Monday, May 26, 2014

History of Rat Day

The tradition of Rat Day at Woman's College (now UNCG) began in the 1930s as part of the initiation process of the four campus literary societies. This annual one-day event typically took place during the month of October or November and was promoted as a fun time of getting to know one another.  In reality, it was a day of hazing. Freshman girls, who were called “Rats”, were required to dress in a particular fashion and perform various tasks dictated by the Sophomores who were known as “Cats.”

Freshman Rats bowing down to Sophmore Cats
Unfortunately for the Freshmen, they never knew what day would be Rat Day, and they were often surprised when they were woken up at 5:30 am and ordered to march outside.  The activities would last until the evening, concluding around 6pm with a large bonfire and celebratory party.  Some years, however, the day ended with “Rat Court” where nine Sophomore Cats were selected as “Judges” and ten Freshman Rats were put on a mock trial.  The farcical event included court lawyers, bailiffs, and other typical court proceedings. Inevitably most Freshmen were found guilty of their factitious crimes and ordered to sustain various “punishments.”

Some of the various fashion rules given throughout the history of Rat Days included:
  • Not being allowed to wear makeup
  • Having to wear paper bibs and paper ears all day to resemble a rat
  • Having your name or the word “RAT” written on your forehead in lipstick
  • Being required to wear one high heel and one flat heel
  • Stuffing a stocking with paper and using it as a tail
  • Drawing black whiskers on face and black nose

In addition to these ridiculous fashion requirements, the Freshman Rats were also given specific tasks to complete throughout the day, such as:
  • Cleaning the McIver statue with a toothbrush
  • Washing and giving pedicures to faculty dogs
  • Various housekeeping tasks like cleaning bathrooms, dorm rooms, and the dinning hall
  • Writing love letters to males they may or may not have known
  • Stopping automobiles to get autographs from the driver

Lastly, the sophomores instituted random rules that had to be followed throughout the day, including:
  • When requested to be road runners, each freshman had to act accordingly complete with sounds of "beep beep" and "zoom zoom"
  • Addressing all Sophomores as “Your Excellency Madam Cat”
  • Each Freshman must refer to herself as “it”
  • Upon the call of “Air Raid” by any Sophomore, each Freshman was to pull her pillow case over her head

Not everyone approved of Rat Day and throughout the years there were calls to abolish the “ridiculous, useless, infantile” activity.  In 1939, Dr. Ruth Collings, who was the Director of Health, wrote a letter to Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson describing the stress and injuries occurred because of such antics.   In 1936, it was reported that one girl received a black eye and another girl broke her foot.  Fortunately for students today, Rat Day ended in the early 1970s.

Monday, May 19, 2014

“Opportunity Doesn’t Take 3 Months Off”: Early Summer School on Campus

Summer Session Brochure
Summer classes have existed on The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) campus since 1898, when Miss Viola Boddie began to teach a summer course in Latin because many of her students feared that they might have to repeat the class during their senior year.  However, the first true summer session was held in 1912, with 416 young women attending a single eight week session. The program was so popular that it quickly expanded to two six-to-eight week sessions. College president Julius Foust established the summer school program to meet a variety of educational needs, targeting college students who wanted to earn graduate or undergraduate credit or who could not attend full time; high school students who were preparing for college; wives and mothers who were interested in home economics classes; and teachers who needed advanced college courses or special subject expertise.  There were a wide range of course offerings including home economics, art, garden design, plant culture, and music.

Call for Teachers
However, the primary focus of the summer sessions was on pedagogy, reflecting the original vision of the college.  The sessions were divided into two categories, college courses and teacher training courses, with the addition of a Teacher’s Institute and a ‘Home Makers’ and Rural School Conference added at the end of July. While registration and tuition were free, attendees were required to pay room and board on campus, which was intentionally kept as reasonably priced as possible.  Summer sessions also featured special lectures, concerts and recitals, round table discussions, and “recreation and entertainment.” The college encouraged enrollment by stressing the beauty, amenities, and comfort of the campus, yet upon arrival, attendees may have been surprised to find that they were subject to the some of the same rules and regulations as the full-time students. This included “lights out” at 11 pm, a limit of one minute telephone calls, and no delivery boys in the dormitories.

Summer Session Poster
By the early 1940s, summer school attendance had fallen to the point that the college questioned the practicality of keeping the campus open during the summer. Yet, during the years following World War II, enrollment quickly grew as the summer sessions began opening enrollment to men and married couples. Men had been allowed to enroll in the Teachers’ Institute since 1914, but by the 1940s, dormitory space was set aside to allow for a wider variety of attendees. Although courses had initially been offered free of charge, in the 1940s, the school began imposing a moderate registration fee with additional expenses for room, board, laundry, and labs. The summer program continued to grow in the 1950s, with students using summer courses to raise their grade point average or to accelerate their curriculum advancement. UNCG’s summer school program remains a strong part of the college curriculum, with over 13,500* students willing to sacrifice summer fun for academic enrichment!

*2010 statistics

Monday, May 12, 2014

Commencement time at State Normal

On Friday, May 9, thousands of newly minted graduates of UNCG participated in their graduation ceremony at the Greensboro Coliseum. This marked the 121st commencement hosted by the institution since its opening as the State Normal and Industrial School in October 1892.

Commencement invitation, 1893
The first commencement ever held at State Normal took place on May 23-24, 1893. Ten women received diplomas. Although the students had been at State Normal for only one year, they were able to graduate in 1893 due to high scores on placement tests. In fact, all but one of the members of the Class of 1893 had already graduated from another college.

The diplomas earned in the earliest years at State Normal, though, were not bachelors degrees. It would not be until 1903 that State Normal would issue bachelors degrees on par with those issued by other colleges. Instead, the degrees earned in 1893 represented completion of a more limited curriculum, more on par with a modern high school program. The diplomas did, however, represent a lifetime license to teach in public schools in North Carolina.

The commencement ceremony featured a number of speakers, including Governor Elias Carr, who opened the ceremony by congratulating the graduates along with the officers of the school on the success of their first year of operation. Rev. T.H. Pritchard then delivered the commencement sermon, which focused on the second chapter of Exodus. George T. Winston, president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provided the commencement address on "The Education and Sphere of Women." According to one newspaper report, Winston's address "was a gem, full of solid reason and sound sense."

Finally, State Normal founder and president Charles D. McIver presented the ten students with diplomas and delivered his address to the crowd. McIver congratulated the students, but cautioned them that the diplomas came with added responsibilities, both to their future students and to the state. He warned, "your obligations to the State are greater than they were a year ago ... North Carolina has a right to a return on her investment, and she desires it to come in the form of womanhood, patriotic citizenship, and your very best professional service in the field of education."
The Class of 1893, with McIver and Edwin Alderman

In addition to the ceremony featuring the awarding of the diplomas, the two-day commencement celebration also included music from the school's Glee Club as well as performances by others in the student body. Additionally, the Physical Culture department conducted two demonstrations in the school's Gymnasium (located at the time in the upper level of the Main - now Foust - Building). To conform to standards of propriety, the Physical Culture demonstrations were limited to "lady visitors" who were "admitted upon presentation of cards."

Commencement festivities only grew in the following years, with many of the early commencement attendees noting that President McIver was always excited at commencement time. In 1894, he brought politician William Jennings Bryan to speak at commencement only two years before Bryan launched his first run for the U.S. presidency. Future years also saw famous politicians and prominent academics speak at State Normal's commencement. While the Class of 1893 consisted of only ten women, their commencement ceremony marked the start of a long tradition of graduates who would make major contributions to North Carolina (and beyond).  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meet Wade R. Brown, Founder of the Greensboro Music Scene

Wade R. Brown with his 1916 Music History Class
Although the Departments of Vocal Music and Instrumental Music had been unified into a single department at the State Normal and Industrial School by 1910, the quality of student education remained modest.  The focus of the Music Department was to cultivate its female student body for positions of leadership in churches and schools. The Greensboro music scene could be described as provincial, at best. Julius I. Foust, School president after Charles Duncan McIver’s death in 1906, understood that for his progressive vision of the campus to be realized, the School would require not only physical growth, but also an artistic and cultural invigoration. Success in this immense undertaking required an individual with force of personality, energy, and competency equal to the challenge. Foust selected Wade R. Brown (1866-1950) for the task.

When Julius Foust found Wade R. Brown, he was serving as Dean of the School of Music at Meredith College. A pianist by training, Brown had served on the faculty at Baker University, the Baptist Female College in Greenville, SC, and Winthrop College in South Carolina before holding his position at Meredith College. During his tenure at Meredith, Brown was described as a “masterful man,” and “an uncommon organizer… [who] knows how to marshall his forces and control and direct a great department.” When Brown was appointed Director of Music at the State Normal and Industrial School, some individuals in the Meredith College community took Foust’s seduction of their beloved music director, with the promise of higher salary, personally. One article stated, “The worst blow that has ever befallen Meredith College was the resignation of Mr. Wade R. Brown… it does hit rather hard for an institution like the Normal to secure one of our best.” Brown, perhaps seeking a new challenge, transitioned from Raleigh to Greensboro, building his residence on 1022 West Market St.

When Brown stepped on to the campus for the first time as Director of the Department of Music in 1912, he walked into the obstacles of a newly unified department, almost exclusively focused on voice and keyboard training, with no single building dedicated to teaching and rehearsal. Although the School did cultivate an orchestra, the city of Greensboro did not support any professional music organization. Therefore, aside from church music, Greensboro and the School existed in a musical void, as there were few venues in which to perform and no body of local, professional musicians to offer accompaniment to attract quality touring performers, let alone provide the enrichment of a consistent concert series. Brown, after taking a few months to settle into the area, assessed the situation, and instituted immediate improvements ("immediate" as in one month into his first semester).
Illustration from the 1914 Yearbook

The first means of improving the musical reputation of the School was to assess what was being taught and overhaul the music curriculum. Although the Department of Music was officially unified in 1906 and the first Bachelor of Music was offered in 1907, the program was still weak. The music curriculum was structured more as a general education with a focus on music. Brown developed a more formalized and intensive course of study for attaining a degree in music. This meant the quality of music student graduating from the State Normal and Industrial School improved, gradually bolstering the School’s reputation for producing competent music educators.     

Secondly, presenting opportunities for students to gain performance experience and for the public to develop a desire to listen and to discern quality music was needed. This meant performing in recitals. Wade R. Brown performed his first organ recital on Founder’s Day in October of 1912, which included “Grand March” from Verdi’s Aida, the “Prelude” in Bach’s Fugue in C minor, Handel’s The Largo, “In Summer” by Stebbins, Spinney’s “Berceuse,” and Flagler’s “The Old Folks at Home.”  The audience was enthralled by the performance, one citizen reporting, “I dropped in to see what it was like, expecting to stay ten minutes. But I could not leave. That was music. The Normal College has a treasure in Brown.” That same month, Brown organized a 125-voice chorus of students, as well.  For November of 1912, Brown arranged for the Schubert String Quartette from Boston to perform. Within a matter of months of Brown’s arrival in Greensboro, the State Normal and Industrial School, as well as the Greensboro public, were enjoying the benefits of a consistent concert series, captivated by the experience of hearing well-organized student ensembles and professional musicians.  

Auditorium of in the Student Building, 1913
With the first challenge of exposing the student body and the city to quality music conquered, Wade R. Brown transitioned to the next project, fostering the reputation of the State Normal and Industrial College’s Music Department. For this purpose, Brown implemented the statewide High School Contest-Festival in 1919. When the first contest was held in May of 1920, only 13 high school pianists entered.  By the 1939 Festival, 25,000 children competed at district levels with around 5,000 students traveling to the campus to compete in vocal, instrumental, and choral competition. Brown’s High School Music Contest-Festival was the forerunner of the present UNCG Summer Music Camp, which officially began in 1983. With the Contest-Festival an obvious success in promoting the College’s focus on music education, Brown transitioned to the most difficult of the tasks required of his tenure in Greensboro, structuring a culture of music appreciation among students and Greensboro citizens.

Wade R. Brown wrestled with the dilemma of developing a culture of music that was rather complex. For the College to produce exceptional music graduates, students needed to perform to larger audiences, and to experience performances by professional musicians. This would not only enhance student education but also nurture the lives of Greensboro residents. Unfortunately, until Brown arrived, music concerts, as an activity of personal enrichment, were not viewed as a cultural necessity for the area. From performing and arranging recitals, Brown knew that there was a population craving concerts, but there were few accommodations for large audiences, no money to pay decent performers to tour the Greensboro area, and no professional body of musicians to accompany touring performers. This was a daunting task, but Brown tackled it with his usual effectiveness.
In terms of performance venues, larger churches were commonly used in the beginning, but there was also a 700 seat auditorium available in the Student Union. Foust’s construction projects (with much urging from Brown) included the Music Building (now the Brown Building), which opened in 1925, as well as the Aycock Auditorium, which opened in 1926. This provided the college with sufficient seating to accommodate crowds that would be attracted by more noted performers.       

The Music Building (now the Wade R. Brown Building), 1927
Wade R. Brown immediately began using his personal connections to attract major music companies to perform in Greensboro. As there was no official symphony orchestra for Greensboro until 1939, State Normal music faculty and students provided accompaniment when possible. Eventually, with the increased hiring of members of the School of Music faculty, a symphony orchestra would be formed. However, in the early stages of the concert series, some of the more complex performances required a professional orchestra, and out of town symphonies were contracted.

Of course, the creation of a professional concert series for Greensboro required funding. Initially, Brown raised money on a per concert basis, which was not the ideal means of establishing a regular schedule for performances. With the opening of Aycock Auditorium guaranteeing a dedicated performance venue, Brown, along with C.G. Harrington and J.D. Wilkins, founded the Greensboro Civic Music Association. The mission of this Association was to support and advance awareness and appreciation of music among Greensboro citizens. Membership fees and donations provided a stable flow of funds for the Association to contract prominent musicians to perform for Greensboro audiences. To say that the venture was a success would be an understatement. By 1937, membership to the Civic Music Association was so popular, there was a waiting list. Additionally, during Wade R. Brown’s tenure as president of the Civic Music Association, Greensboro and the College had the honor of hosting Metropolitan Opera soprano Kristen Flagstad and bass Ezio Pinza, the Philadelphia Orchestra with Eugene Ormandy, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Jascha Heifetz.

In 1934, Wade R. Brown stepped down as head of the what had become the School of Music, and formally retired from the faculty in 1936. After twenty-four years of service to the Women’s College (as of 1932) and the Greensboro community, Brown and his wife retired to Florida, spending much of their time travelling abroad to enjoy touring the musical capitals of Europe. Wade R. Brown died in May of 1950, one obituary notice reading, “he is memorialized, too, by the deeper appreciation of the fine things in life which he encouraged and cultivated in the minds and hearts of North Carolinians, both young and old.”

This is part three of a series of posts chronicling the history of the music program at UNCG: Part 1 and Part 2
Wade R. Brown, Subject File, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.

Alumnae News of the State Normal and Industrial College [November 1912], UA43.6.01 Alumnae/Alumni News and UNCG Magazine, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
The Carolinian [1914], UA42.4.03 Pine Needles, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.The Carolinian [February 26, 1937], UA42.4.01 The Carolinian, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College. Junior History of Music Class, 1916, UA111 University Archives Scrapbook Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
Trelease, Allen W. 2004. Making North Carolina literate: the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from normal school to metropolitan university. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.
[Music Building (Tate Street)], UA104 Photographic Prints Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
[Students' Building Auditorium], UA104 Photographic Prints Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.