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Academics Faculty Photographs Uncategorized

Doc Rock

One of the dangerous privileges of working at a place like Wofford is getting to write and talk about people I’ve never met.  It’s relatively safe to write about campus characters of several generations ago, since very few people are around who knew them and who can correct my errors.  It is a whole lot more risky to write about people who others on campus still remember.

One of the many professors whose legacy is still felt on campus was Dr. John W. Harrington, who was professor of geology and department chair from 1963 until 1981, and then professor emeritus until his death in April 1986.  Born in Illinois and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Harrington attended Virginia Tech, where he majored in mining engineering.  After taking his MA and PhD in geology at the University of North Carolina in 1946 and 1948, respectively, he moved to Texas, where he was a geology professor at Southern Methodist University from 1949 to 1956.  While in Texas, he was a consultant to several oil companies, where he focused on petroleum exploration on a regional wildcatting basis.

So how did a mining engineer-wildcat oil consultant geologist wind up chairing the geology department at a liberal arts college?  Dr. Harrington later recounted that he wanted more than to teach his students at SMU (most of whom probably wanted to be oil geologists) more than to be good technicians and engineers.  He tried to teach them ways to think about science.  This led, he reported, to a rebellion in his classes.  He resigned, choosing to go into industry.  The story goes that in 1963, he was on a plane with Dean Philip Covington, and soon found himself recruited to come to Wofford, where he could teach geology in a different way.

Almost all of Dr. Harrington’s geology labs were conducted in the field.  He took students to the Tennessee mountains, the South Carolina coast, and everywhere in between, showing them “the literature of geology in the language in which it is written – the rocks, the streams, the shores, and the landforms.” His Interims were also 4-week investigations into local and regional geology.

Dr. Harrington wrote for the scientist and the literate generalist.  His book To See a World takes its title from a poem by William Blake: “To see a world in a grain of sand, and a Heaven in a wildflower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an Hour.”  The book begins with a preface about understanding science, and each chapter explores some principle about science, geology, the history of geology, and combining all of these principles.  One of his chapter on historical geology was called “The wasness of the is.”

Dance of the ContinentsAnother of his books, Dance of the Continents, is written around Harrington’s first law of science, which his editor told him to make up as a way of organizing the book.  The law is “Nature is scrutable when everything is seen in context.”  He sets out to build that context.

It is a great gift to students and alumni when a professor is not only a specialist in a discipline, but can also place that work in a greater context. “Doc Rock,” as students called him affectionately, did not simply teach the students how to identify different kinds of minerals, he taught them a way of looking at the world around them and understanding it.  And that’s the true gift of a teacher.

 

Categories
Academics Documents

Wightman’s address

William Wightman was an 1827 graduate of the College of Charleston, and as a member of that class, he was selected to give the valedictory address.  A copy of the address is in his personal papers at Wofford.  The handwritten talk runs about twelve pages, in very small handwriting.  I've just scanned the entire address, and am posting here the cover letter which is addressed first to the trustees, second to the faculty, and third to the students.  Keep in mind that the author was nineteen years old at the time.  

I'm hoping to transcribe the whole address at some point in the near future.  Or have my student assistants do it.  
Larger versions should appear in another window.

WightmanCofC001 
WightmanCofC002

Categories
Academics

William Wightman, the founding president

William Wightman probably had more influence on the early
history of Wofford than anybody other than Benjamin Wofford. 

WightmanWM As the first person named as a trustee in Benjamin Wofford’s
will, as the chairman of the board of trustees until the college opened, as a
member of the building committee, and finally, as the college’s first
president, William Wightman influenced almost every aspect of the young
college.  That begs some questions:  what influenced him, what kind of speaker and
writer was he, and what was he like as the college’s first leader?  Fortunately, we have some of President
Wightman’s papers in the archives. 

Born in Charleston in 1808, William Wightman graduated as
the valedictorian from the College of Charleston in 1827 at the age of 19.   (A
copy of the valedictory address is in the archives.)  His parents had roots in English Methodism,
and his mother, Matilda Williams Wightman, and her parents were active in
leading Methodist circles in Britain. 
The family attended Trinity Methodist Church in Charleston.   After his graduation, he joined the South
Carolina Methodist Conference and served churches in the South Carolina Pee
Dee, in Camden, Abbeville, Orangeburg, and Charleston for six years.  In 1834, at age 26, he became the financial
agent of Randolph-Macon College, the denomination’s college in Virginia and one
of the few Methodist colleges in the South. 
After three years, he became a professor of literature.  He returned to South Carolina in 1839 as a
presiding elder of the Cokesbury District, and in 1841, he became the editor of
the four-year old Southern Christian Advocate. 
He remained in Charleston at the Advocate’s helm until moving to
Spartanburg in 1854 to take the college’s helm. 

One of his contemporaries called him the “magnus apollo” of
the South Carolina Conference.  His
varied positions –a circuit riding minister, a fund-raiser for a  college, an instructor, a church
administrator, and a newspaper editor – must have given him a different outlook
on life than if he had but one of those experiences.  By the time he was in his mid-40s, he had
over twenty years of service in South Carolina Methodist circles as well as
connections, thanks to Randolph-Macon and the Advocate, around the South.  In the founding of a new college, he could
call upon friends with expertise elsewhere, and in the years that the college
was being built, he could promote it from the pages of the church’s
newspaper.  Many Methodists around the
region would have heard of him and would have read his words every week.  Few college presidents today have that kind
of pulpit or influence. 

Wightman, of course, gave the address at the laying of the cornerstone and at the first commencement in 1855.  These are in his papers, as are a number of his other addresses and sermons.  Perhaps soon I'll be able to add some digital versions of these addresses and we can all see the kind of things he talked about.  

As it turns out, Wightman’s tenure at Wofford was but a
short one.  He left in 1859 to found
another college, this one the Southern University in Greensboro, Alabama.  That college later merged with Birmingham
College to form Birmingham-Southern College. 
After seven years in Alabama, he was elected a bishop, and returned to
make his headquarters in the Ansonborough section of Charleston.  He lived there in the Holy City with his
second wife, who he had married in 1863, until his death in 1882.  His youngest daughter, May, lived much of her
life in Charleston, and after her death, many of her father’s papers, consisting
largely of speeches and sermons, came to the archives.  

Categories
Academics Documents

The good men do

A few weeks ago, I found a copy of a founder’s day talk given in 1964 by Dean of the College Philip Covington.  I wrote about Dean Covington last month.  From what I understand, this talk is quite characteristic of Covington, and of a generation of Wofford faculty members in its combination of wit (both razor sharp and dry) and in its insight into the human condition.  I share it here for your continuing enjoyment, and because I missed making any mention of Founder’s Day a few weeks ago. 

And also because I wish I could write like this.  

I understand that the section down in front is reserved for seniors.  I notice that quite a few of them are not present, but I’ll forgive them since most of them have heard this speech for three or four years. And have heard me make it that many times.

Today is Founder’s Day.  For 110 years now this College has paid tribute to its founder, Benjamin Wofford.  I am sure that on this very same platform very many people have made some very fine speeches about Benjamin Wofford…in fact, I have made some of them myself. As a matter of fact, it seems to be my privilege and duty (we always say) to do this in recent years.  I hope that in the next world it will be his time and he can talk about me.

At the end of this sermon this morning, Pete Berry, the President of our Student Body, is going to lead us in the singing of the Alma Hater.  As soon as he has finished and you have regained control of yourselves, and the thunderous applause has died away, please give Pete enough time to make a break for the door first.

Actually, my remarks are rather difficult to arrive at since I have talked on this subject so many times it is hard to think of a new approach to the same subject.  I feel very much like a preacher Dr. Wilson told me about who had the same problem of preaching a different sermon each Sunday morning.  He finally preached on the parable of the Prodigal Son — from the point of view of the fatted calf.

I rather feel that way, and that my remarks today are worthy of the title, “The Bones of Benjamin Wofford.”  I think I have talked about practically everything else.

In Shakespeare’s famous play, “Julius Caesar,” Mark Anthony, in his funeral oration, says, referring to the dead Caesar, “The evils that men do live after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”  Such is the magic of Shakespeare’s eloquence that it was years after reading this, before it dawned on me that, while this is a beautiful and arresting statement, it simply is not so, and I have a feeling that Shakespeare and Mark Anthony both knew it at the time.

The Lord be thanked, things being as they are, that the exact reverse of this is true, or this world would be much worse than it is.  Take comfort, my friends, when we die and they take us out, dig an appropriate hole, and bury us in it, people will even say nice things about us.  They will forget completely what stinkers we were.  But if we have ever, even inadvertently, done one good thing, that thing will be remembered and will go on, reproducing itself even until the very end of time.

The real problem is not t
he problem of evil, that is, how to account for the existence of evil in the world; the real philosophical problem that confronts man as he looks about him is this: “How does one account for the existence and the continuation of good in this world?”

Old Benjamin Wofford was, as Time magazine would probably put it, “No pretty boy, he.”  I would like for you to take a look at the portrait of our Founding Father which is out in the vestibule.  Take a good look.  I enjoy looking at it, because it is always very comforting to me.  Take a look at the frost-bitten, hawk-like nose, the sunken eyes, partially hidden behind dark glasses as if he feared the light of day, the cadaverous cheeks, the sharp and jutting chin…on which a razor might cut itself.  No matter how you look, my friends, you still look better than old Benjamin.

Now I don’t know whether in his long life he ever did a really bad thing.  Knowing his miserly ways, I think I can assure you that he never indulged in any expensive evil!  But what has been remembered about this man?  The fact that he was a failure as a preacher, and went into the business of what we would probably call a “loan shark”?  That he was a stingy skin-flint who carefully saved rusty old nails?  No, these things are not remembered about our founding father.  As a matter of fact, the thing which is remembered about him is the thing which we are talking about today – the College which bears his name and which he called into being — but more than that, we remember the good – both the known good and the larger unknown good which has flowed from this College for 110 years, and also all the greater good yet to come.  That he certainly never lived to see — the far greater good that you and I also will never live to see, because we celebrate here a living, continuing thing.

In my front yard, where I live here on the campus, there are two huge hem­lock trees – very slow-growing trees.  Some years ago I saw an old daguerreotype taken from the road in front of the house. Heaven only knows how long ago it was taken, but there on the front porch was Dr. James Carlisle, one of the original faculty members in 1854.  He is a fine figure of a bearded young man, with his wife and young children about him.  And there in the foreground were two tiny hem­lock trees.  I have seen another picture of him taken sometime since – same identical spot – years later, about the turn of the century. And there again was the memorable Dr. Carlisle, much, much older now, and this time standing all alone, looking out toward the College, and there in the foreground this time are two fine hemlock trees.

Now, I sometimes stand where he stood and look out between the two huge hem­lock trees and I wonder who, long after me, will stand there.  I wonder what the College will be like that he looks out upon, and I get a feeling of being a small part of a great and continuing good, long since begun, to which all of us may con­tribute, and that is, at least, the little good which may be in us.  The good is interred with their bones?  I think not.  I think that anyone who stands out there today at Wofford’s tomb and looks about him is compelled to say, “The good that men do lives after them,” — and for this, let us be grateful.        

Categories
Academics Photographs

The Faculty, the late 2000s version

Last week, I posted the oldest faculty photo in the collection.  Today, I'm posting the newest one.  This photo was taken by college photographer extraordinare Mark Olencki '75 before opening convocation on Thursday, Sept. 10.  

I haven't been able to determine exactly when our faculty began to wear academic regalia, but I think it was in the 1920s.  I've seen photos of Commencement in the 1930s where the faculty are in caps and gowns, and I've seen references in President Henry N. Snyder's correspondence to graduates who were receiving master's degrees that they needed to obtain a proper gown.  

Many people ask about the varying types of gown and the meaning of the hoods.  The hood is the multi-colored piece of cloth that is worn over the shoulders, for those of you who don't know what it's called.  The hood's trim and lining are a code – they will tell the observer where the wearer got his or her degree, whether it was a master's or doctoral degree, and in what field the degree was awarded.  In this picture, you see a lot of deep blue – that's the color for the PhD – the degree awarded for original research in the arts and sciences.  You may see some white – the color for some doctoral degrees in the humanities and for the master of arts – and you'll see some golden yellow – the color for some PhD degrees awarded in the natural sciences and for the degree of master of science (Master's hoods are thinner).  Several of the librarians wear hoods with yellow trim for the master of library and information science degree.  Degree holders in education are light blue, in theology are scarlet, and law are purple.  Some business degree hoods are copper, fine arts are brown, music is a shade of pink.  Traditionally, gowns are black, but many universities have adopted official gowns in their school colors, so you can see President Dunlap's Harvard crimson gown on the front row.  

Faculty2009
Categories
Academics

Another opening, another show

Today is Labor Day, which at Wofford means that the school year starts today.  

The library is already full of students.  You can feel the very abrupt change in the atmosphere on campus and in the building.  Last week, the freshmen arrived on Wednesday, the pre-session faculty and staff meetings were Thursday, so there have been people around for the past week.  We had students back earlier than that, actually, with at least three teams, the resident assistants, orientation staff members, and all sorts of other people getting ready for the start of the academic year.  But they weren't in the building.  Today, with the start of classes, the students have returned to the library.  

Why do we start on Labor Day?  You might think the archivist's short answer would be, "we've always done it that way."  And there's some truth to that.  The more correct answer is that our fall semester, counting exams, usually runs fifteen calendar weeks.  If you count back from the week in December when fall semester exams are given, you usually wind up starting on the week of Labor Day.  

Throughout the 1990s, classes typically started on Tuesday after Labor Day, though in a few years, we actually started the week before Labor Day.  Monday, Labor Day, would be move-in day for upperclassmen.  I always thought that made sense, since so many of our parents help their children move back to campus, they didn't have to take a day off of work to help with moving.  The Monday of the first week of each semester was reserved for registration, for fixing scheduling problems, and (for faculty) for hurriedly completing their syllabi.  With the advent of computerized registration, that day suddenly became un-necessary, so the first Monday of the semester became a class day.  

Here are a few examples of the start of the fall semester from old college catalogues:

1966 – before the college established the Interim – classes started on Saturday, Sept. 17.  Yes, a Saturday.  The freshmen had reported for orientation on Sunday, Sept. 11 and the upperclassmen had returned on Thursday, Sept. 15.  Fall semester exams didn't happen until January 19-26.  

1967 – the first year of the Interim – classes started on Thursday, Sept. 7.  Freshmen had reported on Sept. 3, and final exams ended on December 20.  

1970 – classes started on Thursday, Sept. 3, with exams ending on Dec. 17.  

1980 – classes started on Wednesday, Sept. 10, with exams ending on Dec. 19.

1990 – classes began Tuesday, Sept. 4, with exams ending on Dec. 14.

1998 – classes began on Tuesday, Sept. 1

1999 – classes began on Monday, Sept. 6, and ever since then, have started on Monday.  

In any event, everyone is here.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to get back to twice-weekly blog posts.  It's been a busy summer in the archives, and thanks to my ever-helpful student assistants, we've got a lot of photographs scanned and ready to share in one place or another.  I hope to send a trivia question your way over on the Facebook page every now and then, to write about some important historical figures on campus – both alumni and faculty – and anything else you want me to talk about.  
Categories
Academics Documents

Early Commencement Program

I've been away for a few days at a conference of archivists – the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists – to borrow a phrase, where people like me go to feel normal.  Of course, coming home, I found a few reference requests that had piled up in my absence, and in answering one, I had to look in the old college catalogues.  

When people ask me what I like about being an archivist, my standard (and truthful) answer is that I learn something new every day.  Even after 10 1/2 years here, I am still finding documents that I've never seen before, and very often, I find them simply by stumbling across them as I look for something else.  This morning, as I looked in the bound volume of old catalogues, I found a printed program for a senior exhibition from May 1857, along with a printed program from the 1857 Commencement exercises.  I'm not quite sure how I had missed those in the past, but perhaps I had been looking in another bound volume of these books that didn't have these programs.

In any event, I scanned them both, and am sharing them here. Someone has written the date of the 1857 Commencement on the program, but they've also written that this was the "first" Commencement, and that's not quite true.  It was actually the third, and the second one with graduates.  It was, however, the first commencement with a significant number of graduates, most of whom had been studying together for three years.  

Commencement1857

Click on the images for a larger view…  

Exhibition1857

The top image is from Commencement, the bottom is from the May exercise.  
Categories
Academics

Commencement

Last spring, I wrote several blog posts about various Commencements at Wofford and the traditions that had grown up around this highlight of the academic year.  Rather than re-write some of those entries, I'm going to refer you back to a few of them.  

In one entry, I talked about the assorted traditions of walking through the gates, of the Commencement Bibles, and of the ceremony itself.  

In another post, I talked about "Commencement Season" – all of the events that surround the actual graduation ceremony.  In years gone by, Commencement lasted four or five days.

And in another, I shared a selection from a radio interview with President Henry Nelson Snyder where he talked about the American college commencement.  

Next week, I'll talk about a few other Commencement-related items – including a retrospective on what Commencement was like in 1959, and perhaps 1859 and 1909 as well.  Stay tuned!

And, if you will permit a moment of personal privilege, I will note that my classmates and I from the class of 1994 graduated from Wofford fifteen years ago today.  
Categories
Academics Faculty

John G. Clinkscales: The Mathematician-Politician

Say,did you hear the one about the math professor who ran for governor?  

Clinkscales001 That sounds like a joke, but in the case of Dr. John G. Clinkscales, it’s a true story.  In 1914, running on a platform of
compulsory public education, Clinkscales won some 40,000 votes and placed fourth in the race.
  That may not sound
like much of an achievement, but every one of the three men who finished ahead of him at some point served as the Palmetto state’s governor.
 

Born in Abbeville County in 1855, John George Clinkscales came to Wofford as a student in 1872.  He graduated in 1876, and
in 1889, returned to take a master of arts degree.
  He continued his education with further study at Cornell and Johns Hopkins.  Before he came to Wofford in 1899, he taught at Clemson for five years, at Columbia College for four, and at Williamston Female College for one.  The latter two colleges were both
Methodist-related, and the latter has since become Lander University.
  Before he began his college teaching career,
he taught in the public schools of Spartanburg County, and for four years, he was the superintendent of education in Anderson County.
  In 1912, Erskine College awarded him an
honorary doctor of laws degree.
 

He became a popular professor of mathematics and astronomy in 1899, probably taking many of the classes previously taught by President James H. Carlisle.  However, one of the reasons he was brought to Wofford was his speaking ability.  Dr. Carlisle did not want to undertake the public relations aspects of the presidency, so over the course of his administration, several faculty members undertook these duties.  Clinkscales became a popular figure on the lecture circuit, speaking in churches and civic groups around the state.  On top of his teaching responsibilities, he was for a quarter century one of Wofford’s “field representatives” – traveling the state as an ambassador of the college – a task he continued even when Henry Nelson Snyder became president and took to the circuit himself. No doubt this involved a mixture of student recruitment, alumni relations, fund-raising, and otherwise showing Wofford’s colors throughout the state.  It also probably put him in touch with Wofford alumni, Methodists, and other citizens around the state and helped him immensely in his subsequent campaign for governor. 

Clinkscales was also something of a writer.  From one of his personal experiences came his first book, How Zach Came to College, published in 1904.  The book tells the story an uneducated young man who came from a Western North Carolina valley to attend Wofford in the 1870s.  In fact, the story is somewhat fictionalized as there were actually two brothers, Zachary T. Whiteside and his brother, Andrew S. “Zeb” Whiteside, who were both part of the Class of 1877.  Zach and Zeb did not have much money, and as such they lived in spare rooms in Main Building, cooking their meals.  Soon other students joined them, and from that the college’s first dining hall emerged.  Dr. Clinkscales would have been a student at the same time as these two, and I would not be surprised if their story made its way into his speeches, and eventually into a book. 

Clinkscales002 As a lifelong advocate for public education, Clinkscales entered the 1914 race for governor not because he thought he could win, but because he thought somebody should speak for education.  In those days, all of the candidates for statewide office traveled the state together for a stump meeting in each county, and each had an opportunity to speak. Clinkscales was tired of the level of anti-progressive demagoguery that he had been hearing for years in state politics, and told friends that if someone wouldn’t run on behalf of compulsory education, then he would.  He kept his word.  His platform was fairly advanced for the day, and the two leading progressive candidates had much better political organizations.  In defeat, his campaign had more influence than many other losing efforts in that at its next session, the legislature approved and the governor signed a bill enacting compulsory school attendance. 

Clinkscales continued to be an active speaker, Methodist layman, and advocate of education in the state.  He gave up his field work in the late 1920s, and declining health forced him to stop teaching in the late 1930s.  He continued to live in his campus home – now called the Kilgo-Clinkscales House – until his death on January 1, 1942.  

Photos: Clinkscales’ portrait, presently on display in the Daniel Building, a photo of Clinkscales taken by Herbert Hucks ’34 at Commencement in the late 1930s.

Categories
Academics Buildings

The many lives of the Daniel Building

The Charles E. Daniel Building, across the street from Main Building and the Sandor Teszler Library, is sort of the quiet neighbor on the street.  Quiet and nondescript though it may seem, it has an interesting past.  In its first life, it was the college’s first free-standing library.

WhitefordSmithLibrary001
The college received a bequest of $10,000 in 1906 from Miss Julia Smith, the daughter of longtime English professor Whitefoord Smith (yes, that’s not a mis-spelling), who had served on the faculty from 1855 to 1891.  A subsequent gift of $10,000 from longtime major donor E. L. Archer (he helped finish paying for Alumni Hall to boot) helped the college get the library project underway.  It opened in 1910.  The original library wasn’t as large as the building is today; the wings were added in 1947 as a way of expanding the reading room and stack space.  The post-World War II renovation, like the original construction, was necessary because of a growing student body and faculty and the need for space for more books.

WhitefordSmithLibrary003
The building continued to serve as the Whitefoord Smith Library, though it was later simply the library, until 1969.  When the college opened the new library, the one we currently occupy, in 1969, the old library was converted for use as a classroom and faculty office building.  The art and music faculty and classrooms moved from the Black Science Annex into the ground floor of the newly-named Charles E. Daniel Building.  The departments of government, philosophy, art history, mathematics, accounting, and education, along with a few other assorted professors, moved into the seventeen faculty offices.  Daniel 204, with its elevated horseshoe-shaped desks, was the first classroom of its type on campus, presaging similar classrooms in the Olin Building by 20 years.  The building was also fully air-conditioned, something we take for granted now but which was not universal on DanielBuilding001campus in that day.  A casualty of the renovation was the blocking in of several of the building’s windows.  Many students and faculty criticized the decision to block in some of the windows, though the inside appearance was improved by the renovation.

Some departments moved out of the Daniel Building when Olin opened in 1992, but philosophers, political scientists, art historians and musicians and Wofford’s ROTC detachment still call Daniel home.

In upcoming weeks, I hope to talk about some of the legendary faculty and famous alumni that have walked the campus.  Before Interim is over, I also want to talk about some interesting Interims from years past.  And, since I’m participating in an Interim myself this year, one that is studying Wofford’s oral history, perhaps you’ll hear something about that as well.