Monday, November 27, 2017

“Beauty, Service, and Grace” - The History of the Alumnae House

Not long after the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) opened its doors in October 1892, graduates began to discuss the possibility of an alumnae building. As they often returned to the college to participate in official events and social occasions, they wanted a comfortable place to hold meetings and to stay during overnight visits. Although the alumnae had limited access to accommodations in dormitories and on the third floor of Students’ Building, they dreamed of a spot at their alma mater to call their own.

Drawing of the Alumnae House, 1937
 Serious discussions began in 1916 and after the end of World War I in 1918, the plan was revisited by the new Alumnae Association Secretary Ethel Bollinger (Class of 1913). Miss Bollinger hoped to use the prospective building for an office and a residence for unmarried faculty. Yet it wasn’t until Clara Booth Byrd (Class of 1913) assumed the position of Alumnae Association Secretary in 1922, did the plan for an alumnae house truly begin to take form. Miss Byrd convinced Julius Foust, the college’s second president, to choose the site and to begin raising money for the project. Foust was committed to the project and threw his formidable efforts behind fundraising. Miss Byrd felt that the most practical location for the building was on the site of the old wooden residence hall alternatively called Guilford or Midway Dormitory. One of the original campus buildings, it occupied a prime location on College Avenue and was in poor condition, requiring either complete renovation or demolition.

Clara Booth Byrd
A committee was formed to explore the financial feasibility of an alumnae building and to revisit its purpose on campus. Originally conceived as a residence for faculty and for overnight alumnae visits, this vision was expanded and the plan altered to create a building that would be “the very center of college life outside the academic realm.” The committee set a fundraising goal of $250,000, which was to be procured by alumnae, faculty, and students.  Yet by the early 1930s, only $53,000 had been collected. As the country slipped into an economic depression, hopes for the building looked dim. Finally, with financial assistance from the Public Works Administration, construction could begin. By all accounts, Miss Byrd chose the architectural design for the Alumnae House. She selected Homewood, a Maryland estate built by Charles Carol in 1800, as a model for the new building. Homewood's exterior, considered an excellent example of Georgian architecture, was practically duplicated on the Woman’s College campus by Penrose V. Stout of Bronxville, NY.
Alumnae House Dedication, January, 1937
But even before the building was formally dedicated in June of 1937, there was controversy, as alumnae and students began to question the close involvement of Miss Byrd in every aspect of the Alumnae House’s design and use. Her possessiveness of the building and her fear of damage to the new furniture that she had been so instrumental in selecting, led alumnae to see her as a “dominating and inflexible” force.

In an Alumnae House Bulletin dated January of 1937, Miss Byrd set out guidelines on how best “to preserve the beauty and dignity” of the new space. She specifically asked that students “establish a tradition of order and spotless cleanliness” to be preserved at all times. The situation became so contentious that there were plans afoot to have Miss Byrd dismissed.  But she weathered the storm and continued in her role as Alumnae Association Secretary until her retirement in 1947. She must have been pleased that the Alumnae House, which had occupied so much of her life, ultimately became a hub for student and alumnae activity.

The Byrd Parlor
Fittingly, when she passed away, her funeral was held in the building that she had fought so hard to bring to fruition. In November 1972, almost a decade after the university had become co-educational, the building’s name was officially changed to Alumni House. It is said by some that Miss Byrd never let go of her strong attachment to the house and still ensures doors are closed at the end of the day.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Creating a Hub for 21st Century Learning

The history of UNC Greensboro (UNCG) is one of innovation and excellence. These qualities have helped to inform the planning of its academic programs, the recruitment of its faculty and students, and the design and construction of its buildings and classrooms. Needing to effectively respond to the technology and information revolutions of the late 20th century, the University embarked on an ambitious building campaign to renovate existing spaces as well as to design classrooms and housing to support and expand new ways of learning. The Moore Humanities and Research Administrative Building (MHRA) is a wonderful example of the University’s efforts to meet the needs of higher education in the early 21st century.

To finance these capital improvements, a $3.1 billion Higher-Education Bond Issue was voted on and approved by North Carolina voters in November 2000. UNCG received $166 million to pay for three new buildings and for major renovations on 15 other campus buildings. On March 24, 2004, the University held a dual ground-breaking ceremony for the $16.9 million MHRA building and the $16.6 million Gatewood Studio Arts Center. Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan declared to attendees that “excitement and promise are in the air as we take the next step in the bold transformation of the campus.”

Soon after the March 24 groundbreaking ceremony for the MHRA Building was held, fencing was installed at the Spring Garden and Forest Streets site. Construction for the MHRA Building would begin as soon as the current building (Park Gymnasium) that occupied the site was demolished. On March 29, 2004, bulldozers set about tearing the Park Gym down. It took several days to remove all the debris from the site. With ground now cleared, construction was started.

The three-story MHRA building would establish a visible humanities presence on Spring Garden Street. In fact, the building was specifically designed to bring together related academic departments to support teaching, research, and administrative functions. Functioning as a “hub” for the humanities, the building would welcome the departments of Classical Studies, English, History, and Language, Literatures, and Cultures. The structure would also include several administrative units. The administrative units included the Office of Contracts and Grants, Office of Technology Transfer, and the Office of Research and Engagement. Previously, these academic departments and administrative units were dispersed throughout the campus. Many of the humanities faculty and classrooms were housed in the McIver Building. Stories of faculty having to share a single office were common. The construction of the MHRA Building would help to ease a chronic campus space shortage by providing needed faculty offices and classrooms.

The Winston-Salem firm of Calloway, Johnson, Moore, and West designed the 86,000 square-foot building. They sought to translate “the traditional materials and architectural style of the University’s historic campus into an updated aesthetic.” The use of red brick and stone is a central feature. The building’s classically detailed rotunda draws the visitor into a light-filled atrium. While the exterior design was intended to play on the materials of the surrounding historic campus, the choice of materials for the interior of the building was intended to create a more “modern” and “corporate” look and feel. The design firm made heavy use of perforated metal and glass. They also used stainless steel and textured stone to mark important spaces and transitions within the building. All classrooms, conference rooms, and seminar spaces were equipped with audiovisual and digital projection equipment. Additionally, the teaching spaces were designed with close attention to acoustics and lighting to facilitate learning.

Construction of the building was completed in 2006. Faculty and administrators moved into the new building prior to the start of the fall term. On August 31, 2006, the University’s Board of Trustees named the three-story structure the Beverly Cooper Moore and Irene Mitchell Moore Humanities and Research Administrative Building. The Trustees sought to recognize the couple’s contributions to UNCG. The building was formally dedicated during the 2006 celebration of Founder’s Day (October 5, 2006). It was announced that Irene Moore was going to be giving $2 million to UNCG through the Students First Campaign to name the humanities building and to establish 16 graduate student scholarships. Her husband, Beverly, had been chairman of the UNCG Board of trustees from 1972 until 1975. Mr. Moore was a prominent Greensboro attorney who died in 2001.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Campus Maps Part I

Maps are artifacts that represent a physical space fixed at one point in time. Taken individually, they tell us how to get from one place to another. They provide a view of place unattainable from the ground and give us a unique perspective and orientation. Compared with one another, maps trace the changes in our physical world. Buildings come and go, or their uses vary with the changing times. The landscape also changes as new roads are built and fields are turned into golf courses or parking lots. In this post we'll look at some examples of campus maps from our University Archives drawn by members of the university community.

Several maps of campus used in official publications were drawn by female students and alumnae of the university. These maps were used primarily in publications such as the course catalog, handbook, and brochures. These official publications would represent the university not only to its students, but to the public. Because of this, the maps had to be of high quality. Three examples of these are presented below, along with photographs of the cartographers.
This 1940 map of the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina campus was drawn by Kathryn Bain (top) and Doris Shaffer (bottom), both Class of 1941 students
This 1957 map of the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina was drawn by Henriette Manget Neal, Class of 1945
This 3D 1965 map of the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina was drawn by Clara Reese, Class of 1965

We'll explore more campus maps from our collections in a future Spartan Stories blog!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Black Power Forum, Fifty Years Later

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Power Forum that was held at UNCG from November 1-3, 1967. 

Throughout the 1960s, Greensboro served as a key site for the civil rights movement. After the Sit Ins and protests of the early 1960s, the middle of the decade saw the ideals of black self-determination and pride being spread throughout Greensboro and the nation. The term “Black Power” first entered the national consciousness through Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader Stokely Carmichael’s speech at the March Against Fear in 1966. Black Power soon became known as a movement for solidarity within the African American community and the fight for racial independence.

Agenda for November 1, 1967,
the first day of the Black Power Forum
While students at North Carolina A&T University often stood as leaders in the movement, discussions were not limited to the area’s historically black colleges and universities. On November 1-3, 1967, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro played host to a controversial Black Power Forum, organized in large part by African American students and members of the UNCG Student Government Association to “inform students and faculty members of this movement and its actions and to give us a chance to discuss Black Power, its history, its political and social implications for us and the nation.” 

The forum was organized around three topics: “Black Power past and present,” “the ghetto,” and “Black Power and the self-image of the Negro.” Speakers from across the country were brought in for presentations and discussions held in Cone Ballroom. Attendance the first day was judged “poor” with fewer than 75 attendees at the initial session, but by Thursday evening attendance had grown to 800. A UNCG report summarizing activities after the conclusion of the Forum noted “that off-campus people outnumbered UNCG students and faculty, that they were primarily Negroes and males, that a considerable number of them seemed to be sympathetic toward the concepts of Black Power, and that they often expressed their feelings with applause or cheers.”

The Forum did not occur without controversy. Editorials and essays declared that the University had been “used” by activists with a specific agenda. Rumors abounded that Ku Klux Klan members planned to attend the Forum, and UNCG Chancellor James Ferguson was forced to ask police officers with the City of Greensboro to attend each of the scheduled sessions to “guard against possible trouble.”

Black Power Forum participants, 1967
Additionally, administrators expressed concern that the sessions “did not produce a detached, objective examination of the ideas of Black Power but were given over to vigorous exhortations in support and advocacy of the movement.” But they could not deny that the Forum provided students with a learning opportunity. As stated in the UNCG report, “today’s students, today’s citizenry in general must learn all they can about the nature of Black Power and the forces that brought it into being. They need to be aware of the task before them. Above all, they should not wait until a crisis develops – until there is a riot in the streets – to gain knowledge of this troublesome subject.”

The Black Power Forum also served as a catalyst for the founding of the Neo-Black Society in Fall 1968. As Marie Darr Scott (class of 1970) noted in her 2011 oral history interview, "this Black Power Forum was just—I mean, it just opened up a whole new thought and mind for the black students at UNCG ... Not everyone got involved but almost all of the black students were interested in forming a black student organization on campus."