Monday, September 29, 2014

A Doughnut for All Ages

The Doughnut as of 2014
Hidden deep within W.C. Jackson Library, secreted away from the public thoroughfares, there is The Doughnut. It is a thirty-three year old doughnut. Miraculously, The Doughnut has resisted corruption for over three decades. Each year, between fifty to seventy-five people pilgrimage to view this venerable confection, and such visits are considered an initiatory ritual for all library employees. Although it is spoken of in tones of pride and respect presently, the prominent pastry’s “birth” is of humble origin.

The hors d'oeuvre tray at a library staff orientation in November of 1980 concluded in a common scenario. Whether owing to caution against a breach of etiquette or fearing the appearance of gluttony, a single doughnut remained untouched and alone on the tray. Additionally, as is another common situation in such informal social occasions, no one claimed responsibility for cleaning away the food after the party. This lone survivor of the carbohydrate laden feeding frenzy, a Dunkin’ Donut cake doughnut, remained forgotten on its platter.

Several days later, opportunity arose for The Doughnut to establish itself as a working member of the UNCG community. The employees to the library bindery (now Preservation Services) procured an old stereo from which they hoped to listen to the university radio station. Tragically, no amount of modification to the antennae improved the reception. After everything from framing wire to metal binders was added to make the signal listenable with no improvement, all eyes fell upon The Doughnut. It was added to one of the binder clips on the improvised antennae, and the “college radio station came in loud and clear.” The radio was replaced over the following months, but The Doughnut remained suspended from the binder clip for the next five years. Over the years, it is reported that many people would notice the doughnut, but no one ever inquired as to why it was hanging in the library.

After five years, an accidental collision with a student freed The Doughnut, and to the amazement of everyone, it “clincked to the floor like a piece of stoneware.” One small fragment was chipped from its ossified body, but it remained intact otherwise. By this time, The Doughnut had shrunk to about ten percent its original size. In honor of its years of service and impressive fortitude, The Doughnut remained in the library, both as an esteemed artifact and as a valued colleague.

Initially, The Doughnut was honored on the five year anniversary of its arrival to UNCG, much like any other UNCG employee. The Jackson Library Staff Association held the First Annual Doughnut Festival in 1985, in which celebrants were encouraged to adapt song titles, movie title, opening lines of books, and compose poetry to exalt what was becoming a workplace icon. Notable entries in the song category included “Don’t Come Home Drinkin’ with Doughnuts on Your Mind” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Doughnut.”   

On its tenth anniversary, a black, velvet-lined case was constructed specifically for The Doughnut, but it was the twentieth anniversary in 2000 that brought The Doughnut to national attention. The Doughnut had been embraced by the local North Carolina media, but the Associated Press picked up the story for the twentieth anniversary. An article about The Doughnut made it into the Chronicle of Higher Education and National Public Radio. Famously, it was billed above the Pope in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not column in 2001. Having matured from its two decades of fame, The Doughnut was installed into a professionally constructed glass exhibit case in 2010.

This November will be the thirty-fourth anniversary of the Doughnut arriving at UNCG, ranking its years on campus among many employees looking towards their retirement. Rest assured, there are no rumors circulating of The Doughnut’s retirement. Although not formally accessioned into the university’s archives, The Doughnut remains a permanent figure in Jackson Library lore.     

Monday, September 22, 2014

Darlinettes and Rhythmettes: Big Band Sounds at the WC

In 1942, big band music from the likes of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman were all the rage, but local big bands were hard to find. Most of the musicians in these groups were male, and they were being drafted into military service during World War II. But a group of students at the Woman's College stepped in to fill the void, forming the Darlinettes and their four-member vocal group, The Rhythmettes, in 1942.

Practicing in the Brown Music Building
Many of the Darlinettes' and Rhythmettes' performances took place at Woman's College. They played many of the formal dances and "soldier dances" held on campus during and immediately after WWII. But the group was not confined to the WC campus. They played shows at the USO Club on North Elm Street, and they entertained troops stationed at the Army Air Corps' Overseas Replacement Depot in Greensboro. In 1946, they traveled to Asheville to provide entertainment at the 1st annual conference of the 191st District of Rotary International. Cleveland Thayer, General Chairman of the Distrct, wrote to offer his personal thanks to the Darlinettes for "the fine work of your orchestra."

The founding leader of the Darlinettes and Rhythmettes was Cherry Folger, who also played trumpet. Folger was reportedly the first trumpet major in the history of WC, and was quite the musician and leader. At the age of 14, she was fronting an all-male musical group in her hometown of White Plains, NY. According to a newspaper article from 1943, she "often hits high 'E' above high 'C' on the instrument, and has been known to touch high 'G.'" She formed the Darlinettes soon after arriving at WC in 1942 (she transferred after spending her first two years of college at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester).


When Folger graduated in 1944, Doris Funderburk took over the baton for the Darlinettes. Under Funderburk's leadership, the Darlinettes continued their busy performing schedule. But they also found time to record an album, titled "Autumn Serenade." The 78 rpm records were made May 26, 1946, at the Vic Smith Recording Service in Greensboro. They featured 10 songs, including an original piece written and orchestrated by Funderburk called "You Don't Get it From Books."

The group continued performing, with membership swapping out with each graduation, through the early 1950s. Many of the Darlinettes took up non-musical careers after graduation, but a few continued in a musical path. Frances Stevens Snipe of Clemson, SC, sang with Greensboro band leader Burt Massengale's group for a number of years. Mary Sampson Irvin played trombone with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. And Doris Funderburk Morgan served as the organist at the old Charlotte Coliseum for many years, playing music to enliven crowds at the Charlotte Checkers ice hockey games.

In September 2002, several members of the Darlinettes were reunited at an event organized by Burt Bruton, the nephew of the late Sue Bruton, an original member and saxophonist in the Darlinettes. The following May, the UNCG School of Music declared May 2 to be Darlinette Day. They hosted an event featuring Darlinettes members and established a Darlinettes Artist in Residence Endowment Fund, aimed at bringing female jazz artists to the school.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Celebrating 50 Years of Coeducation at UNCG

On July 1, 1963, the North Carolina State Legislature officially renamed Woman’s College to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the decision was made that all UNC system schools would now be co-educational. But male undergraduates did not immediately arrive on the Greensboro campus. Instead, it was not until the following Fall that the first male undergraduates began their studies. With the start of instruction on September 17, 1964, the UNCG undergraduate student body officially included 282 men.

A group of male undergraduates, 1964
The decision to transition from a single-sex institution to co-educational was met with mixed reactions on campus. Students were divided on the issue; 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 student newspaper reported the division and ultimately supported the change. Some faculty feared that women would gradually be eliminated from the faculty or reduced to low-level positions teaching introductory courses only.

Campus administrators, however, favored the change, with most of them viewing coeducation as inevitable. With over 2,000 woman already enrolled at UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina 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 (along with having university status) would bring more equitable appropriations from legislators and the UNC system.

When the male students arrived on campus, many faced challenges with both faculty and fellow students who were not in favor of coeducation. When the town students first elected a male representative to student government, some of the female representatives walked out when he spoke and repeatedly voted down any motions he offered. In a 1991 oral history interview, Charles Cole (class of 1969) recalls professors repeatedly entering classes with the greeting, "Hello, ladies," essentially ignoring the males' presence. In fact, Cole, an African-American man, found his identity as a male a greater challenge at UNCG than his identity as an African American.

Phillips-Hawkins Residence Hall, 1968
Other challenges were even more basic to student life. The first few male students who didn't live at home had to find rooms or apartments off campus. Several occupied a converted firehouse at Mendenhall and Walker, a block from campus, that was billed as the "first men's dorm." From 1965 to 1967, men were housed in three small apartment buildings adjacent to campus (but owned by the university). No on-campus dormitory housing was offered for male students until Phillips Residence Hall was completed in 1967 (the adjacent Hawkins Residence Hall was occupied by female students).

A 1966 Alumni News article quoted Michael Dean Daniels (class of 1968) discussing a whole different problem. "I have opened a door for a girl, only to stand for five minutes while fifty or sixty girls stream through," said Daniels. "Each one usually expresses a word of thanks, but these words don't help much when I try to tell my English professor that I was late to class because I was held up by a doorknob."

1967 actually saw a number of changes for the male students at UNCG. In addition to the construction of Phillips dormitory, UNCG officially began its first venture in men's intercollegiate athletics. Athletic Coordinator Frank Pleasants hired three new "instructor-coaches" to "guide the school through its first season of competition." James R. Swiggett was hired to coach basketball and golf, John Douglas directed wrestling and tennis, and William L. Russell, Jr. was named director of volleyball and intramural events. In addition, Douglas and Russell shared responsibility for cross country competition.

Lindsay Lamson, first male SGA president
The following years saw male undergraduates move into many of the high-profile student organization positions at UNCG. Lindsay Lamson became the first male Student Government Association president in 1969-1970. Jack Pinnix was the first male editor of the Carolinian in 1968-1969. And by 1973, according to an article in the Alumni News, "the presence of a number of male senators and representatives at Student Legislature meetings has become quite commonplace."

The same 1973 Alumni News article, written by David B. McDonald (class of 1971), concludes that "there is hardly any aspect of University life that has not been affected by the presence of men on campus ... The male entering this University today can be assured not only of receiving a superb education but also of having opportunities for full participation in sports and other extra-curricular activities, and for a most interesting social life." From 282 in 1964 (6.6% of the total student body) to 3,217 in 1980 (31% of the total student body), the undergraduate male enrollment saw steady growth -- even with a rocky start -- through the first 15 years of coeducation.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Edwin Alderman and the founding of the State Normal and Industrial School

Edwin Alderman, ca. 1892
While Dr. Charles Duncan McIver is credited with being the founder of the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), the contribution and influence that his good friend, Edwin Alderman had on its creation cannot be overlooked. Born in May 1861, Alderman attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where his friendship with fellow students like McIver, James Y. Joyner, and M.C.S. Noble encouraged his belief in educational reform in North Carolina. Graduating in 1882, he became the superintendent of schools in Goldsboro, NC.  In 1886, McIver approached Alderman with the idea of establishing a teachers’ college which would serve both male and female students in the state. This concept was unique at the time as there were no public colleges or universities for white women and the private denominational colleges were often too expensive for many to attend.

Despite enthusiastic support from the North Carolina Teachers’ Assembly, the state legislature failed to pass funding for the establishment of such a school in 1887 and 1889.  However, as a compromise they agreed in 1889 to fund two educators to travel to every county in the state, offering week-long teachers’ institutes.  McIver and Alderman were selected to lead the program. Seizing on the opportunity to connect with people across North Carolina, they began promoting and gaining support for the establishment of a new teaching college. Their successful crusade culminated in February 1891, when the state legislature easily passed a bill to establish a Normal and Industrial School for White Girls.

In June 1891, the nine-man board of directors for the State Normal and Industrial School elected McIver as the president of the new school. While Alderman had also been interested in the job, he did not actively campaign for it against his good friend McIver and instead accepted  professorships of English and History. The importance of his contribution to the school’s founding was also reflected in his yearly salary of $2,000; only $250 less than McIver’s and nearly double that of any other faculty member. Alderman left the college in 1893 to become the first professor of pedagogy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and was elected president of the university in 1896. Alderman continued his commitment to higher education by becoming president of Tulane University in 1900 and eventually was elected the first president at the University of Virginia in 1904 where he would serve until his death April 1931.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Religious Activities at the WC

"In all the days of our years as a college, we have been mindful of the fact that, although a State institution and thereby bound by the American tradition of separation of Church and State, religion has a place of supreme importance in the life of every individual. Believing that a college carries the responsibility, beyond imparting knowledge and developing skills, of fostering spiritual understanding and growth, we offer a varied program of religious activity and interests." -- Dean of Administration Walter Clinton Jackson, 1943

Student leaders and speakers at Religious Emphasis Week, 1950
Religious activities did indeed hold a prominent place in the University's landscape from its opening in 1892. The Y.W.C.A. was a prominent fixture on campus, official University Sermons were given by local and out-of-town religious leaders, the college distributed Bibles to seniors at commencement (until 1930), and many religious student groups were formed.

In the 1930s and 1940s, religious activities were particularly integrated into campus life. Students in 1932 formed the Inter-Faith Council as a way of "foster[ing] understanding, cooperation, joint activity and the development of a sense of unity in diversity among the student religious organization." The Inter-Faith Council consisted of two student representatives and the faculty/staff advisor of each of the student religious organizations on campus. They hosted speakers from a broad spectrum of religious backgrounds, held campus vespers services, published a religious handbook for students, and led dormitory devotions.

Students at a chapel service in Aycock Auditorium, 1954
Also, at the same time that Dean of Administration Walter Clinton Jackson led an (ultimately unsuccessful) fundraising drive to construct a campus chapel building,  a group of students in 1939 organized the first annual Religious Emphasis Week. Religious Emphasis Week ran from October 22-27 and featured seminars, lectures, discussions, and special group meetings selected from a poll of the student body. Selected topics of focus included "What Can Be Accomplished by Prayer?," "A Christian Philosophy of Life," "Religious Basis for Social Action," and "Religious Resources for Personal Living." Rabbi Edward L. Israel of Har Sinai Congregation and Baltimore delivered the Thursday evening address in Aycock Auditorium on "Religion and Abundant Living." Religious Emphasis Week continued until 1953 when it was renamed the Inter-Faith Forum.

While religious activities were plentiful on the WC campus, there were official regulations outlining the role of the students and the administration in planning and facilitating these activities. Five key points guided the policies on religious activities on campus:
  • "All religious groups should be given impartial opportunity to function on campus according tot he vitality of the particular group."
  • "The initiative for religious activities on campus should ... mainly rest with the various denominational or recognized non-sectarian groups rather than with the college administration."
  • "Emphasis of the entire religious program should be to relate the individual to the church of her choice."
  • "College regulations with respect to requests for scheduling of events on campus, use of college property, and student government and administrative rules are to be observed."
  • "Groups which are political, economic, or sociological in purpose but which are not religious either in the denominational or inter-faith respect are not to be placed under the authority of the Religious Activities office."
The goal of the policies was to make "religion a real and natural part of her life while at WC rather than merely an additional college 'activity.'"

Religious Activities Center in Elliott Hall
The Religious Activities Center  served as the central administrative hub for all of the student-led religious activities and groups. The Center was located on the third floor of Elliott Hall, and included the office of the Inter-Faith Council president, the office of the Coordinator of Religious Activities (a University-hired position), and a large room in which group meetings could be held. A 1957 brochure about religion at WC noted that the Center's "lovely surroundings afford a quiet place for meditation."

In the early 1960s, the position of Coordinator of Religious Activities was no longer funded, and the activities related to organizing the campus religious groups were folded into the work of the Dean of Students. By 1971 (ironically the year of the founding of the Department of Religious Studies), UNCG's course bulletin no longer listed information about religious activities on campus.