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Academics Faculty

Charles Pettis – the forgotten physicist

Charles S. Pettis served on the Wofford faculty for some 34 years, but he’s almost part of a “lost generation” of professors.

He arrived after long-time professors such as D. D. Wallace, Coleman Waller, John Clinkscales, and James A. Chiles, and was more of a contemporary of Kenneth Coates, John L. Salmon, and W. R. Bourne.  All of these professors came in the 1920s and served into the 1960s, except for Pettis himself.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1892, Charles Semple Pettis was educated at the University of Wisconsin, where he took his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics and physics.  He also did graduate work at Duke, UNC, and Harvard. Later in life, he was an officer in the Harvard Club of Western South Carolina.  He was a college administrator early in life, serving as dean at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, and then as president of Morris-Harvey College in West Virginia, both before he was 32.

He joined the Wofford faculty in 1924 as a professor of physics and chemistry, though for the most part, he taught physics.  He was also a mathematician, and was involved with the American Mathematical Society.

Kenneth Coates, his longtime colleague, recounted a story of Professor Pettis’s generosity during the Great Depression.

“It was in the dark days of the Depression, ‘those gray and haggard days,’ as Dr. Snyder described them.

“I was standing on the steps of the library, wondering where I could get a few dollars to buy groceries. I was the baby of the faculty at the time, having been at Wofford only three or four years.

“Professor Pettis came up the steps, spoke to me, and went on into the library. Whether he sensed my difficulty I do not know.

“When he came out of the library with a magazine a few minutes later, he came up to me and put something into my hand, concealing it with his own and folding my fingers over it. Then he said, ‘I won’t take any argument about this. You can pay me back when you can, but don’t pay me until you are able.’

“I started to protest, but he would not hear it and hurried on down the steps. When I opened up my hand, there was a crumpled five-dollar bill.”

            A mass of faculty retirements right after World War II meant that Professor Pettis went from being one of the junior to one of the senior professors.  He continued to teach physics through the spring of 1958, when he died suddenly at age 65.  His colleagues remembered him for his breadth of knowledge – they noted that he enjoyed history and literature, with a special interest in the Civil War, as well as his own fields.  He died too soon to see the new Milliken Science Hall completed.

Perhaps instead of being part of a lost generation, we ought to remember him as part of a bridge between the older generation of President Snyder’s professors and a younger generation who taught into the later 20th century. He was around to teach the GI generation in the immediate postwar years, often, if the stories are true, being led off topic to talk about one of his favorite things – Virginia ham.

Categories
Academics Documents

The First Catalogue

1855Catalogue CoverOver the past year, we’ve been trying to increase the number of items that are in the archives digital collection.  One of the college’s older documents is the 1855 College Catalogue, the first published by the college.

The college catalogues contain most of the important information, including the names of all of the trustees, faculty members, students, and graduates, at least in these earliest years.  They also contain all of the admissions requirements, the course of study, and all of the rules of conduct and student fees.

1855Catalogue3

For example, if you wanted to see the courses that a student had to take each year in the 1850s, you’d look at this page:

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of these early catalogues are linked from the Archives Digital Collections Page.  And, you can click on each image for a larger version.

 

 

Categories
Academics Documents

Commencement 1922

I’m hoping to write about some of Wofford’s Commencement traditions this month.  I also like to share new things that come across my desk.  And I like to share old documents when I find them.  Today, you get a three-fer.  A new package of items archival arrived in my mailbox this afternoon.  One of the new documents was a 1922 Commencement invitation and program.  Below are the pages.

First Page of the program

The page below shows the annual events, debates, and reunion of graduates that took place as part of Commencement Week.

Events of the first three days

This page shows the major Commencement addresses – the religious service, the president’s address, and the graduation ceremony itself.  The Speaker, former Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels of North Carolina, is perhaps best remembered as the man who was Franklin Roosevelt’s boss at the Navy Department during the Wilson administration.

Events of the final two days

These are the members of the class.  The program belonged to Guy M. Nelson.  Graduation takes up considerably fewer days now, though it remains one of the highlights of the year.

Members of the Graduating Class
Categories
Academics Documents Photographs Students

From the ROTC Files

Recently I asked my student assistant, senior history major Kit Candler, to look through the ROTC/Military Science Department files (a collection she had helped process) and locate some images for an online display.

So, here’s a link to a Flickr gallery of some photographs and documents from the ROTC Papers. The gallery includes scans of some ROTC histories, commissioning programs, insignia, and pictures of some events throughout the detachment’s history.  I hope you enjoy flipping through the gallery.  I’d embed it as a slideshow, but WordPress won’t let me do it!

This link will take you to the gallery.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wofford_archives/sets/72157629168533534

 

 

Categories
Academics Students

Interim in recent years

The 1990s and 2000s saw continued change in Interim.  As the Cold War ended and Wofford’s programs abroad offerings increased, faculty and students began to travel to more places outside of Western Europe and the Caribbean.  In the early 1990s, travels to Russia and Eastern Europe became easier – though students had traveled to Czechoslovakia as early as 1969 – and trips to locations in Asia and Africa became more common.  At the same time, internships and service learning opportunities grew considerably.  While pre-medical, pre-law, and accounting internships had early starts, pre-veterinary, pre-dental, congressional, and other pre-professional Interims became popular.  Service-learning Interims also became increasingly popular.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for example, several Wofford students and faculty did relief work in Mississippi.

Perhaps the biggest change in Interim hasn’t been the increased travel opportunities or the diverse places students and faculty can travel, or the greater opportunities to see what a career in law, medicine, the ministry, accounting, or in a non-profit might be like.  The on-campus projects themselves have changed.  While offerings in earlier decades focused on reading great books, studying issues, focusing on particular events, or investigating a topic in the professor’s discipline, more recent projects have been more interdisciplinary.

While film interims were popular fairly early, the rise of the VCR and the DVD, and now other streaming video sources, have made them much easier to put together.  The 1990s and early 2000s saw a surge in Interim projects that looked at films.  Lest you think that spending a month watching movies is easy, imagine having to watch and analyze films as texts.  There’s a lot more to teaching and learning with films than eating popcorn.

A number of Interims gave students new experiences and skills, such as welding, cooking, various computer programming projects, digital photography, web design, and quilting.  These projects all had academic and practical components.  One group around 2008 studied the world of professional wrestling, even sponsoring their own January Smackdown!  I witnessed this one myself.

Through the last 45 years, Interim has become one of Wofford’s hallmarks, and students and faculty often talk throughout the fall about what they are going to do in January.  Alumni still talk about things they did in each of their Interims.  I remember studying the Federalist Papers and the Presidents through Biographers’ Eyes.  I took part in a college bowl Interim, where we worked on our own skills, but also sponsored a campus-wide tournament.  Most memorable was my own congressional internship in January 1993 in Sen. Strom Thurmond’s office, where I got to do everything from watch a Supreme Court oral argument, see a president of the United States inaugurated in person, watch Senate committee hearings, and sit in the Senate staff gallery and watch the president’s cabinet confirmed on a voice vote.  Along with those special moments, I also got to spend a month as a Washington commuter, found all sorts of things to do, and learned that living for a while in a big city was kind of fun.

Interim shows that learning happens in classrooms and labs, on tour buses, in internship settings, and in independent research into a topic of student interest.  While calls come periodically for a re-evaluation of the program, and even in the 1970s people wanted to “tighten up” the requirements, the basic structure of the program remains as it was envisioned in 1968.  The types of projects may be very different today (well, except for the perpetual courses on fencing, debating, personal income tax preparation, and theatre performances), but the experience remains much the same.

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Academics Faculty Students

Interim in the Late 1980s

Interim continued to mature in the late 1980s, and although traditional classroom projects continued to dominate, internship opportunities increased. In addition to law, medicine, dentistry, ministry, and accounting, the opportunity to undertake internships in a congressional office became available.

The bicentennial of the Constitution provided an opportunity for a number of inter-related projects in 1988.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Dr. Linton Dunson’s project on “The Philadelphia Convention, 1787” was the first listed project.  Others that related included Dr. Richard Wallace’s “Economic Analysis of Common Law and the Constitution of the United States,” Dr. Tom Thoroughman’s “Evolution of the English Constitution,” Dr. David Tyner’s “Contemporary Perspectives on the Constitution,” Dr. George Martin’s “The Life and Mind of James Madison,” Dr. Ta-Tseng Ling’s “Summing Up at 200: What’s Happened to the Words We Live By,” and a few others.

The college also sponsored a series of talks and a symposium during Interim on “Perspectives on the Constitution” with eight faculty talks throughout the month, two each week. Many of the leaders of constitution-themed Interim projects, including Professors Thoroughman, Martin, Dunson, Tyner, Packer, Simpson, Stephenson, and Wallace lectured on various topics. The symposium featured Nobel laureate Dr. James Buchanan along with Dr. William Leuchtenburg and Dr. Eugene Miller, and the library sponsored a National Archives traveling exhibit on the constitution’s bicentennial.

Travel projects remained fairly heavily focused on Europe and the Caribbean. The traditional Ireland Interim, Vienna, Madrid, the Dominican Republic, and Quebec were among the travel projects offered in 1988.  Britain, Madrid, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas were among the offerings in 1987.

Fencing, debating, and taxation made re-appearances, as did projects on specific books or writers.  The theater and music departments put on a production of Grease, and students undertook independent research on campus and in other parts of the world. One student actually studied the effects of the Chernobyl radiation leak in Norway.  Interim continued to offer students opportunities to explore interesting topics, practice their foreign language skills, see different parts of the world, or explore a career.

Photo: The cast of Grease, 1988.

Categories
Academics Photographs Students

Remember The Cowpens – 1968

One of the 1968 Interim projects deposited some of its materials in the college archives.  Here are some photos from the “Remember The Cowpens” project from that first Interim.

Notice the snow on the ground – let’s just say that when they camped out on the Cowpens battlefield, these students really got to experience what it would have been like 231 years ago this week when Daniel Morgan’s soldiers fought the British under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton.

 

This project involved studying the Battle of Cowpens from all angles.

Below are some more photos.

The banner, which is also in the college archives, represented a fictitious unit that participated in the re-enactment.  Another photo shows participants attempting to re-create a flanking maneuver – probably part of the famous “double envelopment” executed by Morgan’s men.

Click on each image for a larger version.  These images come from two scrapbooks maintained by students in the project, which means they are 44 years old.

Double Envelopment

Categories
Academics Faculty

Interim in the Late 1970s

By the late 1970s, Wofford’s faculty members had ten years of experience in planning Interim projects.  The process for considering and approving faculty and student proposals had been codified somewhat under assistant dean of the college Jerry Cogdell, who handled much of the administrative work of making Interim run smoothly. Over time, faculty members had become more adept at creating innovative projects, collaborating with each other, and developing new experiences for students.

In 1978 and 1979, projects that have become regular parts of Interim were being offered.  Constance Antonsen was offering a fencing interim, Joe Killian was using the term to organize a college debate team, and students were able to study film as literature. Project offerings saw a mixture of in-class projects, such as Linton Dunson’s study of the Philadelphia Convention, Dennis Dooley’s study of Finnegans Wake, and John Bullard’s project on religious cults, and outside projects, such as field archaeology with Professors Adams, Harrington, and Abercrombie and photography with Vivian Fisher.  The internships that students today value were getting organized, with Don Dobbs’ Institutional Medicine, David Prince’s Student Teaching, and pre-law internships with Dan Maultsby. John Pilley offered a project entitled “Man’s Best Friend” – a study of dogs. Students in that project can say that they knew him well before his national television appearance with Chaser!

The practice of performing a musical had also become established.  Professors J. R. Gross and Vic Bilanchone led a production of The Threepenny Opera in January 1978.  The custom of a joint music-theater performance has continued fairly regularly since the 1970s.

Travel offerings had improved considerably since 1968. In 1978, Vince Miller took a group of students to New York, Professors DeVelasco and Forbes took students to study the Visigoths in Spain, and Dennis Dooley and Ed Henry took students on a literary and cultural tour of Ireland, a practice that Dr. Dooley continued with one of his faculty colleagues virtually every other year until his retirement. In 1979, Tom Thoroughman took students to England to study history there.  Jim Gross, Joe Killian, and Walt Hudgins took students on a 4-week study of arts, culture, and politics in modern Europe. Constance Antonsen took another look at the Renaissance in Italy and France.

Interim, then, by the late 1970s had evolved into something much like students in the 1980s and 1990s would find it.  While some faculty had moved beyond the four walls of the classroom, and internship and travel projects became more common, many professors chose to study a topic different from their discipline but within campus.  After a decade, Interim had become a definite fixture at Wofford.

Categories
Academics Faculty

Early Travel Interims

Last week, I shared some selections from the first Interim catalogue, from January 1968, when Wofford became one of the first colleges in the South, and apparently the first in the Carolinas, to move to the 4-1-4 schedule. The projects varied from those that focused on the classroom to those that used the world as their classroom.

Today, I want to share a little more about some of the projects.  The first Interim featured three international travel projects.  Professor Constance Armitage Antonsen took a group of eighteen students to Italy, where they studied Renaissance art in Florence, Milan, and Rome, with side trips to many of the towns in between Florence and Rome.  The trip concluded with a stop in Madrid on the way home.  Most of the students had already taken the introductory art history course, so the trip reinforced what many of them had seen in the classroom. Professor Antonsen told the Old Gold and Black after the trip that they had seen “virtually every important piece of Italian art.”  Students chose a particular phase of Italian art for more intensive study.

Professor Jacques Forbes took a group of eighteen students to Switzerland. On their fifteen-day trip, students visited Zurich, Lucerne, Berne, Lausanne, St. Moritz, and Geneva, and saw sights ranging from the headquarters of the International Red Cross and the League of Nations. Students researched Swiss culture and prepared papers on various subjects.

A third travel project saw sixty students and four professors travel to Mexico, where the students stayed in private homes with Mexican families.  Each student had assigned tasks, and they met as a group every other day.  The project was led by Professors Paul Lofton, Joe Lesesne, Joaquin Develasco, and Richard Remirez.  The group spent two weeks on campus before traveling to Mexico, concentrating on Mexican history and government.  They spent much of their time in and around Mexico City.

Other on-campus projects involved students examining problems of air pollution in the Spartanburg area, atomic energy, and Great Decisions, 1968.  The Great Decisions project brought a number of regional speakers to campus for discussion and presentations, including former Southern Regional Council president James McBride Dabbs, journalist William D. Workman, attorney and future federal judge Matthew Perry, and a State Department official to talk about Mexico.

These projects took students to other parts of the world and brought the world to Wofford.

Photos (above) – students and Professor Forbes in Switzerland.  (Below) – students and Professor Parker studying nuclear energy at Oak Ridge, TN.

Categories
Academics Documents Faculty

Interim 1968

Wofford’s faculty and students have returned to campus today to start the Interim.  This year marks the 45th time that the college has devoted the month of January to these non-traditional projects.  After nearly half a century, Interim is as much a part of Wofford’s culture as Main Building.

What was the first Interim like?  I dug out the catalog for Interim 1968 to see what projects were offered in that first year.  I was interested to see that the projects (we don’t call them courses!) were arranged by departments, with only a few at the end that were described as “multi-departmental.”  It took until 1971 to break the practice of listing courses by department.

The 1968 catalog of projects did not list professors with projects, but a separate list indicated who was leading each project.  Some professors proposed two projects, though they seemed to be directed-research-type projects.

Here are a few pages from the catalogue.  These projects were sponsored by biologists, political scientists, historians, psychologists, and religion professors.  I’ll make the whole catalogue available elsewhere.  And, over the next few weeks, I’ll try to look at some other notable Interim projects.