Monday, September 30, 2019

The Development of the Weatherspoon Art Museum: Bridging Art and Education

Elizabeth McIver Weatherspoon
Elizabeth "Lizzie" McIver enrolled at the State Normal and Industrial School at its opening in October 1892. She was the younger sister of the school's founding president Charles Duncan McIver. In fact, one of the drivers that led McIver to advocate for State Normal was the lack of reasonably priced institutions in North Carolina for Lizzie to continue her education after completing studies at Peace Institute in Raleigh (where her brother worked prior to the opening of State Normal). After completing a year at State Normal, Lizzie taught in the Greensboro city schools until 1900, when she marries James R. Weatherspoon of Sanford, NC. When her husband died four years after their marriage, however, she returned to Greensboro and teaching.

She served as a supervisor of the first grade classes at the Curry School, the teaching school on the State Normal campus. Mrs. Weatherspoon's abiding love, however, was art. While at Curry, she taught private classes in art. And, in 1906, she officially joined the State Normal faculty as an art instructor, focusing on art education for elementary school teachers. She was also a charter member and the first president of the art division of the North Carolina Education Association.

Mrs. Weatherspoon was also a strong advocate for the establishment of a Department of Art at State Normal. Finally in 1935, she saw that dream come true, and she was named an associate professor in the new department. Four years later, however, on May 25, 1939, Mrs. Weatherspoon passed away at her home on Tate Street after an extended illness.

The year following Mrs. Weatherspoon's death, the art department moved into its new home in the McIver Memorial Building. A small gallery space was opened in the building, and, in 1941, the gallery was officially named the Elizabeth McIver Weatherspoon Gallery.

One of the early exhibits in the Weatherspoon Art Gallery featured 24 lithograph prints showcasing modern English art. Reflecting Mrs. Weatherspoon's interest in art education for elementary school students as well as the art department's emphasis on the gallery as a teaching space, 10 of the 24 lithographs were specifically chosen because they were to appeal to children.

Weatherspoon Art Gallery space in the McIver Building
For the next 15 years, the Weatherspoon Gallery in the McIver Memorial Building featured a wide array of art from around the world. Exhibits included textiles, furniture, paintings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, and more. A particular emphasis was placed on contemporary art as well as the space as a source for the practice and teaching of art. A donation in 1950 of the million-dollar Cone Collection from sisters Etta and Claribel Cone of Baltimore, served as one of the gallery's earliest and most important acquisitions. This donation included six bronzes by Henri Matisse and over 100 works by Matisse, Picasso, and other modern French artists.

McIver Memorial was closed due to numerous building hazards and issues in 1956. But, the new McIver Building opened in 1960 and featured a special wing specifically constructed for the Weatherspoon Gallery.

The Weatherspoon Gallery continued to grow in its new location, collecting new pieces and building a large audience. In fact, when actor Vincent Price visited UNCG in 1977, his first request in the way of sightseeing was the Weatherspoon Art Gallery. In particular, he wanted to see one of the gallery's most valuable pieces, Willem de Kooning's "Woman," which Price declared to be "an asset to any gallery." He reportedly studied the painting for a full 10 minutes as part of his 90 minute behind-the-scenes gallery tour.

Director Ruth Beesch with de Kooning's "Woman"
By the late 1980s, however, the Weatherspoon Art Gallery had far outgrown its space in the McIver Building. In 1989, the Weatherspoon found its new (and current) home -- the Cone Building, named in honor of Anne Wortham Cone (Class of 1935) and her husband, Benjamin Cone, Sr. The $7.5 million building opened at the corner of Spring Garden and Tate Street and provided the Weatherspoon Art Gallery with nearly five times as much space as they had previously had in the McIver Building. Gallery director Ruth K. Beesch declared, "we've gone from rags to riches."

In 2001, the name of the Weatherspoon Art Gallery was changed to the Weatherspoon Art Museum to more adequately reflect its function and mission as the gallery had grown and expanded in size and scope. Today, the Museum continues to maintain a exhibition calendar as well as full roster of educational activities, publications, and outreach efforts.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Physician, Professor, and Medical Missionary Annie V. Scott (class of 1914)

Greensboro native Annie Vellna Scott arrived at State Normal and Industrial College in Fall 1910 at the age of 21. She was an active student at the State Normal and Industrial College as well as an early entrepreneur. She served on the board of directors of State Normal Magazine as a representative from the Adelphian Literary Society. She also held a leadership position with the campus YWCA group and was a member of the Student Volunteer Board. And, in a display of her ingenuity, she paid her expenses at the State Normal and Industrial College by selling subscriptions to Current Opinion magazine.

Annie V. Scott, 1914 Pine Needles yearbook
In addition to her service and work on campus, Scott was known for her keen intellect and interest in current events. Her entry in the 1914 Pine Needles yearbook described her as“a ready authority upon scientific investigation and present day topics, for she is a thorough student of all the sciences our curriculum affords.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from State Normal in 1914, she attended the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now part of Drexel University College of Medicine). She received her medical degree in 1918 and was one of only two women to receive licenses that year from the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners.

Scott served for two years as an intern at Lying-in Hospital and at Bellevue Hospital before she sailed for China in 1920. She worked mostly in North China, principally at Shantung Christian University's Cheeloo Hospital as a professor and chief of pediatrics. Her work included everything from teaching medical school students to operating a private clinic to serving as school physician for three primary schools. She also published a book on pediatric medicine in China as well as numerous journal articles. 

Her service in China was not continuous, however. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, going to war against the United States, Dr. Scott and other Americans in the area were repatriated. She was an instructor in pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Medical School until 1946, when she returned to China. Dr. Scott left China for the last time in 1951, when Chinese Communists forces intervened against the United States in Korea. For four years, she returned to Columbia University, serving as a visiting professor of pediatrics.

In 1954, she became clinical professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina. In this role, her research primarily focused on the detection and prevention of tuberculosis in children. She retired in 1964, and moved to High Point.

Scott receiving her honorary doctorate from UNCG in 1967
Scott received numerous awards for her medical work and service. In 1959, she earned the Alumnae Achievement Award from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. The North Carolina Public Health Association awarded her a merit citation in 1965 for "her long years of dedicated and unselfish service as pediatrician, clinician, teacher, educator and her many achievements with broad public health application" In 1967 at its annual Founders Day ceremony, UNCG presented Scott with an honorary doctor of science degree. Her "outstanding Christian medical service" in China earned her a special citation from the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, USA.

On February 1, 1975, Scott passed away and was buried at Alamance Presbyterian Church cemetery in Greensboro. Her tombstone includes a special inscription: "served 30 years in China in medical missions."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Dr. John H. Cook: A Progressive Advocate for North Carolina's Teachers

On March 25, 1936, North Carolina Republican Chairman William C. Meekins expressed his disappointment that Woman's College's dean of the department of education Dr. John H. Cook would not accept the party's nomination as candidate for the state superintendent of public instruction. Cook declared that while he was "tremendously interested in public education and [he] expect[ed] to continue to work for its advancement along soundly progressive lines," he felt that his calling was to be a professional, not a political, leader in the fight for public education improvements in North Carolina. Cook had been a staunch advocate for public education and educators in North Carolina since arriving in Greensboro in 1918, and he would continue that fight until his unexpected death from a heart attack in 1941.

Cook began his work at the State Normal and Industrial College (later Woman's College, now UNCG) when he was hired as head of the department of education in 1918. After a campus-wide reorganization in 1922, his title was changed from "head" to "dean." In 1921, he worked to organize the campus Education Club, a professional and social organization for seniors doing their student teaching and education faculty. He also served as director of summer school, which primarily provided teacher training courses, for 15 years. During his time leading the department, Cook was a strong proponent in specialized training for teachers, with a practical internship component.

This emphasis on education as a unique discipline often led to conflict with the college administration. In 1928, President Julius Foust (himself a former education professor) put forth a proposal to eliminate the education major for undergraduates and instead require students to acquire a major in the discipline in which they planned to teach (history degrees for history teachers, mathematics degree for math teachers, etc.). Cook disagreed vehemently, citing the college catalog's statement of the chief mission of the school being "the preparation of teachers." In an April 3, 1928, letter to Foust, Cook wrote, "how queer it would seem that students were forbidden to major along the line of the chief purpose of the college." Foust dropped the proposal and the education major remained.

In addition to Cook's contributions to the betterment of the department of education, he sought to better the welfare of public school teachers across the state of North Carolina. He was a prominent speaker at civic and education groups across the state. At a January 31, 1936, meeting of the Greensboro Civitan Club, Cook took the progressive stance in favor of allowing married women -- even married women with children -- to continue teaching. He declared, "let a woman go ahead and marry and have one or two children if she cares to; then she is all the better prepared to work with the children of others."

In particular, he was a staunch advocate for establishing tenure and a retirement system for the state's teachers. Cook argued publicly for "a permanency of tenure that would preclude the influence of politics and allow participation in the progressive life of the community without so much fear of public opinion." He also served as chairman of the Committee on Retirement Legislation of the North Carolina Education Association. In this role he worked with teachers and legislators to develop a retirement plan for state employees. This plan provided for matching contributions by the state and the individual.

In a brochure written by Cook for members of the North Carolina Education Association, he wrote that "insecurity for old age is a specter that has persistently haunted ninety-five per cent of our people from early middle age until life ends." He cited an "examining physician for a well known life insurance company" in writing about the importance of a life-long annuity in providing stability in retirement and freedom from "financial worry." He wrote "release an old man by means of an annuity from all this worry, and he throws off his years and walks erect, happy and fearlessly young."

Sadly, Cook did not live to see the implementation of the retirement system he'd fought so hard to develop -- a system that, while changed over the years, continues to benefit state employees today. On January 16, 1941, at the age of 59, Cook suffered a heart attack in his office in the Curry Building. He was carried to his nearby home, where he died shortly thereafter. Services were held at West Market Street Methodist Church, where Cook had served as a steward. The WC faculty wrote in a memorial tribute praising Cook's "friendliness, his tolerant attitude, his tendency to see the good in people, his sincerely tactful consideration for others, his sense of humor, his fearlessness in standing for his own convictions." They added that "we are enriched in that he lived among us and worked with us. Through his deeds his life continues to speak to us and motivate us."

Monday, September 2, 2019

Student Voices of the 1920s: The First Decade of the Coraddi


Established in 1897, the Coraddi is the longest running publication on the UNC Greensboro campus. Originally published as an art and literature journal under the name State Normal Magazine, it became the Coraddi when the school transitioned into the North Carolina College for Women in 1919. The new title derived from an amalgamation of the names of the Cornelian, the Adelphian, and the Dikean literary societies. While the magazine initially reported college news, in the 1920s it began to feature student editorials, short fiction, book reviews, and poetry. 

The Coraddi, April 1925
Within the pages of the magazine, the young women pondered their role as members of the student body and as citizens of the broader world. Featured articles and poetry revealed the sheltered young women’s desires for travel and adventure. Their writings reflected real and imaginary activities, ranging from an actual trip to a YWCA Conference in Philadelphia to an imagined voyage to France. One student dreamed of hopping a train like a “hobo,” and heading to parts unknown.

The Coraddi, December 1928
In addition to tales of travel, the Coraddi also included matters closer to home. An editorial titled, “Students in the Library,” featured an anonymous complaint about the general noise level in the library, speculating that there were only a “half a dozen students on the campus who really try to study.” Further complaints were levied against her peers who were in the habit of borrowing reserved material without checking it out. Another student turned her criticism toward campus teachers in an editorial titled, “The College Delusion.” She declared that the students didn’t need faculty by their senior year, claiming “what we learn is of our own digging, and does not issue from the knowledge of any one else.” Another student, Mary McDuffie, penned an article in defense of chewing gum, an activity basically outlawed by the faculty.

The Coraddi, October 1925
 The Coraddi also became an important venue for students to express their feelings and beliefs, which were in some cases, very liberal for the times. In a fall 1924 article, Mary Eliason challenged her classmates to understand African Americans through the spirit and soul of their poetry, and not through “unsympathetic Anglo-Saxon” eyes. She stressed that it is through the poetry of African Americans that one can hear their “cries of despair, of hope, of remonstrances.” Other students wrote their own poetry, with themes such as waiting, life, change, and wanderlust. Book reviews were also a popular addition to the magazine, allowing students to honestly assess novels by women authors, such as Edith Wharton and Frances Brett Young. 


The magazine’s cover art also gave students a way to express their creativity. While the early Coraddi covers were simple, by the mid-20s, both whimsical and modern artwork began to appear. A student contest determined what design would be on the cover. The student would not only have her work featured on the front of the magazine, she would also receive five dollars. In some cases, the artist’s initials are woven into the pen and ink drawings – “ABJ” seems to be the illustrator of Coraddis published in1924 and 1925. Other cover art remains anonymous. 

The Coraddi, December 1928
The creative designs and writings in the Coraddi mirrored the imagination, hopes, and dreams of the students attending the North Carolina College for Women in the 1920s. Now the magazine, published semi-annually, continues to provide a platform to showcase art and literature from current students, faculty, staff, and alumni.