“A Carolina Lady:” Navigating Campus Rules for Women in 1958

The Women's Honor Council for the 1958-1959 academic year. From the 1959 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org

The Women’s Honor Council for the 1958-1959 academic year. From the 1959 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org

When new women students arrived on campus in the fall of 1958, their orientation likely included advice on many topics familiar to today’s students. But they also received an introduction to something else — the complicated and often confusing set of rules that governed women’s lives on campus.

In 1958, there were 1,320 women students at UNC Chapel Hill — about 19% of the student population. It was five years before the University would admit women students without consideration of their intended major and residence and 14 years before the passage of Title IX, which banned sex discrimination in federally-funded education.

Rules for women enrolled at UNC included strict curfews and guidelines for dress and behavior in campus spaces, and were often subject to interpretation. At an orientation for women students in 1958, Women’s Honor Council chair Nancy Adams gave advice for avoiding violations of the code, explaining what it meant to be “a Carolina Lady.”

Advice for first year women students, 1958. From the Office of the Dean of Women Records (#40125), University Archives.

Advice for first year women students, 1958. From the Office of the Dean of Women Records (#40125), University Archives.

 

In 1962, Adams returned to UNC as Assistant Dean of Women. After three years in that position, she turned her attention to activism, advocating for civil rights and American withdrawal from Vietnam.

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UNC alumni: Do you have what we’re looking for?

From the 1974 UNC yearbook, the Yackety Yack.

From the 1974 UNC yearbook, the Yackety Yack.

Any UNC alum who’s recently been on campus knows just how much student fashions have changed since their own time at Carolina. Next February, the North Carolina Collection plans to open an exhibition exploring clothing styles at UNC as they’ve evolved over time. We’d love your help!

We’re in search of clothing to represent every era of student fashion at UNC — whether it’s a class sweater, a dress purchased on Franklin Street, or a piece that captures the essence of your years at Carolina.

Do you have any articles of clothing or shoes you wore as a student? Would you be willing to donate or lend them to the North Carolina Collection for the exhibition?

If so, please contact Linda Jacobson, Keeper of the NCC Gallery, at 919-962-0104 or ljacobso@email.unc.edu.

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The slideshow image Morton didn’t photograph

On this day . . . actually night . . . sixty-five years ago, a sporting event played out on Soldier Field in Chicago that would have a tremendous impact on North Carolina sports history.  It was August 11, 1950 when the Chicago College All-Star Game game between the best college players of the 1949 season met the two-time World Champion Philadelphia Eagles.  On this special anniversary, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard looks back at a football game of epic portions.

Photograph of a copy slide set on a light table. Hugh Morton made this copy slide for use in slide talks about Charlie Justice.  The black grease pencil line drawn on the bottom of the image and the lack of halftone dots suggests Morton copied a photographic print.  The slide is part of Slide Lot 014859 in the Hugh Morton collection.

Photograph of a copy slide set on a light table. Hugh Morton made this copy slide for use in his slide talks about Charlie Justice. The black grease pencil line drawn on the bottom of the image, the crude obliteration of some object (maybe a referee’s jersey?) in the upper right side of the image, and the streaks rather than halftone dots within the image all suggest that Morton copied a wire-service print. The slide is part of Slide Lot 014859 in the Hugh Morton collection.

Hugh Morton didn’t attend the 17th annual Chicago College All-Star Game, but he was always acutely aware of its place in North Carolina sports history and in the life of one of his closest friends.  Morton often included a wire service photograph in his slide shows from that historic night—a night that almost wasn’t historic at all.

It was July 17th, 1950 and UNC’s great all-America football star Charlie Justice was seated behind his desk in the Medical Foundation Building on Pittsboro Street in Chapel Hill.  It’s was the first July since 1938 that he wasn’t preparing for the upcoming football season.  Soon after taking the Medical Foundation job, the United States Department of State invited Justice to travel to Germany with coaches Jim Tatum of Maryland, Wally Butts of Georgia, and Frank Leahy of Notre Dame to hold football coaching clinics for the armed forces stationed there.  In order the make the trip, Justice had to turn down an invitation from Arch Ward (sports editor of the Chicago Tribune and founder of the Chicago College All-Star Game) to play in that year’s game.

The overseas trip never happened because of events that began on June 25th, 1950— events that would later become known as the Korean War.  So Justice picked up the phone and called Arch Ward.   He asked Ward if the earlier invitation to play in the All-Star game still stands, saying “I’d like to play.”

Ward explained that he had already selected fifty top-notch players for the contest.  He also pointed out that the rules of the game allowed only four future NFL players from each NFL team, and that he already had four Washington Redskins’ players.  Charlie quickly pointed out that, although he was drafted by Washington, he had no plans to play for them.  Ward finally said, “OK, Charlie, if you’re sure you aren’t planning to play for Washington, and you want to be the 51st player on a 50-man team, come on out.  We’ll let you return punts and kickoffs.”

“I’ve given the Medical Foundation my word and I’ll be right here come football season,” Charlie told Ward.  Justice was on the next flight out.  The banner headline in the Chicago Tribune on July 18th read: “NORTH CAROLINA’S JUSTICE JOINS ALL-STARS.”

A crowd of 90,000 was expected on a clear, cool 60-degree summer evening at Soldier Field.  The two-time World Champion Philadelphia Eagles won veteran NFL referee Emil Heintz’s opening coin-toss, but head coach Earl “Greasy” Neale’s team couldn’t move the ball, thanks to the defensive efforts of All-Stars Clayton Tonnemaker, Leo Nomellini, Don Campora, and Leon Hart.  Justice went in on the punt return team, but the Eagle punt was returned by the All-Stars’ Hillary Chollet to the Stars 46-yard line.  As Charlie started off the field, the All-Star head coach, Eddie Anderson, motioned for him to stay on the field.  Anderson said, “run this first series, Charlie, so we can get an idea of what kind of defense the Eagles will be using . . . it’ll give us an idea of what offense we should use.”

On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Eddie LeBaron pitched out to Justice around the right side and Charlie was off on a thirty-one yard gain.  Three plays later it was Justice again, this time for twelve more yards.  On the next play All-Star Ralph Pasquariello from Villanova took it over the goal line, and the All-Stars led 7-0. Needless to say, Justice stayed in the game.

On the first play of the second quarter, Justice raced down the sideline for forty-seven more yards.  This All-Star drive stalled, but when they got the ball back on an Eagles’ fumble by Clyde Scott, recovered by Hall Haynes (future Justice Redskins teammate) on the Eagle 40, LeBaron dropped back to pass, eluded three pass rushers and finally rifled a pass from his own 40 to Justice who went the distance for a score.  The play actually covered a total of 60 yards and Winfrid Smith, writer for the Chicago Tribune, described the play as “the greatest pass play in the history of these games.”  Football historian Raymond Schmidt in his 2001 book, Football Stars of Summer said “the All-Stars led the Eagles 14-to-0 at the half and the football world was in shock.”

In the third quarter the Eagles finally scored, but the All-Stars came right back in the fourth with Justice leading the way—this time his 28-yard run plus a 35-yard pass from LeBaron to UNC All-America Art Weiner pass set up Gordon Soltau’s 17-yard field goal that made the final score 17-7.  When the dust settled, the All-Stars had gained 221 yards on the ground—an All-Star record that still stands—and Charlie Justice had carried the ball 9 times gaining 133 yards.  That’s 14.8 yards per carry.  He had runs of 31, 12, 47,  and 28 yards.  His 133-yard total was 48 yards more than the entire Eagle team gained on the ground.  Justice also completed a pass to his UNC teammate Art Weiner for 15 yards and he caught a 35 yard TD pass from LeBaron.

Back in North Carolina, thousands of Tar Heels listened to the game on radio—two of those folks were my dad and me.  We sat in our living room in Asheboro listening to WGBG in Greensboro.  A summer thundershower blew through the Triangle area and caused the Durham Bulls game with the Raleigh Caps to be postponed, thus giving those fans an opportunity to listen as well.

On Saturday August 12th, Charlie heard on the radio that he had been selected the game’s Most Valuable Player and would received the MVP trophy at halftime of the 1951 game.  UNC Coach Carl Snavely would make the presentation.  Newsmen and broadcasters covering the game selected the MVP.  Justice was a 2-to-1 choice over runner-up LeBaron.  Six All-Star linemen got votes.  Justice thought LeBaron should have gotten the MVP award.  Said Charlie, “Eddie deserves it.  He’s a great little quarterback and a fine passer.”

“Never since the MVP voting began in 1938 has the voting been so concentrated,” said Winfrid Smith the next day in the Chicago Sunday Tribune.

A game-action photograph of Justice accompanied a Smith Barrier column on Tuesday, August 15th story naming him the 152nd Greensboro Daily News “Athlete of the Week.”  It was the 6th time Justice had received that honor.  It was this photograph that Morton copied and included in his slide shows over the years.  Though no credit appears in the copy slide nor the Greensboro Daily News, the Sunday, August 13th issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution credits Acme Photos.  (Editor’s note: according to the Library of Congress, Corbis purchased the Acme photographic archives.  I searched the Corbis website but this image did not turn up.)

The Charlie Justice photograph made during the 1950 College All Star game, played on August 11th, as it appeared in the sport pages of the Greensboro Daily News on August 15th.

The Charlie Justice photograph made during the 1950 College All Star game, played on August 11th, as it appeared in the sport pages of the Greensboro Daily News on August 15th.

On August 17, 1951, Charlie Justice received the 1950 MVP All-Star trophy, presented by UNC Head Football Coach Carl Snavely.  That presentation was seen live across North Carolina via the Dumont TV network, WBTV in Charlotte, and WFMY-TV in Greensboro.  The TV Network linked 46 stations and the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) Radio Network had 528 stations.

Said Snavely of his Tar Heel All-American, “You saw Charlie do in last year’s All-Star game what we saw Charlie do many times . . . what we came to expect Charlie to do every time he got on the football field.  I doubt if there has been a finer all-around player in football than Charlie.”  Charlie’s response was “It’s the highest honor that can come to a football player. . . . I accept the trophy for the entire 50-man All-Star squad. . . . They all should be getting one.”

In a Charlotte Observer column on February 21, 1957 written by Justice, he said,  “…I would say without hesitation that the high spot of my career came in the 1950 All-Star game in Chicago.”

In July, 2004, Hugh Morton was the point man for the Charlie Justice statue that now stands just outside Kenan Stadium.  In a note to Glenn Corley, the architect who designed the statue-area surroundings, Morton said, one of the Justice informational plaques planned for the area should include “what I feel was one of Charlie’s most exciting accomplishments: MVP for the College All-Star game.”  Morton then sent me a note asking, “Can you fill me in on the info of the College All-Stars versus the pros?”

I was honored to fill Morton’s request and today, if you stand in front of the statue, the informational plaque on the far right tells of Justice’s MVP performance of August 11, 1950, sixty-five years ago tonight.

Charlie Justice statue at UNC, photograph by Stephen J. Fletcher, 11 August 2015.

Charlie Justice statue at UNC, photograph by Stephen J. Fletcher, 11 August 2015.

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Graffiti on Silent Sam: 1968 and 2015

Last weekend,”Silent Sam,” the Confederate memorial located on McCorkle Place, was spray painted with “KKK,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Murderer” with an arrow pointing to the Confederate soldier above. The monument was covered before being cleaned a few days later.

The incident highlights Silent Sam’s place in the ongoing discussion of race, campus landmarks and spaces, and university history. It also reflects the renewed push against the display of Confederate symbols since the racially-motivated attack in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17.

However, while the action was timely given these current contexts, it isn’t a first. Most strikingly, in early April 1968, as the country was gripped by grief and unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Silent Sam was splashed with red paint and its base covered with words and symbols.

Silent Sam, circa April 7, 1968. From the Hugh Morton Photographic Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill. Silent Sam, July 5, 2015. From Twitter, via Stephanie Lamm (@slamm_5) A student volunteer cleans graffiti from the base of "Silent Sam,"  April 8, 1968. From the Daily Tar Heel,  April 9, 1968, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill. Workers clean Silent Sam, July 7, 2015. From the Daily Tar Heel, July 9, 2015. http://bit.ly/1CrjLHq

 

 

 

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University Archives in Action: Renaming Saunders Hall

Today the Board of Trustees voted 10 to 3 to rename Saunders Hall “Carolina Hall.” For those who’ve been under a rock for the past few years, the charge to change the name of Saunders Hall, which was named by trustees in 1920 after William Saunders (1835–1891), North Carolina Secretary of State and chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in the state, has been led by various student groups over the past two decades, most recently the Real Silent Same Coalition along with the Campus Y and other student groups.

Saunders’s involvement in the KKK was not ancillary to the decision to name the new building after him, but as seen in the minutes of the Board of Trustees, was indeed central. (You can read the minute books online.)

Saunders_BOT

Minutes, Oversize Volume SV-40001/12 (p. 234), in the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina Records #40001, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

University Archives staff worked diligently to rediscover this information and provide it to trustees and to the public at large. It is gratifying to know that the (not always easy or recognized) work of collecting, describing, and preserving these materials played a part in energizing students and swaying the board.

We at Wilson Library work very hard to make primary information about the university available to the public, including online exhibits such as “Slavery and the Making of the University,” one of the first exhibits of its kind. We don’t need a mandate to do all we can to make university history public.

We depend on scholars and students to tell the story of the university. We just don’t have the time to read every sheet of paper that comes into our custody. Our job is to collect enough that our researchers have rich and inclusive documentation to work from and to describe it all in a way that gets that material into the hands of researchers as soon as possible.

If you’re interested in any aspect of university history, you can always come to Wilson Library and talk to a reference archivist to get access to the collections that might satisfy your curiosity.

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Artifact of the Month: 1943 dance card

In 1943, UNC-Greensboro was the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina. And on this day in 1943, first-year students were preparing for their freshman formal. Our May Artifact of the Month is a dance card from that event.

_dance_card1_

In the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, dance cards provided a structure and etiquette for attendees of formal dances. The dance card — which was really a small booklet — had a number of blank lines corresponding to the dance songs at the event. When a man invited a woman to dance to a particular song, she’d write his name down on the corresponding line.

These days, if a critical mass of people still attended formal dances, someone would design a smart phone app to handle this task. But in the 1940s, paper and pen managed just fine.

And although the dance card is no longer a mainstay of social gatherings, we’ve kept the idea of the dance card alive as a metaphor for describing our social capacity — hence the phrase “my dance card is full.”

dance card

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This particular dance card was donated by NCC Gallery volunteer and donor Bob Schreiner, who came across it for sale on the Web. We don’t know anything about its original owner, but the dance card itself conveys enough information to give us an intriguing picture of the life of that Woman’s College student.

The card gives the location, Rosenthal Gymnasium, which was built on the campus in the 1920s and can be seen in this photograph from the County Collection in the NCC Photographic Archives:

Rosenthal Gymnasium

We also know that the official guests included Frank Porter Graham, who was then UNC President, and Woman’s College Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson.

_frank_porter_graham

Graham is described in the 1943 Woman’s College yearbook, Pine Needles, like this:

Dr. Graham is recognized as one of the South’s truly great men, but this is not what endears him to us. He is a particular favorite of ours because of his easy manner, his very effective speeches, and his delightful conversation. Our only complaint is that we see too little of him.

The cover and front page of the 1943 yearbook.

The cover and front page of the 1943 yearbook.

The 1943 Pine Needles also illuminates some aspects of life at this women’s college during World War II. The foreword to the yearbook reads:

_pine_needles3

“The 1943 Pine Needles is trying to portray for you the true spirit of a great woman’s college; to give you the picture of young women who — in the midst of a world at war — are seeking to equip themselves to play a useful role in a post-war world in need of a responsible youth; and to aid you, the students, to recall the laughter and hard work, the study and recreation, and — above all — the pure joy of living which was so much a part of your college life.

You may not remember… the times you were homesick… your struggle in Statistics… the payments you made in the Treasurer’s Office… the term papers you ground out in the Library… how long the lunch lines were…

But just try to forget: … those solitary walks by the lake… those ever-welcome boxes from home… initiation day for freshman and how queer girls look minus make-up… coming from chapel in the rain… the snowballs you threw… registration day and the struggle to avoid “eight o’clocks”… that blankety-blank alarm clock… dashing into Junior Shop for cokes and crackers between classes… “after-school” hockey games and the appetites you worked up… a W.C. formal with its dance cards and crowded floor… dance group and how you wished you were in it… those dorm parties which always surprised you… riding at Mary Lee… the jam around the Milk Bar on Saturday nights… the sophomore Christmas pageants which were always lovely… waiting for the mail to be put up… rolling your hair at night in hopes that it won’t rain the next day… learning to aim at your target… !

Because dance cards were typically carried by women, they usually list men’s names. But judging by the names on this card, the card holder’s dance partners were all women. Thanks to the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, we can even see photos of those dance partners in the 1946 Pine Needles.

And while the yearbook foreword mentions the “W.C. formal with its dance cards and crowded floor,” it doesn’t give any indication of whether the floor was crowded solely with women. The names on this dance card are our only clue.

If the freshman formal was an all-women event, we’re left to wonder whether that was by design, or whether the war effort overseas had affected the population of local young college men.

If any readers have personal experience or more information, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks to Bob Schreiner for this fantastic donation!

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Bill Guthridge, 1937–2015

UNC Head Coach Bill Guthridge holding trophy after UNC-Chapel Hill beat Duke University in finals of ACC tournament, Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C., on March 8, 1998.

UNC Head Coach Bill Guthridge holding trophy after UNC beat Duke University in finals of the ACC Tournament, Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C., on March 8, 1998.

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Disorder in Old West: the Student Riot of August, 1850

Charles Phillips

Charles Phillips

On the night of August 13, 1850, Charles Phillips, then a tutor of mathematics, heard “loud vociferations, high words, as of persons quarrelling, and other noises” coming from Old West (then known as West Building). As he went to investigate the disturbance, he could not have anticipated that the evening would end with him and a colleague cornered in a dorm room, fending off rioting students.

In his first sweep of West Building, Phillips found most of the students quiet in their rooms, but heard and saw students yelling and throwing stones at each other outside. He ran into his colleague Dr. Elisha Mitchell in the hallway, and they continued the investigation. In one room, the professors found “great disorder—the beds rumbled, the chairs in confusion, the floor very wet, and the remains of a stone vessel scattered up on it.” They found a nearly empty jug of whisky under the bed.

Elisha Mitchell

Elisha Mitchell

Upon leaving West, the professors encountered Manuel Fetter, professor of Greek language and literature, and retreated to the Laboratory to discuss the situation. However, as they left the Laboratory, they were immediately attacked. Phillips recalled:

Because of the vollies of stones which swept the passage I kept close to its northern wall, and looking through the opening that leads to the front door of the building I noticed a group of persons standing before the door. Immediately a volley of stones (or bats) entered, and a person passed me quickly accompanied by another volley. On speaking to him, I recognized Prof. Fetter who told me that he had been violently struck on the hand and leg. So violent was one of the blows that his cane was knocked to a distance from his hand.

Manuel Fetter

Manuel Fetter

When they eventually made their way back to West Building, they were met by more rowdy students, some disguised with blankets or fencing masks. As some students escaped through the windows, others began lobbing stones and sticks at the professors. The professors barricaded themselves in a student’s room, but the rioters continued their attack, knocking out a panel of the door. Phillips explained:

Discovering our exact position [in the room], those outside endeavoured to hit us by throwing obliquely into the room through the door and windows, and by introducing their hands so as to throw sideways directly at us. One individual introduced through a window, a stick two or three feet long and of the size of one’s wrist, evidently intending to swing it around and so strike us. As missiles were still entering the room, and our present was the only safe position, I immediately seized a chair and as an act of self defence urgently necessary, threw it in the direction of the concealed assailant. This act rendered the students outside much more excited, and threats of great violence, even to the getting our heart’s blood, were uttered for our striking a student.

After about an hour, a student, J.J. Slade, was able to reason with the rioters and escort the professors out on the condition that they leave campus immediately. The professors left and reported the night’s events to the president. They returned later that night with several other faculty members and searched the residence halls, but the disorder had subsided and most students were asleep in their beds.

The student who had come through the window with a club (and subsequently been hit by a chair) was expelled, but most students involved in the riot were not identified.

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Charles Phillips’ testimony on the events of August 13, 1850

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The information desk of the university

Graduation weekend is upon UNC’s class of 2015, and this year’s graduates will be walking the brick walkways on campus as students for their final times.  These times are special—they’ll look at the old buildings that until now were often taken for granted, but will now take on a new meaning.

Soon after returning to Wilmington from the South Pacific during World War II, Hugh Morton revisited the UNC campus and photographed many of the buildings he grew to know as a student during the autumn of 1939 and the early 1940s.  The November 1946 issue of The Alumni Review featured on its cover a Morton photograph of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower—his first credited post-war AR cover.  Its caption read, “The cover picture is another photograph by Hugh Morton ’43, the Wilmington realtor who continues to practice his college hobby of photography.  Recently, he presented to the Alumni Office a half dozen new pictures of familiar campus scenes. . . .”  The photograph of South Hall below appeared in the April 1947 issue of the magazine, and was likely one of those six photographs. Last August, Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard wrote a post titled The best of times: the “Golden Era” at UNC (1945-1950) where we featured those photographs.  The online collection of Morton photographs currently contains thirty-seven views of South Building.

In a few months, the incoming class of 2019 will stroll the brick pathways within the stone walls of Carolina, with their own discoveries awaiting them.  Today, Jack recalls his first introduction to South Building and one of its occupants when he was a freshman.

On a side note, if you attend this coming Saturday’s 2015 Spring Reunion Weekend activities, please stop by Wilson Library between 1:00 and 5:00 for our special open house.  Each year I scan approximately 100 negatives from the UNC “Photo Lab” collection made 50 years earlier.  The images run on continuous loop, so you may enter and leave as your schedule permits.  This year features the 1964–1965 academic year.  I will be there and would enjoy meeting readers of A View to Hugh.  During your trip to Wilson Library you will also be able to

This photograph of South Building appeared full-page in the April 1947 issue of The Alumni Review with a caption that noted that the building had been renovated in 1925. "Of the University's 40,000 matriculates and ex-matriculates" it continued, "three-fourths of them knew this view of South Building in their student days." The photograph as published is cropped significantly and rotated clockwise to make the columns more vertical.

This photograph of South Building appeared full-page in the April 1947 issue of The Alumni Review with a caption that noted that the building had been renovated in 1925. “Of the University’s 40,000 matriculates and ex-matriculates” it continued, “three-fourths of them knew this view of South Building in their student days.” The photograph as published is cropped significantly and rotated clockwise to make the columns more vertical.

Most Tar Heels, young and old, will recognize the campus building that stands at 200 East Cameron Avenue. It’s one of the oldest buildings on campus and sits atop Polk Place. Today it has huge columns that face south and frame the front door.  The building currently is used for administrative offices, such as the Office of Chancellor Carol Folt.  Of course, we’re talking about South Building, a true historic symbol of UNC life.

The original design for the building was based on Princeton’s Nassau Hall, and the cornerstone was laid on April 4, 1798. The building was to be the main structure of a proposed quad.  Construction began in 1799, but a shortage of funding and some political wrangling brought that progress to a halt in 1800 and nothing was accomplished for the next three years.  Construction was finally completed in 1814.  At the time of completion, there was a dire need for teaching and living space for the growing university population, so South Building began to fill some of those needs.  The third floor offered much needed dormitory space and future United States President James Knox Polk occupied a room at the southwest corner in 1818.  The second floor housed a “Library and Philosophical Chamber,” as well as the study for University President Joseph Caldwell. Other areas of the building contained classrooms, a chemistry lab, and space for the debating societies.

During the Civil War, South Building sheltered Union cavalry troops who were responsible for major damage to the building. Mrs. Cornelia Phillips Spencer described the destructive scene:

Gangs . . . spend the nights in the Old South Building, rioting, shouting, drinking.  You have no idea of the degradation.  The Halls and Libraries are broken into at all times, and I am told that the Phi Library . . . has its books scattered all over the building.  It makes me heartsick to write about it.

It’s not surprising that on March 20, 1875, upon hearing that the General Assembly had passed the bill for the financial reorganization and support to reopen the university, Mrs. Spencer, accompanied by friends and pupils, climbed to the attic of South Building and rang the bell signaling the glorious reopening.  She was also celebrating her birthday on that March day.

In the 1920s, following the relocation to South Building of the president’s office, the University administration decided the building needed a more authoritative design.

Architect Arthur Nash was brought in to establish the new look.  He enlarged the windows and substituted, in place of the small chimneys, four large ones.  His most important addition was the grand south portico with the four columns that I mentioned earlier.  These changes, completed in 1927, became South Building’s south face that we see today as we stand on the steps of Wilson Library and look across campus.

I recall my first days as an incoming freshman at UNC in the fall of 1958 with my orientation group.  We were taken to South Building and shown where our General College advisers had their offices, most of which were on the second floor.  We were also introduced to a very special lady who sat at a desk in the rotunda.  Her name was Mrs. Gustave Harrer, also known as “The Information Lady.”  During a 20 year period from 1943 until 1963, this gracious and kindly lady helped thousands of students who were worried, puzzled, angry, or lost. Her white hair, her ready-smile, and reassuring manner instantly inspired confidence . . . and she seemed to be able to solve the most difficult of problems. Having been on the Carolina campus since her arrival in Chapel Hill in 1915 when her husband became chairman of the Classics Department, Mrs. Harrer was the perfect choice to greet students and visitors to South Building, “the information desk of the University.”

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The Cost of College: An Issue Then and Now

In recent times, the volcano of American student loan debt has been casting a tall and ominous shadow over the neatly trimmed lawns of American universities. Like a room of frantic volcanologists in the opening scenes of a disaster film, voices from across the country have forecast a cataclysmic eruption of student loan debt due to the exponential increase in the cost of attending college.

But, like all volcanoes, the rising cost of higher education did not become a problem overnight. Below are some insights on the issue given roughly half a century ago by former UNC President, William C. Friday, during a Board of Trustees Meeting on February 25, 1963, regarding raising tuition to fund the construction of new dormitories:

Bill Friday, 1962. From the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library.

Bill Friday, 1962. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library.

I feel I must point to the full significance of the continuing inflationary trend in the cost of going to college […] But it is a certainty that a public state university goes against one of the cardinal principles of its constitution if it shifts a disproportionate percentage of cost to the individual student. It should never be that the effective criterion of admissibility to the state university becomes a test of financial means. We are tending that way, and every increment of cost aggravates the tendency [….]

Building on this idea, President Friday makes the observation that:

State-supported institutions are erected and maintained by the public for the purpose of making higher education accessible to the rank and file of citizens. To perform this function, they must keep the doors open to students of all economic classes. Already, I fear, we have reached the point in the threefold University where many students, upon learning the cost of tuition and fees, room and board, and books and other essentials, immediately conclude that the state University is becoming too expensive too attend.

Tuition rates have continued to rise in the years since, and in 1982, Bill Friday again raised the alarm over America’s student loan crisis. According to the 1962-1963 UNC Chapel Hill catalog, the in-state tuition of a full-time undergraduate student during the 1962-1963 academic year was $87.50 per semester (adjusting for inflation, equivalent to $671.18 today). For the academic year of 2014-2015, a semester’s tuition for the same student would be $3211.50.

When faced with these numbers, one may wonder: will higher education as a whole suffer the same fate as Pompeii? Only time will tell. All that can be said for certain is that if the eruption does happen, the resulting explosion won’t be as abrupt as the one that shook Rome long ago. As William C. Friday confirmed 50 years ago, the student loan problem is a volcano that has been quietly erupting one undramatic day at a time.

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