Faculty Students

Are there ghosts at Wofford?

Reprinted from the November 1, 1991 Old Gold and Black

Back in 1991, I was an occasional staff writer for the Old Gold and Black, and my friend and editor Russ Singletary asked me to look into ghost stories at the college. 

I didn’t find much, but what I found wound up in this article. 

To celebrate Halloween this year, the Old Gold and Black staff tried to find a few ghost stories about Wofford.  There are not a lot of them.

Dr. Lewis Jones, a 1938 Wofford graduate and professor of history, emeritus, said “If you want Wofford ghost stories, you’ll have to make them up yourself.”

Dr. Jones also said most of the ghosts and goblins around Wofford are running around in academic regalia.

Nonetheless, we found a few stories, and here they are.

Dr. Talmage Skinner, a 1956 graduate who is now college chaplain, remembers a story from his days as a senior here at Wofford.

A student went into DuPre Administration Building and started up the stairs.  A man passed him on the stairs.

When the student reached the landing, he looked up at the portrait of Dean Mason DuPre and realized the man he had passed was Dean DuPre.  He looked back down the stairs and discovered that  the man had disappeared.

The student got out of the building with amazing speed.  The story spread around campus almost as fast.

Michael Preston, a 1963 graduate who is now dean of students, lives in Carlisle House with his family. The house has been the home of the dean of students for quite a while.

During the Civil War, two Confederate soldiers died of smallpox in Carlisle House.  A hospital used to be located across the railroad tracks from Wofford, and patients were sometimes brought to houses at Wofford for treatment.

One of Dean Preston’s children used to hear noises that made her think that someone was in the room with her.  Both Dean Preston and his wife occasionally think they hear noises.

“I’ve thought there was something up there sometimes myself,” said Dean Preston.  Could Carlisle House be haunted by the ghosts of two 15-to 17- year old Confederate soldiers?

Several people have reported strange sounds and sights around Old Main at night.  Not long ago, one maintenance man, who has since died, heard Dr. James Carlisle’s footsteps and cane in the hall near the computer center [note – this is the hall near the Campus Ministry Center].  Several years back, another staff member reported seeing Dr. Carlisle walking down the hall near the computer center.

Dr. Skinner said that there was once a restroom near the back door of Old Main.  Perhaps Dr. Carlisle was looking for that restroom to see if anyone else was haunting Old Main.

So, there are a few ghost stories and occasional strange events around Wofford.  You may want to watch out whenever you work in Old Main late at night, or you may meet Dr. Carlisle or some other former faculty member.

Buildings Photographs Students

Greene Hall – 60 years and counting

So it turns out, I missed an anniversary last year.

Greene Hall, the oldest residence hall on the campus, turned 60 in the fall of 2010.  For some reason, I convinced myself that the venerable old dorm opened in 1951, but a check of the Walter Kirkland Greene Residence Hall file proved me wrong.

Greene Hall was built to accommodate some of the post-World War II surge in enrollment.  It was one of the few structures called for in the “Wofford of To-Morrow” development campaign that was actually built.  Its construction was approved by the Board of Trustees in October 1949.  One of the larger residences constructed up until that time, it housed 154 students, had a suite for a house mother, and had two small reception rooms.  Its signature space, then and today, was a large lobby with wood floors and a nice fireplace.  When it opened in the fall of 1950, the college had the largest boarding student body in its history.  The trustees named the residence for the sitting president, Dr. Walter K. Greene, class of 1903, in tribute to his leadership of the development campaign.

Its total construction cost was $350,000.  The college didn’t pay off the debt on the building until 1957.

With the construction of Wightman Hall in 1957-58, the area that had been the canteen (the west wing of the basement of Greene) was converted into classrooms and faculty offices.  The building housed offices until the opening of the Daniel Building in 1972.  Some faculty offices remained in the Greene basement for two or three more years.  (Thanks to Dr. Vivian Fisher for the correction!)

Several articles in the Old Gold and Black note the continuing problem with vandalism in Greene during the 1970s.

Constant fire alarms, turning the fire hose on in the lobby, broken windows, ripping doors off of their hinges were making the dorm unlivable.  The college moved to add partitions in the hallways, making them shorter, and also considered making it an all-freshman dorm.  (Remember all of the resident students were men in the early 1970s.)  And, in the fall of 1976, the college let Greene residents loose with gallons of paint, allowing them to make whatever non-structural changes they wished.  The college wanted to make Greene a “different kind of dorm.”  Dorm supervisor Jim Hackney said the results were “better than I expected.”

Greene has had a few other renovations over the years – including adding air conditioning in the late 1980s, and renovating the ground floor “dungeon” into better housing.  But it has always been the most “home-y” of all of the residence halls on campus.

Photos, from top to bottom: Groundbreaking in October 1949, Greene under construction on January 1, 1950, and nearing completion on September 1, 1950.  All photos from the archives. 


Faculty Photographs Students

Mom Helms

A house mother?

Mrs Helms001 That term might sound very quaint, or even archaic, to students today. The idea that an older woman, older than your mom, would be living in an apartment in your residence hall, would supervise or be a part of dorm life, seems a little strange. In fact, I’m not sure students today would be as comfortable with a motherly or grandmotherly figure down the hall as they, um, studied in their rooms.

But from 1933 to 1954, one such woman was the beloved matron, hostess, or house mother, as the term often varied, of Snyder Hall. Mrs. Inez Brown Helms, known to two generations of Wofford students as “Mom Helms,” had been a high school Latin teacher in the South Carolina Lowcountry when, in 1933, she came to work at Wofford. A Columbia College graduate, Mrs. Helms was the widow of a Wofford alumnus, A. T. Helms, who was a lowcountry school superintendant from the class of 1902.

Recently, my student assistants and I went through a scrapbook maintained by the Rev. Dr. John M. Younginer, Jr, a member of Wofford’s Class of 1953, who was director of alumni and public relations in 1954 when Mrs. Helms retired. Dr. Younginer presented the scrapbook to the archives shortly after Mrs. Helms died in 1968. We listed all of the items in the scrapbook, and the finding aid is now available on our website. You can find it here.

Mrs Helms002Among the scrapbook items are news clippings, photos, and letters of appreciation from students, administrators, and alumni. One article about her said that she “was the ideal. Never censorius, she nevertheless commanded respect for her standards. Never puritannical, she nevertheless could deal with the occasional immature pranks of college students.” That statement probably does not even begin to cover the various kind of student pranks that someone like Mrs. Helms observed.

The idea of a hostess or house mother is one that has probably gone for good, but in her time, Inez Helms no doubt comforted an awful lot of lonely, homesick freshmen, advised them on how to deal with roommates, classmates, professors, and the dean, encouraged them when they got a poor grade and congratulated them when they got a good one. No wonder that hundreds of Wofford students thought of her as their mom away from home.

Documents Students

ROTC at Wofford

I’m reposting the story I wrote in the Spring 2011 Wofford Today here with some of the images – some of which didn’t make the magazine.

By providing students with the opportunity to serve their country, exercise leadership on the campus, and represent the college in the community and elsewhere, ROTC has been a significant part of student life at Wofford since 1919.

During World War I, students at Wofford were organized into a Student Army Training Corps, and campus life was militarized.   Out of a student body of 218, 187 students were part of the training corps during the 1918-1919 school year.  President Henry Nelson Snyder noted in a letter to an alumnus in the army written just two days before the armistice that “We have been turned into a military post” and that the course of study and discipline had been changed to suit the government’s needs.  The end of the war saw the campus returned to civilian control, but the country’s need for a trained officer corps did not go away.


A Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit was organized at Wofford in October 1919.  An order from the Secretary of War formally established the unit on December 29, 1919.  According to the 1920 Bohemian, the battalion was reorganized in the spring semester, with future South Carolina Governor and U. S. Senator Olin D. Johnston (who had already graduated) as the battalion commander.  The two companies included some 108 students.

ROTC1925photo Participation in ROTC continued to grow through the 1920s.  In 1925, 267 out of 474 students were part of the corps.  Students in ROTC during the 1920s in the basic course studied first aid, military hygiene and sanitation, military courtesy, and lots of infantry drill, physical training, and minor tactics.  In the advanced course, students continued training and drill, but added field engineering, military history, military law, and administration.  In the summer between their junior and senior years, cadets were expected to attend summer camp for six weeks at Camp McClellan, Alabama.  Students in the advanced course received a subsistence allowance of about $108 a year, plus all of their military equipment and uniforms.  Especially during the Great Depression, receiving uniforms that they could also wear to class and a stipend helped keep many a student in college.  Tuition in those years was just under $100 a year, with room and board costing about $200.

Throughout the time period, the college has strongly supported having ROTC at Wofford.  President Snyder wrote to a colleague in another state that “We like the training it furnishes – the drill is excellent for the physical exercise it gives, and the instruction is sufficiently academic to warrant its inclusion in the curriculum.  Great emphasis is made on preparation for citizenship in time of peace.”  During the 1930s, ROTC was housed in the old gym – not Andrews, which was the new gym then – but Burnett Gym, near where the Burwell Building is today.

Anderson Participation in ROTC remained high throughout the 1930s, and well over 1,000 Wofford alumni served in World War II.  After the war, ROTC continued to have a strong presence on campus.  Even during the Vietnam era, participation remained high.  In the fall of 1968, for example, 188 freshmen signed up for ROTC, and in 1969, 67 members of the graduating class of 264 were commissioned.  The advent of Interim made additional training opportunities during the academic year possible, and in 1969, the ROTC band of 44 students participated in one of the largest Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.  Led by Professor John Coker and then-Major Ed Hall, they were housed on a nearby aircraft carrier during their stay in Louisiana.

A few weeks ago, the military science department transferred three boxes of materials to the archives, so we’ll be going through those scrapbooks and files this summer and adding them to the existing ROTC and military records here in the library.

Do you have any ROTC stories that you’d like to share?  Let me know – you can post them here.

Images: The 1919 order establishing the ROTC unit; one of the ROTC companies in 1925, and ROTC cadet Rodney Anderson’ 79 (now Major General Rodney Anderson) at advanced camp in 1978.  

Documents Sports Students

Baseball Games from 1902

The Wofford College Journal provided something of a season round-up in this June 1902 story.  

            Our base ball team went to Knoxville, Tenn. where they played two games with the University of Tennessee on April 25 and 26, respectively.  A local paper at Knoxville remarked that the “Varsity expected to live on Easy Street while Wofford was there.  But they were rudely awakened on the afternoon of the first game, the black and old gold waving above them with the score 8 to 7.  The second game was still more decisive, the score being 17 to 4 in favor of the boys from South Carolina.  Wofford pulled together beautifully, with something like the results expected in “ye olden times.”  When the results of these games was announced on the Campus, the hearty reception of the news, the yelling, the singing, the speech-making reminded one of the famous days of ’99 and ’00.  The boys of the team report excellent treatment by the Tennesseans. 

            The great South Atlantic States Music Festival annually attracts large numbers of the most cultured class of people from South Carolina and the neighboring states to Spartanburg.  Wofford has always tried to do her part in entertaining these visitors.  This year two games of ball were played on the college grounds.

            On April 30, Furman came over from Greenville and crossed bats with the home team.  There were no interesting features to the game, and Wofford added another victory to her list, having made 14 runs to Furman’s 1. 

            On May 1, Trinity and Wofford met, and a battle royal ensued.  The game was hard played on both sides from first to last.  Trinity has a splendid team and made it hot for the home boys, but the latter finally won by a score of 4 to 3. 

            The last game of the season was played at Clemson College.  The Clemsonites there defeated the Wofford boys to the tune of 6 to 3 in a clean, snappy game of ball.

Brushes with History Students

Students and Politics

A few weeks back, a researcher asked me if we had any records about black student activism at Wofford in the late 1960s.  I didn't turn up a lot of information, but I found a few news clippings tha I shared.  

I found this one especially interesting.  Some Wofford students visited a neighboring college to hear South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond – who may well have been at the height of his political power and influence in this era.  The clipping tells the rest of the story.

The clipping was from the Old Gold and Black, Wofford's student newspaper.


Documents Students

Fraternity Houses – from the “Old Bull Session”

I used to think the Old Black and Blue was a fairly recent innovation, but I've discovered the students enjoyed putting out a spring spoof edition of the Old Gold and Black for some time.  In one of the oral history tapes I posted recently, D. F. Patterson talked about an article in one of these issues – from 1928 – where students scandalously paired a faculty member with a professor's daughter.  We happen to have that issue of the student newspaper, and I read the article with some amusement.  The editor, according to Mr. Patterson, got sent home for a while over the issue.  

But even more amusing was the front page article about a new and fancy Fraternity Row for the campus, complete with lake and dancing pavilion.  Here's the article

Plans for Fraternity Row Completed

$50,000 houses to be built on beautiful site on campus

Lake in front

Converse girls permitted to make extended visits to frat houses, says Miss Gee

Plans for a fraternity row on the campus were announced today by Mr. W. C. Herbert, head of the faculty committee, which has gone very fully into the matters with the Pan-Hellenic Committee.  Mr. Herbert states that he is determined that Wofford’s fraternity row shall be second to none in the South, and gives many interesting details of the plans as they are developed thus far.

The row of handsome fraternity houses will be In the rear of the campus, facing the C & O railroad tracks.  From this eminence is obtained a view scarcely equaled in the city, with the panorama of endless box cars, pulled by puffing engines, which belch forth clouds of vari-colored smoke, and rain down showers of delightful cinders.

The gorge between the railroad tracks and the houses will be converted into a sparkling lake.  Mr. Davis, treasurer of the college, has consented to supply the water for the lake.  A dance pavilion will be built out over the lake, which at night will be brilliantly lighted.  The college will furnish the electricity.

No fraternity will be permitted to build a house costing less than $50,000.  President Snyder insisted upon this figure, since he did not wish any of the fraternity houses to be inferior in beauty or cost to the other buildings already on the campus.  The present furnace in Main Building will also heat the fraternity houses.  This furnace has been found especially effective in heating the college chapel on annual occasions for several years. 

The fraternity row is expected to give much life and color to the campus and the previously dull and uneventful life of the boys will be gladdened by the presence of Converse girls at frequent dance and bridge parties.  Mrs. A. M. DuPre was active in securing the consent of Miss Gee for the Converse girls to visit the fraternity houses whenever they wish, without permission.  They must always be back at Converse in time for breakfast, however. 

Well, some of the comments in this article would have been quite shocking to a student in 1928, particularly the implication that the dean of women would have permitted Converse students to stick around at the fraternity houses all night, or that dancing would have been permitted or bridge games allowed on campus.  And each of those houses, at $50,000, would have cost more than the Andrews Fieldhouse that was then under construction.  

Still, the debate over fraternity houses and student life makes for an amusing subject to joke about, then and now.  

Documents Students

Literary Societies

Today has been sort of a clean-up day around my desk.  The papers had piled up – all sorts of items and files from the different aspects of my job.  The credenza beside my desk, which I got so that I'd have more room for processing papers here in my office, had turned into a flat file cabinet of newly-acquired things.  Fridays can sometimes be quieter days here in the library, so I spent the morning trying to move some of those things to a more permanent home.  

And while going through these things, I was keeping an eye out for something to share on the blog.  I've got a great 1910 campus calendar, complete with contemporary photos, and that's going to become part of the digital collection as soon as I get one of my very capable student assistants to scan it.  I found a few other things that may make it onto the blog soon.  I decided to share a 1883 literary society program.  

The literary societies, as I've written before, were a very important part of college life in the lae 19th century, and they were part of the great annual celebration of commencement.  Here's the program from the 1883 


The inside page details the events, debates, lectures, and receptions the societies sponsored at Commencement in 1883.  

Click on either for a larger version of the image.  


Photographs Students

Fitting School Scrapbook

This is a scrapbook maintained by Wofford Fitting School student William Hall Lander during his senior year at the fitting school.  Wofford's preparatory school, which closed in 1924, was designed to prepare high school age students for admission to Wofford.  During World War I, the student body of the fitting school and the college became militarized.  

In an effort to make some of these older scrapbooks and images available, my student assistants and I have scanned them, and today I added them to Flickr.  You can view the slide show here or go to the site to look at each image more closely.  I'm still updating some of the image descriptions.  

Alumni Students

Thoughts about the Class of 1960

We had our annual opening convocation earlier today, where the faculty dress in academic regalia and we gather as a community to start the academic year.  Of course, classes started 10 days ago, but ceremonially, at least now we're under way for the 157th time.  

And now that things are underway, we'll soon be hurtling into fall, and Homecoming, which isn't until Oct. 30, will be here before we know it, and alumni from all over will be back for reunions.  One of those classes has already had a reunion – the class of 1960 participated in commencement last spring and will officially join the 50-year club this fall. 

Over fifty years, some things change and some things actually stay about the same.  And it's always interesting to see the parallels and the differences over the years.  

Some things that the class of 1960 experienced while they were at Wofford include:

the new faculty coming to campus during the 1959-60 year was Madame Marie
Gagarine, a Russian émigré who taught French and also offered Wofford’s first
course in Russian.  The class of 1960 has a chance to learn Russian, an
important world language in the Cold War era just as this class has had an
opportunity to learn Chinese, an important language in today’s world!)

students were enrolled at the college in the fall of 1959.  149 of these
were seniors

class president Marion Myers proposed that the college switchboard remain open
until 11:00 pm each night – the current closing time of 10:00 was causing an
inconvenience for students.   Just imagine, having to use the switchboard to make and receive calls!  

OG&B announced that the college was embarking on a development campaign to
raise $3.2 million for renovations on Main, construction of the new science
building, new residence hall space, and additions to the endowment.  The class also got to see the demolition of the old Cleveland Science Hall.  


13, 1959 editorial:  “The Stroller said recently that last week’s panty
raid upon Converse College was the first sign of life shown by Wofford students
in many years.”   (Note this was in the Parents’ Weekend edition of
the OG&B.)

fare in 1959:  To Columbia, 2.80.  To Charlotte, 2.20, to Anderson,
1.90, to Atlanta, 5.45, and to Greenville, 90 cents.   

were pressing for the construction of a music building. And in 2010, we're still working on that.  

Gene Alexander began his second season downplaying expectations for his
team.  He hoped to do a little better than the 11-13 record of the
previous year. 

fact, the team went 25-6, the most successful record until 2010, winning the
district tournament and earning a bid to the NAIA national tournament in Kansas

students were among those at 125 colleges and universities who participated in
the National Intercollegiate Bridge Tournament, which was played by mail in
February.  (Does anybody today know how to play bridge?)

A photo
in the OG&B indicated that the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity bought an old fire
truck.  Apparently they owned it for a number of years. 

In a
straw poll of the student body in the spring of 1960, students preferred John
Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and Stuart
Symington in the 1960 Democratic primary.  Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in
the straw poll as well.  However, 134 out of the 217 students polled
preferred complete segregation in the public schools, and only 14 favored
complete integration.  29 favored token integration, and 17 favored
segregation to the point of closing public schools.  

Well, at least we aren't still debating that question.