Earth Day – Davidson Style

A recent donation from alumnus and environmental ethics leader Holmes Rolton III (class of 1953) raised the question of Davidson’s engagement with environmental issues including Earth Day.

Some of the dvds in a recent donation documenting Holmes Rolston III's work in environmental ethics.

Some of the dvds in a recent donation documenting Holmes Rolston III’s work in environmental ethics.

The annual celebrations of Earth Day began in 1970 and a few Davidson students made sure the college joined in that first year.

Headline and photo from 24 April 1970 Davidsonian, "Earth Day Workers Hold Car Boycott, Litter Pickup"

Headline and photo from 24 April 1970 Davidsonian

The students paired with the Union cafeteria to create a display of paper cups and litter, they also helped with trash clean up in town and passed out flyers encouraging people to drive their cars less. Their efforts met with some resistance. One faculty member declined to purchase a 40 cent  bumper sticker  (which said “Did you thank a green plant today?”) noting that he’d rather support the anti-war cause. Another questioned the rationale of putting anti-pollution stickers on polluting cars.  Undaunted, the students planned an environmental awareness teach-in with faculty and Congressman Nick Galifinakas.

The initial enthusiasm appears to have faded and in the next decade, Spring Frolics, Convocations, International Festivals, Easter breaks, and Alumni Weekends pushed Earth Day off campus calendars. Concerns over environmental issues grew again in the late 1980s, supported by Ruth Pittard in her role as program coordinator for the college union.  While not held on the official date, a 4-day Environmental Awareness Weekend was held April 5-8, 1989 with films, speakers and a repetition of the inaugural Earth Day’s display of campus trash.

Cover for Environmental Weekend program with an illustration of a person with their head as the earth

Cover for Environmental Weekend program

With the formation of the Environmental Action Coalition (EAC) as a student organization, Earth Day returned to Davidson. Instead of losing out to competing events, the Earth Day organizers often joined forces with other groups to combine their events with Frolics and Community Service’s Into the Streets programming

1990 Earth Day trash display, students standing next to large plastic bags filled with trash, one of them holding a sign

1990 Earth Day trash display

27 April 1992 Davidsonian account of Earth Day, "Davidson Celebrates Earth Week"

27 April 1992 Davidsonian account of Earth Day.

1993 Earth Day joins with Spring Fling events, article in the Davidsonian with the heading, "Friday's "Day at the Lake" Receives Praise as Success"

1993 Earth Day joins with Spring Fling events

In 1995, Earth Day becomes a part of community service via Into the Streets, This document shows the events occuring each day for, "Into The Streets Week April 24-28"

In 1995, Earth Day becomes a part of community service via Into the Streets.

In the late nineties, Earth Day went solo but with a twist – other campus organizations began to participate.  The 1999 celebration had student organizations and town businesses setting up booths.  One unnamed group returned to the theme of discouraging car use asking people to stop driving for one week. Warner Hall helped people sign up to avoid junk mail. It also expanded into weeks and even Earth Month in 2005.

Article on earth day with the heading, "Earth Day 1999 celebrated at Davidson"

In 2002, the Physical Plant workers weighed in with an information ad in the Davidsonian.

Physical Plant recycling numbers. This specific receipt says 32.17 tons of materials including: corrugated cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum

Physical Plant sharing recycling numbers.

In the same issue of the Davidson, an editorial “Earth Day + Fun = Kegs” raised the question of whether having kegs would be a more environmentally friendly approach to reduce Patterson Court trash.

In 2005,  Earth Day plus fun meant the first Green Ball hosted jointly by the EAC and the Davidson Lands Conservancy.

Beginning of 27 April 2005 article on the Green Ball, "EAC holds Green Ball"

Beginning of 27 April 2005 article on the Green Ball

The inaugural Green Ball, featuring contra dancing and a silent auction, raised over $5000.   Still a popular event, the 2016 ball raised

The college proclaimed 2009 the Year of Sustainability, with a special Green Week happening in February rather than April. In 2012, Earth Day became part of Greenstock with information booths and student performers taking over the Union atrium.  In 2017,  EarthDay will spread beyond the campus as alumni chapters across the country join volunteer days for beach cleanups, recycling electronics, prepping community gardens and more.


Deans of Students

For the first decades of the college, faculty carried not only teaching duties but also most administrative tasks as well. They took on being bursar and librarian, registrar and supervisor of buildings and grounds. Over time, the college began hiring staff to relieve faculty of extra duties but the transition went slowly.

In 1920, the college created the first Dean of Student position and it was filled by a faculty member.  Mark Edgar Sentelle, Davidson class of 1894, continued to teach religion and philosophy classes for the 21 years (1920-1941) he served as Dean. Initially, the Student Life office consisted of the Dean and a secretary, Dorothy Finlayson, he shared with the college treasurer. Sentelle joined the faculty in 1903. Fellow professor, Ernest Beaty described his career in the September 1941 Alumni Journal:

Mark Sentelle in 1922

Mark Sentelle in 1922

As a member of the faculty, he soon evidenced such sense of judgment in dealing with men that this special talent was immediately put into use. President Henry Louis Smith (1901-1912) requested Dr. Sentelle to handle student absences, and this he did for some time, drawing up absence regulations under which the College functioned for years. In 1910 President Smith again turned to Dr. Sentelle, asking him to  head up a committee on supervision of scholarship. Dr Sentelle soon had in effect regulations which served notice that Davidson College would not give indefinite residence to students who were not keeping up the Davidson standard of work, whether failure to do so were due to an unfortunate lack of preparation or to culpable slothfulness.

Beaty went on to note that it was

natural then, that upon Dr. Sentelle’s election as Dean in 1920, the enforcement of both absence and supervision regulations should be centered in his office. Hence, year after year, the big ‘Doom Book of Absences’ has reposed in the Dean’s office, and excuses of infinite variety have been poured into his ever receptive, but not always ‘acceptive’ ears.

Bailey in 1949 with a student. It is not clear if any of this books on his desk is a "Doom Book of Absences."

Bailey in 1949 with a student. It is not clear if any of this books on his desk is a “Doom Book of Absences.”

Upon his retirement in 1941, another active faculty member took on the role of Dean of Students. John Crooks Bailey, Davidson class of 1920, continued his courses in Greek and Religion during his 2 tenures as Dean (1941-1954, 1958-1961). The office he inherited had focused heavily on discipline and regulations and had consisted of the Dean and a secretary. Bailey began to interact with the social side to students as well.

By 1941, the college had a YMCA secretary, a new college union, and later a chaplain. Bailey was also a member not only of the honorary fraternities Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa but of a social fraternity Kappa Alpha.  Ernest Beaty deened him qualified to be a dean because of his “unusual alertness in the observation of facts and persons and a marvelous keenness in analyzing them” along with “a fine vein of humor, that saving virtue which makes life attractive” ( and presumably visits to the Dean’s office a little less uncomfortable).


Dean Bailey provides a good example of how his office dealt not only with students but also with their parents. In a 3-page memo to parents and guardians of Davidson Freshman written in August 1960, he included “A Word to Mothers” admonishing them to “let your son and his roommate have the satisfaction of doing their own unpacking unsupervised and let them arrange things in the way they want them. Their arrangement may be different from what yours would be, but they are the ones who will be living there.”  He further noted — with underlining,

Our experience leads us to think that most boys are secretly, if not openly, embarrassed when their mothers insist on staying in the dormitory rooms to supervise unpacking and to arrange the rugs, etc.

Dean's warning to mothers.

Dean’s warning to mothers.

Presumably, fathers in 1960s were less interested in their offspring’s accommodations.

Serving between Bailey’s years was a familiar Davidson face, Samuel R. Spencer, class of 1940 and future president. Spencer had already served on the faculty in 1941-1943 as a professor of military science. He kept up the dual faculty-dean role by teaching in the history department while Dean.

Sam Spencer as Dean of Students standing at a podium with President John Cunningham in the background.

Sam Spencer as Dean of Students with President John Cunningham in the background.

The next Dean of Students broke the mold by not being a Davidson graduate (Furman instead) and not teaching. Instead, Richard Burts (1961-1970) spent his 9 years solely as a dean and then became college registrar from 1970 to 1985. During his tenure, the Dean of Students office added an assistant to the dean and advisor to fraternities, extending the social role of the office.

Dean Burts engaging with students, everyone is wearing a suit and drinking out of teacups all around a small round table sitting on a couch

Dean Burts engaging with students

When he started as Dean, all his students looked like the young men in the photo but shortly after his arrival, the first African and then African-American students joined the student body adding the issues of integration to his work.

William Holt Terry, Davidson class of 1954 replaced Burts and added the challenges of co-education to those of integration. In 1977, the office added Sue Ross as the Assistant Dean of Students. Her successor, Paula Moore, hired in 1985 was the first black assistant dean.  During his tenure (1971-1994), the Dean of Students office expanded to oversee Residence Life, Careers, College Union, Chaplain’s office, Student Health and Counseling, and Community Service. By 1994, the Student Life had 43 full and part-time staff covering student — and still parental– activities and concerns.

Counseling Will Terry style, a man sitting with a student and a cord telephone in front of them

Counseling Will Terry style — well before cell phones and Facebook.


Dean of Students Office -deans and administrative assistants, c1983

Dean of Students Office -deans and administrative assistants, c1983

Tom Shandley, the most recent Dean of Students came in 1994 and will retire in 2017. Like Will Terry, Shandley has seen the issues Student Life faces expand along with more staff. Mark Sentelle, even as a philosophy professor, likely never dreamed of addressing gender-integrated housing, therapy animals, sexual harassment policies or nutrition guidance.  All the deans have met with students over academic pressure, alcohol violations, health concerns, and roommate conflicts. Ironically, even as colleges have stepped back from “in loco parentis” roles, the work of the Dean of Students has expanded. Students face a more complex world and expect that co-curricular activities will enhance the academic experience.  Sadly, few records remain for the earliest deans ( the Doom books are long gone) but the records the archives does hold await exploration and discovery. The history of Davidson’s  six Deans reveal the changing roles college governance, the changing nature of college students, and the context of college experience in American culture.

Tom Shandley with SGA President Warren Buford on a bench outside

Issues change but face to face meetings remain constant. Tom Shandley with SGA President Warren Buford

Then and Now

An offer to provide a brief history of a newly renovated building on campus provided the perfect invitation to do a little visual comparisons.  The newly renovated building started life as a post office and now houses IT staff.

Area with students PO boxes in the 1960s, many students gathered in front of the samll square boxes in the walls

Mail time in the 1960s.

Students traditionally filed over at 11am to pick up their mail.  The 1958 post office boasted air conditioning – with a unit visible in the upper left.   To get in all the boxes for students and towns people, narrow halls were necessary.

Newly renovated space for IT

Newly renovated space for IT

No narrow halls now. Instead the floor plan offers flexible spaces, brighter colors and we hope better air conditioning.  Coming back, it made sense to check out changes in the library.

Little Library main floor circa 1974

Little Library main floor

Opened in 1974, the library featured display cases and shelves of books and magazines as well as study tables.

Little Library main floor in 2017

Little Library main floor in 2017

In 2017, the library still has magazines but they share space with dvds. There are fewer book shelves and more computers.

Library's social study space in 1977

Library’s social study space in 1977

Students could chose between a balcony overlook or getting closer to the windows.  President’s portraits overlooked the students.

Same space in 2017, with more chairs and whiteboards and desks

Same space in 2017

Newer furniture — some of it on wheels. White boards and new art on the walls compete with the views and computer cords drape across it all.

The view out this window has changed with the new Wall Academic Center.

Dave Grant teaching in the dogwood dell outdoor classroom

Dave Grant teaches in the dogwood dell outdoor classroom

Instead of a spread of dogwood trees and a circle of benches, students now have an urban-vibe terrace between the wings of the Wall Center.

The "Mauze Family Terrace" right next to Wall

Davidson goes urban

The view from the front of the library changed as well. Richardson plaza has art while the landscaping by large planters has given way to open spaces.

The front of E.H. Little library seen through two trees and a grass circle plaza with students studying below the trees

Low-key version of the plaza

The left front side of E.H. Little Library behind the grassy area with sculptures and trees

A more formal plaza

Planters in front of E.H. Little Library

Dogwoods tried to thrive in these planters but mostly didn’t.

A picture of the right side of the E.H. Little Library and the left side of Wall, centered is a bare tree in the grass

Fewer bricks, more grass

The new building has special features including a “green” wall with living plants but in some ways, even with new technology, science labs look like science labs.

Science lab in the mid-20th century

Science in the mid-20th century

21st century lab, much more organized

21st century lab – just beginning to be used.

The new building did have a major change reflecting student choices. Students aren’t drinking well water these days but they are carrying a variety of water bottles everywhere.

A man drinking from the drinking fountain in the old well circa 1924

Drinking fountain circa 1924

Fountain with water bottle filling option

Fountain with water bottle filling option

Finally, what about leisure time? — Couches are still popular and TV’s got bigger

Ovens Union lounge

Ovens Union lounge

Alvarez Union lounge area with a foosball table

Alvarez Union lounge area

–But table tennis and foosball are still nearby.


There’s an irony in the heading Extracurricular.  The Davidson Encyclopedia has 4 new entries on student extracurricular activities –in that they were written as curricular requirement. Students in a first year writing class on Leisure and Play spent weeks last fall learning about Davidson history through the lens of out of class experiences.

They worked in teams around 4 topics: honorary fraternities, independent student organizations,  oversight or coordinating boards, and political engagement.  Each group focused on a subset of organizations developing brief histories and sharpened their archival skills finding photographs and scanning Davidsonians.

The activity planning boards group wrote about the Interfraternity Council (once known as the Pan-Hellenic Council and now part of Patterson Court Council), the Publications (now Media Board) and the Union Board (still functioning as the Union Board).  They discovered stories of streaking and frolics, self-selection controversies and literary magazines.

A flyer for Spring Frolics 1992 with flowcharts of events happending

Frolicing with flowcharts in 1992

Research around honorary fraternities focused on the sciences, economics and music with Sigma Pi Sigma, Gamma Sigma Epsilon and Omicron Delta Epsilon and Phi Mu Alpha. Unexpected stories uncovered for this group included Davidson’s role in publishing a chemistry journal (serious work but with a few chemical jokes added in),  our first female professor in economics,  outdoors experiments on Chambers lawn, and the tradition of interfraternity sings.

Omicron Delta Epsilon mebmers in 1966

ODE in 1966

Changes in student social life and service activities in the 21st century made some of the experiences of around independent student groups intriguing for our student researchers. Anyone remember Lingle Manor, Alpha Phi Omega or any of the co-ed eating houses:

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Today’s students found more in common with the political and social groups. Although only one group, the College Republicans, still exists, the concerns of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Just Peace continue in new expressions.

Headline from December 4, 2002, "Peace Group founded to examine alternatives to war"

You are invited to explore these new encyclopedia entries and the intersection of the history of extracurricular life and current writing curriculum.

Shared Stories

Shared Stories is the final name of a special project funded through an NEH Common Heritage grant.  Over the course of 2016, it has had several titles but now as the project is wrapping up, we’ve settled on this name.  On Saturday, January 14, 2017, we’ll be holding a special event to celebrate those who have shared their family stories, photographs, scrapbooks and more.  To date, we’ve gathering over 8 hours of oral histories and have several more scheduled in the coming weeks and scanned over 1,700 pages of documents.  We’ll have speakers sharing their stories (journalist Bea Thompson and Rev. Chris Springs), gospel music, and exhibits.  This Around the D will share some of the memories from the oral histories and some of the documents.

Davidson resident Marjean Torrence wrote a weekly column for the Mecklenburg Gazette detailing activities within the African-American communities in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. Many of her columns also were included in scrapbooks.

A flyer with a picture of Gloria Kerns at opening of her shop on South Main Street in Davidson, "Church & Social by Marjean Torrence"

Gloria Kerns at opening of her shop on South Main Street in Davidson.

This ad came from the Davidson Monthly almost a century before Torrence's column, "Ernest C. Byers, Tailor."

This ad came from the Davidson Monthly almost a century before Torrence’s column.


I graduated from nursing school in 1956. Then after that, I worked at Good Samaritan school for 2 years, on the medical unit. After that, I changed jobs and went to the Physical Rehabilitation Institute in Charlotte and worked there. . . I worked rehab for 36 years. I changed different positions there and my last 15 years at rehab I was in nursing administration. And I did some family education during that time at rehab with families and physically handicapped patients. That was really rewarding. The whole time I was there I enjoyed it, you were always learning something different, some new from working with those people. Erving McClain

A day in Ralph Johnson's barbershop. Three men getting their hair cut.

A day in Ralph Johnson’s barbershop.

I heard that Mr. Johnson had a opening, so I came here in ’57 and started working for him. . .And then in ’70, I got a job in Charlotte as a salesman, selling cars. Worked there for six and a half years. Ray Skidmore American Motors. Five and have years and then a year in Gastonia, that was in the middle seventies and the economy got bad, the gas prices. And I said, “well, I’m going back to the barber shop.” .. I didn’t keep my license renewed, so I went back to renew the license and I started at Potts Barber Shop in Cornelius and worked there for a number of years; 22 years. And it was good for me, good to me there, too. I enjoyed working with Mr. Potts over there. Seven years ago, in ’93, I decided to come over here and get my own shop. That’s when Norton went out of business. The way it got started was, Mr. Knox came over and said, “Raeford, I’ve got a place available, you would be interested?” I said “Nah,” I wasn’t even going to think about it. And then he said, “Norton’s going out of business,” and I said, “It might be good for me.” And I went by a few days later and we made a deal that same day to get this place.”  James Raeford

I even worked for Davidson College. In the library in the serials and documents. That’s in the early 70s. I had worked at the bank, Piedmont Bank and Trust in Davidson. I was one of the first blacks, really I was the first black they hired at Piedmont Bank and Trust. Peggy Rivens

Yearbook staff in 1966 for Torrrence-Lytle School - copies of the yearbooks were loaned for scanning.

Yearbook staff in 1966 for Torrence-Lytle School – copies of the yearbooks were loaned for scanning.

When I was in school this was grades one through four. The fifth and sixth grades were somewhere, and seventh and eighth, I don’t really know where. In ’53, they added another wing to Huntersville Colored School, and in ’53-54 it became Torrance-Lytle in honor of the men who had lobbied so hard to the county commissioners of Mecklenburg County to obtain a school, because before, if you wanted to further your education from the sixth grade, you had to attend a boarding school in another city, like Salisbury or Kannapolis or Concord.  Bee Jay Caldwell


Notice published in the Mecklenburg Gazette in 1965, about integration with the heading, "A message to parents concerned about education"

Notice published in the Mecklenburg Gazette in 1965

The courses were reading, writing, arithmetic. Oh, one thing the teachers did try to do was to provide some activities for us. You know how your parents want to come see you perform, so we had plays  We had a choir, we had a dance group, we had May Day outside. The higher students, they had oratorical contests. Frances Beale

But one thing, that in the winter time children had to walk so far, when they got to the room their fingers would be almost frozen. The bus, the white bus would pass them, they would be walking. I resent, at an early age I resented getting second-hand books. They would take the books from the white school and send them here. Fortunately, I was helping all the teachers because I was just in the community and I was the first to see the books so I got a good book. But I didn’t like that, I just resented getting those second-hand books. It was very hard for me to deal with. Frances Beale

Sports at Torrence-Lytle – We had some of our equipment from the College, they gave us their used equipment. We had to buy shoes. They gave us their pants. We had a baseball team, we had a basketball team and we had a pretty fair team [given] the conditions. We didn’t have a gym. We didn’t have one in Davidson and we didn’t have one in Huntersville. So if it rained, the game was cancelled. The ground was so wet you couldn’t practice. We had a track team, and my first year at Huntersville, he guy came there from the agricultural department. We hauled grass and dirt to make the fields. Theodore Wilson

Early African-American baseball team from North Mecklenburg

Early African-American baseball team from North Mecklenburg

There was a movie [theater] in Cornelius we’d go to. There wasn’t much fun, you made  your fun yourself.  [Churches] used to have fried fish picnics and picnics on May Day, ball games, and that was fun. Susie Lowery

Hood Norton and family sitting on the steps of their front porch

Hood Norton and family

I remember asking my mother why did she cooked so much on Sundays. And she said, well if anyone comes by we’ll have enough to share with them. She was from a family of, I think, 7 sisters and one sister had 9 or 10 children. That’s where we could end up on Sundays a lot of the time, out in the country. No matter who came there was always enough food for everybody. She go in and pull out another jar and open it up. I remember them canning. I remember my dad having a small garden and my granddad. My granddad, I remember them killing pigs, killing hogs. Verdie Torrence

We had picnics. We had to be industrious because there was no outlet for us. We were relegated to the east side of the railroad track, so we had picnics and camp meetings. The reason we did this was because we had to have some source of joy and fun to release the anxiety and tensions that we had, and so we had that. And people became entrepreneurs. You soon learned that if you were going to have a picnic, you had to have somebody to sell the fish, hot dogs and drinks, for popcorn and for somebody to take the twenty-five cent photographs. Bee Jay Caldwell

If you want to know more, in the coming weeks, transcripts and copies of the scanned images will be online on the Shared Stories website. We are grateful to all who have been interviewed and who shared their photographs and documents to ensure that these stories are preserved and shared.


Open Houses

Late December and early January are popular times for open house events. Time was at Davidson when open house meant not a holiday party but student-faculty gatherings.

Anne Sampson recalled inviting students to “dinner or to supper and play “Authors” afterwards–We got a little organ and they came Sunday evenings to sing from supper time till Church– In this way we wanted every boy in College at least once or twice a year.” From these informal evenings in the 1880s, a pattern later emerged of students calling on faculty on Sunday evenings after the college’s weekly vesper service.  Faculty wives would prepare light snacks and students would wind their way to professors’ home for a time of light conversation.

By 1946, the practice had been formalized and written on the weekly vespers pew sheet:

Vespers program 17 March 1946

Vespers program 17 March 1946

The last item on the program reads: The following will be “At Home” to the students after the service: Professors Reid, Shewmake, Thies, Vowles, Watts, Wood, Shepard, Davidson.  Weekly at homes eventually shifted to faculty being divided into groups with each group assigned a specific Sunday of the month to play host in their homes. One group would always host on the first Sunday, another on the second, etc.

In the spring of 1966, the college’s social fraternities took tried an experiment with open houses.  They offered to host faculty once a month on a Sunday evening. Three fraternities opened each month and sent invited specific faculty. The Inter-Fraternity Council sent out a detailed memo:

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

The memo explained: During the second semester the social fraternities would like to reciprocate your hospitality by hold open houses once a month on the fraternity court in addition the regularly scheduled open houses after vespers on Sunday night. Three of the fraternity houses will be open at the same time, and you and your wives will be invited to attend at least once during the semester. All interested students will be invited as well.

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

IFC plan for fraternity open houses


Faculty were also informed that they could visit all three of the open houses on their Sunday evening but were asked “that you start at the house which sent you an invitation.”

First Open House notice printed in Davidson on 18 February 1966, "After Vespers Open House"

First Open House notice printed in Davidson on 18 February 1966

The project worked for that semester but the following fall, vesper attendance became optional and open house attendance dropped considerably as well. A Special Committee on Religion addressed the issue by recommending that “for November, December, and January faculty members wishing to entertain students should personally extend the invitation to classes or other interest groups.” And further, Sundays were optional, “Rather than on any designated day the visits will be at times mutually convenient to the professor and the students he has invited.”  The committee offered yet another innovation–modest financial support of up to $25 funded through the Dean of Students.

A vestige of this tradition remains during commencements with academic departments hosting students and their families and, of course, the practice of faculty and staff hosting students in their homes throughout each semester.

Davidson & December 7, 1941

Like most Americans, Davidson students were aware of wars in East Asia and Europe but their involvement was limited.  On November 17, 1941, the YMCA announced that the annual Gift Fund project would be directed at refugees and war prisoners. Specifically, the gift fund would be purchasing Bibles to be sent to China, to prisoners in concentration camps in Germany, and to the US Navy. Using the theme of Let Use Share Our Faith, YMCA president Jim Owens stressed the need for “fighting hate and suffering with our strongest weapon, the Bible.”

19 November 1941 article following up on the Gift Fund project, "Bibles To Be Bought With "Y" Gift Fund"

19 November 1941 article following up on the Gift Fund project.

December 4, 1941 article announcing acceptance of Davidson funded Bibles by the US Navy, "USSNC Gets 350 Bibles"

December 4, 1941 article announcing acceptance of Davidson funded Bibles by the US Navy.

College president John Cunningham and town mayor (and Latin professor) Ernest Beaty endorsed the gift fund project with Cunningham saying “I can scarcely think of any undertaking which holds the possibility of being more fruitful” and Beaty declaring “The best defense against evil in the present age is Truth as expressed through the Bible.”

Headlines for the December 11, 1941 Davidsonian –the first issue after the bombing of Pearl Harbor — focused on the latest Red and Black Masquers play, the annual Vesper service, and the cost of dance bands. The only reference to war came in one article about the ROTC honorary Scabbard and Blade.

December 11, 1941 article on the possible effect of war on a student military group with the heading, "Military Frat May Have To Be Disbanded"

December 11, 1941 article

Below the fold, this issue featured a photograph of the Davidson Bibles arriving at the USS North Carolina.

Front page war news after Peark Harbor still focused on Bibles with the heading, "A Very Merry Chirstmas To All..." with an image of U.S. soldiers holding bibles

Front page war news after Peark Harbor still focused on Bibles.

More news about the war appeared on page 2, with the text of President Cunningham’s chapel speech from December 5th:

An article with Dr. Cunningham's speech titled, "Cunningham Reveals Policy of College Toward War"

Dr. Cunningham’s speech

Cunningham urged restraint, noting that he was in seminary in 1917 at the outbreak of WWI, he told current students

I wish to express a word of caution today against panic and hysteria at this time. It is possible that some few students may feel that they are called to turn aside from their preparation and hasten into the military service of the country. My prediction is that there is plenty of time yet for that service. The word which I wish to stress, particularly to you today is that you are now engaged in a fundamental defense task. You must beware that you do not throw away an opportunity which has been denied approximately 97 per cent of young men– those who do not get to college. We must look further than winning a war. Winning the peace is going to be even more important.

A student editorial on the same page focused more on the American sense of humor in relation to Japanese culture.

Student editorial December 11, 1941, "American Youth VS. The Rising Sun"

Student editorial December 11, 1941

The first effects of the war on campus appear in the January 29, 1942 issue with articles on changes in physical education, the introduction of summer classes, changes in ROTC staff and the first Red Cross canvas.  Other headlines show life as usual with mid-winters dances and Presbyterian student conferences.

The Davidsonian front page with the headlines, "Davidson Athletic Association Inaugurates Exercise Program", "College Speeds Up Curriculum In Line With Defence Program", and "Presbyterian Students Will Gather Here February 14-15"

Back on page 3 of this issue, the college library gets credit for collecting books (other than Bibles) for the military.

Article with the heading, "Library Begins Book Campaign Tomorrow"

The first war bonds cartoons appeared in the February 5th issue. One on the editorial page.

War bond cartoon on the editorial page in the February 5th issue. "For Victory Buy United States Defense Bonds Stamps" with an image of a man with a rifle.

war bonds cartoons appeared in the February 5th issue. One on the editorial page.

And one on page five next to an article on draft deferment policies:

Article with the heading, "Deferment Re-Defined" with a cartoon of people walking up to the Dogpatch post office, one holding a sign saying, "Do

The Trustees began to address war-related issues later in February.

Headline from February 26, 1942 as the trustees approve war-related changes, "Trustees Form Plan For War Conditions In College Program"

Headline from February 26, 1942 as the trustees approve changes

Noticeably absent are any articles on international events. The student paper has rarely covered much in the way of national or international news and in the initial weeks after Pearl Harbor that focus didn’t change. The first reference to Davidson alumni in the military appeared in the February 26, 1942 issue.

First recognition of Davidson students entering the military in an article with the heading, "McClintock, Lytch, End Basic Aviation Training" with an image of a plane captioned, "Gales McClintock"

First recognition of Davidson students entering the military

A few weeks later, the Davidsonian reported on the civilian defense as the college began organizing air raid and fire watchers. Davidson was an unlikely target but we were prepared.

Article with the heading, "Watts Names Air Raid Men"

Time to start watching the skies

The war became more prevalent –even without wire stories from the front– when advertisers started using military themes.

First war-themed advertisement titled, "More Pleasure for You"

First war-themed advertisement

Margaret’s Johnny

The Margaret in question is Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman.  She came to campus 67 years ago as part of the college’s Artist Series. Davidson was a brief part of her singing career.

President and Mrs. Cunningham with Margaret Truman. From 1950 Quips & Cranks

President and Mrs. Cunningham with Margaret Truman. From 1950 Quips & Cranks.

Her appearance rated a bold headline in The Davidsonian:

Article in the Davidsonian with the headline, "Truman Concert Highlights Week-End" with an image of Margaret Truman

Truman’s appearance coincided with Homecoming Weekend.

The paper reported that while she was on campus, she attended a small reception at the Guest House and a dinner with the president. She was joined by members of the fund-raising Development Drive and “close friends of Dr. Cunningham.”

Front of Truman's concert program

Front of Truman’s concert program

She may have been a popular dinner guest but her performance met with some criticism, including a comparison with a “certain Madame Jenkins who used to convulse her Carnegie Hall audiences with her erratic cacophonies.”  The review continued, “To descend to the serious, Miss Truman seemed to have a technical understanding of what she ought to do, but let’s face it, Miss Truman has simply not got a voice. . . . To me, her German Lieder were most satisfactory. Her feeling for these songs seemed to be free of spurious responses and the comparatively restricted range of these songs seemed to suit a voice which leapt nimbly but unconvincingly over the thin and crackling ice of both low and high registers.”

October 28, 1949 review in the Davidsonian, "Review of Truman Concert"

October 28, 1949 review in The Davidsonian.

Not reported in any of the papers were the behind the scenes concerns of suitable accommodations for this celebrity.  A townswoman in the know, wrote to her daughter, “I’ve found out the campus as all agog last week when it was discovered that there was no toilet for Margaret Truman. Such hurrying and scurrying. Mrs. Erwin fold me that they said it had to be one nobody had used. So at the cost of $200.00 the college transformed a dressing room near the stage into a “Johnny.” At every party somebody reported on the progress of “Margaret’s Johnny”– well, finally Thursday night, Mr. Hobart sent out a bulletin–all the fixtures had been installed, everything was in readiness– but the thing wouldn’t work!! Great was the concern- Margaret must have a johnny! Well, at the time of the concert, everything was lovely. Shortly afterwards this inscription was found on the newly painted commode– ‘Margaret Truman sat here!’ written with nail polish for all to see! Who would suspect staid, dignified Davidson to be seething with such carryings on! Margaret caused talk, but not like she imagined.”

Hocsak Family

Last week’s Around the D looked at student responses to conflict in Nicaragua in 1985. In 1956, Davidson students reacted to another conflict and refugee crisis by sponsoring an Hungarian family. It began with the college bringing in speakers to share their experiences of the Russian invasion and subsequent strikes within Hungary.  Students followed through on their concerns by working with Church World Service to find a refugee family to sponsor.  This effort was funded through the annual YMCA gift fund.

1956 Davidsonian headline showing student interest in world affairs, "'Action For Hungary' Rally Set For Wednesday; Two Patriots To Speak"

1956 Davidsonian headline showing student interest in world affairs

Even as the students acted, conditions in Hungary shifted making it harder for families to leave.  Church World Service recommended trying to assist young men rather than families but finally was able to connect Davidson and the Hocsak family.

Bold headlines document the family's arrival and student political interests, "Gift Fund Attains Goal As hungarian Family Arrives"

Bold headlines document the family’s arrival and student political interests.

The Hocsaks came to Davidson on January 18, 1957 and were provided housing in a former faculty home on Main Street.   The family included a young couple, their 3 year-old-son, and Mr. Hocsak’s mother. Mr, Hocsak had been an engineer in Hungary and also involved in actions against the secret police. Their escape from Budapest began on December 4, 1956. Using a truck from his company, they drove first to Vienna, crossing the border without trouble and then to Munich. They were flown to New Jersey and then sent to Davidson.

As the family settled in, students took time to visit the family.  They appeared to be particularly fond of the youngest Hocsak, jokingly comparing him to a popular cartoon character of the time, Dennis the Menace.  He earned the comparison in part by his antics on his tricycle.

February, 1 1957 article on the youngest Hocsak with an image of him on a tricycle, "Dennis The Menace Has Nothing On Young Steve"

February, 1 1957 article on the youngest Hocsak

Over the next few weeks, the Davidsonian published a 3 part series narrated by Istvan Hocsak about their experiences and political conditions in Hungary. In the first article, he described how he became involved in the freedom movement,

“In early October the first step toward revolution was taken. The students at the University in Szeged broke away from  the old Communist youth organization, ‘Disz,’ and formed a new group. This group drew up a proclamation demanding a free press, a release from compulsory study of Russian, and a promise that Hungarian uranium be left in Hungary and not shipped to Russia.

I heard about this movement on October 20, and spent the next couple of days trying to find out more about the proposals. After the twentieth everybody was talking about revolution. In my office we were all exhilarated by the thought that perhaps the oppression was nearly over.

On the 22nd a great mass meeting was held at my university, the Polytechnical University of Budapest. Nearly all of the 11,000 students in the school were there. . . . I was at work and could not be at the meeting, but a colleague of mine brought me a mimeographed copy of the Proclamation. We typed as many as we could and distributed them in the building. Everybody was excited. Enthusiasm was sweeping through the people like a fever.”

He went on to recount that at 6pm that same day, a crowd gathered in front of the Parliament building. They waited until 8:30pm when Insre Nagy came out.  His speech disappointed the crowd. “I decided to go home and see if my family was safe. During the time that I was home, between 9 and 10 o’clock, a group of students decided to broadcast the proclamation. When the crown reached the broadcasting station, they were met by the Secret Police. They told the crowd to go away, but the crowd moved on toward the building. The police fired, and the Revolution had begun.”

First article in series - 8 February 1957 with a headline, "Hocsak Tells Own Story Of Struggle For Freedom"

First article in series – 8 February 1957

2nd article in series - 15 Feburary 1957, Hocsak Tells Of Violence, Bloodshed In Revolution"

2nd article in series – 15 Feburary 1957

Last article in series - 22 February 1957 with an image of Istvan Hocsak pointing to a map, "Tears Of Joy Complete Family's Long Journey"

Last article in series – 22 February 1957

By the following fall, the Davidsonian was reporting that the Hocsaks were well settled – now on North Thompson Street.  Istvan, now being known as Steve, was employed by a Charlotte firm as a draftmen and Rosie Hocsak was working for the Ivey’s department store company. Their language skills had improved through tutoring by local teaching legend Maude Vinson.

In 1962, the Charlotte News did another follow-up article on the family. By then they were living in Charlotte with Steve having recently changed jobs.  According to the News, “Today the Hocsaks are Charlotteans with Hungarian accents just five years out of Budapest. They live in a $14,000 home on Birchcrest Drive, they own a second-hand Buick, they watch television, they have an air conditioner, they belong to the Third Presbyterian Church and the PTA at Windsor Park School, they pay taxes, they have a mortgage, they both work– and they have a swimming pool.”

A swimming pool might seem an oddity in this story but the Hocsaks met at a pool. Steve was a competitive swimmer in college.  The article doesn’t mention if they ever go back to visit Davidson but does provide evidence that the YMCA gift fund and student support made a significant difference in their lives.

Photo of two of the Hocsaks sitting in chairs looking tired taken shortly after their arrival in 1957

Photo taken shortly after their arrival in 1957

Differing Viewpoints

Compared to some larger college and universities, Davidson has fewer incidences of conflicts around controversial speakers. Still, Davidson presidents and public relations staff have had to respond to angry letters over guest lectures and even chapel talks.  The campus community also got involved in protesting North Carolina’s 1963 Speaker Ban Law. The law, which prohibited public schools from hosting speakers with Communist ties, did not apply to Davidson as a private college.

Education professor Jay Ostwalt wrote a position paper on the Speaker Ban Law noting that “The law is a threat to the vigorous intellectual climate of North Carolina– the state that has become the symbol in the South of intellectual dignity, high purpose and vigorous thought. The nation is watching us and is disappointed in what they see happening. . . . Instead of an image of a vigorous and open society, we are creating the image that we are petty, vindictive, narrow and afraid the future cannot be grasped and guided.

4 April 1965 Davidsonian article with the heading, "AAUP Writing Article On Speaker-Ban Law"

4 April 1965 Davidsonian article.

During the same semester in 1965, college president D. Grier Martin defended the student YMCA chapter’s choice of Paul Goodman as a speaker for a program on sex and ethics.  Martin replied to one critic writing that while he shared the concern and “would not have invited” Goodman himself,

“we have followed a policy of giving reasonable latitude to our student groups in the speakers whom they invited to the campus and in most instances this has worked our extremely well. We find that our faculty as well as many members of our student body take the opposite viewpoint from speakers coming to Davidson and this creates intense discussion and usually ends up with the students receiving not only knowledge but wisdom and understanding in some of the complicated matters which are facing all of us in these difficult times.”

Martin was fairly experienced with speaker critics by 1965.  His office file on Speakers – Criticism is a full one. The YMCA created another storm of letters with an invitation to Dr. Michael Scriven to speak on “The Non-Existence of God.”

Headline from 7 February 1964 Davidsonian, "An Atheist Shakes Foundation"

Headline from 7 February 1964 Davidsonian

Concerns expressed by critics include:

“If an atheist came to my home, I think I would try to treat him civilly. But I am sure not going to invite a proponent of atheism to come into my home and unload his wares into the minds of pliable youth.”

“My heart has truly been broken, as I have realized that our Southern Presbyterian Church is in the hands of the liberals.”

“I do not see how any good could come out of having an atheist come to a Christian college, expressing his views to a body of young men. I have taught a Sunday School class for over thirty-nine years at the First Presbyterian Church here and have been teaching teen-agers for many years. I have tried over the years to instill Christian faith into the young people and have been very careful not to bring up anything that would express doubt.”

“I seriously question the wisdom of having on the campus such a speaker as Dr. Scriven. In nation so socially confused and science oriented as America is today, it seems to me that the damage such an individual can do far outweighs any intellectual value he might bring to the students of the school.”

“Most of the atheists and infidels with whom I have talked are narrow minded and will not give God a chance. Neither will they be polite to other persons. Davidson College should invite some Bible Christians to speak publicly. Such as: Senator Strom Thurman of South Carolina, a great statesman.”

Not all the writers opposed the speaker:

“We are both amazed at the apparent fear expressed by some supporting friends of Davidson to allow an open expression of conflicting thoughts within the policy and practice of a church-related institution. . .  [We} want you to know of our wholehearted support of the highest level of academic freedom and of religious conviction. Only in this manner can the youth of today be adequately prepared to meet the tremendous influences of this present world as well as the surprising and revolutionary world of tomorrow.”

Only the alumni of the 1960s can say now whether the talks on sex, atheism and communism had any influence or if they even remember the controversies. We can only wonder what 21st century topics could generate the same intense responses as those of the 60s.