Monday, August 26, 2019

Starting Classes at State Normal

The institution now known as UNC Greensboro was originally chartered by the State of North Carolina in February 1891. The school was founded to train female teachers and instruct them in “drawing, telegraphy, type-writing, stenography, and such other industrial arts as may be suitable to their sex and conducive to their support and usefulness.” Leading the charge in the establishment and development of the school was Charles Duncan McIver, a staunch advocate for public schools, teacher education, and higher education for women. After the state legislature approved funding, McIver was named the first president of what would be called the State Normal.

View of the State Normal campus from Spring Garden Street, 1894
Four North Carolina communities put forth offers to be the home for the new school: Durham, Graham, Thomasville, and Greensboro. Ultimately, Greensboro won due to its relatively central location and the convergence of railroad lines from six directions. After a year spent planning the new school and constructing its facilities, the State Normal officially opened its doors for an initial class of 198 female students from across North Carolina on October 5, 1892.

Classes offered at the State Normal were divided into three departments: normal (teaching), business, and domestic science. The normal, listed as the leading department, included pedagogy classes as well as coursework in English, history, math, science, foreign language, art, music, and physical culture. This department also served as the academic home for McIver. In addition to serving as President of the school, he taught courses in pedagogy, education, and civics – courses that maybe went on a bit longer than anticipated. A memoir written by a staff member noted that “both in class and in chapel, he kept the students after the appointed hour so frequently that faculty members tried to avoid having their own classes scheduled in the following periods.”

President Charles Duncan McIver and the State Normal faculty, 1893
The standard course load for these new students included 22 to 27 class meetings per week, divided among six or eight individual courses. Study time was curtailed by the dormitory lights-out rule from 10 pm to 6 am, designed to ensure that students got adequate sleep. Every freshman regardless of major took the same eight courses in algebra, English, general and English history, Latin, physical geography and botany, drawing, vocal music, and physical culture, except that domestic science students substituted sewing for drawing.

Founding the State Normal proved to be a milestone in education – and particularly women’s education – in North Carolina and throughout the United States. McIver and the early educators and students at the State Normal set the groundwork for UNCG as it stands today. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bridges over Walker Avenue

In a previous post, we discussed the decision to close Walker Avenue, which at one time, ran east-west through the middle of campus. This necessitated the demolition of the College Avenue bridge that carried traffic safely over busy Walker Avenue. This post will explore some of the images of those bridges through time.

Some of the earliest extant images of the bridge crossing Walker Avenue only show it from far away.
1905 view of campus 
In this first image, the iron bridge can just be seen in the center of the image.
Detail of bridge from 1905 view of campus
This close up image of the bridge from the 1914 Carolinian yearbook cryptically labels it "The Bridge of Sighs." The image also shows some of the details of the bridge, such as its walkway guardrails outside of the center lane, which may have been reserved for vehicular traffic, as well as the iron superstructure.
1914 Carolinian yearbook
An alternative perspective of the iron bridge is shown in this 1925 postcard taken from the Walker Avenue vantage point.
1925 Postcard 
The iron bridge would stand until 1928 when it was replaced with a much more comely concrete bridge.1

1928 Photograph of the new concrete bridge


1940 photograph of concrete bridge taken from Walker Avenue perspective
When the campus and city of Greensboro agreed to close Walker Avenue, The land had to be filled in where Walker Avenue cut through campus. In the following photograph, students observe the process in front of a new manhole located at the new grade.

1949 Photograph of Walker Avenue and bridge during regrading process

In this final photograph, student Oriana McArthur and Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson look at the new library under construction from the bridge. The bridge would be demolished soon in 1950. As can be seen from the photograph, the former Walker Avenue has been partially filled in to form the foundation of the library.

1949 photograph of Library under construction from the bridge

1-Elisabeth Ann Bowles, A Good Beginning: The First Four Decades of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro p.92





Monday, August 12, 2019

Thank you for NOT smoking: A history of smoking on the campus of UNCG

The history of tobacco in the United States is synonymous with the history of North Carolina. North Carolina’s tobacco ventures date to the early 16th century, with the arrival of the first English settlers and the crop has long played a key role in the development of the state’s business and agriculture heritage. Major tobacco manufactures, such as R.J. Reynolds and James Duke, had presence in the state directly following the Civil War. Despite these strong ties, when the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG) for women opened in 1892, its founder Charles McIver, expressly forbade smoking by the students on campus.

While smoking was formally prohibited, this did not stop the students from occasionally risking punishment for the chance to smoke a cigarette. In 1897, a “smoking indecent” occurred during which over 30 students were caught smoking by administrators. As a consequence of their actions, they were required to write individual confession letters admitting their guilt and identifying if they knew other students who had smoked. It is unclear what, if any, formal reprimand was given for such a breach of college rules.


A letter Chancellor Foust sent home to parents
announcing the new smoking policies 
The prohibition of smoking on campus would continue until the fall of 1931, when Chancellor Julius Foust was presented a signed petition from 1032 students requesting that the policy be amended. At that time, over 1/3 of judicial “student conduct write-ups” were for violating smoking regulations.

Recognizing the futility of continuing to ban smoking, Foust, under the authorization given to him by the Board of Directors, reached a compromise for the girls to smoke the rest of the academic year (January to May 1932); however, they were only allowed to smoke in their dorm rooms following specific regulations. Foust was reluctant to condone such behavior, believing it to be unhealthy and that “any student who becomes addicted to the habit of smoking to excess will, in after years, regret it.”

Over the next decades, campus policies on smoking periodically shifted, reflecting the current social climate. During the 1950s and 1960s, smoking was permitted in designated areas in various buildings, and for a trial period, in large seminar classrooms at the professor’s discretion.  By the 1970s, there was some student push back on the policies. They wanted a ban on smoking in classrooms, noting its bothersome nature and negative health effects. However, it would not be until the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the launch of a public national campaign highlighting the harmful effects of tobacco, that a serious movement would occur to curb smoking at UNCG.

In June 1990, following the recommendations put forth by the Health Promotion Committee, a new smoking policy was implemented across the campus.  It established a Smoking Regulation Committee, which was charged with reviewing and recommending which buildings would prohibit smoking. Some faculty members were disappointed that Chancellor William Moran did not issue a smoking ban across the entire campus and questioned if UNCG’s heavy financial ties to local tobacco companies, such Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds, had a factor in his reluctant stance

In March 1991, nine campus buildings were designated as “smoke-free,” including the Bryan, Curry, and McIver buildings, and by December, this number would grow to a total of sixteen. The University would eventually forbid smoking in all buildings, including residence halls. Finally, in August 2008, a new outdoor smoking policy was adopted that prohibited smoking within twenty-five feet of any campus building. Today, UNCG remains committed to helping curb tobacco use by students and faculty though their support of cession programs and services.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A New Era for the Sciences at UNCG

For any thriving university, the quest for adequate classroom space and dormitory space is a constant challenge.  Indeed, the history of UNC Greensboro (UNCG) reveals an institution that has had periods of remarkable growth in its facilities to accommodate a growing student body as well as new academic programs.  In the 1990s, the University was facing a severe space crunch and a need to renovate some of its existing buildings.  In addition, UNC System administrators were forecasting a rapid growth in school age applicants in the coming decade. 

A 1997 review of UNC Greensboro campus documented the need for a robust expansion and renovation plan.  The report noted that the most pressing need was the construction of a new science building.  Drawing on these findings, the University’s administration and science faculty advocated for a new building that would meet the modern research needs of its cutting-edge faculty and the hands-on learning needs of its student body.  This post will examine how the Patricia A. Sullivan Science Building came to be built.

Prior to the 1997 facilities study, the UNCG’s science faculty had been discussing for nearly a decade their need for more classroom spaces, teaching laboratories, and new equipment to support modern research needs.  Science faculty pointed to many of the challenges of their current home in the Mary Macy Petty Building.  At the time of its construction in 1939, the Petty building and its labs were a model of advanced design.  Yet, by the 1990s, science faculty had a long list of complaints that included poor ventilation systems in the lab areas. 

This decades-long advocacy effort by faculty and administrators helped to raise awareness amongst the University’s Board of Trustees.  Indeed, the Board of Trustees on April 23, 1998 approved the design for a new science laboratory facility.  The proposed building was to be located next to the Eberhart Building along McIver Street.  The Board of Trustees also approved the concept of closing McIver Street between Carr Street and Walker Ave and turning it into a pedestrian walkway.  The landscaped walkway would run the length of the new science building. 

Science Building Drawing
With this approved plan in place, UNC Greensboro administrators advocated for this project and several other projects that were being considered for a state-wide bond referendum.  On November 7, 2000, the voters of North Carolina passed a $3.1 billion Higher Education Bond Referendum to fund capital projects for the UNC System schools.  As a result of the vote, UNCG was provided with $160 million to cover the costs of seventeen campus projects.  $47.7 million was targeted for the construction of a 170,000 square foot science building.  While the state was providing the funding for the construction of the building, the University was going to have to spend $5 million on the purchase of equipment for the new building’s laboratories.   

On March 12, 2001, the University held a ground-breaking ceremony.  Chancellor Patricia Sullivan presided over the event that featured the President of the UNC System Phillip Kirk, the chair of the UNC Board of Governors Ben Ruffin, and UNCG’s own Student Trumpet Ensemble and Market St. Brass.  Sullivan noted that the “construction of the new science building is UNCG’s number one capital priority, and largest bond project.”  She added that “it is an essential component in preparing our students to become viable practitioners of modern science and for building a knowledge base to support the changing economy of our region.”

The four-story facility was designed by O’Brien/Atkins Associates of Raleigh, North Carolina in association with Ellenzweig Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The building was intended to house research and instructional space for the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and instructional space for the Department of Biology.  The new building would provide for twenty-five teaching laboratories, two lecture halls, a 300-seat auditorium, six seminar rooms, faculty offices, and a 1,500 square-foot teaching greenhouse on the fourth floor.

The building project was completed on time.  It was open for classes during the fall 2003 term.  The official opening and dedication of the building took place on October 5, 2003.  Chancellor Sullivan stated that “this new science building is the anchor point for making this university the principal research center in the Triad by the end of the century.” 

Sullivan Science Building and Pedestrian Walkway

For the next five years, the newly constructed building was called the Science Building.  On April 10, 2008, the UNCG Board of Trustees approved a new name for the building.   It would now be called the Patricia A. Sullivan Science Building.  The Board of Trustees announced the building’s new name at the conclusion of its final meeting of Chancellor Sullivan’s tenure as the academic leader of UNCG.  The Board of Trustees Chair, Stephen C. Hassenfelt stated that “the Board of Trustees can’t think of a better way to honor you and your legacy.”  In her remarks, Chancellor Sullivan stated that “knowing that this building now carries my name stirs a combination of emotions that are difficult to describe.”  She noted that “the sciences have rewarded me.  This university and all the wonderful people associated with it have rewarded me.  And today, you have rewarded me with an incredible honor.”