It’s getting close to Commencement again here at Wofford, and in just a few days, we’ll send another class off into the world. I like to show some of our Commencement-related artifacts and documents each year around this time. Today, I’ve got a program from the 1859 ceremony, complete with the names of all of the speeches that members of the senior class had to give.
An anonymous alumnus, possibly a member of the Class of 1884, wrote this in an early issue of the Wofford College Journal, the student literary magazine that began in 1889. The Journal, which is still published today, also contained campus news in those early years. These were the reminiscences of that alum about his student days. He was a student in the preparatory department before becoming a college student. The facilities he describes were a bit rough!
I entered college, or rather “Prep,” as the Preparatory’ Department was then called, so young that I, with two others, formed what one teacher, now professor, called his “barefoot class,” because we, like the famous Kansas statesman, went without the usual foot protectors.
The college, as I first remember it, was a plain brick building. No steps led up to the front piazza. Two buttresses jutting out from either side alone told where the old wooden steps had been. The wings were stained a peculiar shade of pink, while the towers and portico were painted a different hue. No garden, laid off in drives and walks, reached up to the very base of the building, but all in front was simply a field in which the boys played ball, the “home base” being near where’ the old oak tree now stands.
Inside, there have been as great, if not greater changes. The chapel was without plastering overhead, and on looking upward the lathes looked down on you in derision. Going from there to the recitation rooms you find,
“Within the master’s desk is seen,
Deep scarred by raps official,
The warping floor, battered seats,
The jack knife carved initial.
The charcoal frescoe on its wall,
Its doors worn sill betraying,
The feet that creeping slow to school
Went storming out to playing.”
There have been great changes both in faculty and in courses of study. The only professor here now that was teaching then is the President, who was then Professor of Mathematics.
The five professors, who had been teaching in the college for twelve years and were destined to teach for two more, at the time I entered “Prep,” were, Rev. A. M. Shipp, D. D., Whitefoord Smith, D. D., Warren DuPre, LL.D., James H. Carlisle, LL.D., and Professor David Duncan. Professor Lester resigned the year I entered.
When I entered college proper, 1880, they changed from the old collegiate classes to the university plan. According to this plan a young man might enter any class for which he was prepared, provided the hours in that class did not conflict with the hours of any other to which he belonged. So you might find the phenomenon of a man, who combined in one person, all the dignity of the Senior, all the learning of the Junior, all the self esteem of a “Soph,” and all the pomposity of a “Fresh.” What a wonderful person that must have been!
Besides changing the plan of study they also changed the names of the classes to Junior, Intermediate and Senior. Ah! well do I remember how it puzzled the boys to understand how it would take four years to graduate when there were but three classes. As neither the plan nor the names seemed to work well, in five years, they returned to the same old system and called the classes by their former names.
In 1875, they discontinued the Preparatory department, and substituted the Introductory and sub-introductory classes. How the “Ducs.”‘ (Introductories) resented being classed with the “Subs” (Sub-Introductories,) and how indignant were both at being called ‘Preps,” any old student of those times knows.
The [Literary] Societies are now the pride of the college, but to enumerate the changes that have taken place within them would make this paper too long.
This article, from the December 1889 issue of the Wofford College Journal, details some of the exploits of Wofford’s Class of 1890 as they took a senior class trip to Charleston, by rail, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Student travel was no doubt as enlightening to them as it is to our students today – and no doubt, as nerve-wracking to their professor as it is to our faculty today. And some of those sights remain popular in the Holy City as they did in 1889.
SENIORS OFF TO CHARLESTON
A Senior on the campus is quite a different individual from a Senior off the campus. This fact was clearly evidenced a few weeks ago. The noon train from Spartanburg to Columbia, Nov. 12, ‘89, pulled out of the car shed with a precious burden in the shape of the entire class of ‘90 bound for Charleston, under the escort of our genial Professor of Greek.
Once in motion, all ideas of Senior dignity vanished. Stiff necks and urbane countenances gave place to lounging postures and Freshman grimaces. Not until we reached Union, however, did the true genius of the crowd display itself. At this point of our route an extra coach was tacked on, of the which we at once proceeded to take possession; leaving our genial Professor in blissful ignorance two cars in front to peruse at his leisure, the programme of the Gala Week. From this point to Columbia we held high carnival, for the melodious strains of “By, by, my Honey, I’m gone,” “Hang the Facul-tee” etc. etc., completely drowned even the roar of the rushing train.
We reached our destination at 10 o’clock P. M. and immediately instituted a diligent search for lodgings. At the end of two and a half hours, our entire party, not excluding our courageous escort, was peacefully ensconced upon the billiard tables of the Waverly House. Billiard tables not being a faithful field for Natural History investigation it was but natural that a science loving Senior class should soon tire of them. Accordingly as soon as day dawned, we betook ourselves to the Battery to see the sun rise over the bar and the thermometer fall below a stiff sea breeze.
We next visited the Charleston Museum, which is a great place and contains many wonderful things. Among other things there is a skeleton of a donkey. This struck one gentleman with particular force, and while contemplating it in wrapt attention he was overheard to murmur: “How wonder-and fearfully we are made,” or words to that effect.
We “did’, the most prominent places of interest in the quaint and historic old town, including Magnolia, the Citadel, St. Michael’s, Sullivans lsland, the Harbor, the Medical College, White Point Gardens, Fort Moultrie and the News and Courier. We regretted very much that lack of time prevented our visiting the Charleston Hotel.
Three days in the city served to satisfy our sight-seeing propensities, and accordingly most of us packed our Saratogas and, Saturday morning, left behind us the City by the Sea, famous for cyclones and great men, earthquakes and wiggle-tails.
We reached home safe and sound and have resumed “the even tenor of our Senior way.”
On this day in 1973, Joab Mauldin Lesesne Jr. was officially installed as Wofford’s 9th president.
Presidents often have a formal installation or inauguration several months after they officially take office. Joe Lesesne became the college’s president on June 30, 1972, but the formal ceremony did not take place until April.
Lesesne requested a smaller “installation” rather than a large “inauguration” because he wanted to speak more directly to the college community, and also partly to save money. Dr. Lesesne went on to serve 28 years as president, retiring in 2000.
Many Wofford alumni may have never heard of Dr. Albert C. Outler, but he was one of the most influential Wofford alums in modern Methodist history.
Born in Thomasville, Georgia, Dr. Outler was the son of a Methodist minister and district superintendent in the South Georgia Conference. He came to Wofford in 1925 and was a stellar student, earning distinctions in Bible, English, history and sociology as a sophomore and in Bible, Greek, geology, religious education, English, and chemistry as a junior. He earned enough credits to graduate a year ahead of his class, taking his AB degree in 1928. After graduation, he became a clergy member of the South Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Church and earned his BD degree from Emory University. He studied for his PhD in religion at Yale University, taking that degree in 1938. He became an instructor, and later professor at Duke University in 1938, remaining there until 1945, when he answered Yale’s call to their faculty. While at Yale, he became the Dwight Professor of Theology. In 1951, he moved to Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, where he spent the rest of his career.
That’s the official list of appointments, but it completely fails to do justice to Albert Outler’s contribution to Methodist theology. Outler’s 1961 article “Toward a Re-appraisal of John Wesley as a Theologian” helped revive John Wesley’s reputation as an original theologian rather than a “cult hero and theological featherweight,” in the words of an Emory alumni magazine article about Outler. He is regarded as the most original Methodist theologian in the history of the church and was one of the foremost experts in the life and works of John Wesley. He was the author of numerous books and articles and a much sought-after speaker and lecturer. He was the editor of The Works of John Wesley and was the principal annotator of Wesley’s sermons. He created the term “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” to describe the basis of John Wesley’s theology – the reliance on scripture, reason, church tradition, and personal experience in reaching theological conclusions.
He was a representative at the World Methodist Council and at the World Council of Churches, and from 1962-65, was an official observer at the Second Vatican Council.
Wofford honored Albert Outler in a number of ways. He was elected an alumnus member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1948, was awarded an honorary degree in 1952, gave the Commencement address in 1968, and received the alumni distinguished service award in 1987. The Albert C. Outler Chair in Religion was endowed in his honor as well. In 1985, only a few years before he died, and over fifty years after he graduated from Wofford, Albert Outler presented the inaugural Lecture in Religion, Ethics, and Society at the college. In that lecture, he paid tribute to the liberal arts education he received at Wofford.
In a letter he wrote to Lewis Jones in 1980, responding to a request for his thoughts on the liberal education he received at Wofford, Outler explained, “my vague recollection is that my college major was English, but it has been the discoveries of what could be done with the English language that have stayed with me after the details of the courses have long since blurred.” He noted that he never learned enough in any discipline to be considered an “expert,” and in that sense, his education was “useless” in terms of the current mania for a career and vocational education. But, it was useful in that it freed him from some of the biases that came with each discipline, and that with enough lead time, he could “master the rudiments of any new field, and what I would know then would be more up-to-date. “This is why I shall be eternally grateful that I wasn’t confined by a more specialized or vocational curriculum. Instead, we got a synoptic view of the world at large, and an organic sense of the life of learning.”
While three professors started teaching at Wofford on the day the college opened, a fourth, who had been selected alongside the other three, received what we might call the college’s first faculty development leave. That professor, Warren DuPre, received permission to travel in the North, buy scientific equipment, and study with other professors so that he might be able to teach all of the sciences.
At a time when the full curriculum was taught by four or five instructors, with a heavy focus on the classics, literature, religion and philosophy, each professor had to be something of a generalist. In the original catalog, the scientist taught chemistry, geology, mineralogy, and also gave lectures in agricultural chemistry. (The students also took astronomy, but that was taught by Dr. James Carlisle, the mathematician.) No physics or biology classes appeared in the first catalog.
Into the role of founder of science education at Wofford stepped Warren DuPre. Born in 1816 in Mount Pleasant, SC, DuPre (then pronounced Dew-PRAY) had a good bit of experience in education by the time he got to Wofford. He met his wife, Mary Sydnor, a native of Mecklenberg County, Virginia, during his association with Randolph-Macon College, then located in Boydton, Virginia. When they married around 1843, he was assisting Professor Landon Garland in his work at the college. They first moved to Mount Pleasant to be near his family, and then to Newberry, where he was the head of a large school for girls. While he was at Newberry, in November 1853, he was called to the chair of science at Wofford. He spent the first part of 1855 visiting colleges and studying chemistry with Yale professor Benjamin Silliman.
The DuPre family moved into the home just west of Main Building, and altogether five generations of DuPres lived there. Shortly after arriving on campus, the DuPre’s 9-year old son Sydnor died of typhoid fever. When the Civil War started, and the college lost most of its students, DuPre used his scientific knowledge to earn money for himself and the college. He was sent to the coast to make salt from seawater. He also made matches from some of the wood cut near campus.
A series of earthquakes in western North Carolina in 1874 prompted DuPre to take a group of students to the Hickory Nut Gap to investigate the commotion. He wrote to his father about the experience, including the fear the locals had of the unexplained trembling of the earth and the amazement at DuPre’s knowledge. One man reportedly said to one of DuPre’s students, “Ain’t that old man in there a very smart codger? He must have read a dozen books!”
Professor DuPre, probably because of his experience as principal of an academy for young women, was known around Spartanburg for holding Bible classes for young women, much in the same way that Professor Carlisle did for young men. When he announced his departure from Spartanburg in 1876, to go become president of Martha Washington College in Virginia, the story is that the whole church burst into tears. DuPre’s son Daniel Allston DuPre completed coursework in Edinburgh and returned to Wofford the next year to take over his father’s duties as the science professor.
Warren DuPre died three years later, and his widow returned to Spartanburg, taking up residence in her old house on campus with her son, who had taken over the house when he took his father’s professorship.
Let me take a moment of personal privilege to talk about an exhibit that the library has mounted in the Chapman Gallery on the Wofford campus this past month. In February, we put together an exhibit on Wofford’s Desegregation Decade in which we examined the decision to admit African-American students to the college in 1964. The exhibit also looks at the first African-American students and graduates and at some of their activities at the college.
The exhibit will be up until next Thursday, March 28. So, if you haven’t been through the Campus Life Building, stop in and see some of Wofford’s recent history.
The images come from archival collections, including the papers of President Charles F. Marsh, from clipping files, and from copies of the Bohemian. College photographer and graphic designer extraordinare Mark Olencki designed the panels from materials the archives provided. Here are a few of the images from the exhibit.