Monday, January 28, 2019

Flying High at the Woman's College

In the Fall 1946 course catalog, the Physics Department at Woman's College added a new class to its curriculum. "Elements of Aeronautics" allowed WC students to not only understand the principles of aeronautics but to actually learn how to fly from instructors from the Hawthorne Flying Service at the Greensboro-High Point airport (now the Piedmont Triad International Airport). An article in the Greensboro Daily News noted that "the course, as outlined, will be one of the first of its kind in the country, and Woman's College will become one of the few girl's schools in the nation to offer flying to its students."
Dr. Anna J. Reardon

The course was led by Dr. Anna J. Reardon, head of the physics department. Prerequisites included at least one year of mathematics, one year of physics, and written permission from the student's parents. In the first semester, seven WC students signed up for the course -- Lucy Rodgers, Tommy Tomlin, Jean Fleming, Margaret Ferbee, Betty Pickett, Jean Kirkman, and Betty Sue Beaman.

Students began with on-campus classes in the Science Building focused on navigation, aerodynamics, aircraft, meterology, and air regulations. Three times per week (third period on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), the students focused on learning to read maps, chart courses, and study wind drifts.

The classroom learning provided the necessary groundwork for the flying lessons that followed. A minimum of one afternoon per week, each member of the class had to catch the Winston-Salem bus from campus to the Greensboro-High Point airport for a half-hour private flying lesson from one of four instructors of the Hawthorne Flying Service. An article in the Carolinian student newspaper made special note that, "for flying, the girls wear slacks, blue jeans, or army tans."

"Elements of Aeronautics" students with one of
their instructors, Carolinian, Nov. 15, 1946
Initial flying lessons focused on straight and level flying. As the Carolinian reported, "Among the most astonishing things to these flyers was running a straight course to discover the plan flying straight at an angle because the wind is blowing. Instead of holding at a steady course down the air-strip on a take-off the students go to one side, almost getting off the runway." After mastering straight and level flying and adjustments to wind drifts, the students moved on to banks and turns. By the end of the course the students demonstrated their skills with "pylon eights," described as "ice-skating eights in an airplane, with two houses as center of each loop."

"Elements of Aeronautics" appears in the WC course bulletin through the 1954-1955 academic year. But at least one of the original Fall 1946 students continued their aviation-related work. In a 1990 oral history interview, Dr. Reardon notes that one students "followed up with piloting after she graduated from here. She moved out west some place and she took part in some of these races across the country."

Monday, January 21, 2019

Edward Jacob Forney, A Man of Many Talents

Edward Jacob Forney was a truly remarkable man. Born in Lincoln County, North Carolina in 1860, he witnessed the Civil War, Reconstruction, and two World Wars before his death in 1948 at 80 years old. One of his earliest memories was watching a Northern soldier shooting out the windows of his family home.
Edward Jacob Forney
Forney attended Newton public schools and then Catawba College. He was an ambitious student, teaching himself Latin and shorthand. After graduation, he spent his early years working as an auditor with the Southern Railroad in Columbia, South Carolina, before moving to Raleigh to take the position of Secretary to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In 1891, while working for the state, Forney met Charles Duncan McIver, an early advocate for women’s education and future president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNC Greensboro). McIver was so impressed with Forney, that he hired him as his personal secretary. He was particularly qualified for this position, as he was an early proponent of shorthand, and he was one of the first people in North Carolina who could operate a typewriter.

When the State Normal opened in 1892, Forney was asked to join the faculty. Initially, he acted as secretary to McIver, but soon, his sole responsibilities were as treasurer and as an instructor of “commercial subjects.” Those subjects included shorthand, typing, commercial law, bookkeeping, and telegraphy. This was a vital curriculum for the state’s young women, as it offered them an opportunity to be trained to work in an office and gain a measure of independence.

Early College Faculty, Forney is Seated Far Left on the Third Row, 1893
The program was fairly advanced, suggesting students complete an elementary correspondence course in shorthand before entering college, then proceed to more difficult classes when they officially enrolled. They were exposed to the most current technology, contributing to their marketability in the workforce. Students were able to complete the early commercial program in less than a year, with additional time if they took extended coursework. Certificates of completion were awarded by President McIver at Commencement. As the program’s reputation spread, Forney also taught courses in surrounding towns, and he wrote a text that was used at the State Normal and other technical schools. The commercial program would continue to thrive at the college, graduating over 4,000 students before Forney’s retirement in 1940.

Edward Jacob Forney in Later Years
But Forney's influence spread far beyond the walls of State Normal. In addition to his work at the college, he created a budget accounting system for the state of North Carolina. He also worked independently as an accountant and served as the city of Greensboro’s auditor.  Even further from the realm of academia, he created an agricultural “subsoiler” to attach to plows, improving farm work for North Carolina farmers.

Forney continued his duties as treasurer of the school until he retired 1940, although he gave up the position of head of the commercial program a few years earlier. He was succeeded in both positions by George M. Joyce.

During the last several months of his life, Forney’s health began to fail and he was moved to a nursing facility. He died on January 29, 1948, 21 hours before his wife Annie and only several months shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. The couple were buried in a double funeral at Green Hill Cemetery.They were survived by their 6 children.

The Forney Building, Formerly Carnegie Library 
Forney was remembered fondly by his students and colleagues. He was described as energetic and enthusiastic, with a keen wit and lively, if somewhat sarcastic, sense of humor. At the end of his life, Forney was fond of saying, that he had not had one dull day in eighty years. In 1957, the campus’ Carnegie Library was remodeled to serve as a classroom and renamed in his memory.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Play Ball!: Building a Baseball Stadium on Campus

Have you ever gotten a chance to take in a Division I baseball game at the University’s Baseball Stadium?  Beyond the enjoyment of watching highly skilled ballplayers compete, the facility itself offers attendees the experience of unobstructed views of the field, elegant metal entrance gates, comfortable seating, and a brick-relief sculpture.  The building’s architectural features convey the impression that the stadium has been part of the campus landscape for decades.  You might be surprised to learn that the Baseball Stadium opened in 1999.  How did this gem of a sports complex come to be built at the center of campus?

UNCG Baseball Stadium Seats
In 1990, UNCG began a Division I baseball program.  The University sought to raise the profile of its Athletics Department as well as expand its program offerings.  The team joined the Big South conference.  At its launch, the UNCG baseball program did not have a permanent home field.  The team found itself playing at both the War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro and the Burlington Athletic Park.  The team had to share these facilities with other sports teams and programs.   By 1994, the baseball team had gained local, regional, national recognition and success.  UNCG Director of Athletics Nelson Bobb declared that “the commitment to build a baseball stadium and the need for such a facility on campus are very real for us at UNCG.” 

In June 1994, the Board of Trustees of the University approved a request to select an architecture firm to do preliminary design work for a new on-campus stadium.  The firm of Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Mattern of Greensboro was awarded the contract.  The proposed complex would have permanent seating for 800 spectators.  The Board of Trustees approved the proposal to locate the stadium at the southeast corner of the intersection of Walker Avenue and Aycock Street.  UNCG owned most of the land and planned to clear the existing buildings to make way for the stadium. 

Recognizing the need to meet the standards of Division I baseball, Athletic Director Nelson Bobb declared that “our intent is to build a facility with state-of-the art field and lighting.”  The estimated cost to build the stadium was $3 million dollars.  The University intended to seek monies from the North Carolina General Assembly to fund the project.  The hope was to open the stadium by 1997.

At the time of the Board of Trustees vote in 1994, there was no universal campus and community support for the building of a baseball stadium.  Indeed, some opponents of the project argued that the University’s priorities were misplaced, since it was spending monies on athletics and not on academic programs.  Other critics felt that there was no pressing need to build a new facility, since the UNCG baseball team could continue to play at the War Memorial Stadium.  By 1996, the cost of the proposed stadium increased to $3.7 million dollars.  The University’s request for funds from the General Assembly was not met.  To jump-start the project, the University’s Board of Trustees approved a 7.3 % increase in student fees for the 1996-1997 school year to help play for the new facility.  Opposition to the fee hike centered around the use of student fees to fund the building project.  In the local Greensboro newspaper, News and Record, the papers’ editorial board posed the question “Why make students pay for a stadium?” 

To counter this opposition to the building plan, supporters of the baseball stadium argued that the University had previously funded other building projects (like the soccer stadium) through student fees.  Another key point raised by supporters was that the current arrangement of having the UNCG baseball team play at the War Memorial Stadium was not a viable long-term option.  They noted that the 70-year-old stadium needed significant renovations.  They also pointed out that the UNCG team shared the facility with a professional Single A baseball team.  This shared arrangement made it very difficult for UNCG to schedule practices and games.  Finally, supporters argued that the athletic program at the University was intended to enhance student life as well as assist with student recruitment.  Thus, it made sense to build a facility on campus to ensure that students had easy access to games. 

View of the Baseball Stadium from the Grass Berm
After a lengthy period of debate, the school decided to move forward with the baseball stadium project.  The 13-acre site was cleared of existing residential buildings.  As plans were further refined, the price tag rose to $5.4 million dollars.  The final design team was a collaboration between Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, Inc. (Kansas City) and the local firm of Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Mattern.  The planned stadium would include a state-of-the-art baseball field, a press box, an office/ticket booth/concession building, public restrooms, and a grounds maintenance building. The stadium plan included 889 fixed fold-down seats and grass berms down both baselines to provide additional space for seating.  The project would also include stadium lighting for night games, Major League-sized dugouts, a scoreboard, and a public-address system.  The design also reserved space for a future field house that would include locker rooms, training facilities, and office space. These additional facilities would eventually be built.  Besides the installation of a baseball stadium on the 13-site, the University also planned to build a golf practice facility and a student recreation field.

Baseball Dugout and Benches
The University also asked the designers to incorporate architectural features (like the prominent use of red brick) to match other surrounding University buildings.  Additionally, the two steel entrance gates to the stadium were created by local sculptor Jim Gallucci.  The gates were titled “Play Ball.”  At the back of the press box, there was a brick relief sculpture entitled “Play at the Plate” that was created by UNCG alum Brad Spencer. 

On February 12, 1999, Chancellor Patricia Sullivan throw out the ceremonial first pitch to mark the opening of the baseball stadium.  Wearing a Spartan baseball jersey, the Chancellor threw the pitch to catcher Michael Krekorian.  The Chancellor admitted that she had practiced before the inaugural day.  Sullivan stated that the Spartan baseball manager “told me to try and throw it over (the catcher’s) head.”  Coach Graski noted that the Chancellor “worked hard and wanted to understand the fundamentals.”  Sullivan greeted the large crowd of 1,853 attendees and declared that “this is a gorgeous facility.”

Overview of the Stands and Playing Field

Monday, January 7, 2019

WC's "Little Golf Course"

Mary Channing Coleman, director of the physical education department at Woman's College from 1920 to 1947, was a strong force for the development of athletic resources on the WC campus. In addition to advocating for the construction of the first building used solely as a gymnasium, Coleman oversaw the development of tennis courts and other facilities for WC students to use in both academic and recreational pursuits. In the fall of 1929, a single golf hole was constructed on the west side of Rosenthal Gymnasium, and plans called for extension to a nine-hole course.

WC students on the campus golf course, 1940
In Fall 1933, President Julius Foust announced the approval of a number of Civil Works Administration (CWA) projects at WC, including the much-anticipated golf course construction. In a March 9, 1935, memorandum, Dean of Administration (and future college president) Walter Clinton Jackson announced that "the little golf course which was constructed here last year as a CWA project is now ready for use." The 1935-1936 College Bulletin lists a nine-hole golf course among its description of athletic facilities, noting that "lessons in golf will be available as part of the work in Physical Education."

At its initial opening, the course faced challenges due to low use. A Woman's College Golf Club was founded to maintain the course, with low-cost memberships offered to students, faculty, alumnae, and guests of members. In a 1937 memo, however, Jackson noted that "for two years and more, the whole matter [of the golf course] was a source of unending difficulties, annoyance and trouble. Neither the faculty nor the students would support the club." In 1940, the course was reduced to three holes due to poor patronage and high costs of upkeep. During World War II, the remaining three holes were left unmaintained.

Golf exhibition at the WC course, 1959
It would be the Fall of 1954 before plans for a new campus golf course took form. While this course would occupy the same physical space as the previous course, it would not follow the design of its predecessor. Instead, this new course would be developed with leadership from WC alumnae and faculty member Ellen Griffin, an innovator in golf instruction and one of the three original organizers of the Women's Professional Golf Association (now the Ladies Professional Golf Association, or LPGA).

The grand opening of the new course took place in October 1957. The Physical Education Department's Christmas bulletin reported that "we had all of the finest local pros play the course the opening day. It was exciting with radio and television coverage and lots of pictures ... It's a tricky little course and being used a great deal by all of the college community." The nine holes measured only 1,120 yards, about a third the length of nine holes and a regular golf course, and had a par of 31.

Indeed, the course saw extensive use for class instruction, clinics, and exhibitions. WC hosted the National Women's Collegiate Golf Tournament in 1953. Griffin directed the LPGA National Golf School on the course from 1961 to 1963, and a number of LPGA touring professionals used the course to teach lessons or play exhibitions. In Spring 1962, eight sections of Beginning Golf were offered through the Physical Education Department.

A view from the 9th hole tee, 1968
At the same time, however, campus administrators were beginning to question the course, both in terms of costs of maintenance and use of land. Chancellor Otis Singletary wrote in 1966 that "the University has been questioned frequently over the past few years, both officially and unofficially, concerning the future of the golf course. This usually arises in connection with the University's need for land for additional building. Our standard has been that land is too valuable for us to keep this entire area as a golf course. We hope we might keep one or two fairways for instructional purposes in golf, but that much of this land would be needed for other outdoor physical education facilities." Although no immediate action was taken, two years later, Griffin left UNCG to open her own golf teaching facility.

In the ensuing years, construction of the new campus recreation center, other outdoor recreation facilities, and additional campus parking eliminated most of the course's nine holes. Maintenance was spotty, with many fairways becoming overgrown and drainage problems plaguing others. Finally, in 1998, campus administrators broke ground on a 150-yard practice fairway with two greens and a bunker on the West Market Street side of campus. The fairway and greens occupy what was the sixth hole of the nine-hole course.