Emory alumnus Ren Davis has a personal connection to one of the more remarkable stories of Emory University’s service to the nation. He is the grandson of Edward Campbell Davis, MD, who a century ago was serving as a professor in the school of medicine in the relatively new Emory University, when the United States entered World War I. Dr. Davis also was co-founder, with Dr. Luther Fischer, of the Davis-Fischer Sanatorium, which later became Crawford Long Hospital and later still Emory University Hospital Midtown.
Ren has published the compelling story of his grandfather’s response to the call to serve. You can read it here, in the Saporta Report, the excellent online journal created by longtime Atlanta business reporter Maria Saporta.
My thanks to Ren for allowing me to point my blog readers to his story.
It stood above the campus like a sentry, as if to guard against drought and keep watch for welcome rain clouds on the horizon. In my recollection it was always blue, though not Emory blue–more like the blue of a robin’s egg.
It should have been painted white, with trompe l’oeil stippling to mimic the look of a golf ball. Because after I heard someone refer to it as “the Bobby Jones Memorial,” I could never again see it as anything but a golf ball on a tee. (Bobby Jones was the Emory alumnus who graduated from the law school in 1929 and went on, the following year, to become the only person ever to win the grand slam of golf.)
The tower was installed in 1933 and made it into the pages of the November-December 1933 Emory Alumnus.
By 2007 the water tower, in terms that Bobby Jones would have been familiar with, had become a waterless hazard. It had not held water since the 1980s, and improvements to maintain its structural integrity were estimated to cost several hundred thousands of dollars. While realigning Eagle Row to make way for new residence halls, the university dismantled the tower and recycled its steel.
I learned recently that Mathew Pinson, senior director of development in the Candler School of Theology, has a personal connection to that bygone tower. His great-grandfather, Bryan M. Blackburn, was employed by R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company in Newnan, Georgia, when he patented the design of the hundred-thousand-gallon tank. Mathew shared images of the design that was approved by the US Patent Office on February 20, 1934 (after the tower had been installed at Emory). The patent and the catalogue from the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company are in the Pinson family archives.
Great-grandfather Blackburn was a member of the twenty-fifth graduating class of Georgia Tech and began developing this design while he was a student.
Great thanks to Mathew for sharing these design images and the information about his ancestor.
Curiously, Emory University was not the only Emory with a water tower that resembled a golf ball on tee. Check out the one from Emory, Texas, below. I believe ours was built first–and unfortunately had to be removed first.
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.
When last we heard of the Emory Alma Mater in this space, it had been sung at Commencement in 1977 and then ignored during the presidency of Jim Laney, who thought it was too hackneyed for a great university.
In 1990, at the urging of then-Secretary of the University Tom Bertrand, Laney tried to persuade the Emory poet and medical professor John Stone to pen a new Alma Mater. Laney even pointed to possible composers on the faculty, including Carlton “Sam” Young, who edited two Methodist hymnals, and Don Saliers, a gifted musician in his own right as well as father of Indigo Girl Emily Saliers 85C. A well-regarded poet (who would later turn out a splendid commissioned poem for the inauguration of President Jim Wagner, in 2004), Stone either declined or failed to produce the desired new work.
So the song lay dormant for a time, sung occasionally at alumni gatherings but not by students, who largely were unaware of it.
Enter Jason Hardy 95C. With a voice that would carry him to musical theater and opera after graduation, Hardy the undergraduate gathered around him some other talented male singers and founded Emory’s first a cappella singing group, No Strings Attached. They performed together for the first time in 1994. Looking for a possible signature song, Jason dug into Emory’s choral music library and found something surprising. Emory had an alma mater!
By that time I was serving as secretary of the university, and Jason approached me about his find. Would there be any objection to the group singing it? Was there a problem with “Dixie”?
In those days the campus staff and faculty newspaper, Emory Report, published a weekly informal readers’ poll, so I suggested that the editor pose the question to the campus.
With indifference from some, tacit permission from many, and objections by a few, Jason and I changed “In the heart of dear old Dixie” to “In the heart of dear old Emory,” and the words have remained that way ever since. No Strings Attached created its own crowd-pleasing arrangement with an upbeat and syncopated second verse featuring a tenor wail on the lines “crowned with love and cheer” and “We will ever sing thy praises.”
In 1999 we incorporated the Alma Mater–along with a bit of magic–into the opening convocation for first-year students. It turned out that for years, Ron Johnson, now professor emeritus of chemistry, had been demonstrating a cool chemical reaction while singing the Alma Mater to his classes. As he began the last line, he’d mix two clear liquids into a large beaker. Just as he hit the phrase “Hail the Gold . . . ” the mixture would turn bright yellow, and then suddenly, as he sang “and Blue,” pop!—the gold turned to blue!
We’ve presented that trick to the freshmen every year since.
In 2005 our chief Commencement planner, Michael Kloss, executive director of the Office of University Events, suggested reintroducing the Alma Mater to the Commencement ceremony. And there it remains–probably forever.
Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson is a landscape architect who has a PhD from Emory and an eye for history–especially history that’s been camouflaged by landscapes and hardscapes. History buried by time’s transformation of place.
His keenest interest focuses on the hidden landscapes of slavery–the locations of slave cabins whose foundations are barely visible; the sites of old slave markets in city squares with no historical markers acknowledging that commerce; fields of cotton now harvested by machine but long ago harvested by enslaved hands.
He has a fascinating story to tell.
His tale begins in the 18th century and comes all the way to the present, with a significant chapter midway about “The Weeping Time”–the largest documented slave auction in US history. That heinous sale occurred in Savannah during two rainy days in March 1859.
When Kwesi learned of the auction he began to wonder where it had occurred, and what remained of the site. As he dug into the story he found two interesting though indirect connections to Emory.
One is the name Lamar. The site of the sale was the Ten Broeck Race Course, established in 1857 by the Savannah Jockey Club. President of that club was one Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar, a Savannah aristocrat with an egregious sense of entitlement and heedless ambition. Both led him to an early death at the front of a Confederate charge in what is widely regarded as the last battle of the Civil War, near Columbus, Georgia.
Lamar’s second cousin was Emory College alumnus L.Q.C. Lamar, class of 1845, about whom I’ve written before. Here you can see the family tree.
There’s no direct connection between the Weeping Time and Emory, but Kwesi’s discovery of Charles Lamar’s kinship with L.Q.C. is new information.
A second note of interest is that Charles Lamar outfitted a yacht called the Wanderer to transport slaves from Africa to Georgia. This was more than half a century after Congress had outlawed the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, so the yacht was intended to be fast enough to outrun US Navy ships. In October 1858 Charles Lamar’s ship took on 487 slaves at the Congo River; six weeks later the Wanderer landed at Jekyll Island, Georgia, with 409 survivors. The logbook of the Wanderer now is housed in Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Library.
In addition to delving into history, Kwesi aims to close an important circle for descendants of some of the enslaved men and women whose lives were changed forever on those days of the slave auction. By dogged research and amazing coincidence, he and one of those descendants found each other through the miraculous tools of the Internet. Kwesi hopes to bring her and her family to Savannah for a look at that hidden landscape of the Weeping Time. A fuller account of his story is here.
It is history in service to those who were long overlooked and largely unremembered. They–and we–can thank Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson.
J. Marvin Rast 18C 29T earned his place among the 175 “Makers of Emory History” by composing the Emory Alma Mater in the spring of his senior year. The newly formed Glee Club gave the song its premiere at a concert at Covington High School, then road-tested it on tour to shake out any bugs before Commencement. It withstood the test, but a few bugs remained.
For one thing, within a few years the line “loyal sons and true” would leave out a sizeable number of “daughters.” The year before Rast’s creation, Eléonore Raoul had enrolled in the law school, the first female student in the university’s history and the harbinger of what would become a growing distaff proportion of the student body.
In fact by 1945 the line had become embarrassing, as women were graduating from every school of the university. That year the Commencement program for the college and the graduate school included the Alma Mater with the original line. Perhaps because of complaints from graduating female students, two weeks later, on June 16, the line had been changed for the Commencement ceremony for medical school grads and those finishing the Navy’s V-12 program. The line now read, “sons and daughters true”– allegedly by fiat from the university president, who was Goodrich White ’08.
Things became more complicated still. Later in life Rast, who became a Methodist minister after graduation, recounted that in 1960 he was seated at a conference with an Emory alumna who surprised him by questioning the first line of the Alma Mater. In the wake of the civil rights movement, she asked, would he begin the same –“in the heart of dear old Dixie”?
In 1976 (having thought about it a long time!), Rast wrote to the alumni secretary, Walt Davis 34C, to suggest a change in the first two lines. How about something less regional and more high-falutin’?
Rast suggested: Where thy classic halls of learning/ Gleam ’mid oak and pine. He also threw in an additional stanza.
Further correspondence ensued, and by 1981 the suggested changes had made their way to the University Committee on Academic Ceremonies. This august body was chaired by medieval historian George Peddy Cuttino, Oxonian, who, before retiring in 1984, left an indelible stamp on the ceremonies and heraldry of Emory. His committee rejected the proposed changes.
Commencement on June 2, 1977, was the last Commencement graced by the Alma Mater for more than a quarter of a century. In November 1977 James Laney was inaugurated as the university’s president, and, no fan of the Alma Mater, he had it deleted from Commencement programs during his presidency (1977-93).
“I didn’t think it was worthy of a great university,” Laney remarked to an Emory Wheel reporter decades later. “It was cliché.”
The song’s absence from Commencement continued for more than another decade after the end of Laney’s presidency. But in the meantime it would find a revival through the curiosity of a new a cappella group — No Strings Attached.
More about that revival next time.
Thanks to Melissa Cheung o4C o6PH, former senior editor of the “Emory Wheel,” whose article in the February 10, 2004, issue of the paper includes the quotation from Jim Laney and the story of Marvin Rast’s encounter at the Methodist conference.
It graces every Commencement ceremony. It closes every Legacy Brunch. It rings from the bell tower on Cox Hall every day at noon. It is both the most familiar tune and the least-known song on the Emory campus. Everyone can hum it, but most are grateful for the lyrics printed in their programs. It is the Emory Alma Mater.
Alma mater — Latin words meaning nourishing or kind or bounteous mother. The phrase harks back to the founding, in 1088, of the first university in the West, the University of Bologna, whose official name is Alma Mater Studiorum Universita di Bologna.
We know these words to signify something more particular–a university’s signature song. An alma mater’s lyrics often strain to fit rhyme to meter, and the sentiment usually verges on treacle. Frequently the tune is one familiar to thousands who may never even have heard of the institution that the alma mater salutes. That tune is “Annie Lisle,” and it is the tune of hundreds of alma maters for high schools, colleges, and universities around the country–and even in China.
Published in 1857, the original ballad sang of a young woman, “pure as the forest lily,” who, as she lies dying, hears the sound of angels singing and whispers to her mother, “God is love.” Did I say treacle?
Two Cornell University undergraduates claimed the tune first, around 1870, for the setting of “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters.” Many other balladeers followed, but it took until 1918 for someone to recognize that “Annie Lisle” could also accommodate a hymn to the bounteous mother named Emory.
Marvin Rast, hailing from Louisville, Georgia, was a campus leader elected to membership in the DVS Senior Society.
He also sang in the Emory Glee Club. In the spring of Rast’s senior year, the glee club director, Professor Christian Hamff, lamented the absence of a song about Emory for the season’s final concert.
Stirred to action, Rast went back to his dormitory room and composed two verses and a chorus. The tune, of course, was “Annie Lisle.”
In the heart of dear old Dixie, / Where the sun doth shine,
That is where our hearts are turning, / ‘Round Old Em’ry’s shrine.
We will ever sing thy praises, / Loyal sons and true.
Hail we now our Alma Mater, / Hail the Gold and Blue.
Though the years around thee gather / Crowned with love and cheer,
Still the mem’ry of Old Em’ry / Grows to us more dear.
Thus the Emory Alma Mater was born. Performed at Commencement in 1918, it took hold.
But it had several problems. To begin with, there were those lines in the chorus, “We will ever sing thy praises, loyal sons and true.” What about the women, who had begun enrolling at Emory’s Atlanta campus in 1917?
And why those apostrophes in “memory” and “Emory”?
And what did it mean that the years would “gather ’round” Alma Mater? Were we supposed to see the college personified as a grandmotherly figure shedding benign smiles on younger generations?
And finally, what about that word “Dixie”?
I’ll say more about revisions to the Alma Mater in the next post.