From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

In memory of a colleague

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•28•14

I don’t usually write personal entries on this blog, but this one is an exception, since one doesn’t often lose a colleague and friend to a long struggle with cancer.  So, please permit the point of personal privilege. 

My library colleague Ellen Tillett, who had served as a reference librarian and director of public services at Wofford’s Sandor Teszler Library since 1995, passed away this week after a lengthy battle with cancer.  And despite her long struggle– 18 years altogether – none of us really thought she’d leave us.  After all, each time things looked bad, she’d bounce back with a new treatment, a new clinical trial.  At least to us, she never lost her optimism.  She didn’t let her illness dominate her life, at least not with us.  She kept working in the library up until this month.

Over the past two decades, I daresay she taught more than half of the library instruction sessions that we offered.  Almost every history major at Wofford had her for the history research methods course that she co-taught with a rotating cast of history professors.  I’d imagine most Wofford student and faculty research projects benefited from her reference assistance.

Ellen was wise, considerate, and she had a wicked sense of humor.  She cared about her colleagues and was an excellent mentor to new, younger librarians.  She would dig in her heels on a point of principle, but she could be persuaded to see the other side of an issue.  She was a staunch defender of academic freedom and the independence of libraries.  Beyond all of that, she loved her garden, and I think many of us have some daylilies or other plants from her garden.  She loved to travel, a pastime she learned from her professorial parents.  She didn’t let her illness stop her from heading off to Europe or Australia during the summers or the Galapagos during an Interim.  All of us in the library enjoyed the breakfast treats, including the Moravian sugar cake that as a good daughter of Wake Forest and Winston-Salem she brought during the week before Christmas each year.

I’m still not quite certain when it’s going to hit me that she won’t be back at work.  I suspect there will be a lot of “what would Ellen do” or “what would Ellen say” remarks in the library for a long time.  We shared some of those comments in the library today.

We never know who we will touch as we pass through this life.  Each day, we meet many people, and we have an opportunity to make an impression on most of them.  I always think that our loved ones never really leave us, but live on in our memories and in the ways they shape our lives.  Ellen provides for us a beautiful example of a colleague whose wisdom, intelligence, and grace touched all of us who surrounded her.

Helicopter Parents, 1919 edition

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•21•14

This might be a tad unfair, but I did have that thought when I read this letter, from the mother of an entering first-year student to Wofford’s President, Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder, in the fall of 1919.

The mother, Mrs. D. G. Dantzler of Vance, SC, was writing to make sure someone would meet her son at the Spartanburg train station on the Saturday before entrance exams.  She also expressed some wishes that she had for him – that he might enter the officer’s training corps, but also that he become a good citizen and Christian gentleman.  She also noted that he wasn’t going to know anybody at the college when he got there, and so she was nervous about his

And of course, parents are always nervous about the unknowns that their sons and daughters will face when they go to college.  It was as true in 1919 as it is today.  Incidentally, R. M. Dantzler graduated from Wofford in 1923.

The letter is below.  You may click for a larger image.

Fifty Years Ago in the Advocate

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•15•14

Flipping through old newspapers gives us a perspective on life in years past, and looking at papers from the more recent past gives some of us a chance to remember our experiences and reactions to events that we may actually recall. These snippets come from the South Carolina Methodist Advocate of April 2, 1964, fifty years ago this spring. The issue contained a lengthy article about efforts at the upcoming General Conference to dismantle the segregated Central Jurisdiction, explaining in some detail for the laity how the denomination was structured and what ending the Central Jurisdiction might mean. Also in that issue, Rhett Jackson of Trenholm Road Church provided the weekly Bible Study. And, the cover featured pictures from the Junior High boys basketball tournament, won by St. Paul, Greenville.

Editor McKay Brabham started off the issue with this condemnation of the mixture of spring holidays and Easter:

“The annual migration of thousands of college and high-school students to the sun-spots and beer spouts of our nation is an act of blasphemy which need not be perpetuated. Days given in holiday for the remembrance of the Savior’s death and resurrection should be observed as holy days.

“Educational authorities can help in this. A change in the date of the spring holidays, if these are a requirement of our times, would at least remove the association with Christ’s sufferings of what is often reported to move from innocent idyll to bacchanalian orgy. Let it be said, however, that the reported recreational activities of considerable numbers of adults holds out little hope for the large measure of concern required to set the example of sobriety which would bring about a general improvement in youthful behavior.”

The Rev. Melvin K. Medlock provided some thoughts about clergy visiting their earlier appointments:
“In 1931, when some of us came into the Conference on trial, we heard our bishop say to a class being received into full connection, ‘Go where you are sent, and stay away from where you have been.’ Some of us were bold enough to ask the older ministers, who related stories of some clergy who had done their successors harm by going back to meddle.

“Now, a confession: I went back to assist in too many weddings in one church I left. It looked like all the girls in the church decided to get married just prior to my leaving.

“But I do not think it is good to break with friends just because one is leaving a pastorate. Among my closest friends are my predecessors who have returned occasionally to see some of their friends, to assist in weddings, etc.”

Rev. Medlock offered examples of the kindnesses that each of his predecessors had shown him in each of his appointments – either by preparing the way for him, by speaking good words about his ministry, or supporting his work.

He concluded:

“These predecessors have proved to me that a man with a good spirit can do great good by “going back” occasionally. As for the man with a jealous, vindictive spirit – do we have that kind? So far it has not been my lot to follow one of them.”

And that’s some of what was in the news for South Carolina Methodists fifty years ago

William Wightman and the Cornerstone

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr•25•14

Before a crowd of several thousand people from all over South Carolina, The Rev. William M. Wightman, the first chair of the Wofford College Board of Trustees gave an address of several thousand words that laid out some of the major principles that he hoped would be central to the new college.  At President Nayef Samhat’s inauguration this morning, student Laura Kate Gamble read some of the highlights of the address.  Here’s some of what she shared:

We are assembled this day, fellow citizens, to perform the pleasant task of laying the cornerstone of Wofford College.  A noble building is to arise on this spot, bearing on its entablatures, and emblazoning in its heraldry, the name of a citizen of Spartanburg District whose liberality has made a princely contribution to the cause of Education.  We this day give that name down to posterity…

We make this beautiful grove classic ground.  For posterity emphatically, we lay this cornerstone – Generations unborn are interested in the transactions of this hour.  We summon the future, with its great “cloud of witnesses” to join us in the ceremonies of this joyous occasion.

It is impossible to conceive of greater benefits, to the individual or to society, than those embraced in the gift of a liberal education combining the moral principle… with the enlightened and cultivated understanding which is the product of thorough scholarship.

Wofford College…will be known throughout the United States as a Methodist institution of learning…

I make this frank and distinct avowal on the present occasion, for,… on behalf of that religious organization, that its leading principles are abhorrent of sectarian bigotry, and breathe the true spirit of catholic liberality, of universal good will…. In the spirit of these broad and liberal views, we shall open the doors of this institution …

We may shout the praise of our glorious Constitution in Fourth of July celebrations, and sing to our model republican institutions.  Far better would it be to go to work, each one in the appropriate sphere of action, to strengthen the foundations on which these rest – intelligence and moral principle.

We must have better schools and more of them…Public opinion must be brought to a higher standard of judgment…  institutions of learning are the nurseries in which these noble virtues are trained.

For the good of posterity we plant the foundation of this institution.  After the hopes of ages, and amid whatever chances or changes may in the eventful future befall our social and our political institutions, may this cornerstone support a fabric still flourishing in its early freshness.


The letter to Nelson Mandela

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr•03•14

I wanted to post this earlier this year, during the international period of mourning following the death of South African President Nelson Mandela.  I knew this letter existed, but I couldn’t put my hands on it in the papers of President Joe Lesesne. Yesterday I figured out why I couldn’t find it in the Lesesne Papers:  It was already on my desk, in a stack of documents that needed some kind of special attention.  I had probably pulled it earlier to show to someone, and realized it was one of those items that needs to be filed in a way that an archivist can get to it quickly.  The flat file in the storage caddy on my desk, however, is not that kind of filing method.  Later today, it’s getting its own folder and note in the Lesesne Papers so that my successors (and me) can find it a little faster.

When some of our students and faculty visited South Africa on an Interim, they saw a letter from Dr. Lesesne to Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, the place where Mandela had been imprisoned for many years.  On their return to campus, they inquired if I had a copy of the letter, and much later, when we processed the collection, I found it.  It’s posted below, in case anyone is curious.

The things you find in collections

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•27•14

Today I got around to processing a small collection we received last summer.  The materials related to a member of Wofford’s Class of 1870 named Wellborn Davies Kirkland.  Rev. Kirkland, who became a Methodist minister, served in a number of significant positions in the Methodist Church in South Carolina, edited the Southern Christian Advocate, and was the editor of the churchwide Sunday School magazine when he died at a fairly young age in 1896.

His papers included a number of speeches he gave as a student – his 1870 graduation speech, his valedictory to his literary society, and a few other ones.  They also included some family history materials and, believe it or not, a lock of his hair that appears to have been cut after his death.

His papers included some photos of both him and his wife, and there was also a composite photo of Wofford’s 1870 graduating class.

Wofford’s Class of 1870

The W. D. Kirkland Papers are available here.


Libraries, librarians, and coeducation

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•19•14

Last week, with a small delegation from campus, I visited two very good liberal arts college libraries in Minnesota to see how they are collaborating and also to see their facilities, how they operate, and just to gather some information for future use here in our library. And then this week, I got a request for information about a former librarian here. And finally, it’s Women’s History Month, so I’d just recently put out a display on the first decade of coeducation and posted something here on the blog about it. Three fairly different subjects.

Then, in looking for information on the former librarian, I come across a clipping that definitely speaks to the culture of the campus in the 1960s. It sort of ties all of these subjects – library planning, librarians, and coeducation – all together in a funny bundle.

In part, it reads, “Anderson has great plans for the future library on campus. He hopes to promote a feeling of ease in the new library. Smoking will be permitted throughout the entire library and the acoustics are such that friendly “bull” sessions will disturb no one. People and books will be mixed throughout the library. Group study will be accepted with the many facilities designed for this purpose.” Smoking? Indeed, lots of people smoked all around campus in the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s, including in the library, in classrooms, in offices, and even in labs.

Another line speaks to different attitudes toward women. “Our librarian speaks optimistically of getting everyone involved in the library. One of these ways will be “moving day” where the entire campus can roll up its sleeves and pitch in. Anderson even mentioned the idea of having a combo play that day, with Converse girls serving “punch.” In 1969, Wofford’s student body was all male, but the idea of the “girls” serving refreshments does raise eyebrows.

Still, I love the serendipity of finding several things that I’m working on at the same time referenced in one little clipping.

Women at Wofford: The Early Years

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar•17•14

In years past, I’ve put up blog posts about the early years of coeducation at Wofford – the time that the college went from being a college for men only (or mostly) to one that had both male and female students enrolled and living on campus. This month, we’ve put a display of some pictures and clippings in the entry area of the library for Women’s History Month.

From the 1971 Bohemian: Robin Henry, Donna Green, and Shelley Henry, three of the first four women day students.

Although Wofford had women students on an occasional basis from 1897 to 1970, only in the spring of 1971 did the college announce that it would admit women as regular students.  For the next five years, the college did not provide housing, but in the fall of 1975, the Board of Trustees voted to move to full residential coeducation beginning in the fall of 1976.  These clippings, photographs, and documents from the College Archives tell something about these early years of coeducation at Wofford.

Among the items in the display are some yearbook photos of the first women’s sports teams, the 1981 volleyball and basketball teams.  This clipping, below, talks about the organization of Zeta Tau Alpha, the first fraternity for women on campus.  Please drop by if you’re on campus to see all of the items in the display.

Snow closing!

Written By: Phillip Stone - Feb•14•14

You know, this is only the third time Wofford has cancelled classes ever – and one of those times was for the Civil War?

Urban legends on college campuses – you do have to love them. It’s not hard to figure out how they get started – after all, the individual student’s direct memory of life on campus rarely exceeds three years.

A photo I took after the 2011 snowfall on campus.

It’s true, though that cancelling classes at Wofford is pretty rare. For a residential campus, unless the weather is dangerously bad, there’s usually not much reason to suspend classes. The area school districts now cancel classes for a whiff of snow, but even when most of the other colleges in the area have suspended operations, Wofford generally keeps going. Apparently, back in the day, the college would send members of the maintenance staff out in 4-wheel drive trucks to pick up the professors, though to me, that has its own risks!

So it was a little bit of a shock when we cancelled classes on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. And it didn’t take long before people started asking me, via Facebook, how many times we had been forced by snow to cancel classes. Most of the questions came early enough Wednesday that I didn’t really want to think about them too much.

It hasn’t actually been that long since we had a cancellation – we had a similar situation on Jan. 10-11, 2011, when a combination of heavy snow and ice forced the college to close. Before that, we had a cancellation on Friday, Feb. 27, 2004, though personally, I remember coming to work that day even though we didn’t have classes. Those archives don’t process themselves!

Before that, I have to rely on the memories of others. In my time as a student and a faculty member, those are the only three times we’ve had to cancel. However, we have to rely on the hive mind to pick up some other times. And the hive came up with three.

Dean of Students Roberta Bigger remembered suspending classes during Interim 1996 – which would have been her first year as dean of students – because of heavy snow. And I remember having a heavy snowfall in early January 1996.

Dr. Carol Wilson remembered a cancellation in January 1988 – and since we got a foot of snow in Spartanburg on January 7, 1988, it’s hard to imagine that we weren’t out for a few days. She also remembers missing a day when she was a student – which would have been in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

That’s about as exact as I can get right now. That’s six times since 1977, which is more than three times since the place opened.

Oh, and we didn’t close for the Civil War, either. Well, maybe we closed the day the Union Army occupied the campus, but we remained open for most of that particular war.

James H. Carlisle’s writings

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jan•31•14

We don’t talk much about Wofford’s third president – he’s sort of a representative of a very distant age in the life of the college.  A hundred or more students live in a residence hall named for him, Dean of Students Roberta Bigger lives in his house, but he’s become something of an unknown figure around campus.  Yet when he died, hundreds, if not thousands, attended his funeral, and he was eulogized as the most important South Carolinian of his day.

Writing styles change over time, of course, and so do educational styles.  We forget this sometimes, in this day of the discussion section, of the “flipped classroom.”  In late 19th and early 20th century South Carolina and Wofford, James Carlisle could evidently hold the attention of an audience, whether it was one of students or of members of the community.  He had flocks of admirers.

Recently, one of my student assistants scanned two volumes relating to Dr. Carlisle – one, the Carlisle Memorial Volume, is a series of articles about Dr. Carlisle’s life and legacy.  Many of the authors were his former students and some were his faculty colleagues.  I’ve added the Carlisle Memorial Volume (click the title for the link) to our Digital Commons site so others can peruse it.

I’ve also added a copy of the Addresses of James H. Carlisle to our Digital Commons site so that others might get a flavor of his speaking and writing style.

Technology that Dr. Carlisle could never have imagined can make it possible to share his words with people who will never know him, but nothing has ever quite replaced the kind of faculty-student interaction that he exemplified, and that we still try to practice here on the city’s northern border.

429 North Church Street, Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663
864-597-4000 | RSS Feed | Login