Monday, July 27, 2015

Like a Duck to Water: Spotlight on the Military Life of Alumna Geraldine Cox

Geraldine Cox (1918 - 1988) was a small town girl from Washington, North Carolina, but she accomplished a great deal during her multiple careers. Cox entered the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG) in 1935 and earned her degree in English four years later. Directly after graduation, with plans to become a librarian, she enrolled in the School of Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her career as a librarian took her as far afield as Salt Lake City, where she worked at the University of Utah. Letters home spoke of her enjoyment of the library work, skiing lessons on the weekend, and her interest in Red Cross work.

Geraldine Cox, US WAAC
The prior year of her life had seen many changes. Not only had she moved across the country in search of a new career, but the United States had entered World War II. Perhaps, it was her involvement with the Red Cross that led her to enlist in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) only a month after it was formed as the women’s branch of the United States Army. Joining the WAACs in the summer of 1942, she went through training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and was later transferred to Daytona, Florida, where she worked as a training instructor in the Motor Transportation Division. Cox test drove tanks and jeeps, and instructed other WAACs how to drive and care for large Army trucks. She was amazed that, in many cases, the smaller, frailer women made the best drivers.

Periodically, she wrote Miss Clara Byrd, the Alumnae Secretary at Woman’s College, to keep her up-to -date about her activities. One note expressed how well-suited she was to military life and compared her Army training to her college experiences. She wrote honestly of her belief that her academic education had fallen short. She believed that the applicable education and training that she received in the Army better prepared her for life’s challenges than a liberal education focusing on “manners and culture,” both integral parts of a 1930s woman’s education. Her letter even commented that “there’s much in the education and handling of women that educators could learn to their profit from the Army.” Perhaps reflecting her feelings about her past college experiences, she found in the Army an impartial environment, where “neither money, social position, or graces count.” 

Senior Photograph and Notation from the 1939 Pine Needles Yearbook
While in Florida, she sent a letter to Miss Byrd describing her experience in the WAACs. She found it amusing that people believed that women could not thrive in the military life. She reported quite the contrary, writing that “Girls seem to take to the life like ducks to water!” She described her fellow WAACs working long hours at tedious and difficult jobs, with little rewards. Sometimes working over forty hours per week without overtime, Cox reported that they “belonged to Uncle Sam twenty-four hours a day, including Sunday!” She especially marveled at the positive attitudes and fun-loving spirits of her comrades. Proudly, she informed Miss Byrd that the WAACs were well respected by the men, who seemed surprised that the women could keep up with them. Cox closed her letter by stating that even with the hard work and long hours, “you won’t find a harder working or happier bunch of women in the world than WAACs.”

 Cox later attended Officer Training School, gaining the rank of First Lieutenant, and spent the last years of the war as a recruiter for the Army Airs Forces in Minneapolis, Minnesota and at an air field at a WAAC Detachment in Denver, Colorado. Like many women, she did not remain in the Army after the war. She left the services in 1946 and returned to her work as a cataloger in the library at the University of Utah and spent her later life, once again, in the role of a teacher in Bath, North Carolina.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mary Channing Coleman: Physical Education Pioneer

On March 25, 2015, a re-dedication ceremony was held on UNCG's campus to rename the former HHP Building in memory of Mary Channing Coleman, founding head of the Department of Physical Education. At the ceremony, acting chancellor Dana Dunn noted that "the work that Mary Channing Coleman did on this campus for 27 years not only changed the lives of countless Woman’s College students, but also improved the health and fitness of generations of North Carolinians."

Coleman was well known around campus
for her keen fashion sense
Mary Channing Coleman was born on July 11, 1883 in the small community of Ware Neck, Virginia. She was from a prominent Virginia family, and was reportedly a descendent of Pocahontas as well as two signers of the Declaration of Independence. Coleman was educated by private tutors until she went to Virginia's State Normal School for Women in Farmville (now Longwood University), where she received a diploma in 1900. She continued her education with degrees from Wellesley College (1910) and Columbia University (1917). She served as a professor of physical education at Winthrop College in South Carolina, assistant supervisor of physical education in the Detroit Public School System, professor of physical education at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, and instructor in physical education at Columbia University.

President Julius Foust himself recruited Coleman to North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) from her position at Columbia. Coleman was excited about the opportunity to train teachers, but she was also aware that the Greensboro campus had no gymnasium building. Still Foust was able to persuade her to come to NCCW as assistant to physical education director Fay Davenport. Davenport left in 1921, and Coleman was promoted to the role of head of the Department of Physical Education.

One of Coleman's primary goals as department head was to build the facilities for physical education on campus. The first structure build was a 50 x 90-foot outdoor gymnasium. The structure consisted of little more than a floor and a roof supported by posts, but served as a dedicated space for physical education. Soon thereafter, Rosenthal Gymnasium was built (Rosenthal Gym is now part of the Coleman Building). Completed in 1925, Rosenthal contained a swimming pool, basketball court, and other amenities. Campus legend states that, prior to the construction of Rosenthal, administrators gave Coleman a choice -- either a swimming pool or a gymnasium, but not both. Coleman wisely chose the swimming pool, knowing that a gym was so obviously needed that it would have to be completed shortly. Outdoor playing fields and tennis courts were added as well.

Coleman with her terrier Bonnie, who was said
to be "just as equally ferocious as Miss Coleman."
Responding in large part to a state legislature mandate that physical education be a required course in public schools, NCCW added to the curriculum a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in 1923. Coleman hand-picked her physical education majors, weeding out those interested only in sports along as well as others she saw as "academically unfit." She was known as a challenging and intimidating instructor, but she was devoted to her students. It was said that saying "I'm one of Miss Mary Channing Coleman's girls" could open professional doors.

In addition to her work as department head, Coleman was very active professionally. She wrote numerous articles for professional magazines and journals, and was a frequent speaker at many educational and civic group meetings. She was one of the founders and the first president of the North Carolina Physical Educators' Society, and she served as president of the Southern District Association of both the American Physical Education Association (APEA) and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). She was named Southern Regional Director of the American Folk Arts Association in recognition of her service in the collection and publication of folks songs, games, and dances of the South. And in 1935, she received the Honor Award Citation for Meritorious Service, the highest award of the AAHPER.

On October 1, 1947, Mary Channing Coleman taught her 8:00 am class, met with staff members in the Department of Physical Education, and left Rosenthal Gymnasium just before 11:00 am. While driving away from campus, Coleman suffered a heart attack, causing her car to crash into a five-ton gate pillar at the campus entrance on Spring Garden Street. She died soon after at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.

The 1948 Pine Needles yearbook was
dedicated in Coleman's memory.
Upon her death, a graduate of Coleman's physical education wrote in an Alumnae News tribute (November 1947) that "there are many things that we will always remember about Miss Coleman; her teaching which leads you to the very threshold of your own mind; her firm belief in the value of physical education; her rich cultural offerings; her eight o'clock (not any later) classes in the history and philosophy of physical education; ... and most important, her belief, trust, and confidence in her 'majors' and their ability. These things are a part of us because we were once a part of them."

In a meeting with physical education staff members the morning before her death, Coleman spoke of her plan for retirement at the end of the year and asked her staff members not to throw her a big party or hold a celebration in her honor. She simply wanted to "say goodbye and leave" -- which is exactly what she did. But her legacy remains both at UNCG and within the field of physical education.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Little Log Cabin on the Campus

The Log Cabin
It must have been an odd sight to see a log cabin on the back of a truck, being slowly moved off campus to its new home. In July of 1990, when the building was removed from its original location on the corner of Walker Avenue and Aycock Street, it had stood on The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s campus for fifty-five years.

Originally a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, it served a variety of purposes throughout the years. Initially, it was used by students for meetings and outings – even for small dances. Later, when the campus’ nine-hole golf course was completed, it became associated with the school’s golf program. After World War II, a faculty member and her family actually lived in the cabin, as post-war housing was hard to find. The interior was designed as one large room, but it was later divided into several smaller rooms when used as a residence.

Moving Day

The cabin served as offices for athletic staff from 1976, until The Health and Human Performance Building (HHP) opened in 1989. Eventually, the cabin was forced to make way for campus expansion. It had been slated for demolition when Eleanor Dare Taylor Kennedy (Class of 1945) stepped in and purchased the building from UNCG. She paid the additional sum of $9000 to have it moved to a lot on Walker Avenue - barely a half mile off campus.

Eleanor Dare Taylor Kennedy with Her Cabin

After almost twenty-five years in its current location, the little log cabin is barely noticeable next to the other residences on Walker Avenue. Few people recognize it as an early UNCG building, with a rich history of campus service.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pat Shore Clark (Class of 1958): A Distinguished Career in Public Service

Patricia Jane Shore of East Bend, North Carolina, earned her B.S. in Business Education from Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG) in 1958. She had intended to be a school teacher of business and commercial subjects and had already accepted a teaching job in Elkin, NC, when another opportunity arose that would change her career path.

Pat Shore with Senator Sam Ervin
In order to have her records updated at the Alumnae Office at WCUNC, Shore wrote in a letter to the Alumnae President that there had been a “slight change” in plans and that she was now working in Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr.’s Office in Washington, D.C. Shore’s job as secretary to Sen. Ervin quickly grew from “doing the invitations and engagements, to handling education legislation, then coordinating the other staff” in the office. She performed her duties as secretary so well from 1958-1973, that when Sen. Ervin’s top administrative assistant, Jack Spain retired, Sen. Ervin asked her to take the job. She “was so stunned” at first that she initially rejected the offer, but was soon persuaded to take on the task and in early 1973, she took the top job on Sen. Ervin’s staff. Sen. Ervin described Shore as “an exceedingly intelligent person,” who has “vast knowledge in the procedures of the federal government, a charming personality and is well qualified.” She was believed to have been the first women appointed to such a position by a Senator from any Southern state.

With Ervin’s retirement in December 1974, Shore’s employment also ended. The knowledge she had gained from working in a senator’s office helped her land her next job as a lobbyist for General Foods Corp. This turned out to be only a short refrain from public service.

Pat Shore during her time as Director of the NC Washington Office
Created in 1975 by Governor Jim Holshouser, the North Carolina Washington Office was a way for North Carolina to maintain a presence in Washington, D.C. outside of the legislative process of the congressional delegation. The Office was not simply a lobbying firm for the state, although that was certainly part of the mission. Its purpose was to keep track of legislation that would affect state government directly; keep tabs on federal programs of interest to the state and assist in applying for millions in federal grants; and act as a travel director and escort for state officials in Washington. The Office operated out of a four-room suite just two blocks from Capitol Hill. When Jim Hunt was elected Governor in 1977, he chose Pat Shore as Director of the Office. Shore served as the Director there from 1977-1984. Gov. Hunt said of the NC Washington Office under her leadership that, “[the office] has been extremely useful to the state in a number of ways, particularly in keeping a close working relationship among the state congressional delegation and the rest of the state’s leadership…That makes the North Carolina voice heard more strongly on Capitol Hill.” While there, Shore also helped to establish the organization Women Executives in State Government.

In 1985, Shore moved back to North Carolina and joined R.J. Reynolds Industries, Inc.’ governmental affairs office as group director for corporate public affairs. Though she returned to work in the private sector, she also continued to serve the public in many ways. She has served on UNCG’s Board of Trustees, received the North Carolina Council for Women’s Public Service Award in 1998, and served on the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Board of Trustees (where she continues to serve as Treasurer). In 2014, she was honored by the Foundation for her leadership -- and the award presented to her was also named for her.