Monday, May 30, 2016

Strolling on College Avenue

For many visitors, students, and faculty at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), the first signs of spring are always found with the flowering of trees that line College Avenue.  Throughout the institution’s founding and growth, College Ave. has served as an important traffic route and reference point.  Yet, its current configuration of broad sidewalks, colorful plantings, and decorative brick pavers, is the result of a year-long beautification project that started in 2003.  This project would transform a half mile long street into a pedestrian corridor.

Until the 2003 construction project, College Avenue had always functioned as UNCG’s “Main Street.”  At the founding of the school in 1892, the original campus buildings and the home of the College President Charles McIver were built along the contours of the unpaved roadway.  Yet, it was the vision of landscape architect Warren Henry Manning that transformed College Ave.  He envisioned a grand boulevard extending from the railroad tracks to the entrance of Peabody Park.  Manning proposed building faculty housing along College Ave. south of Spring Garden Street and academic buildings north of Spring Garden Street.  With the embrace of this design vision, the school’s rapid expansion and post-World War I building boom was mainly focused on both sides of College Ave.  Student dormitories, academic buildings, and a library were constructed to face the roadway.

As a result of Manning’s plan, the school’s east and west campuses were divided by College Ave.  For safety reasons, the school built a pedestrian overpass for students to cross College Ave. and avoid car traffic.  The first bridge was made of wood and built in the early 1900s.  The wooden structure was eventually replaced with an iron over-pass.  Finally, a concrete bridge was built in 1928.  With the construction of Jackson Library and the closing of Walker Avenue in 1950, the concrete overpass was torn down.  Students now had to cross the busy street at designated cross walks.

In 2000, a $3.1 billion UNC bond referendum was passed by the citizens of North Carolina.  UNCG was allocated $160 million dollars.  These monies were intended to transform the campus and prepare it to meet the educational demands of the 21st century.  From the funds allocated to UNCG, a $6.5 million project was approved to transform College Ave. into pedestrian-friendly space and to effectively reconnect the east and west portions of the campus. 

The project would encompass an area from Spring Garden Street to the Music Building on West Market Street.  Work began in 2003 and College Ave. was closed to traffic.  The existing sidewalks and pavement were removed.  When students returned for the 2003 fall term, they encountered huge piles of concrete and heavy machinery.  Temporary walkways were built to move students through the construction zone.  As construction progressed, work was repeatedly delayed as a result of heavy rain and several unexpected “discoveries.”  Workers were forced to reroute a water main and work around a large electric line.  Additionally, contractors found bridge abutments that had been used in supporting the Walker Ave. Bridge.  Despite these delays, work did move forward on the installation of new lighting and sidewalks, the planting of new trees and shrubs, and the building of ADA accessible pedestrian walkways.  In their efforts to fully connect the campus, the project also included the construction of a new bridge through the Peabody Park area of campus.  Thus, students would now be able to easily walk from Spring Garden Street to the Music Building.

With the completion of the project in late 2003, traffic was now entirely rerouted through the University.  The new walkway was open to cars and trucks only on “move-in” and “move-out” days.  For the rest of the year, College Ave. was intended to be a welcoming pedestrian-friendly space.  It remains so today.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Celeste Ulrich: Dog Trainer and Professor of Physical Education

Dr. Celeste Ulrich, long time professor of physical education at UNCG, was also known for her dog training skills.  Several newspaper articles cited her expertise with man's best friend and her love for dogs, particularly her favorite Collie, "Rory."  But there's much more to the story of Dr. Ulrich...

Dr. Celeste Ulrich, c. 1956
Celeste Ulrich was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1924.  She came to the Woman's College (now UNCG) as a student in the Physical Education program in 1942, the height of WWII.  In an oral history interview, Dr. Ulrich recalled the effects of the war on the students at Woman's College.
"We had, at that time, there was only one telephone to every dormitory and so that therefore the students took turns in manning the telephone and when a telephone call came in to a specific girl, you had to call over the loudspeaker and announce, “Mary Jones, you have a call down here.” And anytime that there was a phone called—phone calls were not made in that time just for fun and you knew that something terrible had happened and one of my poignant memories was the fact that as you called up over the amplifier to hear an absolute scream of horror from the girl as they say, “Mary Jones, you  3 have a telephone call.” And then to hear this shriek knowing then it probably announced the death of somebody."
In addition to her memories of WWII, Dr. Ulrich recalled all of the wonderful faculty on campus. She was especially fond of her experiences with Harriet Elliott who served as Chair of Woman's Division of the War Finance Committee.  Through Dr. Elliott, Celeste met Eleanor Roosevelt during one of the First Lady's visits to campus.  Dr. Ulrich was also a student of Mary Channing Coleman, first head of the Physical Education Department at Woman's College.  According to Dr. Ulrich, Miss Coleman "brooked no nonsense. When we first arrived she told us—she looked at us and said to us, “Three fourths of you will never graduate from my course.” She said, “If you survive, you are going be second to none.”"

Dr. Ulrich graduated from Woman's College in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education.  She received her M.A. from UNC - Chapel Hill in 1948 and a Ph.D in Physical Education from University of Southern California in 1956.

Dr. Ulrich returned to the Woman's College as faculty in 1956. She was an active member of many professional organizations, including the North Carolina Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (NCAHPER), where she served as Chairman of the Therapeutics Section and Vice President of the Health Division; The American Associations for Health, Physical Education and Recreation; The Southern and National Associations for Physical Education of College Women; and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Throughout her career, Dr. Ulrich became involved with issues dealing with women's rights and sports. She was named president of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER) in 1976.  As president, she pursued an effort "to restore some sanity in amateur sports - particularly at the collegiate level."  She stated, "there are literally hundreds of colleges where athletics have been priced beyond where anybody can handle it, where the entertainment element in collegiate athletics has become dominant over the educational element...I would like to see sports become educational again." A point of discussion which is still raised today.

In 1977, she received the 1st distinguished alumni award presented by the UNCG School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, where she was lauded as a teacher, a speaker, a writer, and a professional leader.  In 1979, Dr. Ulrich left UNCG to become the Dean of the College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Oregon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The University Marshals

Each spring, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) inducts a select group of students into the University Marshals, a campus service organization recognizing the academic excellence and the exemplary service record of 100 rising Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Required to have completed thirty semester hours and have least a 3.65 GPA, the Marshals serve as ambassadors at graduation ceremonies and other important campus events.

1895 - 1896 Marshals
Established in 1893, only a year after the opening of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG), the Marshals were originally chosen by the college’s literary societies. These societies were primarily social organizations, open to the student body, which also held debates and dramatic presentations. An important part of campus life, the State Normal had two literary societies in these early years; the Adelphian and the Cornelian. State Normal’s first president, Charles Duncan McIver, decided that the Marshals would be selected from only the Junior class, and would be students who had shown academic excellence and good conduct. He requested that each society elect five members who best represented the college, with the Chief Marshal being chosen by one society, alternating between the two groups each year.

1923 Marshal
In 1910, a Student Council was created as an advisory group to the college administration. Nominated by the literary societies, the Council was comprised of three students from each class, except the senior class, which had four, including the Chief Marshal who was president of the Council. This group provided a means of communication between the college administration and the student body and was charged with improving college life. When the Dikean and Aletheian societies were added during the next several decades, elected members were divided between the four groups. In the late 1930s, it was decided that each society would elect five senior Marshals and three junior marshals to meet the needs of the increasing numbers at college functions.

From the organization's beginnings, the members had a certain required dress. White dresses and long sashes were worn by the girls with white regalia and their class numbers or a background of their class colors, appearing by the 1920s. The satin class numerals, in the students’ class colors, contained special notes from her friends and family. The late 1930s classes determined that the regalia would be created and funded by each society, which would rent them to the Marshals.

Student Marshal, 1950-1951 Wearing Sash and Numerals
The group underwent significant changes when the literary societies disbanded in 1953, and the selection process turned to a popular vote. The Chief Marshal was elected by the student body based on “scholarship, charm, and service,” and her thirty-two additional “assistants” were chosen from the incoming junior and senior classes. After the college became co-educational in 1963, male students were eligible to join the Marshals. The organization selected Juniors to serve a two-year term and the Chief Marshal was elected from the Senior class. By the 1980s, the group had become the “University Marshals,” who were chosen from among the Junior and Senior class for their academic excellence. The University Marshals are currently overseen by the Division of Student Affairs and remain one of the most prestigious groups on campus. They continue to serve as ambassadors for the university and role models for the student body.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Class of 1907 Minerva Statue

The oldest statue on campus was a plaster statue of Minerva, the school’s patron goddess and symbol. That statue was a gift of the Class of 1907 and stood prominently in the entrance hall of the Student’s Building from 1908 to 1950, when the building was razed. The Class of 1907 Minerva statue was a type of plaster sculpture popular in the late 1800s-early 1900s and made from molds taken directly from the original ancient marble statue. The statue from which the cast was taken is known as the Minerva Giustiniani (MC 278), and is located in the Braccio Nuovo of the Musei Capitolini in Rome, Italy. This original statue is a Roman copy of a no longer extant Greek statue of Athena, thought to have been sculpted in the 5th century BC.

Minerva Giustiniani, on left; Class of 1907 Minerva, on right
Although the Minerva/Athena issue has been discussed before, it is enlightening to see how the history of talking about art may have also influenced the identification of Minerva as Athena. It seems that many who studied sculpture retrospectively, that is, far after the sculptures had been made, were more familiar with Roman history than Greek and so described many Greek sculptures in terms of Roman gods and goddess.* This perhaps helps to understand why McIver chose Minerva, rather than Athena, as the symbol for our school.

1911 Caproni Brothers catalog, page 12

We do not know exactly who made our plaster statue of Minerva, but there were several companies who produced such statues and one of the most well-regarded was Caproni Brothers in Boston. A 1911 catalog from Caproni Brothers shows on page 12, their Minerva Giustiniani plaster statue sold for $100 (shipping excluded), which would be about $2,500 today, adjusted for inflation.

Plaster statues such as this were a common sight in universities, colleges, schools, and museums in the late 1800s and early 1900s and companies like Caproni Brothers supplied complete museums-worth of statues to institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Cornell Universities, as well as the University of Texas, which still has one of the largest collections of statues of this kind. Eventually, around the 1930s and 1940s, plasters casts began to fall out of favor and many collections were sold off, dismantled, or destroyed.

The Blanton Museum of Art (The University of Texas at Austin) has a great presentation about plaster cast statues, how they were made, why they were acquired, and how they were used at the height of their popularity. Check it out!

*"...most antiquarians before Winckelmann (1717-1767) had been far more familiar with Roman than with Greek history and literature, and a majority of the most admired antique statues had therefore been given Roman titles." Haskell and Penny, Taste and the Antique, The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, Yale University Press, 1981

The 1911 Caproni Brothers catalog can be viewed online.

Photo of the Minerva Giustiniani is from By Tetraktys (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 2, 2016

Building a "Commencement House"

In May 1958, a beautiful new home opened in Greensboro's Irving Park area at 2207 North Elm Street. The tri-level structure, constructed of cypress and previously-used brick - contained approximately 2350 square feet of enclosed living space plus a 484 square foot double carport, a 248 square foot storage and heating room, a balcony, and a terrace. But this wasn't just any new home ... it was the 1958 Commencement House. It was the product of a unique collaboration at Woman's College (now UNCG) that brought practicing architects, builders, and other professionals into the classroom to work with WC students on this yearlong project.

Students at groundbreaking for the 1958 Commencement House
Twenty-three Woman's College students participated in the Commencement House project. Twenty were undergraduates majoring in either art/residential design or home economics. The remaining three participants were graduate students in home economics. Their work was supervised by local architect and Woman’s College part-time Art Department instructor, Edward Loewenstein. Loewenstein was a well known and well respected architect whose firm Loewenstein, Atkins, and Associates designed Coleman Gymnasium on the WC campus in the early 1950s.

During the construction project, each student in the class was responsible for one phase of the design process and one phase of the specifications and construction supervision process. These phases included building design, utilities, furniture selection and arrangement, and more. Eugene Gulledge, president of Superior Construction Corporation in Greensboro, served as the contractor for the home and acted as the client.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Commencement House
Students were asked to plan the home to have a sales price "in the $30,000 range" (approximately $250,000 today). The house was required to include an entrance foyer, a formal living room, a family room, a separate dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms, at least two baths, and a garage. Additionally, students were told that "while the house should contain new and pioneering ideas of layout and design, it should not be so radical as to make it unmarketable."

The grand opening and dedication of the Commencement House on May 29, 1958, was an event that received local and national attention. It was covered by WUNC-TV and local newspapers. Mrs. Martha Blakeney Hodges (Class of 1918 and wife of North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges) formally opened the home during the dedication ceremony. During the opening event, the home was also certified by the Duke Power Company for a Gold Medallion, the nation's highest award for electrical excellence.

Photo of the Commencement House from McCall's magazine, November 1958
Additional open house events to allow the public to see inside the home were held during the weekends of June 7-8 and June-14-15. The Commencement House received national attention when it was featured in the November 1958 issue of McCall's magazine.