September 21, 2016, will mark sixty years since the most damaging fire in Emory’s history—a conflagration that began in the Administration Building’s fourth-floor offices of public relations and development (aren’t they always trying to set people on fire for Emory?) It was a Friday morning in 1956, little more than a year since the building had been dedicated.
Most of the fourth floor suffered smoke damage, but all of the roof burned. A few days later Hurricane Flossie blew through Atlanta and poured rain onto the fourth floor.
All this came to mind because, six decades after the building was dedicated, in 1955, the first major renovation of the board room is under way.
Here are trustees in the room after a meeting sometime in 1956-57. Not exactly a happy-looking group. Not very diverse, either, except for the shades of their suits.
The man seated fourth from the left is Goodrich C. White, Emory’s president at the time. To his left sits Charles Howard Candler, chair of the board, who would die in October 1957. His successor would be Henry Bowden, the tall man standing seventh from the left in the back row. Twenty-two years later, Bowden’s service as board chair would be honored by the naming of the board room for him on his retirement from service.
Over the years grew the tradition of commissioning oil portraits of presidents and board chairs on their retirement from office. Soon the walls became crowded. And people noticed that the galaxy of stars around the room was no more representative of the university demographics than that 1957 photograph of the board.
Here is the board room in 2015, from two different angles. The top photo shows (left to right) Presidents Cox, White, and Atwood. The bottom photo shows (left to right) board chairs Asa and Charles Candler, Bowden, Robert Strickland, and Brad Currey. Not visible, on the left in the bottom photo, are portraits of Presidents Laney and Chace.
This summer the room will be renovated to bring it technologically into the 21st century and update its furnishings and walls. The portraits will be re-installed in spaces and buildings that bear the names of the portraits’ subjects (except for Strickland and Currey, whose portraits will go to the Rose Library).
Meanwhile, here’s the Bowden Board Room stripped and waiting its new garb. The bottom photo shows the space where the board sat for its photo in 1957.
More later, when the renovation is complete.