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Academics Alumni

Little-known facts and factoids

My predecessor, Herbert Hucks Jr., of the class of 1934, served as a librarian and archivist at Wofford from 1947 to 1998, including 20 years as a part-time retired archivist.  He compiled a list of various "little-known facts" about Wofford.  I'll try to drop a few in every now and then, in the midst of various stories about Wofford people and events.  Many of these facts come from the D. D. Wallace History of Wofford College, published in 1951. 

On Wofford and the Civil War:  "The first martyr in the Southern cause was William Maxwell Martin, a Wofford graduate of 1857, who had developed into a gifted poet as well as orator.  His graduation speech, The Calico Flag, it was said, 'produced a sensation in its way beyond anything in the annals of the college.'  He died February 21, 1861, of illness contracted from exposure on duty at Fort Moultrie, standing by his canon through the cold damp night." 

Martin's father was a well-known South Carolina Methodist minister and Wofford trustee. 

On the Confederate bonds:  "The securities owned by the college at the close of the Civil War included $85,897 of Confederate bonds and certificates, $1,297 in Confederate money, and bank stocks of $17,525 par value, all of which was ruined by the war… It is correct, therefore, to say that the endowment was swept away by the war, although it was not all invested in Confederate bonds."

"At least 35 Wofford alumni died in the Civil War."

Faculty1867
As Wofford is presently in a pattern of enrollment and faculty growth, it's interesting to note other times when the faculty grew.  On the faculty's recommendation, in 1866, the trustees created a chair of history and Biblical literature, and elected A. H. Lester to serve as professor of history and Biblical Literature.  They also voted to establish a divinity school to be conducted by Professors A. M. Shipp, Whitefoord Smith, and A. H. Lester.  Apparently it continued only a few years and amounted to little except specializing in a few religious subjects.  The point is interesting, however, that Wofford briefly had a divinity school.

Photo, above, of (left to right) Professors Whitefoord Smith, James Carlisle, David Duncan, A. H. Lester, Warren DuPre, and A. M. Shipp.  This is the oldest faculty group photograph that I've found in the collection. 

Categories
Academics

Frogs and Poets

Colleges are full of odd stories that revolve around characters and controversies.  One of the stories that occasionally pops to the surface at Wofford is the long-running saga of Frogs and Poets. 

In the fall of 1972, a small dispute arose in a faculty meeting over department budgets and over allocations in the library book budget.  Some of the faculty members in the humanities were upset over increases in the biology department’s allocations.  According to later reports, a biology faculty member made a comment at a faculty Christmas party that annoyed a member of the English department.  Dr. Ray Leonard, the longtime chair of the biology department, expressed the opinion that “you can learn as much from a dead frog as you can from a dead poet.” 

A word to the wise:  never tick off an English professor, especially one that teaches creative writing. 

The comment no doubt stirred some creative juices in Ed Minus, the director of the writing center and member of the English faculty.  In March, a poem appeared in the Journal, the student literary magazine.  It began with the quote, attributed to Dr. Leonard, and continued

            Froggie went a courting and he did ride
            But he ended up in formaldehyde
            On the desk of Dr. Philistine
            Who said “I’ll soon know what life means”

The poem continued, and with the ghost of the frog telling the professor to do someting that I won’t repeat in a family-friendly blog. (the poem is here, though, with standard language warnings.)

Froggie1
Frogs and Poets

Dr. Leonard took some offense at his words being used out of context, and wrote to explain himself to the Old Gold and Black.  He noted that a reader could interpret his quote as meaning that you could learn as much from a dead frog as from the “works of a dead poet.”  He didn’t want to be part of a “two-cultures” controversy – probably a reference to disagreements between scientists and humanists.  What he really meant by the quote was that “the only thing you can learn from a dead frog and a dead poet is anatomy.  This was supposed to lead the hearer to the conclusion that scientists need books as well as laboratory supplies.”  This was a reference to the earlier dispute over library book funds.

Ed Minus had a response in the same issue of the Old Gold and Black, though the editor explained that both had arrived independently.  Evidently the poem in the Journal had caused a stir on campus.  Minus wrote “Gee whiz! I sure am ashamed of myself – quoting out of context and talking dirty and making fun of my elders like that…” 

            Froggie2From that point, the furor seemed to die down. However, about two years later, a Journal cover made another mysterious reference to the Frogs and Poets debate. If a reader didn’t know the back story, the diagram of a frog skeleton labeled with literary terms might make no sense.  But to those who remembered the brief fracas, it was a clever joke. 

            And all this from a faculty dispute over book budgets and a comment at a Christmas party.  Academics are definitely unique people!

Categories
Academics Documents

A Wofford diploma, in Latin

This being Commencement weekend, I thought today would be a good day to share an older Wofford diploma.  This one was actually never issued, as it isn’t dated or signed by all of the college’s officers.  I found the diploma in President Snyder’s 1930s files.  The archives has other diplomas – some older, some much older.  I am still trying to determine when the college switched from Latin to English, but I think it was by the early 1950s.

The Latin translation is provided by Chris Strauber, reference and web services librarian here at Wofford.

Diploma1930s_2

The President and Trustees

of Wofford College

established under the laws of the state of South Carolina

Greetings in God to all and to each reader of this

Be it known that we have decided to grant Cecil Guy Nichols,
a young man of blameless character and versed in humane letters, after an open
examination in the arts by the faculty and distinguished trustees of the
College, the title of Bachelor of Science; and we grant to him the power to
enjoy all the privileges and honors which anywhere pertain to that degree. Of
which let this document and our names be the public evidence.

Granted on campus [ ] in the Year of Our Lord nineteen
hundred and [ ]

[ ], Chairman, H.N. Snyder, President
[ ], Secretary, [ ], Secretary

Categories
Academics

Snyder-The American College Commencement

In this radio talk, Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder, who was Wofford’s president from 1902 to 1942, talks with WSPA-AM’s Jane Dalton about the American College Commencement.  This segment is a portion of his longer radio talk from May 28, 1948.  Jane Dalton tells Dr. Snyder that she was invited to give a commencement address at Tucapau, which is known today as Startex, a small town in western Spartanburg County.  Dr. Snyder did not give any commencement addresses that year, but while he was president, he was always in demand to give high school and college graduation addresses. 

If you are reading this blog entry through a feed reader and you don’t see a link to the sound file, you may need to click through to the from the archives site to actually get to the sound file.  The sound clip runs about four and a half minutes. 

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Academics

Commencement Season – a multi-day affair

I found a letter recently, while processing President Henry Nelson
Snyder’s papers, in which he declined a speaking invitation because of the
pressures of “commencement season.” I
thought it was an interesting expression, because today, we think of commencement
as being simply the two days of events, or even simply the graduation ceremony
itself.

1893commencement
However, Commencement in the 19th and early 20th
century was a multi-day affair. A series
of elaborate programs staged over 3 or 4 days, the festivities included
debates, speeches, receptions, and the traditional baccalaureate and graduation
exercises themselves.

The 1889 ceremonies saw sixteen students graduate – many of
whom went on to achieve prominence in their careers. One became a long-serving United States
Senator, another a Methodist bishop, and one was the president of Duke
University. Theirs was the largest class
in thirteen years. The program lists all
of their speeches, which I suspect were actually quite short since they were
delivered at the graduation ceremony. 1889commencement
Before they graduated, they would have heard a Baccalaureate sermon on
Sunday morning, an address before the literary societies on Monday morning, a
debate between members of the Calhoun and Preston societies on the question, “That
the organization of a Prohibition Party would be detrimental to the Nation” on
Monday night, and a reception following the debate from 10 PM to 1 AM. I’m surprised they stayed up that late! Tuesday was the day of graduation, and was
followed by the annual alumni address at 8:30, given by the Honorable Richard
W. Simpson of Pendleton, and finally by an alumni banquet. Goodness only knows how long that
lasted.

1889alumbanquet
Even as late as the 1920s, the time of which Snyder spoke,
Commencement season could go for 5 days, again beginning with an assortment of
debates and speeches before the literary societies. By the 1920s, Class Day had become an
institution at Commencement, usually happening on the Saturday before
graduation. This consisted of the annual
meeting of the alumni association, a banquet with the alumni, seniors, and
faculty in attendance, and class reunions. 1889toasts_2
Sunday was reserved for Baccalaureate in the morning and the annual
address by President Snyder in the evening. Graduation itself was on Monday. This pattern – of class day, baccalaureate day, and commencement
generally continued up into the 1960s.

Of course, I guess you could call the series of events that
happen today at Wofford leading up to the actual Commencement ceremony a season
of sorts. Between class receptions,
Honors Day, Phi Beta Kappa day, sports banquets and fraternity and sorority
events, students and faculty members are quite busy in late April and early
May.

Next week, I hope to share a word from Henry Nelson Snyder
about the American College Commencement.

Images: the invitation from 1893 Commencement, a program, including the senior speeches, from 1889, and the cover of the program and the toasts from the 1889 alumni banquet. 

Categories
Academics

Commencement Traditions

Traditions can be curious things. How something becomes a tradition, especially
at a place like Wofford, is even more curious. If something happens twice, it’s a tradition, and if it happens a third
time, it’s as sacred as if it had been happening since 1854, and woe be unto
the person who messes with it.

1898prog
When we started having the Commencement exercises on the
front lawn of Main Building in 1999, seniors (and some younger alumni on the
college staff) wondered how the class was going to march through the front
gates. From the late 1960s until 1998,
Wofford commencement had taken place in Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, next
door to the campus. Students and faculty
members lined up on campus and marched through the gates, out into the world,
and into the auditorium to receive their degrees. Freshmen were told that it was bad luck to walk
through the gate before graduation day, and some of us purposefully walked
around the gate for a while – until we realized how dumb we looked.

Nevertheless, some people on campus didn’t realize that the
symbolic march through the gates had become a sacred tradition. “It’s just the way we go to the auditorium,”
one person insisted. Others on campus
warned the Commencement Committee that the members of the Class of 1999 were
going to go walk through those gates no matter what anybody else said. And some students do still head that way, but
a new tradition was created that year. Students march through a double line of faculty members, who applaud,
high-five, or otherwise congratulate the new graduates. This May will be my tenth Wofford
commencement as the college archivist, and with ten years of students marching
through the applauding faculty, I’d say that’s a pretty firmly entrenched
tradition. Unless it rains.

Bible1873
Other traditions surrounding Commencement have been around a
lot longer than the faculty gauntlet or marching through the front gates. Along with their diploma, the college
presents each student with a Bible. But,
perhaps from the very first commencement, and certainly not long after, the
faculty began to sign the Bibles. In the
archives, we have about a dozen of these Commencement Bibles, as I like to call
them, that alumni or their children have given back to the college over the
years. We have examples from the 1870s,
where only 5 or 6 professors signed, to examples in the modern era with dozens,
if not over 100 signatures. The Bible
has always been a King James translation. At various points, some faculty members have called for a shift to a
contemporary translation. In the 1950s,
one religion professor suggested a move to the Revised Standard translation, as
he knew many of the scholars who had worked on it Bible1916
and thought it to be more
appropriate for scholarly use. Traditionalists on the faculty objected, some suggesting that each time
a new translation came out that people would want to adopt it.  Others made the argument that the King James
translation represented something beyond simply being a religious text, that it
was a work of literature as much as anything. Many faculty and staff members still spend an hour or so each spring
signing Bibles – I did it last week and it took me about an hour and fifteen
minutes to sign 383 Bibles. I’m glad I
have a fairly short name.

Program1898
While the Commencement ceremony itself has evolved somewhat
– most notably, by dropping the senior speeches – some parts of that ceremony
have remained constant. I can point to
the traditional Wofford Commencement hymn, “From All That Dwell below the
Skies,” which appears in the printed 1858 Commencement program, the oldest in
the collection. It might not be a
selection we’d choose today, but faculty members, trustees, and graduates have
been singing it for 154 years.

Commencement season is a lot shorter than it was in the 19th
or early 20th century. Perhaps we’ll save a lengthy discussion of the mixture of
commencement-related events in years past for another blog entry.

Categories
Academics

Commencement at Wofford – 1858

Since we’re getting close to Commencement, this will be the first in a series of posts on Commencement traditions at Wofford.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll have some stories of past commencements, another talk from Dr. Snyder on the American College Commencement, an image and translation of one of the old Latin diplomas (translation provided by my colleague and Wofford reference librarian Chris Strauber), and I hope to talk about some of the traditions that surround Wofford Commencements.

Today’s entry will be about Commencement in 1858, 150 years ago.  The story is summarized from a July 29, 1858 story about the ceremonies from the Southern Christian Advocate, which was (and is) the Methodist newspaper in South Carolina.  Also, there’s a copy of an 1858 Commencement ceremony program.

Mr. Editor – Allow me space enough to give your readers an account of the Commencement festivities of Wofford College, which have just passed.  It was a week which, I am quite sure, will long be most pleasantly recalled by all whose privilege it was to witness the ceremonies.

Comm1858The author of the article spent the entire week before Commencement at the College, attending the various examinations.  He reported on hearing the various classes stand for their final exams, and praised both the students’ work and the faculty’s demand for excellent scholarship.  He noted that the mutual respect and affection the faculty and students showed for each other, which he found in marked contrast from the institution he had himself attended.

The Commencement Sermon was delivered by President (and future bishop) William M. Wightman on Sunday in the college chapel.  The text of the sermon came from Proverbs 1:10, which the author felt obligated to quote as “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.”  His audience listened, according to the author, with “wrapt attention” and would not soon forget their president’s “earnest, eloquent, and solemn teachings.”

On Tuesday at noon, the college community heard Major F. W. Capers deliver the annual address before the Literary Societies.  Capers, the author reported, seemed to set his prepared remarks aside when he reached the stage and instead gave an impromptu address on the true responsibilities of education.  Later that night, the societies heard from one of their seniors, who gave a valedictory address before a joint Calhoun and Preston society meeting.

Commencement Day itself was the climax of the week’s activities.  The procession formed in front of the president’s house on campus – a home that has since been demolished – at 9:30.  The ceremony itself, complete with addresses by each of the eleven members of the graduating class, ran some four and a half hours.  The chapel in Main Building was packed, according to the observer, but the audience behaved with the decorum and attention of a Sabbath congregation (whatever that meant; the writer leaves it to our modern interpretation).  The musical interludes were provided by the “inmates” of the “Blind Asylum” at Cedar Springs – a more polite way to describe them would be to acknowledge the students of the School for the Deaf and the Blind in Spartanburg.  Our author notes the musical numbers were pleasant, and were performed on piano, flute, and melodeon.

The speeches were delivered, he says, in clear, distinct tones, and demonstrated noble thought and high moral sentiment.  At the end, the audience rose and joined in singing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” – perhaps an appropriate way to end a ceremony that ran nearly 5 hours!

For much of the remainder of the 19th century, Commencement season ran for the better part of the week.  We’ll talk more about later Commencement weeks over the next few weeks.

Categories
Academics Faculty

A faculty talk from 1950 – David Duncan Wallace

Wallacedd
David Duncan Wallace, who taught history at Wofford from 1899 to 1947, was in his day the foremost historian of South Carolina.  His four-volume History of South Carolina, published in 1935, covers the early history of the state in greater detail than any volume published before or since.  He was also the college historian, writing the History of Wofford College that remains the standard source for the college’s early history.  He wrote on other topics – the state constitution, the Revolutionary American leader Henry Laurens, and state government.

After he retired from the faculty, Wallace continued to teach and write.  In this talk on June 28, 1950, he addressed the Wofford summer teacher’s workshop, and touches on the beginnings of the Korean War, on the meaning of the past, and on South Carolina as a “new old state.”  These excerpts run about 6 minutes.