More frequently than one might guess, the question pops up: Is the Emory Quadrangle deliberately shaped like a Coke bottle? Given the historic and long relationship of Emory College and Emory University to the Candlers, the Woodruffs, and the Coca-Cola Company, the question is understandable.
Here is Exhibit A—the Quad.
Here is Exhibit B, which needs no explanation.
Here’s what I know. Emory University received its charter in DeKalb County on January 25, 1915. The Emory board of trustees commissioned Henry Hornbostel to design the new campus of the University in 1915. The Coca-Cola Company patented its uniquely shaped bottle in 1915. Coincidence?
I think so but am uncertain.
Let’s start with the design by Hornbostel. He originally intended the Quad area to be a large courtyard between what is now Convocation Hall and what is now Carlos Hall, closest to the bottom of the image below. He envisioned a tall and grand building where the flagpole now rises from the center of the Quad, but of course that expensive structure was never built. Beyond that tower Hornbostel extended a lawn stretching toward where Candler Library now stands. Had that large central building been constructed, there would be no bottle-like shape at all.
Moreover, the 1915 Coca-Cola bottle, shown below, was much fatter in the middle than the current bottle and was shaped rather like a python that swallowed a rabbit. (The Coca-Cola Company website offers a timeline with images of the different bottles used for the beverage.) So had Hornbostel wanted to imitate that 1915 bottle, the Quad would have looked very different—more round in the middle and pinched at the ends.
The current configuration of the Quad came about somewhat haphazardly. The Callaway Center South opened in 1919 as the Physics Building and was renovated and renamed in 1993. The building across from it opened more than three decades later, as the History Building (renovated and renamed Bowden Hall in 1991). This was long after the roadway circling the Quad—Kilgo Circle (now mostly gone)—was already in place. So Bowden Hall had to fit between the roadway and the Quad.
If campus planners had wanted to shape the Quad to look like a Coke bottle, they certainly failed. As the campus map below shows, the “top of the bottle,” between Callaway and Bowden, is not perfectly symmetrical, and the middle of the Quad doesn’t have the curvature of the Coke bottle.
If anything, the Quad looks more like an old-fashioned milk bottle than a Coca-Cola bottle.
Is the Coke-bottle Quad a real thing? Probably not. But thinking about it offers a pause that refreshes.
Continuing the series of posts written by students in my “History of Emory” course last year, I offer here an excellent brief account of changing student views at Emory during the Vietnam War. The author, Zach Ball, was a sophomore at the time.
The Vietnam War was the preeminent American military conflict of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the central focus of our foreign policy for over a decade. Throughout the course of the war, public confidence regarding its rationale — to stop the spread of Communism — waned drastically, and a nationwide counterculture movement led by young people served to further erode support for the effort. In this way, the war was waged on two fronts: as a military operation in Vietnam and as a battle for the hearts and minds of the US public.
Like many institutions of higher education, Emory University was heavily affected by the Vietnam War, and the views of students, faculty, and administrative figures towards the conflict, as expressed through newspaper articles and public statements, varied and evolved significantly as the war raged on.
As tensions between the United States and North Vietnam began to escalate in 1966, the student body generally seemed to support the increasing American military presence in Vietnam. In February of that year, a prowar student organization named Affirmation Vietnam held a successful rally at the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium in support of the conflict. The event drew more than 15,000 attendees, including Emory’s president, Sanford Atwood, as well as Georgia’s governor and US Senators and Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
At the same time, there was some backlash against the administration for providing student funds to prowar campus organizations. One Emory Wheel article argued that this action constituted a political stance by Emory leaders, and one that many dissenting students would not appreciate, because their tuition money was being used to fund efforts with which they vehemently disagreed.
By the end of the 1960s, student opinion about the war seemed to be changing, as students and faculty opposed to the war continuously pushed the Atwood administration to take steps in an antiwar direction. Atwood joined other university presidents in signing on to an October 1969 letter to President Richard Nixon urging a de-escalation of American involvement in Vietnam, and arguing against the war’s divisive nature and the resources being drained from domestic business and educational institutions.
In the years that followed, students and faculty alike became increasingly disillusioned with the war, failing to discern a sufficient justification for the increasing body count. In October 1971, religion professor Dr. Eugene Bianchi wrote a lengthy, impassioned op-ed in the Wheel criticizing the war on moral grounds, viewing its continuation as a vehicle for defense contractor corruption and unwarranted American exceptionalism abroad. A longtime advocate for peace, Bianchi joined Emory students in the early 1970s in antiwar demonstrations, which increased in number as the war grew more and more unpopular.
By 1972, it seemed overwhelmingly clear that the majority of Emory’s campus was no longer happy about the American presence in Southeast Asia. That year, a demonstration on the Quadrangle drew nearly a thousand students, who demanded action on the second anniversary of the Kent State shootings that had left four students dead. Emory’s student body had grown weary of the war and called for withdrawal of troops from the region.
The Vietnam War challenged the Emory community’s resilience, and the sentiments of students toward the conflict changed greatly over the course of several years. Although the students’ activities stoked division at times, their passion at each stage provides valuable insight into the commitment of Emory students to engage with moral dilemmas of the day and to offer their best judgement in resolving them.
As a new academic year at Emory begins, I take delight in sharing blog posts created by some of the students in my history of Emory course from the fall of 2018. These undergraduates dug into the University archives in Rose Library to write research papers, whichthey pared down to create the posts. I hope you enjoy their work. The first is by Isabella Cantor, who was a freshman in Emory College when she took the course.
The entwinement of the Geffen family with Emory formally began in the fall of 1919, with the enrollment of Joel Geffen 22C, the eldest son of Rabbi Tobias Geffen and Sara Hene Geffen. Emory had only recently established itself as a new university in Atlanta — perfect timing for Joel, who had just graduated from Boys’ High School.
As the story goes, Rabbi Geffen approached Chancellor Warren Candler regarding the admission of his son. He told Candler that he would like to send Joel to Emory University, but that Saturday classes would be a problem for the family. Until 1929, Emory held classes Tuesday through Saturday in order to give Christian students a Monday break after church on Sunday. Because the Geffens were Orthodox Jews, the laws of Shabbat prevented them from riding buses or streetcars to Saturday classes, and prohibited them from taking notes and exams on Saturdays. The Chancellor, a Methodist bishop, promised Rabbi Geffen that not only would Emory be happy to accommodate Joel’s observance of Shabbat, but Joel would receive reduced tuition as the son of a clergy member. It did not seem to matter to Candler that Geffen was an Orthodox rabbi and not a Methodist minister.
After Joel’s enrollment, five more children of Tobias and Sara Geffen would find their way to Emory. Despite the break in cost, it was nothing short of a miracle that a rabbi’s salary in 1920 could afford private university tuition for six children.
One of Tobias and Sara’s grandchildren, Peter Geffen, is the son of Rabbi Samuel Geffen 26C 31L (the third Geffen at Emory). For Peter, what was most impressive about his grandfather’s decision to send his children to college was that he did not limit the education to his sons. Despite his strong Litvak (Lithuanian) Jewish background, Rabbi Geffen firmly believed in women’s equality in education. Just as the Geffen sons studied the Talmud (a book of Jewish law) with their father, so did his daughters. To Rabbi Geffen, there was no distinction.
When Bessie Geffen graduated from Girls’ High School in 1926, she wanted to attend Emory just as her three older brothers had done. In addition to the issue of classes on Shabbat, however, another roadblock was in the way. Until 1953, Emory College enrolled few women, and no College undergraduate female students lived on campus. Rabbi Geffen spoke with the administration once again, and Bessie was admitted to the college’s education program, which did enroll female commuting students. Thus Bessie joined the class of 1929.
The subject of Bessie’s admission to Emory was a frequent topic in the Geffen family newspaper, The Geffen Household. The family called the morning streetcar from South Atlanta to Druid Hills the “Emory Special,” which welcomed Bessie aboard. When she finally started school in the fall of 1926, the family joked that “[Emory does] not seem to ever get rid of the Geffens.”
Rabbi Geffen raised his children with strong Jewish backgrounds, so when he sent his children off to a Methodist university, there was no concern that they would lose their Judaism. In fact, the Geffen family’s connection with Methodism turned into a bit of a running joke within the family. When Sam graduated from college, he was not able to march in the Commencement processional because he had to conduct the hymns from the platform. In an article about Bessie’s acceptance to Emory titled “Good Old Methodism,” the writer jokes that “John Wesley, noble as he is, has again saved a soul from damnation. The Geffen Household will again fill its seat in chapel with Bessie singing the stirring hymns.”
An article published in 1954 in the Emory Alumnus tallies up the sixteen grandchildren of Tobias and Sarah Geffen and muses that “this adds up to a lot of prospective Emory Students.” Of the sixteen, however, only one — Rabbi David Geffen 59C — ended up an Emory student. There are plenty of great-great-grandchildren, however, so perhaps a few more Geffens will enter our ranks soon.
The 1915 birth of a new university named Emory relied heavily on Methodist connections. The first board of trustees of the new university comprised members of the Educational Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), and a number of them continued as trustees when a new board was elected in 1916. Even before the university received its charter on January 25, 1915, the theology school of the university began operations in September 1914 at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, built by the North Georgia Conference of the MECS in downtown Atlanta in 1910. Bishop Warren Candler, former president of Emory College, guided the design and completion of the edifice.
Not far from the church was Wesley Memorial Hospital, which had been established in 1905 by the North Georgia Conference with significant funding from Asa Candler; in 1922 this Methodist-founded hospital moved to the new Druid Hills campus of Emory to become Emory University Hospital. Along with the hospital came a nurses-training program, which later became the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Another part of the health sciences center at Emory with links to Methodism is the Rollins School of Public Health, established with the support of a family of prominent Georgia Methodists whose patriarch, O. Wayne Rollins, designated his first gift to Emory to the Candler School of Theology.
After the move of Emory College to Atlanta in 1919 to join the professional and graduate schools already growing on the Druid Hills campus, Emory continued its entwinement with Southern Methodism through the first half of the twentieth century. The first three presidents of the university—Harvey Cox, Goodrich White, and Walter Martin—all had roles in local, state, and national Methodism, while two deans of the theology school—William R. Cannon and Mack B . Stokes—were elected bishops of the United Methodist Church in 1968. The first three chairs of the university board of trustees—Asa Candler Sr., Charles Howard Candler Sr., and Henry Bowden Sr., who served for a combined sixty-four years, from 1915 to 1979—all were prominent Methodist lay leaders in Atlanta.
Methodist faculty members in the theology school played critical roles in debates over the reunion of the southern and northern branches of Methodism in 1939 and later played a still more important role in helping the university move toward integration in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of the arguments in favor of opening the doors to African American students was that the 1952 Discipline of the Methodist Church stated, “There is no place in the Methodist Church for racial discrimination or racial segregation.”
Founded by Methodists who were keen on educating their children through a Methodist lens, Emory nevertheless has always been open to believers (and nonbelievers) of every stripe. Presbyterians and Baptists, while scarce, enrolled in the college during the nineteenth century. Jewish students began enrolling in the late nineteenth century and became a growing presence from the early twentieth century on, after Bishop Candler—the university chancellor from 1915 to 1920—excused the children of Orthodox Rabbi Tobias Geffen from Saturday classes.
In time, Roman Catholics and, later, adherents of the world’s other major religions would come to outnumber Methodists among the student body. The openness of the campus to this religious multiplicity reflects the Methodist tradition of seeking unity within diversity.
John Wesley himself expressed this attitude. He recognized his own fallibility and sought to learn how other traditions practiced holy living, even as he held fast to his belief in the truth of Christianity. In a sermon titled “A Caution Against Bigotry,” Wesley encouraged his followers to support whatever activity advances the love of God in the world, even if that activity is the work of other sects or other religions.
This article of the Methodist creed was tested at Emory in 1997 when controversy erupted over the question whether same-sex commitment ceremonies could be performed in Emory chapels. An employee of Oxford College had requested use of the chapel on that campus for a commitment ceremony with his male partner. The dean of Oxford College initially granted permission but later rescinded it over concerns about the university’s relationship with the church. The Book of Discipline prohibits use of United Methodist churches for same-sex ceremonies and prohibits United Methodist clergy from performing them.
After extensive discussion, the university adopted a chapel policy that relied on Emory’s nondiscrimination policy but also called on the Methodist tradition of respecting the practices of other religions—including the right to perform ceremonies that might not comport with the United Methodist Discipline. This chapel-use policy was approved by the board of trustees, including all of the United Methodist bishops on the board.
Once nurtured in part by a somewhat Methodist-heavy hierarchy in the university administration, over the past quarter of a century the relationship between Emory and the church has lost much of that unofficial connection—what Russell Richey, former dean of the theology school, has called “embodied presence and unified leadership.” Today the relationship of church and university depends largely on the theology dean, development officers, chaplains, counselors, and other administrators whose work in various niches of the university overlaps with the interests of the church. (This month, Emory President Claire Sterk appointed the first non-Methodist chaplain in the university’s history, the Rev. Gregory W. McGonigle, a Unitarian-Universalist minister.)
The Emory University charter and bylaws do not mandate Methodist representation on the Emory University Board of Trustees. By custom, however, a number of the positions on the board are filled by United Methodist bishops, including the resident bishop of the North Georgia Episcopal Area. Moreover, one of the vice chairs of the trustees traditionally has been the senior bishop on the board.
As confirmed by the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code, regulations of the Internal Revenue Service, and historic activity of the Emory University Board of Trustees, the university is a separate and self-sustaining corporation not controlled by the United Methodist Church. Nevertheless, the university’s work and self-understanding continue to respect a traditional relationship between the church and the university.
Different institutions with different missions, the church and the university collaborate and inform each other as independent entities. Their shared history suggests that the church has learned as much from the instruction and example of Emory as Emory has benefited from the church, each institution balancing and nourishing the life and commitments of the other.
This week the United Methodist Church Southeastern Jurisdiction Historical Society will meet at Emory, so it seems appropriate to reflect on the long history between Emory and Methodism.Both the Pitts Theology Library and the Stuart A. Rose Library at Emory are storehouses of archives and books that fill out the story. This post is the first of two; look for the second one tomorrow.
The relationship of Emory University to the United Methodist Church and to Methodism generally often surprises casual observers and visitors, even Emory students and faculty members. Emory’s Methodist heritage has no prominence on university websites or in official publications. The make-up of both the student body and the faculty has long demonstrated a mutually respectful mix of the world’s great religions as well as the greater secularization of Western society.
Yet the historic connection between Emory and Methodism is long, deep, and complicated. It is somewhat like that of a dear, benevolent aunt and a headstrong, independent niece who is embracing her maturity and setting her direction in life.
Once a powerful influence in the daily life of Emory College, the church has become a more distant presence while maintaining a proud interest in Emory; the university in turn has continued to acknowledge the church’s legacy while recognizing that any university worth its charter must adapt to changes in society and to increased knowledge.
Emory University has its roots in the founding of Emory College by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in 1836. Half a century had passed since the formal organization of Methodism in the United States at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784.
Methodism provided a solid foundation and rationale for a new college. John Wesley—an Anglican priest and founder of the Methodist movement in England—was above all things an educator of great energy and vision. He built schools, started publishing enterprises, wrote prolifically, and preached and taught tirelessly, all with the aim of transforming English society by the education of hearts as well as minds, or what he called “religion and reason joined.”
Wesley’s brother Charles, also a leader of the movement, phrased the aim somewhat differently as the union of “knowledge and vital piety, truth and love.” At Emory today, this heritage translates into “a legacy of heart and mind,” as Emory has long spoken of educating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.
In the American context, the Methodist movement planted seeds of social uplift not only through the establishment of churches and Sunday schools but also in the founding of academies and colleges. The founders of the Methodist church in America had heard themselves addressed by a gospel promise that the truth would set them free, and in their minds freedom, education, and religious faith all relied on each other to some extent. They established dozens of academies and colleges throughout America in the nineteenth century; in Georgia alone, these included not only Emory College but also Wesleyan College, LaGrange College, Andrew College, Young Harris College, Paine College, and Reinhardt University.
Emory College’s namesake, Bishop John Emory, from Maryland, had played a role in founding Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, and had chaired the board of trustees of Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania, until his death in 1835. Set within a new town laid out specifically to house the new college—a town called Oxford to honor the university that had educated the Wesleys—Emory quickly became a center of intellectual and spiritual life among Methodists in the South.
From the beginning, the faculty, presidents, and trustees of the college demonstrated a conviction that faith and science were not at odds, and that education should embrace all of human experience. In their view, a traditional education heavy in Latin, Greek, and the Bible should expand to include modern languages and up-to-date understanding of the natural sciences.
Tragically, within a decade of the founding of the college, some of its leaders figured prominently in the division of national Methodism over the issue of slavery, which John Wesley had abhorred, and which the American movement initially had prohibited in its Book of Discipline. The details of this split are told in many chronicles of Emory history, but the gist of the matter is that leaders of the college, defending the institution of slavery, helped lead the Methodist churches of the South to secede from the MEC and create the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS). This rift would not be healed until 1939.
In the meantime, the Southern Methodist church came to view Emory College as the institution where its most talented clergy should serve as faculty members and presidents. Many of the faculty and nearly all of the twelve presidents of Emory College until 1915 were Methodist clergy, and four of those presidents were elected to serve as bishops.
The church also viewed Emory as the place where future leaders of society would mature, and Methodist alumni of Emory College in many respects justified this expectation. They included, before 1915, the most renowned Methodist missionary to China, a future government minister of Korea, a US Supreme Court justice, a future vice president of the United States, the founding president of Georgia Tech, many presidents of other colleges and universities, the founders of Paine College for freed African Americans, the first state superintendent of education in Georgia, and countless lawyers, doctors, clergy, and business leaders who returned to their home towns from Oxford to lead their communities.
The establishment of the university in 1915 changed the mission of Emory to a significant degree, but not the institution’s Methodist identity. The sole impetus for the founding of Emory University in Atlanta was the role of the church in education. The MECS had created Central University in Nashville shortly after the Civil War. A gift of a million dollars to the university from Cornelius Vanderbilt, in 1873, led to the renaming of the institution in his honor. Over the next four decades, a growing dispute over policy decisions and the locus of authority led the church to part ways with Vanderbilt University and create a new university — Emory.
By the time Maxwell Anderson left the directorship of the Carlos Museum in 1995, he had brought the museum into the Internet age and had built the museum staff to twenty-two full-time and twenty part-time professionals. One of those professionals, Catherine Howett Smith—who had grown up on the Emory campus as the daughter of art history professor John Howett, and who had earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Emory—agreed to serve as acting director while Emory searched for a new director.
The search took two years, but meanwhile Howett Smith guided an initiative that would leave Emory’s stamp on the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. This was the renovation of part of the old Sears building on Ponce de Leon Avenue (at that time dubbed City Hall East) for the installation of works by self-taught African American artists. Called “Souls Grown Deep,” the exhibit was paired with a showing of Thornton Dial’s art at the Carlos as a signature part of the Cultural Olympiad.
In 1997, the two-year search for the new director led at last to the Bayley Art Museum at the University of Virginia and Anthony Hirschel, who had earned a reputation for understanding what Emory provost Billy Frye called “the dual nature of the [university] museum as both an arm of the academic community and a public museum.”
When Hirschel arrived at Emory in the spring of 1997, he immediately began planning an exhibition of artwork about the Buddha that built on some of his experience at Virginia. The aim was to have the exhibit up in time for Commencement in 1998, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be the keynote speaker. The exhibit included a rare nineteenth-century copy of The Blue Beryl, borrowed from monks in the Buryatia region of Russia, and exhibited for the first time in the West.
The exhibition was also the occasion for the first sand mandala at Emory — a kind of performance art whose week-long completion has become an annual tradition during Emory–Tibet Week in March.
The next year, in 1999, the reputation of Emory for housing mummies gained renewed stature when Hirschel seized on an opportunity in Canada. The Niagara Falls Museum, which had opened almost a decade before the founding of Emory College, was going out of business and selling off its collections, which in some ways resembled those of the Emory museum before 1982—stuffed animals and birds, a collection of eggs, a humpback whale skeleton, mastodon bones, and relics from China and Japan. Peter Lacovara, the curator of Egyptian collections at the Carlos at the time, called Hirschel’s attention to the Niagara museum’s ten Egyptian mummies and scores of Egyptian artifacts, many of which had been brought from Egypt in the 1850s. They were now available at the fire sale price of $2 million.
With seven days to raise the money, Emory turned to the Atlanta community for help. Carlos advisory board chairman James Miller and his wife, Karina, put up half the funds, and donors ranging from schoolchildren to Emory staff members contributed another $750,000—enough to secure a commitment from the museum to sell all of the collection to Emory.
Among the mummies that arrived on campus later that year was one that had lain in the Niagara Falls museum since 1860. The profile of the mummy resembled those of two others resting in a museum in Cairo, Egypt—Seti I and Ramesses II. These were the son and grandson of Ramesses I, whose mummy had gone missing. Could this mummy at the Carlos be the missing Ramesses I? Off to Emory Hospital went the patient for CT scans, X-rays, and radiocarbon dating. Experts from Egypt arrived to study the remains. In the end, while the evidence proved inconclusive, the head of Egyptian Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, pronounced that he felt certain that the mummy had royal bones; whether those were the bones of Ramesses or not, it was impossible to say with a hundred percent certainty.
In 2003, to the delight of many and the consternation of a few, Emory officials decided that after a period on view in the Carlos Museum, the mummy would return to Egypt, where he now lies in state in the Luxor Museum. Hawass said, “Children in Atlanta will learn that, once upon a time, there was a king at the museum there.”
Beyond the Deer and the Pharaoh
By the time Ramesses, or whoever he was, made his way back to the Middle East, Tony Hirschel had decamped, in 2001, to the Middle West as director of the Indianapolis Art Museum. In the fall of 2002 the new director, Bonnie Speed, arrived from Dallas, where she had been director of the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art. She brought stellar marketing chops along with a graduate degree in art history and experience as a printmaker, designer, and businesswoman.
During the past seventeen years, the full-time museum staff has grown to number thirty-eight, a modest size considering the level of activity inside and outside the walls of the museum. Some seventy-five to eighty thousand visitors come through the portals annually, including twenty-five thousand Atlanta school children and six thousand Emory students. For some exhibitions, the numbers reach 160,000, and for the 2009 Tut exhibition that the Carlos helped organize at the Atlanta Civic Center, the numbers were stratospheric.
Curators and educators at the museum continue their collaborations with Emory departments, including environmental studies and chemistry as well as the usual suspects. Exhibits and programs make the ancient world relevant to moderns, whether that means a showing of Romare Beardon’s twentieth-century prints that use Homer’s Odyssey to reflect on the Great Migration of African Americans, or an exhibition of Fahamou Pecou’s contemporary art, which pulls from history and traditions in its own way. The workhorse attitude of the talented team pulling in harness together has brought the Carlos Museum to a place of distinction that in every way fulfills the dreams of a hundred years ago.
Over the next quarter-century, we can expect that successors to the Candlers, Sheltons, and Bakers will continue to open new doors of discovery, and we can hope that the university and the public will reward those efforts with the resources and recognition they so richly deserve.
This is part five of a seven-part history of the Michael C. Carlos Museum, in celebration of the museum’s centennial, drawing on the archives of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library and the office of the museum registrar.
When James Laney became dean of the theology school in 1969, he had ambitious plans, and he needed the 5,000 square feet of museum space in the basement of Bishops Hall for offices for his growing faculty. Happily, in 1972 the law school moved out of its original home on the Quadrangle and into Gambrell Hall; the old law building thus became the new home for the museum.
And yet, without a clear sense of mission and direction, the museum seemed threatened to remain a backwater. A 1971 study of the museum by professor of English Frank Manley acknowledged that the museum had “enjoyed a slow, leisurely growth like the collection in the attic of a large family that has lived in the same place for a number of generations.” Manley concludes by recommending that the University determine its commitment to the museum and clarify the museum’s mission.
That clarification and commitment came in the early 1980s. By then, Laney had moved to the presidency of Emory. Following the boon of the Woodruff gift in 1979, Emory was renovating all of the old Quadrangle buildings. Henry Bowden, the retired chair of the board of trustees, told Laney that his friend Michael Carlos, chairman and CEO of the National Distributing Company, might help. Laney called Carlos one day in 1981 and invited him to meet.
As they talked, Laney commented that Emory needed to renovate the old History Building. In view of Henry Bowden’s historic role in helping to dismantle the segregation of private higher education in Georgia, it would be appropriate to rename the building for him. A $1 million gift would help cover the renovation. Would Mr. Carlos be interested in helping?
Carlos thought about it but wondered what else Emory needed. Well, said Laney, Emory needed to renovate the old Law Building, which had been housing the museum for the past seven years. This would require $1.5 million. Carlos said, “You have a deal.” And that was the beginning of the Carlos family’s enormous generosity to the museum.
Laney credits Monique Seefried for calling his attention to the diamond in the rough that was then the museum. She had moved to Atlanta with her husband in 1977, while finishing her PhD at the Sorbonne in ancient art. A friend took her to the Emory museum, where she was stunned by the mishmash of things—valuable archaeological treasures next to dead starfish and snake skins and an ancient Maytag washing machine. Her immediate impression was that she would have to move back to Europe. How was such an enfeebled state of culture possible? But her husband persuaded her that she should try to change things rather than move away.
Discussions with friends followed, and one of them arranged a dinner and seated Seefried next to Laney for the opportunity to tell him what needed to be done. She told him that if Emory truly wanted to stand among the best, it could no longer have a laughingstock of a museum. Shortly after that dinner, Michael Carlos met with Laney to talk about a possible gift, and change was set in motion.
In 1982, the University announced that the newly renamed Emory University Museum of Art and Archaeology would focus on art, archaeology, and ethnology, and that everything else in the collections would be disbursed. After twenty-eight years as part-time director of the Emory museum, a role he had taken on in retirement, Dr. Woolford Baker retired again at the age of eighty-nine, but he would live for another eleven years to see the dedication of an entire new museum building.
Clark Poling, professor of art history and a specialist in twentieth-century art, was named director of the museum and set about guiding its reorganization. The five years of Poling’s directorship brought extraordinary activity and achievement. Fossils, rocks, minerals, and animals all returned to Oxford, while sea shells, marine specimens, birds, insects, and dental office equipment were packed off to the Fernbank Science Center, and reptile skeletons and specimens were shipped to the Savannah Science Museum. The Art History Department collection was merged with those in the museum.
With the gift from Michael Carlos in hand, the University sought out the renowned postmodernist architect Michael Graves to design a renovation, and the rededicated building, now called Carlos Hall, opened in March 1985. In its first five years in the new space, the museum mounted twenty-nine exhibitions and organized and hosted international symposia around some of these exhibitions. When Poling announced his desire to return to teaching in 1987, a search got underway for the museum’s first full-time director. Emory found that person in a thirty-one-year old assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Manhattan-born and -bred, Ivy-educated, and bearing the name of his Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright grandfather, Maxwell Anderson arrived in Atlanta in the fall of 1987 with a truckload of ambition. Within months, he had laid out a packed agenda that would build the scholarly eminence and the popular appeal of the museum. In July 1988, the museum mounted the first of a series of exhibitions through the innovative Emory University Museum International Loan Project, as Anderson persuaded renowned museums like the Louvre and the Museo Nazionale Romano to reach into their basements and lend Emory some of their treasures that the public rarely sees.
The following spring brought two more initiatives that began to build enthusiasm among Atlantans. The first would become a staple of fund raising for the museum. It was Veneralia, celebrated under a huge tent on the Quadrangle on April 1 that year. As a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, the gala “celebrated the ancient festival of Venus, when Roman women asked the goddess of love for fulfilling sex lives.” Live mannequins, spray-painted to resemble marble statues, stood in various poses around the elaborately decorated banquet tent as Peter Duchin and his band entertained the guests. The Emory Museum was moving up in the world.
It was also moving out, into the metropolitan area through educational programs, as the spring of 1989 inaugurated B.C. Fest!. Over the next half-decade this series of annual festivals brought hundreds of Atlanta schoolchildren and their families to the Emory Quadrangle to explore the history and cultures of ancient civilizations.
Meanwhile, the collections continued to grow. The museum acquired large collections of art of the ancient Americas, and Michael and Thalia Carlos began to develop the Carlos Collection of Ancient Greek Art. The museum once again needed more space, and once again Michael Carlos came forward. Just six years after the rededication of Carlos Hall, Carlos offered $3.5 million toward a whole new building that would more than quadruple the size of the museum. Breaking ground in November 1991, the museum moved into its new Michael Graves-designed building in May 1993.
Within another two years, though, Anderson was gone, seeking new challenges. By the time he left, he had helped guide the museum into the Internet age and had built the museum staff to include twenty-two full-time and twenty part-time professionals. One of those professionals, Catherine Howett Smith—who had grown up on the Emory campus as the daughter of art history professor John Howett, and who had earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Emory—would step in as acting director while the University searched for a new director.