greensboro, and at Raleigh (State College alumni fought against designation of their campus as UNC Raleigh, and instead the school became North Carolina State University). Additionally, the years of single-sex education at the Greensboro campus ended, as all UNC schools were made coeducational.

Reactions on the Greensboro campus were mixed. Students were divided; they formed Pink and Blue factions, and took turns painting the McIver statue and decorating the campus in these colors to show their support of or opposition to coeducation. The Carolinian reported the division and ultimately supported the change.

Faculty members were also split. The focus of the university on liberal arts was to continue, but with additional professional programs added. Many feared that women would gradually be eliminated from the faculty or reduced to low-level positions teaching introductory courses only. Others worried that university status would drive undergraduate teaching into the background in favor of growing graduate programs.

Campus administrators, however, favored the change, with most of them viewing coeducation as inevitable. With over 2,000 woman already enrolled at Chapel Hill and State building its first women’s dormitory, administrators in Greensboro saw their monopoly over female students in the state eroding. Some also hoped that being coeducational and having university status would bring more equitable appropriations from legislators and the UNC system.

Male undergraduates at UNCG, 1964
In July 1963, the state legislature officially renamed Woman’s College to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. One year later, in Fall 1964, the first male undergraduates began to arrive. Some of the fears of those opposed to coeducation proved true. For instance, in Fall 1963, 56 percent of the full-time faculty were women. From 1966 to 1970, 70 percent of the newly-hired faculty members were men. And by 1979, only 36 percent of faculty members were female. Similarly, from 1970-1995, all but five of the elected Student Government Association presidents were men.

But the institution saw positive growth and development in graduate studies and new areas. By 1966, the school had created three new professional schools (music, education, and home economics) and a college of arts and sciences, and adopted a university organizational structure with many new vice chancellors and deans. Three more professional schools were added by 1971 (nursing in 1966, business and economics in 1970, and health, physical education, and recreation in 1971). Enrollment grew from about 3,700 in 1963 to 9,500 in 1975. Ultimately, UNCG continued to provide a vital service, furnishing educational, economic, and social mobility to those in the region, a vision not so different from that of the institution’s founder, Charles Duncan McIver.