Monday, March 28, 2016

Clara Booth Byrd: Alumnae Secretary

Clara Booth Byrd said it best when she described her role as alumnae secretary:
"My great desire is to do all in my power to hold the alumnae close to the college, keeping their shoulders to the wheel and doing everything possible to stand by and support our leaders in their task of building a great educational institution on this campus." 
"Perhaps the greatest thing we can do for our college is to build good will - good will among the alumnae and good will among the people at large.  I think it doesn't matter very much whether that good will is expressed through gifts of money for scholarships or other purposes, or through work with our representatives in the Legislature, or through interesting the best students to apply for admission, or simply through keeping up with what is going on and passing the good word to our friends - the important thing is that we express this thing of good will."
Clara Booth Byrd
Miss Byrd first came to the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG) in 1908 as a student.  In July 1913, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree. After entering the college, she quickly became involved in the administration.  She taught classes for the Commercial Department (1909-1922) under E.J. Forney and worked as an assistant to the college treasurer (1916-1922).

In 1922, Miss Byrd embarked on a new path at the college.  She became the Alumnae Secretary and editor for the Alumae News.  Over the next 25 years, Miss Byrd would revolutionize the role of the Alumnae Secretary, increasing the quality and consistency of documentation on the college's graduates and revamping the alumni publication.  She established a office to organize and hold alumnae records and serve as a station for local clubs and associations.  Miss Byrd was heavily involved in alumni and community organizations, serving as vice president of the American Alumni Council, first vice president and director of institutes for the North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs, and editor for the Council of Women in Education.  She was also a member of the Guilford Battle Chapter of the DAR, the Historical Museum, Friends of the Public Library, the YWCA, and other local church societies. 

Her crowning achievement as Alumae Secretary was realized with the opening of the Alumnae House (now Alumni House) in 1937.  The building was designed by Penrose V. Stout of Bronxville, New York, and modeled after Homewood in Baltimore, Maryland.  Miss Byrd, along with President Foust, worked tirelessly to solicit donations from alumni and secure a appropriations from the North Carolina Legislature.  The Great Depression temporarily halted plans for construction, but with the aid of WPA workers, the building become reality.

Miss Byrd on the steps of the Alumnae House

In 1947, Miss Byrd resigned from her position at the college, but she continued to be an active member of the community.  She traveled throughout state, speaking to clubs and associations on various topics.  She became the founder and first president of the Historical Book Club, where she served for eighteen years (1947-1965).  During the late 1960s, she served as the president of the Friends of the Walter Clinton Jackson Library (now Friends of the University Libraries.

Miss Byrd passed away on May 22, 1985.  Her memorial was held at the Alumni House.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eloise Lewis: Founding Dean of UNCG's School of Nursing

Eloise Patricia Rallings Lewis was born on April 22, 1920 in Pageland, South Carolina, the fourth daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J. Monroe Rallings, a country medical practitioner and a college speech teacher. She graduated from Pageland High School in 1936. Lewis attended Winthrop College (now Winthrop University) in Rock Hill, South Carolina, for two years, and then transferred in 1938 to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated in 1941 from their hospital school program.

After her graduation from Vanderbilt, Lewis moved immediately into the world of education, serving on the faculty of the Women’s Medical College School of Nursing in Philadelphia from 1941 until 1943. From 1943 to 1945, she was an instructor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Lewis in 1945
In the Spring of 1945, however, Lewis left academia to join the Army Nurse Corps. After attending basic training at Fort Lee in Virginia, she became the assistant director of the Cadet Nurse Corps at the Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, which was a primary burn and blind center. She was discharged in December 1945 as a first lieutenant.

After leaving the Army Nurse Corps, Lewis returned to teaching, serving on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania from 1946 until 1952. She also earned her master’s degree in education from Penn in 1951. In 1953, she became a charter member of the faculty at the School of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill. While teaching at Chapel Hill, she also earned a doctorate in education at Duke University in 1963.

At this same time, discussions began about the need for a second school of nursing in the state -- one that would be placed at UNCG. In 1964, the North Carolina legislature passed the “New Nurse Practice Act,” which laid the groundwork for the establishment of a baccalaureate in nursing degree at UNCG. The following year, on June 5, 1965, Governor Dan K. Moore, chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees, pronounced the appropriation of monies for a four year program in nursing at UNCG. Eight months later on February 1, 1966, Eloise Lewis left Chapel Hill to become the first dean of the newly-created School of Nursing at UNCG.

Upon Lewis's arrival, UNCG's new School of Nursing was headquartered in the basement of the campus infirmary building – one of the least desirable campus locations. Lewis purposefully chose this spot for the School as it proved the most promising base from which to negotiate construction of a new building. Her assumptions were correct, and in 1969, the university opened the new School of Nursing building on McIver Street (now the Moore Building).

Under Lewis's leadership, the School of Nursing grew quickly. On April 27, 1970, the School of Nursing was accredited by the National League of Nursing. The following month, the first class of 18 students completes the requirements for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. The School was notified on July 30 that all graduates passed the State Board Examinations and were licensed to practice as registered nurses.

During her time as dean, Lewis also continued to be very active within the UNCG community and in various professional organizations. In 1976, she won the prestigious O Max Gardner award for excellence in teaching. She served as president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing from 1978 to 1980 and was the first editor of the Journal of Professional Nursing in the mid-1980s. She was also very active with hospice care in Greensboro and received numerous awards for her contributions to the nursing field, including four honorary degrees.

Lewis retired from her role as the founding dean of the School of Nursing in 1985 after holding the position for 19 years. She passed away in 1999. In 2008, she was inducted into the North Carolina Nursing Association's Hall of Fame. Upon her induction, a colleague noted, "Dean Lewis affected the lives of countless nursing students who have since graduated and become leaders in nursing not only in NC but around the world. I could go on listing hundreds of nurses that came through the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing who to this day feel a common bond and connection because they were touched by Dean Lewis."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw: Noted Suffragist and Namesake of UNCG Dormitory

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919)
Shaw Residence Hall, located on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), is one of the few buildings not named in honor of someone officially associated with the University. Yet, the connection between the college and the noted suffragist, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, was an important one. She would ultimately leave the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) significant scholarship funds in her will, and the college would name a dormitory in Shaw’s honor.

A native of England, Anna Howard Shaw immigrated to the United States with her family in 1847. She spent much of her childhood with her mother and four young siblings in the wilderness of Michigan, where her father had purchased a 360-acre tract of land and sent his wife and children to live there alone. At fifteen, Shaw became a school teacher, but felt that her true calling was to be a preacher. While her chosen field met strong disapproval from her family and friends, she persevered and earned her own way through Albion College in Michigan and Boston University School of Theology. Shaw was the only woman in her graduating class. In 1880, she was ordained as the first female minister in the Methodist Protestant Church. She continued her education, earning a medical degree from Boston University in 1886. Choosing not to practice medicine, Shaw became increasingly involved with the Temperance and Suffrage Movements, developing a strong friendship with women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony. Shaw was elected president of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1904, and was appointed the Chairman of the Women’s Committee of the United States Council of National Defense during World War I.

Shaw at Commencement 1919
It was political science professor, Harriet Elliott, who first extended an invitation to Shaw to speak at the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG). The two women met at a lecture at Columbia University and their personal interest in suffrage and women’s rights led to a fast friendship. During these politically active years, State Normal was fortunate to have several strong suffrage advocates speak to the student body. Shaw spoke at the school on three occasions between 1917 - 1919. She felt especially close to the State Normal girls, stating that the spirit of the school was “inspiring and unique.”

In spring 1919, the senior class requested that Shaw speak at their graduation. The Class of 1919 considered themselves the “wartime class,” as their college years overlapped the time that the United States was involved in World War I. The students were anxious to hear Shaw’s vision the post-war world. Interrupting a national tour promoting the League of Nations, an ailing Shaw traveled down from Washington to speak at the college’s commencement. In her address, Shaw commended the young students for their wartime campus mobilization efforts and asked that they redefine their post-war roles as moral leaders for the peace. She understood that the true legacy of the war was this generation of young women that would shortly gain the vote and become more politically active than at any other time in American history. At the commencement exercises, college president, Julius Foust, announced that the new campus dormitory would be named in Shaw’s honor. She would die only two months later on July 2, 1919, a year before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote.
Shaw Residence Hall, designed by Harry Barton, opened in 1919

Monday, March 7, 2016

Laura Hill Coit: “the best loved member of the faculty”

Almost fifty years after Laura Hill Coit first stepped on campus of the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), she retired from her position as secretary of the college and administrative assistant to the president. Physically and emotionally stretched beyond her health, she spent several years seeking treatment at a Philadelphia hospital before returning to North Carolina where she lived with her sister, Johnsie, until her death in 1944.

Laura Coit, Class of 1896
Coit’s dream had been to become a missionary. She was from a staunch Presbyterian family who was very committed to charitable work as well as education. Coit was one of the first students to attend the State Normal. After earning her first degree at Mitchell College, she sought an additional degree in science. She graduated from State Normal in 1896 and remained at the college to teach education, mathematics, and English. Although she had planned to join her brother, Robert, in missionary service in Korea directly after graduation, Coit returned to the State Normal in 1901 as the administrative assistant to the college president, Charles Duncan McIver. He increasingly depended on her to take on the responsibilities of running the school. In fact, Julius Foust, the college’s second in command, claimed that Coit had served as the unofficial vice president during the early years. McIver’s dependence on her was especially evident when in September of 1906, after Coit had tendered her resignation to travel to Korea, McIver hastened to her family home in Salisbury, North Carolina, to persuade her not to go. Days later McIver was dead, succumbing to a stroke on a train traveling home from Raleigh. After McIver’s sudden death in 1906, Coit decided to remain at the college to assist Julius Foust in his role as the new college president, and remained in that position for the next forty years. Foust found her “invaluable,” and in 1922 she was made a faculty member.

Charles Duncan McIver and the Coit family, 1906
Her gentle cheerful demeanor made her a friendly and approachable friend to new students. The young women remembered not only her pleasant greetings, but also her poise and control, characteristics that she proved during the fire in the Brick Dormitory in 1904 when she kept calm during the ensuing confusion. Coit also helped with student admissions, writing each girl to welcome her before they came to campus. She was known for not forgetting a name or a face, and continued to keep in touch with many students after they graduated. It is thought that she helped over 14,000 students’ transition to college life. The students adored her, and showed their appreciation by dedicating their campus yearbook to her twice. She was an active member of the Alumnae Association, serving as secretary-treasurer for nine years, president twice, and honorary president of the organization in 1922. In 1916, Coit was given a gold watch and chain, as well as a chatelaine pin, for her service in the Alumnae Association.

In the 1930s, Coit was put in charge of the Student Loan Fund, which allowed the students to borrow $250 during their time at the college. She not only managed the Fund, she also taught many of the young women to keep their finances. The Fund was subsequently named for her.

Laura Coit at her desk
Although she did not pursue her life as a missionary, she remained very involved in the Presbyterian Church, serving as the president of the Emma Gray Missionary Society and in various positions with the campus Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).  Coit was able to take a six month leave of absence in 1919 to visit her brother, who was serving as a missionary in Korea. On hearing of her trip, alumnae, faculty, and students sent her gifts and monetary donations.

Her health began to decline in the mid-1930s, and she officially retired in 1939. Her extensive medical care was quite expensive and her savings always seemed to go to the less fortunate. To help her pay the staggering medical costs, President Foust and Chancellor Jackson arranged for financial assistance for Coit. In July of 1939, the college changed the name of East Dormitory to Laura Coit Residence Hall to honor her. In the days after her death, Chancellor Jackson praised her decades of service to the school, declaring  that she had been “the best loved member of the faculty.”