Monday, July 25, 2016

Louise Brevard Alexander: Raising “Fewer Dahlias and A Lot More Hell”

Louise Brevard Alexander was a woman ahead of her time. A strong advocate of suffrage and of women’s education, Alexander would make her mark in North Carolina as a lawyer, a judge, and an educator. Described as scholarly, conscientious, dynamic, and inspiring, she became one of the most popular teachers at Woman’s College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) from her arrival in 1935 until her retirement in 1957. Hired to replace her friend, Harriet Elliott, who had been appointed to the staff of the Democratic National Committee, Alexander taught history and political science to young women for the next two decades.

Louise Alexander
 Louise Alexander and Harriet Elliott had been fast friends since they arrived in Greensboro in the early 1900s. Bonding over their devotion politics and to the Suffrage Movement, they were active in the League for Women Voters and tireless advocates for the 19th Amendment supporting women’s right to vote. Alexander’s captivating speaking style rallied the women of North Carolina to endorse the ratification of the proposed amendment, declaring “Raise fewer Dahlias, and a lot more hell! The place is here, the time is now. The opportunity is yours. It is not the time for women to be alone. They must work together.”
Alexander remained outspoken about world politics, and her activism continued through the years of World War II. Attempting to give a historical background for understanding national and world events, she taught courses in political science and history to her students and gave presentations to the community. She also dispersed recruitment information to young women on campus who might be interested in joining the military. Alexander became known at the college and in the community as a “Human Reference Library” for legal issues as well as national and international political affairs

Epicurean Club, Presbyterian College, 1907
 Her interest in government and political activism was a natural progression of her early life and career choices. Born in 1887 in Hickory, North Carolina, she graduated from Presbyterian College (now Queen’s College) in Charlotte, where she was the president of the student body, the president of her literary society, the editor of the yearbook, the captain of the Daddy Rabbit Tennis Team, and a member of many clubs, including the Epicureans. After graduating from Presbyterian College in 1907, Alexander pursued graduate studies at the University of Tennessee before taking a faculty position at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk. In 1911, she moved to Greensboro to teach history, civics, and economics at Greensboro Senior High School (now Grimsley High School).

Deciding that she needed to expand her horizons, Alexander changed the course of her life by deciding to attend law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After being admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1920, she returned to Greensboro as the first woman lawyer in Guilford County. She was appointed as Clerk of Municipal Court in 1923 and served concurrently as juvenile court judge until 1935, when she began her tenure as an extraordinarily popular political science professor at Woman’s College. She continued her interest in politics for the rest of her life. Alexander and Harriet Elliott, both influential forces in the Democratic Party, had a standing dinner date for the next thirty years, listening to the election night returns on the radio.

Presbyterian College, Class of 1907
Known for her love of reading, music, cooking, baseball, but especially for her chief hobby of “dogs, dogs, and more dogs," Alexander was a favorite among the students at Woman’s College. Referred to as “Miss Alex,” she made her classes “a lively experience of the living past in which leaders and people live again in their political struggles and aspirations for freedom and democracy.” Her courses were extremely popular, both because of her ability to make politics vital and timely and her reputation for being an easy grader. Often more than 150 students would squeeze into her classroom to hear her to explain “how to live.”

Woman's College Judicial Board, 1949
Her dedication to teaching and to her students culminated in being honored with the first O. Max Gardner Award in 1949, presented to “that member of the faculty of the Consolidated University of North Carolina who in the post academic year has made the greatest contribution to the human race.”

In 1960, Alexander was further honored by the dedication of a conference room in her name in the Elliott Center (now the Elliott University Center) in recognition of her service to the college as a professor and as an advisor to the Judicial Board. After a long and incredibly active life, Alexander died at High Point’s Maryfield Nursing Home on May 30, 1978, leaving as a legacy a generation of students to whom she taught the importance of political activism, public service, and women’s rights.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A History of Disability Services at UNCG

In the early years of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) the 1890s, one of the admission requirements was that students must be "in good health." Of course, "good health" was never clearly defined by these requirements. In the papers of our second President Julius Foust, we have a letter concerning a potential student who was diabetic. She was denied admission to the school because it was decided that her health wasn’t "good."

From that time, we jump the story forward to the 1970s. Unfortunately, little documentation exists in University Archives to shed light on any policy changes or accommodations for special needs that may have existed in the in-between years.

UNCG Disabilities Student Services
brochure cover,
circa 1990
The Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 surely spurred the greatest change to campus accessibility. It is generally regarded as the first national civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. In fact, much of the language used was the same as that used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section 504 in particular had a strong impact on the campus at UNCG and other public and private colleges and universities across the United States. This Section declared that "No otherwise qualified person with a disability should be denied access to, the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any institution or entity receiving federal financial assistance." In Subpart E, it continued by emphasizing that colleges and universities must make appropriate academic adjustments and reasonable modifications to policies and practices in order to allow the full participation of students with disabilities in the same programs and activities available to non-disabled students.

These regulations became effective in 1977, and colleges and universities were provided with a compliance schedule that they had to prove they were meeting. Immediate compliance in terms of accessibility to programming was required. In response, Chancellor Ferguson named the Vice Chancellor for Administration – Charles D. Hounshell – as UNCG’s compliance officer, making him responsible for facilitating the school’s compliance with the Federal Rehabilitation Act. Soon thereafter, the University complied with another required part of the implementation of the law by issuing a memorandum to all faculty, staff, and students regarding the institution’s commitment to non-discrimination. The memo read: "The University of North Carolina at Greensboro reaffirms its policy not to discriminate on the basis of handicap in the programs or activities which it operates."

Accessibility of course content was a key component of compliance that had to be met by the start of the 1977-1978 school year. The law required schools to make reasonable accommodations to facilitate studying, working, and living activities on campus so that all people can participate in them fully. A 1979 brochure focused on "Services for Students with Special Needs" listed a number of campus services available to provide "equal opportunities for academic achievement to all students." Included is mention of "special services and equipment" available in Jackson Library, a "reader service" for visually impaired students, and "interpreting services" for hearing-impaired students..

Administrators also began examining physical accessibility on campus. In September 1977, Facilities Services requested an allocation of the capital improvement funds for the year to assist in the "removal of barriers for handicapped people." Major issues existed on campus that limited access to key services. Offices such as Academic Advising, Adult Student Services, the Cashier’s Office, and many campus administrators were located in a building which had "very deficient access to many handicapped people and no access for people in wheelchairs." This funding was key in order to comply with another aspect of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, which stated that, by June 1980, "reasonable" accommodations must be made to structures to ensure access to classrooms, dormitories, dining areas, student services offices, and other key areas of the university.

Dr. Diane Cooper
In July 1985, UNCG hired Dr. Diane Cooper to a dual position as both "international student advisor and coordinator of handicapped student services" [note: responsibilities for coordinating international student services were delegated to the newly-created International Student Services Office in April 1988]. With her hiring, responsibility for adhering to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 shifted to Cooper. Two years later, in 1987, over 100 students with physical or learning challenges were receiving assistance from Cooper's office. Cooper also provided workshops for faculty and staff on "Working with Disabled Students." These workshops covered "a basic understanding of various disabling conditions," "accommodation techniques used in classrooms and activities," and "resources available for working with students who are disabled."

In 2013, the Office of Disability Services received approval for a name change to the Office of Accessibility Resources and Services (OARS). OARS continues to "provide, coordinate, and advocate for services which enable undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities to receive equal access to a college education and to all aspects of university life." In addition to providing adaptive technology, interpreter, note taker, alternative testing, and other services, OARS staff members work to broaden "disability awareness within the university community."

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Birth of the North Carolina State High School Music Contest-Festival

Over the next two weeks, UNCG will play host to hundreds of students attending Summer Music Camp. The Summer Music Camp, which began in 1983, has grown to be the largest university music camp in America. In two one-week sessions, students are instructed in band, mixed chorus, orchestra, and piano. But the Summer Music Camp is not the first program for younger students on the UNCG campus. On Friday, May 7, 1920, thirteen pianists from high schools across North Carolina arrived on campus (which was then known as the North Carolina College for Women) to compete in the first musical contest for students ever to be held in the state.

Wade R. Brown
The North Carolina State High School Music Contest-Festival was the brainchild of Wade R. Brown, who had begun his work on campus as the Director of the Department of Music in 1912. During this period, music was not part of the standard curriculum in secondary schools in North Carolina. Rarely were music teachers employed in public schools, and, when they were, this was typically only to teach private piano lessons in a designated classroom. As Brown wrote, "in our own state (and over most of the South) our educational leaders and the public as a whole seemed indifferent to the cultural value of music in education and to the final contribution it had to offer in a social democracy such as ours."

In hopes of improving this situation, in 1919, Brown decided to attempt to organize a music contest aimed at high school students in North Carolina. Due to the fact that piano performance was the only type of music taught in public schools at that time, they determined to focus the contest on that instrument alone. With the blessings of President Julius Foust, Brown wrote a letter to high school principals and piano teachers across the state announcing that this piano contest for high school students would be held at the North Carolina College for Women on May 7, 1920. Each school was invited to send one pianist to represent them in the contest.

Brown turned the competition into a weekend-long event. Competitors and their teachers were invited to be guests at a performance by E. Robert Schmitt, a celebrated French pianist. On the day of the contest, they were treated to another special piano performance by one of the members of the senior class at NCCW.

Performance program from the 1920 competition
While fourteen student enrolled in the competition, only thirteen appeared on the day of the contest. Beginning at 10:30am, each student performed a solo piece before a panel of three judges. The judges were faculty members from Salem College, Greensboro College, and NCCW. From among the thirteen, those judges selected six to play again that evening at 8:00pm in the finals. The contest drew a large number of students, visiting teachers, and the general public to observe the final competition. After the six finalist performed, the audience was entertained by "an informal program of community singing" and a short lecture on the importance of music education while the judges conferred.

In the end, the judges selected Jessie Mercer of the Wilmington High School as the winner of the first contest. She was awarded "the silver loving cup, given by the Euterpe Club of Greensboro, which was to remain in her possession until the next State Contest."

Competitors at one of the contests in the late 1920s
The state contest continued to grow over the years. In 1922, competitions for glee clubs and violin soloists joined the piano contests. Orchestra competitions were added in 1925. Additional contests for strings (1927), woodwinds (1928), and brass (1928) also appeared. By 1929, the contest had grown so popular that students were divided into classifications based on the enrollment of their high school. Additionally, students in smaller high schools (those with enrollments under 500 had to survive a "District Elimination Contest" prior to traveling to Greensboro.

Ultimately, these contests also helped impact the music education curriculum in North Carolina secondary schools. As Brown noted in his introduction to the 1946 pamphlet The State Music Contest-Festival: A History, "these great annual gatherings ... have done so much to make a real beginning in musical appreciation and artistic development among the youth of North Carolina."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Ronald A. Crutcher: from Cellist to University President

Ronald A Crutcher, 1989 
It is always heartwarming to see musicians ascending to high places in academia. Dr. Ronald A. Crutcher served as professor of cello and head of the strings department at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1979 to 1988. At age 17, he won the Cincinnati Symphony Young Artist Competition. As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Crutcher studied cello at Yale University with Aldo Parisot, serving as Parisot's teaching assistant. Additionally, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, allowing him to study in West Germany with Siegfried Palm and Enrico Mainardi. Crutcher toured throughout Europe and the United States, making his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985. He was a founding member of the Chanticleer String Quartet and performed with the Klemperer Piano Trio, and with the UNCG Piano Trio. He held numerous positions as principal cellist. Among Crutcher’s recordings is the Barber “Sonata for Violoncello and Piano” with the Austrian Broadcasting Company in 1976. In 1979, he was the first cellist to be awarded a DMA from Yale University, after which he joined UNCG faculty.

At UNCG, Crutcher carried a heavy class load of sometimes four to five classes per semester, including Applied Cello (MUS 051), Chamber Music (MUS 396), and Afro-American Music (MUS 344). He was heavily active on faculty committees, including the Academic Cabinet, the School of Music Council, and the Phi Beta Kappa Executive and Fundraising Committee. He also served on the committee to develop a Black Studies minor at UNCG. Within the greater Greensboro community, he served as a board member for the Greensboro Cerebral Palsy Institute, as a member of the Guilford College Board of Visitors, and he served as chairman of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra Committee. Crutcher was a professional consultant for the North Carolina Arts Council and the Chamber Music/New Music Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts.

After serving as acting Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs from 1988-1989 at UNCG, Crutcher was elevated to Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. Sadly, in 1990, Crutcher was lured away from UNCG, joining the Cleveland Institute of Music as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. Continuing a career of excellence, Crutcher held senior leadership posts at the University of Texas at Austin and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He became President of Wheaton College, where he also was elected chair of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

In 2015, Ronald Crutcher became President of the University of Richmond, where he continues his career-long commitment to higher education administration. However, Crutcher remains dedicated to his first love – music – serving as a professor in the School of Music at Richmond.