Monday, June 27, 2016

“Wanted – A College Song”

In November of 1908, it was decided that State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) should have a school song. The small woman’s college opened its doors in 1892, and although class songs, cheers, and poems were popular with the students, the school did not have an official Alma Mater. An alumnae committee was established to select a song and decided to hold a competition, which was publicized in the State Normal Magazine. In an announcement titled, “Wanted – A College Song,” the committee offered a prize of “ten dollars in gold” to the person writing a song that best represented the “spirit of the college.” Words could be adapted to an established song, or an original composition could be submitted, in which cases “musical critics” would be called in as judges.

Laura Weill

Although there was no immediate response to the competition, Wilmington native, Laura Weill (Class of 1910), did submit a song shortly before her graduation.  Incorporating a tune by W. A. White that she discovered in an anthology of college songs, Weill penned “The College Song,” with a focus on loyalty and the school’s devotion to service. Service had always been an important part of State Normal’s mission, but it was the motto of the Class of 1910 and they “willed it” to the college during graduation. It was during the May 1910 Commencement ceremony that the song was first performed, and was thereafter incorporated into the college handbook and other campus publications, including “Twenty-Five Songs for Community Singing,” which included patriotic songs such as “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Old North State,” as well as folk tunes like “Barbara Allen” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” Belle Kornegay (Class of 1918) later arranged the composition for sheet music.

"The College Song" Score

After the college became co-educational in 1963, there was discussion that the song should be replaced with a more relevant choice. The argument came up again in the early 1980s. Ultimately, it was decided that Weill’s song would be kept, although the words would be adapted to include, “your sons and daughters” and “university,” reflecting the more diverse student body. The renamed “The University Song,” is still played at Commencement and other university events.

The words, written by Laura Weill, are as follows:

We raise our voices; let them swell
In a chorus loud and strong;
The rolling hills send back the sound
Of our triumphant song.
For in one great unbroken band
With loyal hearts and true,
Your daughters stand, and hand in hand
Sing college dear to you.

Our college days run swiftly by
And all too soon we part;
But in the years that are to come
Deep graven on each heart
Our motto, “Service,” will remain,
And service we will do,
And as we serve, our hears will turn,
O college dear, to you.

Dear Alma Mater, strong and great,
We never shall forget
The gratitude we owe to you—
A never-ending debt.
All honor to your name we give,
And love we pledge anew,
Unfailing loyalty we bring,
O college dear, to you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Dr. Albert Keister and the Debate over Evolution

Dr. Albert S. Keister arrived at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) in 1924, halfway through completing his PhD in economics at the University of Chicago (a degree he completed in 1927). Upon his hiring, he taught courses in sociology and political science, as the school had no formal economics department. He also taught a number of extension classes around the state of North Carolina. It was in one of those extension classes in 1925 that Keister became embroiled in the debate over evolution that was sweeping the country.

Keister, from the 1945 Pine Needles yearbook
On January 25, 1925 in Charlotte, Keister taught an extension class in sociology. At one point during the class, according to a letter written by Keister in 1963 after being asked about the incident, a student asked Keister "what a belief in evolution did to one who believed in the Bible?" Keister responded that accepting evolution "forced the person to hold that account of creation in the Book of Genesis was not literally true but only the attempt of a people to explain a mystery of life in a pre-scientific age, hence a form of mythology." He also expressed that he "admired a teacher who was brave enough to speak plainly on both sides of the question."

In a January 19, 1925, NCCW vice president Walter Clinton Jackson wrote a report on his understanding of the "incident" for president Julius Foust. In it, he highlights another point of controversy related to Keister's class. In addition to being asked about evolution, Keister was asked his opinion on "the Negro." He elicited further disdain from members of his class by stating that 'he would have considered it an honor to have had Booker Washington dine with his family in his home." This statement is rarely mentioned in contemporary newspaper accounts about Keister.

But there were many editorials and articles written about Keister and his statements on evolution. President Foust received letters from citizens throughout North Carolina, some supporting Keister and others demanding for his immediate dismissal. On February 6, 1925, the Parent-Teachers' Association of Laurinburg (NC) issued a formal petition calling for Keister's firing. They also called for the immediate halt to "teaching that evolutionary hypothesis or any other unproven theory is a settled fact, and especially using such unproven theories as a criterion to establish the correctness or falsity of the truths of the Scripture and thus undermine the faith of our girls, yet too immature to properly think through these matters themselves." The Presbyterian Ministers' Association of Charlotte followed suit on February 16, charging Keister with "having made attack upon foundation principles of the security of our social and moral welfare and highly repugnant to the Anglo-Saxon people that compose this Commonwealth."

The beginning of one of the editorials calling for Keister's firing. This is from
the January 14, 1925, issue of the Charlotte Observer. This editorial was
written by Al Fairbrother of Greensboro. 
The uproar continued and on March 10, Keister broke his silence with an official statement sent to Foust. Keister wrote, "it has come to my attention that various person throughout the state charge me with being an atheist, an infidel, and an unbeliever in the Bible." He asked Foust to "interview any of my students regarding the spirit of my instruction," stating that he leads his students (as well as his own children) "to think what Jesus' way of life points to." He concluded, "if I were an atheist and a destroyer of the faith, is it likely that I would be serving as a teacher for the Men's Bible Class of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant?"

Ultimately, Foust worked behind the scenes to convince the College's Board of Directors that, in spite of the challenges, Keister should remain. In an April 1 letter to Judge J.D. Murphy of Asheville, Foust wrote that he considered Keister "one of the best men fundamentally whom I have ever met." He added, "I know the phrase 'academic freedom' has been much overworked, but the board of directors might discharge almost every member of the faculty and attempt to reorganize the college to meet what some people in the state are demanding ... The only solution to this whole matter from the standpoint of some people is to abolish all colleges and schools in North Carolina and have an educated clergy who would do all the thinking for the people. We can not build at this place a great college based on fear, nor can we grow a great democracy in North Carolina based on timidity." Ultimately, the Board chose simply not to act on the calls for Keister's removal.

For his part, Keister later went on to serve on the Greensboro City Council from 1932 to 1938. During World War II, he served on the National Labor Relations Board. He also was a director of the Gate City Savings and Loan Association and the North Carolina National Band. he served as president of the Southern Economics Association. And, throughout his life, he remained an active member of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, where he headed their Campus Christian Life Committee following his retirement from the Woman's College in 1956. This Committee was responsible for building the Presbyterian Student Center on the WC campus. Keister died in 1974 at the age of 86 after a battle with Parkinson's Disease.

Monday, June 13, 2016

O. Max Gardner Award

The O. Max Gardner Award is the highest faculty honor awarded by the North Carolina Board of Governors and has been given annually since 1949. It is named after Oliver Max Gardner (1882-1947) who was the Democratic Governor of the state from 1929-1933. One of the pinnacle achievement of his tenure as governor was the consolidation of the University of North Carolina, State College, and the North Carolina College for Women in 1931. The Consolidation Act was designed to reduce the economic costs during the Great Depression and to reduce duplication of courses and programs. At the urging of Gardner, Frank Graham was appointed the President of the newly created Consolidated University System. Along with serving as a politician, Gardner was a businessman and a lawyer.

Oliver Max Gardner
Gardner continued to be a strong supporter of the University system after his death. In his will, he stipulated that that the Board of Trustees of the Consolidated University of North Carolina “shall pay annually the net income from a trust fund to that member of the faculty of the Consolidated University of North Carolina, who during the current scholastic year, has made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” Each year, one nomination is submitted by the chancellors and presidents of each of the 16 schools within the UNC system to Oliver Max Gardner Award committee. Winners of the award are announced at the April meeting of the UNC Board of Governors and receive a cash prize of $20,000.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) has had several winners since the award was first given, including the first recipient Louise B. Alexander who was a professor in the Department of History and Political Science. Other notable UNCG award winners have included Mereb Mossman (1959), Randall Jarrell (1962), and Fred Chappell (1986). The Office of the Provost is responsible for managing the nomination process within the University and the selected UNCG nominee receives a $1000 award. The 2016 nominee was Dr. Deb Cassisdy who is a professor of Human Development and Family Studies. She was selected for her significant contributions to the field of early childhood education.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A "Most Unfortunate Experience:" Cars on Campus in 1928

The 1928 Student Handbook, which was distributed to all students attending the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG), clearly listed the regulations that heavily impacted student life on campus. From mandating quiet hours to setting curfews to limiting students’ ability to travel off campus, these regulations were enforced by the Student Government Association along with the campus administration. One section of the regulations made clear the rules regarding riding in cars. Section VI, Rule 1 stated that “no student may ride at any time without permission from her Counselor, and a riding permission from her parents or guardian.” Further rules in Section VI of the regulations stated that “no student may keep a car on campus except Seniors during commencement” and that “no student may drive a car in Greensboro except when the car belongs to her immediate family.”

College Avenue (circa 1930) with a few cars that definitely didn't belong to students
In February 1928, an incident occurred which resulted in six NCCW students coming before the Student Government Association with charges of violating these regulations. According to the investigation that was carried out by SGA and a May 3 letter from President Julius Foust, six students pooled their money and purchased a “Ford machine” (likely a Model T or possibly a new Model A). They “hid it somewhere in Greensboro, taking rides occasionally in it without the consent or knowledge of the authorities of the college.” They were able to hide their automobile ownership for an undisclosed period of time.

It was only when they were in involved in an accident that their rule-breaking was discovered. On February 9, 1928, the students were travelling outside of Greensboro when they were involved in a serious wreck. According to a February 14 letter from college Vice President Walter Clinton Jackson to the mother of one of the students involved, “five of the girls were in the car on a road some seventeen or eighteen miles from Greensboro when they lost control of the car while going at high speed and it crashed into a telephone pole … One of the girls was rather seriously injured, and all of them I understand were shocked and more or less shaken up. It was only by a miracle that any of them escaped fatal injury” (side note: none of the reports mention alcohol being a factor and, as this was at the height of Prohibition, that certainly would have caused additional scandal).

President Julius Foust
The Student Government deliberated about their wrongdoings and decided to impose a thirty-day suspension for all of the student involved. But President Foust determined that their offense warranted a greater punishment. He surveyed the faculty members who worked with the students, asking them to provide him with a statement addressing each of the students’ “ability, her attitude towards her work with you, the character of work she has been doing for you, and whether or not she can probably or possibly pass the semester’s work under you if she is permitted to return to the college at the end of a month’s suspension.” In regards to one of the students involved, Professor J.C. Laird of the Department of Romance Languages replied, “I have thought that she was rather indifferent … To be perfectly frank, she is a girl that I have wondered about and haven’t been able to make out or understand.”

In the end, the five students who were actually involved in the wreck were suspended for the remainder of the semester. The sixth student who was a co-owner of the car but was not present for the accident was allowed to return to campus after the thirty days. Vice President Jackson wrote to the parents of the suspended students on March 8, stating “the whole incident is most distressing to him [President Foust] and also to me, and our sympathies are all with you and your daughter in this serious trouble, but we have a responsibility to the college that we cannot overlook. We hope that this most unfortunate experience will in the end make her a stronger and better woman that she otherwise could have been.”