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

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.

“It Hasn’t Been Exactly Easy”: Early Student Reflections on Integration at Davidson

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s blog focuses on the experience of first black students at Davidson College, from Benoit Nzengu’s admission in 1962 to the graduation of Denise Fanuiel in 1977, particularly through their own words and reflections. Last week’s post provided some background on the policies and attitudes surrounding integration at Davidson, from the mid-1950s until Fall 1962. For a broader view of black history in Davidson, check out the short documentary Always Part of the Fabric and its accompanying text supplement.

In Fall 1962, Benoit (Ben) Nzengu enrolled at Davidson College. Nzengu, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was educated in Kasha and Lubondai (Democratic Republic of Congo). Two of his teachers in medical programs were missionaries who had attended Davidson –  Dr. William Rule (Class of 1932) and Dr. Hugh Farrior (Class of 1949).  He moved to Kingsville, Texas in 1961 in order to attend the Presbyterian Pan American School and apply to colleges in the United States. Ben then spent the summer of 1962 studying at the Institute of Modern Languages in Washington, DC and taking a course at Howard University before being put forward for admission to Davidson by the Presbyterian Board of World Missions. Originally given the standing of “special student” (i.e., a student not in a regular four-year degree program), the Admissions Committee evaluated his record in May 1963 and determined that Nzengu should be admitted as a freshman for the following year. However, he graduated on time in 1966 due to taking summer courses, and went on to study medicine at the University of Brussels. Dr. Nzengu is now a surgeon in France.

Publicity shot of Ben Nzengu, 1962. The caption on the back of the photo reads: "“In background Belk Hall, Davidson’s largest dormitory. Ben lives on the 4th floor with J. Knox Abernethy, Jr., a senior and son of Rev. J.K. Abernethy…”

Publicity shot of Ben Nzengu, 1962. The caption on the back of the photo reads: ““In background Belk Hall, Davidson’s largest dormitory. Ben lives on the 4th floor with J. Knox Abernethy, Jr., a senior and son of Rev. J.K. Abernethy…”

Professor Dan Rhodes (Class of 1938, religion professor 1960-1984), who chaired the committee tasked with “dealing with Congolese students,” served as Nzengu’s faculty advisor. Special consideration was given to who should room with Nzengu; it was decided that Knox Abernethy (Class of 1963) was good choice, as the Board of World Missions advised against placing Nzengu in a room with a missionary’s son who had spent time in the Congo:

“We find it hard for the missionaries not to be too paternalistic. We feel that it is good that Benoit will be accepted for what his is now, rather than what may be known about him in the past in terms of his life and growth in the Congo; we think Benoit has what it takes to make the grade. We find that it is awfully hard for the Congo missionaries and their families not to always be thinking about our Congolese friends as they used to be rather than as they now are.” (Letter from George M. Cooley to Dan Rhodes, August 6, 1962)

In September 1962, then College President D. Grier Martin communicated with Charlotte movie theater owner Mike Kincey about whether Nzengu would be allowed to attend showings of films at one of the three theaters owned by his company. Martin’s letter spells out how difficult dealing with segregation in Charlotte and its surrounding areas must have been for Nzengu:

“It occurred to me that an exception might be made at one or more theaters if this boy were accompanied by at least two of our Davidson students who would agree to sit on either side of him so that no person who might object to sitting by a colored person would have this happen.”

Martin’s letter to Professor Dan Rhodes on September 17, 1962 about the protocol for Nzengu’s attending movies starkly demonstrates the lengths Nzengu had to go through to avoid humiliation or violence while participating in activities that his fellow Davidson students could do with ease.

Being able to participate in leisure activities like other Davidson students did remained an issue – as Rhodes commented May 8, 1981 Davidsonian article by Minor Sinclair and Vince Parker: “‘It took us some time for real non-segregation to penetrate all fibers of the College and community. It’s the little things – like being able to get a cup of coffee, or to use a public restroom, or get a haircut – that makes a difference and that are so hard to grow into,’ [Religion Professor Dan] Rhodes added.”

Archival records indicate that Ben Nzengu was in regular contact with the Board of World Missions, and that he was also under a microscope in many ways. Newsweek sent a reporter to cover his experience at Davidson, The Charlotte News ran a story on his adjustment to college, and the Davidson College Public Relations office took several publicity photos.

Bill Godwin's Charlotte News story on Ben Nzengu, October 8, 1962, with the heading, "Small College Eases Integration Pains"

Bill Godwin’s Charlotte News story on Ben Nzengu, October 8, 1962.

The same week that The Charlotte News reported that “Ben hopes to study hard and make lots of new friends,” Nzengu received some hate mail. President Martin’s response to Dan Rhodes, who had reported the incident, notes that the College President was “surprised only that this hasn’t happened earlier.” President Martin was also receiving hate mail during this time period, primarily from alumni who found integration repugnant.

In April 1963, the United States Information Agency’s H.S. Hudson wrote Robert J. Sailstead (then Davidson’s Director of Public Relations) on the subject of doing “a brief picture story on Mr. Nzengu” for the July issue of Perspectives Americaine and American Outlook, published by the Information Agency in Leopoldville and Accra, respectively:

“In general, we want coverage demonstrating Nzengu is accepted by his fellow students, participates in college life, and demonstrates that he is satisfied with being in Davidson. If he is also accepted by the townspeople, then shots to this effect would be very useful.”

In Fall 1963, Nzengu was joined by the second black student to enroll at Davidson college – Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, also from the Congo. After graduating from Davidson, Nzongola went on to get a master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Commerce from the University of Kentucky in 1968, and a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975. Dr. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is currently a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served as a visiting professor at Davidson for the Fall 1990 semester. While a student at Davidson, Nzongola, led “a fight for liberalizing church attendance policy”:

“At the time, all students were required to attend chapel two or three times a week, Sunday evening vespers, and Sunday morning church services – for which they had to have signed attendance slips. But students had only three choices for church attendance – the college Presbyterian church, the Methodist church, and the Episcopal church – all white middle class churches. There were two other churches in town, the black church and the poor white church, but neither of them counted towards the attendance requirement. ‘You couldn’t even go to the poor white Presbyterian church and get an attendance card,’ Nzongola recalls. ‘So I said, ‘I’m going to go to the black church, and you have to give me an attendance or not give me an attendance.’ So finally they relented, and eventually every student was able to get attendance in any church they wanted to attend.'” (“The Black Experience of Davidson” issue of the Davidson Journal, Fall 1990)

George Nzongola's senior portrait, 1967 Quips and Cranks.

George Nzongola’s senior portrait, 1967 Quips and Cranks.

Both Nzengu and Nzongola were on the soccer team, and Nzengu earned All-Southern Conference honors as a varsity soccer player.

In Fall 1964, the first black American students enrolled at Davidson, Leslie Brown ’69 and Wayne Crumwell ’68. Brown’s son, Demian Brown Dellinger (Class of 1998) was Davidson’s first black legacy student. The May 1, 1964 issue of The Davidsonian announced: “Two American Negroes Plan to Enroll This Fall: Three Boys Admitted, But Only Two Accept.” Former Student Body President, John Spratt (Class of 1964) was quoted as saying:

“This will be a terrific challenge for Davidson boys who profess beliefs in integration to act out their convictions. I hope there will not be a de facto segregation within the student body against these young men and that they will become full members of the student body in every sense of the word: intellectually, politically, and socially.”

News release announcing the first two American black students to enroll at Davidson

News release announcing the first two American black students to enroll at Davidson, Leslie Brown (Class of 1969) and Wayne Crumwell (Class of 1968).

During Homecoming 2012, the Offices of Multicultural Affairs and Alumni Relations sponsored a program called “Reflections: On 50+ Years of Integration,” featuring keynotes by Ben Nzengu ’66 and Leslie Brown ’69. The Davidsonian article covering the event noted: “Today, 24.2% of first-year students identify as students of color. Fifty years ago, there was only one student of color.” Nzengu reflected at the event: “How great a role did Davidson play in my life? To give you an idea, it was Davidson and its Board of Trustees who made it all happen in 1962, the year I was admitted here to integrate a southern white male college, in a year in which only 53% of the student body was in favor of having black students among them.”

Nzengu went on to talk about how his friendship with James Howard, a college employee, gave him insight into the life of black workers at the college and black life in town:

“…[Howard] was in charge of the Chemistry Building, and a very skilled worker. He was paid as a janitor. I know him well, and I used to go eat at his house, and go with him to his Church, across the railroad tracks. Life on the other side of the railroad tracks was a distinctive mark for the entire black community. One day, I had the following conversation with James. ‘The whites in this town would like us to stay in the same position working for them and doing the dirty work with low wages,’ he said. ‘The separation between our two communities is these railroad tracks; you cross it to go to work, you cross it again to go back to your house, and that’s it.’ ‘Before you came to Davidson,’ he added, ‘everyone in town knew that a Congolese student would be coming to Davidson, but the whites don’t like to see integration, and black people crossing those tracks permanently.'”

At that same event, Brown said of his experience:

“Coming to Davidson as one of the first black students in the time of rapidly emerging and advancing civil rights movement, I saw myself as having assumed the mantel of ‘firstness.’ By that I mean, I had embarked on the migration with a sense of mission, duty, and responsibility because I felt my successful migration has the potential to impact the nature and course of race relations and future opportunities for other blacks’ relationship with Davidson College and the broader issues of integration and opportunities for blacks in higher education and other arenas… I carried with me not only my own hopes and dreams but also those of my family, my community and my people.”

December 10, 1967 Davidsonian article, "Negroes View Role" with the heading, "'Hasn't Been Exactly Easy'" and sub-heading, "No Bias In Admissions At Davidson, Says White"

December 1, 1967 Davidsonian article, “Negroes View Role: ‘Hasn’t Been Exactly Easy’,” from which this post gets its title.

The December 1, 1967 issue of The Davidsonian included an article by Bob Reid entitled “Negroes View Role: ‘Hasn’t Been Exactly Easy’,” which interviewed three of the five black students on campus at the time. This article provides insight into the students’ experience while they were living it:

Leslie Brown ’69: “It hasn’t been exactly easy… You realize just how different you are.”

Calvin Murphy ’70: “When I came here, I wanted to be identified as a Davidson College student. Now I want to be identified as a black Davidson College student.”

Wayne Crumwell ’68: “You can’t integrate fully… here or anywhere else. What good is integrating if the feeling behind it is not real.”

Brown: “You’ll never get a Negro to come here and enjoy it… unless you have a larger Negro student body. Sometimes we like to get away from white students and be with our brothers.”

Brown: “It is generally leading me to dedicate myself to working with black people, and help them realize that there is a pride in being black.”

When interviewed by Davidson student Steven Shames (Class of 1996) for Shames’ honors thesis, “A Good Faith Effort: Integration at Davidson College, 1958-1964,” Wayne Crumwell reflected honestly on his experience as a Davidson student:

“What did I do for Davidson? I graduated from Davidson. I consider that an accomplishment. And I consider that something that was done more for Davidson than for Wayne Crumwell. Davidson needed black students. Black students did not particularly need Davidson… The fact that I don’t feel particularly good about Davidson is something I’ve had to deal with… Would I opt to go to Davidson again? Hell, no! Why subject myself to that trauma during that time in one’s life when you have alternatives?”

Crumwell also discussed with Shames his resentment over how the college administration handled his entrance to Davidson: “It became clear that the college had put some thought into integrating from the perspective of preparing the white students for the experience. But they took for granted the fact that black students  would just be accepted in this environment.” He recalled on his return to campus for a talk in February 1993 that the then admissions director “told us we were here for the benefit of white students. They needed to be exposed. It would be an awesome service that we could perform for them.” (The Davidsonian, March 1, 1993)

Wayne Crumwell's senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1968.

Wayne Crumwell’s senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1968.

By 1966, Lefty Driesell (head basketball coach, 1960-1969) has begun to recruit black players for the basketball team. One recruit, Charlie Scott, visited campus with his parents and was taken to the Coffee Cup, a local segregated restaurant. Town legend hold that “the Coffee Cup incident” is the reason that Scott, previously interested in attending Davidson, went on to commit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill instead: “Many feel the incident influenced Scott’s decision to attend the University of North Carolina and cost the Wildcats a national championship. According to Will Terry, ‘There was an awful lot of desegregation taking place that next afternoon.'” (Davidsonian, May 8, 1981) Leslie Brown also mentioned the Coffee Cup when discussing the town of Davidson’s reaction to black students at the Homecoming 2012 event: “To say you could comfortably sit and enjoy it and either establishment [M&M Soda Shop and Hattie’s] would be an overstatement. Then there was The Coffee Cup which served blacks on a takeout basis only.”

Another one of Lefty Driesell’s recruits who did enroll at Davidson was Mike Maloy (Class of 1970; did not graduate). Maloy remains one of the best basketball players to ever attend Davidson, and holds the distinction of being the first black member of a fraternity at the college. The March 2, 1967 issue of Jet magazine reported: “First Negro Accepted by White Frat In N.C.” when Maloy joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. The story included the total number of students of color in 1967: “The 1,000-member student body has seven Negroes.” Leslie Brown also became a member of Sigma Chi.

The 1968-1969 basketball team - Mike Maloy is seated second from left.

The 1968-1969 basketball team – Mike Maloy is seated second from left.

In 1967, the Black Student Coalition was founded by these early black students, and remains an active campus organization. The BSC’s Statement of Purpose lists three main objectives:

“to establish and maintain a spirit of solidarity among the Black students of Davidson College,” “to create a sense of awareness within the framework of Davidson College with regards to the contributions of Black students, and specifically the Black Student Coalition, to the ‘total environment’ of Davidson College,” and “to serve as an active force ready and willing to support the Black citizens of the town of Davidson and to aid them in overcoming many of the problems which they now face.”

BSC Statement of Purpose 1967

Black Student Coalition Statement of Purpose, 1967.

In April 1968, students picketed Johnson’s Barber Shop, a local black-owned segregated business. Johnson’s would serve black Davidson students, but not black townspeople during regular business hours. At the end of the month, a faculty and student committee formed to generate interest in “contributing to a fund to underwrite Mr. Ralph Johnson’s losses if he were to integrate his Barber Shop” reported to President Martin that they had approached Johnson and Hood Norton (who owned another segregated barber shop in town) and “regret to report to you that both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Norton were unreceptive to the entire idea, indicating that their strong intention to adhere to their current policies of segregation.” Dan Rhodes and Wayne Crumwell both served on this committee.

Letter from students to faculty and college administration asking for support in the boycott of Ralph Johnson's barber shop.

Letter from students to faculty and college administration asking for support in the boycott of Ralph Johnson’s barber shop.

Leslie Brown's letter asking the College to "not sanction by its silence this racist policy."

Leslie Brown’s letter asking the College to “not sanction by its silence this racist policy.”

Leslie Brown wrote a letter to President Martin informing him that Johnson had told him he would no longer serve black students in his barbershop, and urged Martin to have the College take an official stance. In an interview for the book One Town, Many Voices: A History of Davidson, North Carolina (Jan Blodgett and Ralph Levering, 2012), Max Polley (faculty in Religion, 1956-1993) recounted a conversation with Ralph Johnson, urging Johnson to integrate:

“When I talked to him, I said, ‘You know, now it’s time. Why don’t you go ahead and cut the hair of the little whites and blacks. It’s coming.’ And he said, ‘Dr. Polley, when I started this shop, the white people said you are only going to cut white people’s hair, and that’s what I did. Now the white people say we want you to cut black people’s hair also. When do I get to make a decision? I just have to do what the white people say.'”

Five weeks after the boycott began, Johnson opened his barbershop to customers of all races during regular business hours. Later that year, Hood Norton’s shop did the same. The barbershop boycott demonstrates that Crumwell and Brown were participating in activism around Davidson during the late 1960s.

By the early 1970s, there were 19 students of color enrolled at Davidson College. Howard J. Ramagli (Class of 1972) surveyed 15 of those students in 1971-1972 for his paper, “A Study of Attitudes & Procedures Related to the Black Experience at Davidson.” In particular, the anonymous comments Ramagli compiled on the topic of black identity in Davidson shed light on the experiences of these early black students:

“I hope I am considered a student at Davidson and not just a black student at Davidson.”

“It’s hard stepping into somebody else’s [the white’s] world, especially when they think their world is right.”

“You have to carry around your ID everywhere to show that you really go to school here. I can’t even get a check cashed or get into the gym without someone asking for my ID to prove who I am.”

“There is a loneliness you have to endure which is beyond any white definition of loneliness.”

“Being black at Davidson is going to homecoming and all the music is blue-grass.”

Davidson College became fully coeducational in the fall of 1973, when the first class of women freshmen enrolled. This first class included four black women: Julia Deck, Denise Fanuiel, Debra Kyle, and Marian Perkins. In 1977, Denise Fanuiel became the first black woman to graduate from Davidson College, as well as the first woman to be commissioned through the college’s ROTC program. Marian Perkins went on to graduate in 1979, and returned to campus to give a talk on her reflections for Black History Month in 1993, along with Wayne Crumwell ’68.

Denise Fanuiel's senior portrait in Quips and Cranks, 1977.

Denise Fanuiel’s senior portrait, 1977 Quips and Cranks.

Perkins’ portion of the speech received less coverage in The Davidsonian than Crumwell’s, but did include mention a brief mention of her student experience:

“While outward racism was not so apparent, subtle hints of its presence did not go unnoticed by her. Professors who encouraged her to join their departments so that they might have a black student in their ranks, and a theater production which depicted African Americans in a displeasing light made their points… Perkins used the final moments of her talk to encourage students [to] have deeply committed faith and to promote encouraged race relations. ‘I am deeply committed to my religion and don’t feel the need to judge failure and success using the normal rules.'”

Perkins later became an ordained Baptist minister, and still works with the Greater Fellowship Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. Julia Deck and Debra Kyle withdrew from Davidson without graduating.

Marian Perkins' senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1979.

Marian Perkins’ senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1979.

25 years after Ben Nzengu enrolled at Davidson, he returned to campus for a reunion. A Charlotte Observer article by Pam Kelley, “Challenge of integration remains: Davidson’s first black student attends 25th class reunion” (April 20, 1991) covered the event: “Though aware he was making history, ‘I wasn’t concerned all the time,’ he said. ‘I was concerned with getting my work done.'” Kelley also quoted Anthony Foxx (Class of  1993): “‘I think the main difference between then and now,’ said Anthony Foxx, a black sophomore from Charlotte, ‘is we’ve known because of the people who’ve graduated for the last 20 years, that we can make it through.'”

The cover the Fall 1990 issue of the Davidson Journal: "The Black Experience at Davidson"

The cover the Fall 1990 issue of the Davidson Journal: “The Black Experience at Davidson.”

George Nzongola was interviewed for the Davidson Journal‘s “The Black Experience of Davidson” issue (Fall 1990), on his experiences as a Davidson student, and his thoughts on African-American studies as a professor in the field: “… I think it even more important that Davidson ought to do more to increase the number of African-American students and faculty. I mean this is an American college, and I’m kind of disappointed that after twenty-eight years of integration there are only some sixty black students or so in a student body of fifteen hundred.”

Similarly, Minor Sinclair and Vince Parker’s May 8, 1981 Davidsonian article, “Path of integration is slow and long, continues amid problems” called out the College and community on claiming Davidson has been integrated:

“Twenty years has passed since the College began  integration. In hindsight, integration appears as a process, a continuum of slow changes and protracted growing pains. In spite of a few volatile moments, the process ahs [sic] largely been one of gradual compromise within the system in ‘the Davidson way.’ Change has resulted. The College, once an all white institution, now claims one black professor and 45 black students. Yet, is Davidson integrated now? or is the process continuing? or has it been aborted?”

This blog, and the one that precedes it, are intended to shed light on the complex path to integration and the experiences of the first black students at one educational institution. While there is a wealth of material collected by the College Archives & Special Collections, there is also more to know and more to collect, particularly the reflections of the first women of color to attend Davidson. We welcome comments and questions, and seek to continue to learn and share that knowledge with the Davidson community and beyond.

“Thereby Hangs a Tale”: The Winding Path to Integration at Davidson

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s blog focuses on the history of integration at Davidson College, from the mid-1950s up until the admission of the first black student in 1962. Next week’s blog will focus on the experiences of those early black students at Davidson, particularly through their own words and reflections. For a broader view of black history in Davidson, check out the short documentary Always Part of the Fabric and its accompanying text supplement.

The Brown vs. Board of Education rulings in 1954 paved the way towards desegregation in public schools, and while Davidson is a private institution, the dialogue created by Brown vs. Board of Education began local conversations on integration. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County school system began the process of desegregation in 1957; as the school system’s history page notes, “At the time, Charlotte was very much a segregated city, with black schools and white schools within the district. The schools reflected the larger social context in a city with no integrated hotels, restaurants, restrooms, churches, cemeteries or theaters.”

As articles and editorials in The Davidsonian demonstrate, campus opinions on integration varied widely from the mid-1950s until 1962 and beyond. In March 1956, Professor Cecil Kenneth Brown (Class of 1921; math and economics faculty, 1923-1957) gave a pro-segregation talk on campus entitled “The Southern Position with Respect to the Bi-Racial System” (later printed in the July 28, 1956 issue of The State, now Our State magazine, as “The White South: A Minority Group”).

Joe Bell's letter to the editor, January 17, 1958. "A Plea For Negro Students"

Joe Bell’s letter to the editor, January 17, 1958.

Two years later, student Joseph Bell (Class of 1960) wrote a letter to the editor in support of admitting black students, printed in the January 17, 1958 issue of The DavidsonianBell noted that “Davidson’s present segregated status has no support in the position of the Church, and it is inconsistent with the purposes of the school itself.”

In April 1958, the first known admissions inquiry was made on behalf of a potential black student. Frank E. Parker wrote a letter to Frederick W. Hengeveld (Class of 1918, Registrar and Director of Admissions, 1946-1967), requesting information on the college for his son. Parker wrote:

“We are Negroes – and ‘thereby hangs a tale.’ Our motives for seeking admission to your institution are not predicated upon any intent to establish a precedent, nor agitate the prevailing race patterns. We seek the quality training available from your school.”

Frank Parker, Sr.'s letter

Frank Parker, Sr.’s letter to Director of Admissions Frederick Hengeveld, from which the title of this post is taken.

Admissions Director Hengeveld directed the Parkers’ request and following application (in November 1958) to the Board of Trustees for a decision. The Board formed a special committee to “study the question of admitting black applicants” (Davidsonian article, February 17, 1998) but did not release a decision. Hengeveld responded to Frank Parker, Jr. on November 26, 1958:

“Since the Trustees have not taken any action which would authorize the admission of Negro students, and since we do not know when they will or whether they will take such action, we feel it is wise to advise you to make application to other institutions so that you may be sure of acceptance elsewhere.”

At their meeting on February 18, 1959 the Board of Trustees passed “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College,” based on the findings of the special committee. However, this statement was not released to the public until October 1959. An attachment to the report notes that the recommendation was modified to read:

“In the view of the request of the Education Committee with reference to the matter of the admission of Negroes, the college authorities responsible for admitting students be advised that it is the judgment of a majority of the Trustees that at this time the admission of Negroes is not in the best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes who at this juncture would be admitted as students.”

In the meantime, The Davidsonian ran another editorial calling for a decision on the matter of integration. The March 6, 1959 article stated: “We think the time has come to end such ostrich-headed attitudes. Why not consider the possibility? Why not honestly try to find out what effects there might be if a qualified Negro student enrolled at the college?”

On October 6, 1959, then College President David Grier Martin (Class of 1932, College President 1958-1968) addressed the faculty and student body and announced the Board of Trustees decision:

“The Trustees decided that it was not in the best interest of the college to admit a Negro student at this time. Since this was not a change in the ‘unwritten’ policy which Davidson has been following, the majority of the Trustees felt it would not be necessary to make a public announcement.”

Two months later, segregationist and newspaper editor Thomas R. Waring gave an address to the student body of Davidson while at chapel. That week’s Davidsonian ran an interview with Waring in which he was asked: “What is your opinion concerning the integration of an institution such as Davidson College?” Waring responded: “I’d say this: you have a pretty good college now, why change it? You’d run the risk of losing North and South Carolina boys whose families oppose this thing, and contributors from Southern states would surely fall away.”

Waring also served on a panel at Davidson with Charles Jones of Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte. The Davidsonian reported that Jones countered Waring’s comments by “point[ing] out that many things are denied the Negro which are a vital part of the Southern way of life – education, social rights, and other opportunities.”

That same week, faculty member William Gatewood Workman (psychology professor, 1951-1977)  moved for the faculty to conduct a vote on a statement of whether they supported integration, and whether to integrate now or in the future. The results of the faculty vote would be submitted to the Board of Trustees.

For the Board of Trustees meeting in February 1960, The Davidsonian created a special issue focused on the meeting and the issue of admitting black students. This issue included the results of poll conducted by Davidsonian staff, several letters to the editor, and a cartoon lampooning the values of the Presbyterian Church as practiced in a policy of segregation.

The February 16, 1960 "Trustee Special" issue of The Davidson ran the results of the student poll, with an editor's note stating that there were "numerous reports of ballot stuffing." The heading, "Student Poll Reveals Views On Segregation"

The February 16, 1960 “Trustee Special” issue of The Davidsonian ran the results of the student poll, with an editor’s note stating that there were “numerous reports of ballot stuffing” and that the staff had hesitated to print the results.

At the Feburary 1960 Trustees meeting, Henry Shue (Class of 1961) presented a petition signed by over 250 Davidson students, requesting that the Trustees reopen discussion on integration and further study the matter. Shue had also set up meetings with willing Trustees to discuss the students’ opinions on integration.

A year later, nine Davidson alumni serving as missionaries at the American Presbyterian Congo Mission sent a letter to President Martin, urging that the college consider admitting African students in order to train these students to become Presbyterian leaders in their own countries. This request aligned with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.’s 1954 and 1960 proceedings, urging Presbyterian affiliated institutions to look into desegregation.

The Trustees discussed this request from the alumni missionaries in their February 1961 meeting, and made the decision to admit up to three Congolese students for the following year. The February 17, 1961 Davidsonian reported that when then Board of Trustees President J. McDowell Richards (Class of 1922) was asked whether “this action was ‘not inconsistent with the policy laid two two years ago’ when the board voted that ‘it is not in the best interests of Davidson College to integrate at this time,'” Richards responded, ‘”Perhaps it is an inconsistency…But the board felt it necessary to to back the Board of World Missions on this matter.”

Front page of the February 17, 1961 Davidsonian. The headline, "Trustees Open College To Congolese Students"

Front page of the February 17, 1961 Davidsonian: “Trustees Open College to Congolese Students.”

That same  issue also featured an article by student Tom Parker (Class of 1961), criticizing The Davidsonian‘s coverage of integration at the college:

“Two years ago the Davidson student body, assembled in chapel, applauded the statement ‘It is not in the interest of Davidson College to admit Negroes at this time.’ Last year, through a clearly worded petition, they expressed their desire that Davidson remain a segregated institution at least for the present time. Despite these setbacks, those on this campus who favor integration have renewed their efforts… it is interesting to consider the devices which they employ to gain their objectives, especially those which are used in an openly sympathetic newspaper (which nonetheless declares itself in its letterhead to be “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.”)

Local criticism of the decision to integrate, an indication of the difficulties the potential international students from Africa would face once enrolled at Davidson, appeared in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian:

An article in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian, reporting on local businesses' reactions to the possibility of African students attending Davidson and frequenting their establishments: "Five Local Businesses 'Won't Serve Them'."

An article in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian, reporting on local businesses’ reactions to the possibility of African students attending Davidson and frequenting their establishments: “Five Local Businesses ‘Won’t Serve Them’.”

After the Trustees decision, President Martin established a committee “dealing with Congolese students” and appointed faculty member Dan Rhodes (Class of 1938, religion professor 1960-1984) to chair it. The committee, comprised of faculty, students, and community members, was tasked with investigating potential issues Congolese students would face.

Letter from committee chair Dan Rhodes to the members of the committee detailing each sub-committee's assignments. May 20, 1961.

Letter from committee chair Dan Rhodes to the members of the committee detailing each sub-committee’s assignments.

Though the Trustees had voted to admit a limited number of Congolese students, no black students enrolled at Davidson for the 1961-1962 academic year. From the May 5, 1961 Davidsonian story, “Martin: ‘We Will Have No Congolese Next Fall'”:

‘”The Board of World Missions in Nashville tells me that our missionary group has assigned ten students – none to Davidson – for good reasons… The Board of World Missions will plan to send one to us when they have one they consider qualified.’ Davidson’s Congolese Committee will continue meeting in preparation for the future, Martin said.”

Students and faculty continued to probe the issue throughout the next academic year, with the faculty voting in January 1962 to urge “the Trustees of the College authorize the admission of qualified students of any race and nationality.”  The final tally of the faculty vote was 53 in favor and 14 against (1 abstention). Though the Trustees had voted to allow a limited number of students from the Congo, this decision still barred American black students from enrolling at Davidson.

The Davidsonian conducted another student opinion poll on integration, with then student body president, George Trask (Class of 1962), sending the results of the student poll to College President Martin for distribution to the Board of Trustees.

Trask's letter to President Martin, showing that 59% of the student body had responded to the poll, with 53% in favor of "the admission of qualified students of any race of nationality to Davidson College."

Trask’s letter to President Martin, showing that 59% of the student body had responded to the poll, with 53% in favor of “the admission of qualified students of any race of nationality to Davidson College.”

Armed with the faculty vote and a student opinion poll, both showing a campus majority favored integration, President Martin took the question of officially integrating the college, rather than allowing a small, capped number of students specifically from one African country to the Board of Trustees. On May 17, 1962, at their meeting the Trustees of Davidson College approved a resolution to open “the college to students regardless of race or nationality.” (The Davidsonian, May 18, 1962)

May 17, 1962 Trustees statement

A copy of the May 17, 1962 Trustees Resolution.

Front page of the May 18, 1962 Davidsonian, announcing that "Congolese students may enter in Sept."

Front page of the May 18, 1962 Davidsonian, announcing that “Congolese students may enter in Sept.” The top headline for that issue read, “Trustees Abolish Segregation Policy; Martin Reveals $835,000 Bequest.”

On the decision to integrate with international black students, rather than American students, professor Dan Rhodes recalled in an April 20, 1991 Charlotte Observer article by Pam Kelley, “Challenge of integration remains: Davidson’s first black student attends 25th class reunion”: “Africans were seen as less threatening. They were foreigners, so they were more acceptable, in a sense.”

In fall 1962, the first black student enrolled at Davidson College – Benoit Nzengu, from the Congo. Next week’s blog will cover Ben Nzengu’s and the other early black students’ experiences at Davidson from 1962-1977 – watch this space!

Automotive moments

Summer brings not only the departure of students, but also their cars. While this opens up more parking spaces, traffic issues appear to be a constant around campus (and definitely a few miles from campus on I-77).  In fact, cars have been an issue for decades.

Davidson students circa 1925 - hoping their car will make it "To Cornelius or bust"

Davidson students circa 1925 – hoping their car will make it “To Cornelius or bust”

In the spring of 1923, the president of Hampden-Sidney College wrote to Davidson College president William J. Martin inquiring about students and cars.  He had heard Davidson students were not allowed to have cars on campus and clearly hoped that this was true.  He noted that the Senior class at Princeton had taken a stand against cars “on the ground that they are demoralizing.”

1 April 1922 letter to President Martin with Princeton reference.

1 April 1922 letter to President Martin with Princeton reference.

President Martin replied:

Dear Dr. Eggleston:-

We do not encourage automobiles among the students—indeed, we discourage them. Two or three years ago there seemed to be a tendency for the students to keep them here. That was at the time then money was free and plentiful and almost everybody had an automobile. As a permanent thing, they are a negative quantity on our campus. The only one that I know if here is a new one that a Senior has bought with reference to taking home with him.

I noted too the action of the Senior Class at Princeton. I thought it very wise.

When we get our new road from here to Charlotte we may have trouble with this same thing; if so, we shall certainly put a stop to it. I would not hesitate to require every parent to keep automobiles away from the students during their residence here.

I do not know the practice of other institutions.

With cordial regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

William J. Martin


Grand opening celebration for the new road President Martin worried about - Nov 11, 1923

Grand opening celebration for the new road President Martin worried about – Nov 11, 1923

Even before the road was finished, President Martin found part of his time taken up writing warning letters to students:

It was reported at the Faculty meeting this week that you had an automobile on the grounds which you were using regularly. I was directed by the Faculty to say that this is against the rule of the College and that either the automobile will have to be returned to your home, or you would have to make some arrangements with the Dean with regard to its use. Please govern yourself accordingly.

Banning automobiles was a short-lived solution.  By 1937, the faculty’s Buildings and Grounds committee had developed a long list of rules for “Persons Driving and Parking on the Campus.”

Driving and parking rules, 1937

Driving and parking rules, 1937

These rules encompassed the practical and the aesthetic:

No. 7 – The rate of speed at which cars can legitimately be driven on campus depends on conditions existing at the moment. At no time may the speed be excessive, with 20 miles per hour as the maximum; due care must be exercised when passing or overtaking pedestrians, and when passing parked cars.

No. 11 – A heterogeneous assortment of cars parked at all angles detracts from the beauty of our campus. Orderly parking will help to relieve this situation.

A snowy day with two people pusing the one car that was allowed on campus. Dubbed "Religion" because it shook the hell out of you, it belonged to the YMCA. Photo courtesy of George Gunn '47.

One car that was allowed on campus. Dubbed “Religion” because it shook the hell out of you, it belonged to the YMCA. Photo courtesy of George Gunn ’47.

There was no relief in site when Dean of Students J. C. Bailey wrote Dean of Faculty C.K. Brown in 1948 asking for “ideas with reference to the problem of regulating the use of cars by students.”

Brown’s reply was terse. He had no word of wisdom and only one suggestion:

If we decide to allow all students to have cars, I should like for this move to be a part of a general plan for treating students more as men. If they are more mature than formerly, they should bear more responsibility in every area. I should like for us to make clear to them, and to their parents, that we expect them increasingly to stand behind their own decisions. We spend a tremendous time with requests made for special treatment that should never be made. Let us say to students and parents: Here is the freedom you crave; if you use it to the detriment of your college work, we will assume no part of the responsibility and will entertain no petitions for concessions from the established rules of the college.

Dean Brown's reply to Dean Bailey, 24 September 1948

Dean Brown’s reply to Dean Bailey, 24 September 1948

Dean Bailey added his own concerns, not just about maturity –but about financial and social pressure. In his report to the Faculty Executive Committee, he wrote:

It is probable that when more students have cars, still more students will wish to have cars. Many parents of Davidson students would find the cost of a car and its upkeep burdensome, other would find it an impossible undertaking. Possession of cars on the campus by all students who could afford them would tend to emphasize in a very obvious manner the differences in financial background among the students. The Faculty desires to maintain on the campus an atmosphere in which the individual student stands on the basis of his personal worth rather than on the basis of what he owns.

The solution in 1948 was to limit cars to  married students and any students over 21 years of age and even then to encourage them to only use the cars on dance weekends.

An editorial in the October 8, 1948 Davidsonian urged students with permission to drive to do so wisely, in hopes that their behavior would open the way for those under 21.  Whether from following the rules or student pressure, by the fall of 1950 more students could bring cars.  Freshman were protected from the possible evils of cars until the fall of 1965 but they then ushered in a new era of parking regulations and fees.

Article with the heading, "Change In Regulations Aids Parking Situation" with an image of a cop writing a ticket

The parking regulations may have improved but tickets still happened.


Sam Spencer in his own words

From time to time, Around the D has looked at some campus legends. This week we’ll let one speak in his own words.  Samuel R. Spencer, Jr. has been a student, alumnus, staff, faculty, and president.  He was persuaded by Dr. Chalmers Davidson to give some of his personal papers to the library.  A quick look through just 2 folders opened up a number of views his years at Davidson:

From his student years:

Senior entry in 1940 Quips and Cranks for Sam Spencer

Senior entry in 1940 Quips and Cranks for Sam Spencer

Spencer's Senior year Photo 1940

Spencer’s Senior year Photo

From a letter written home in November 1936:

” . . . I regret that I can’t make it home this weekend, because the homecoming game and dances are this weekend, and that is the biggest weekend of the term. I regret to say, too, that expenses are atrocious, . . . . Thank goodness this is an exceptional weekend, and the most expensive one this term.  The $5.25 check which I mentioned before was $2.00 for monthly fraternity dues, $1.25 for regular midwinter dance dues, and $2.00 for the banquet this week. So you see that I will have to pay the fraternity $3.25 a month regularly. Having only $2.04 of my original $13.00, you can make that up if you see fit.  Either way you want to do it is all right with me.”

[The full letter provides a wonderful detailing of dance weekend expenses!]

A letter to his father in the spring of 1940 included thoughts about career possibilities:

“Sam Newell was here last Thursday, and we talked over the possibility of teaching jobs. He, of course, wants me to come out there  to Battle Ground with him, but the opening there, in any, will be in the science and math department, which is not particularly attractive to me. However, according to John Belk, there will be a vacancy in the English department at McCallie, and there is a possibility that Fred Stair, who is teaching History, will leave Darlington at the end of the year.”

[The classmates he mentions will serve Davidson as trustees and major donors in the years to come.]

Sam Spencer (in uniform) taking part in the great library book chain

Sam Spencer (in uniform) taking part in the great library book chain

In 1946 while working in the college’s  Department of Public Relations, Spencer wrote the Honorable Harold Stassen:

“On the strength of your interest and mine in the American Veterans Committee, of which I am one of the original members, I would like unofficially to second Dr. Cunningham’s invitation as strongly as possible. On two grounds I believe an address by you at Davidson College can be of paramount importance. First, North Carolina unquestionably holds a position as one of the most forward-looking of the Southern states, and as such is a fertile field for the progressive leadership you can offer. Second, and I tell you this in all sincerity, among the returning veterans (of whom 200 are now completing their education here at Davidson) your name stands as something of a symbol for vigorous action and promise for the future.”

[It does not appear that Spencer’s words were persuasive enough to get Stassen to Davidson.]

While in graduate school and living in Cambridge, Spencer continued to think of Davidson. He wrote John Payne, head of Public and Alumni Relations in May 1950:

“Here’s an embryonic idea that came to me the other day: as a way of getting alumni opinion on various things connected with the college (which you of course invite in a general way continually), why not make up an Alumni Questionnaire to be sent out each year with the ballots for AA officers? It could be one of two types – either a scattershot one dealing with a lot of questions, or a one topic affair with all the questions related to a central theme. On snap judgement, I think perhaps the latter would be more effective.”

[Payne liked the idea and a thank you goes out to all the alumni who filled out those questionnaires over the years.]

spencer shaking someone's hand

Spencer at a college retirement ceremony.

In 1972, Spencer defended college policies in a letter to the Education Branch of the Office of Civil Rights in Washington DC:

“The statement in your letter that  ‘No current publication regarding programs or activities at Davidson indicates the college does not discriminate on the basis of race’ is in error. The catalogue indicates quite positively, ‘At the direction of the Board of Trustees, Davidson will continue and intensify the efforts of the past few years to enroll students from a variety of racial, economic, social, and geographical backgrounds.’ This statement appears in the first section of the chapter of the catalogue dealing with admission at the college.”

One of the projects Spencer guided as president was the construction of the E. H Little Library.

One of the projects Spencer guided as president was the construction of the E. H Little Library.

Not only did Spencer move books and support the building of a new library, it turns out he harbored the best of ambitions (from Around the D’s perspective). In 1984, he wrote Chalmers Davidson, Library Director emeritus and college archivist: “Don’t forget to let me know when you decide to retire for the last time so that I can prepare to take up my duties as archivist. Maybe 1995?”

Dean Transition

A new Dean of Faculty will move into the Chambers building this summer. In the last 85 years, Davidson College has had 9 deans (or 8 if you count Frontis Johnston only once).

Davidsonian article announcing the first dean of instruction with the heading, "Dean of Instruction Appointed"

Davidsonian article announcing the first dean of instruction

The first dean was Joseph Moore McConnell, class of 1899. McConnell had been teaching Latin, math, economics and history for 2 decades before becoming the dean of instruction.

As described in a 20 September 1928 Davidsonian, the dean’s initial responsibilities focused on academic advising. The other dean mentioned — Dean Sentelle — was the dean of students who dealt with the social side of student’s lives.

McConnell served as the dean until 1935. He did not retire but died unexpectedly. It would be another 6 years before the college promoted another professor to Dean of Faculty. This time the Davidsonian described the dean’s work as having more curricular influence noting,

“In general, he will relieve the president of the college of some unnecessary duties. He will advise with the president and the Board of Trustees for the program to be planned for the college and workout therewith various plans.”

C.K. Brown, class of 1921, had joined the faculty in 1923 teaching mathematics and switching to economics in 1926. He served as a professor and dean until 1952. C. J. Pietenpol followed Brown in 1953. He was the first dean not to be a Davidson graduate but he did come from the ranks of the faculty having joined the Physics Department in 1946.

Pietenpol’s retirement in 1958 brought another Davidson graduate and faculty member into the Dean’s Office. Frontis Johnston, class of 1930, joined the history department in 1935 and served as dean from 1958 to 1970 and returned again to serve from 1975 to 1977.

In between Johnston’s terms, John Bevan, a psychology professor took the academic reins. He is the first to have the title Vice President for Academic Affairs. T. C. Price Zimmermann has the honor of being the first dean to come from outside the college. He was dean and an active member of the History Department from 1977 to 1986. Bob Williams came to Davidson is 1986 as dean and also a member of the History Department serving as dean until 1998 (but continuing on as faculty for another 5 years).

Clark Ross, a member of the college’s Economic Department, served as the interim dean for one year and then was selected to continue as dean. His retirement in 2013 opens the way for Wendy Raymond to be the first woman to be Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

J. Moore McConnell, Dean of Instruction, 1928-1935

J. Moore McConnell, Dean of Instruction, 1928-1935

C. K, Brown, Dean of Faculty, 1941-1952

C. K, Brown, Dean of Faculty, 1941-1952


C. J. Pietenpol, Dean of Faculty, 1953-1958

C. J. Pietenpol, Dean of Faculty, 1953-1958

Frontis Johnston, Dean of Faculty, 1958-1970 and 1975-1977

Frontis Johnston, Dean of Faculty, 1958-1970 and 1975-1977

John Bevan, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1970-1975

John Bevan, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1970-1975

T.C. Price Zimmermann, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1977--1986

T.C. Price Zimmermann, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1977–1986

Robert C. Williams, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1986-1998

Robert C. Williams, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1986-1998

Clark Ross, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1998-2013

Clark Ross, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 1998-2013

Wendy Raymond, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 2013-

Wendy Raymond, Dean of Faculty and VP for Academic Affairs, 2013-






Davidson’s Cunningham and Charlotte’s Desegregation

Later this month– May 19th through the 30th — groups in Charlotte will be marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 “eat-ins”. The eat-ins involved local leaders from the white and black communities going in pairs to Charlotte restaurants to share a meal and moving the city into desegregation of public spaces.

Cunningham and McCorkle

President John R. Cunningham presenting staff member Lee McCorkle with an award in 1953

Davidson’s tie to the eat-ins is through John Cunningham. President from1941 to 1957, Cunningham moved to Charlotte after his retirement from the college. While at Davidson, he was active in church work and social causes and he continued those interests in Charlotte.

In1943, Cunningham attended a gathering of religious leaders from across the south and encompassing Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Baptist groups. The Davidsonian reported on this trip and his conversation with students about it:

The main interest of the Atlanta group seemed to be to raise negro educational, health, and economic conditions and standards to proportionate with white levels. Many appalling examples of unfairness and plain crookedness in nearby and respected communities were cited by Dr. Cunningham. ‘One thing that is difficult to comprehend,’ he declared is the slowness with which the Church, including our own, is facing this problem. It seems to be the opinion of intelligent leaders everywhere, both Christian and non-Christian, that it is the Church’s position and duty to lead in the alleviation of the problem.’

Letterhead from 1952-53 correspondence

Cunningham lived into his concern, assisting the Johnson C. Smith University Development Program Advisory Committee and serving on the Advisory Board for the Presbyterian Negro Work Campaign. Concerning the latter, he write:

The Presbyterian Negro Work Campaign is one of the most needed, and most encouraging undertakings of our Church in a long time. It is Christian work which deserves the prayerful and generous support of all our people. There is related to it a spiritual blessing to local congregations and to the Assembly as a whole if it captures our imaginations and elicits our widespread participation. It is one of those noble objectives which ought to be done quickly and wholeheartedly.

A few years later, he had the opportunity to put his words into action by accepting a request from the American Friends Service Committee to host an international gathering of students at Davidson. The group was integrated and not to the liking of all in the local area. There were cross -burnings and eventually a letter from the town commissioners asking the College to cautiously consider the wisdom of not holding other inter-racial groups on the campus until tensions have lessened and emotions have died down.” In response to these concerns, he wrote a compassionate letter to the Mecklenburg Gazette.


Letter from town board to Cunningham over AFSC gathering



We don’t have any correspondence to show that John Cunningham was aware of the difficulties Davidson College encountered in February of 1963 trying to find a hotel for the singer Odetta, who was scheduled to sing at the college. If he did, it might have furthered his convictions in helping to organize the Charlotte desegregation activities later that spring. And even if he did not, this experience showed why Charlotte needed his leadership that spring.


Guest Blogger: Mur Muchane on Campus Communication Systems History

As we prepare to implement a new unified communication system, those of us who work in Information Technology Systems have had a great time looking back at the history of communication systems at Davidson. “Around the D” offered us a chance to share some interesting artifacts, beginning with this short article from an 1898 edition of Davidson College Magazine:

Davidson College Magazine cover March 1898

Davidson College Magazine March 1898

Will wonders never cease? The latest is to know that Davidson is actually to be in hearing distance of all the large towns of the State and others. The Long Distance Telephone Company is now putting up wires from Charlotte to Statesville, and of course Davidson will be allowed a voice.


By 1938, The Davidsonian was reporting some startling innovations:

davidsonian article with the heading, "Dials Replace Older System"

“Dials Replace Older System; Time Saving Device Replaces Old Operators


Here’s part of a January, 1957 memo from D. Grier Martin to Davidson College President J.R. Cunningham:

Subject: Visit with Telephone Officials

“…when this cable is installed underground they could put sufficient wires in the cable so that they could add the service at Davidson for about one-third the additional cost they had estimated for us before. This would …probably not be over $1.50 to $1.75 per month for business phones…”

And one between Dr. Martin and R.A. Currie in December, 1966:


“We all agree it would be a big morale boost for each faculty member to have a telephone…”

Here’s Dr. Spencer conducting college business on his state-of-the-art rotary dial telephone, probably in the early 1970s:

President Spencer on a phoneAnd hard working student government volunteers, conducting a mid-1980s phone-a-thon in a tangle of phone cords:

SGA volunteers on phones

As you can see, communication has come a long way at Davidson. We are excited to report that our new unified communication system, designed to carry clear and high-speed voice, data and video, is preparing us to take advantage of incredible new opportunities for teaching and learning. For more information about communication systems at Davidson – past, present or future – see the entire Information Technology Systems 2012 Annual Report:


The Honor Code

Davidson Campus, 1850

Davidson Campus, 1850

Recent unpleasant events on campus in Patterson Court and the open, forthright, and direct way in which they were handled got me to thinking about the Honor Code at Davidson. In the beginning formal enforcement of discipline was in the hands of the faculty. In the 1845-46 college catalogue, faculty members’ are given the responsibility to “watch over the morals of the students.” However even then, the Philanthropic and Eumenean Societies acted to enforce an informal code of conduct, with each society creating and enforcing its own internal system.

In the years immediately prior to the Civil War, a practice came into being requiring students to sign a pledge to follow all college rules. All decisions and finding regarding violations were still decided by the faculty, however, and students were not even granted the right to offer a defense of their conduct or to dispute alleged violations.

Man holding a summoning to the Court of Control Money, 7 P.M. in Blue Room. and to wear a coat and tie

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, students gradually gained more control over the enforcement of college rules and the power to deal with violations. In the 1909-10 academic year, a Student Council was formed, and all students were honor bound to report violations to that council.

The first formal Honor Code, prohibited cheating, lying under oath, stealing, and failing to report the aforementioned violations, and the formation of the precursor to the present-day Honor System came into being in 1924. From 1924 to 1958, the Student Council addressed honor code violations, with that authority passing to the newly formed Honor Council in 1959.

The Code of Responsibility, which was said to be founded on “a new philosophy emphasizing individual responsibility and a partnership between faculty, administration and students,” was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1968. The Code of Responsibility and the Honor Cade are now required to be agreed to prior to admission by every student. Today, the Honor Council and Judicial Committee handle Honor violation cases, and all students are expected to embrace an ethos of individual responsibility and contribute actively to the perpetuation of a  community characterized by honesty and integrity.

Davidson College’s Davidson college court councilStatement of Purpose explains that “The primary purpose of Davidson College is to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.” Davidson’s Student Run Honor Code is an integral part of achieving this goal.

To learn more about the history of the Honor Code at Davidson, read these excellent articles by Chris Knowles and Tammy Ivins:

Knowles, Chris “The Honor Code” and Tammy Ivins [“Faculty and the Modern Honor Code”]. Davidson College. 2005, 16 January 2009.