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Alma Mater, the coda

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.

Alma Mater -- Stone letter

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.

Alma Mater survey in Emory Report
A random survey in Emory Report, 1995.

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.

Alma Mater Tracy Morkin
Dr. Tracy Morkin, senior lecturer in chemistry: “Hail the Gold and Blue.”

 

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.

No STrings Attached seniors, 2014
Graduating members of No Strings Attached in 2014 sing the Alma Mater: (from left) David Shortell, Benito Thompson, Yedoye Opigo Travis, Collin Shepard and Fei Gao

 

Gary Hauk

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Emory and a slave ship

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.

Charles Lamar
Charles August Lafayette Lamar Source, Georgia Historical Society

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.

Lamar family tree
The Lamar 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.

Logbook of The Wanderer
Logbook of the Wanderer, Courtesy of the Rose Library, Emory University
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Page from the logbook of the Wanderer

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.

Gary Hauk

 

 

Alma Mater, second verse

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.

 

Raoul
Eléonore Raoul — not one of the “loyal sons and true.”

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.

Alma Mater 1981
Alma Mater with chorus as revised in 1945

 

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.

Alma Mater 1976Further 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.

Gary Hauk

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.

 

 

L.Q.C. Lamar and Henry Adams

It’s exhilarating to stumble upon unexpected relationships. Reading The Education of Henry Adams on New Year’s Day, I found a surprising Emory connection in this memoir by a consummate Boston Yankee.

Great-grandson of John, grandson of John Quincy, and son of Lincoln’s minister to Great Britain, Henry Adams rose to his own heights of achievement and renown as a journalist, historian, and memoirist.

Henry Adams, photo by Marian Hooper Adams, courtesy of Massachusetts Historial Society
Henry Adams. Photo by Marian Hooper Adams. Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society.

Boston-born, Harvard-educated, he made Washington, DC, his home for the last half of his long life. His mansion at Lafayette Square, now the site of the Hay-Adams Hotel, was a social gathering place for the most eminent intellectuals of his day.

During the Civil War, the young Adams served in London as private secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams, whose job it was to keep the British from recognizing the Confederacy. While there, Henry briefly met a man whom he would get to know well in Washington after the war — L. Q. C. Lamar, Emory College class of 1845.

LQC Lamar
Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, 1845C. Photo by Matthew Brady. Library of Congress.

Georgian by birth, Lamar served as a Congressman from Mississippi before the Civil War but resigned when Mississippi seceded. The Confederate government sent him abroad as minister to Russia, with a brief stay in London. After the war and amnesty, Lamar again served in Congress. (See Emory Makers of History.)

Lamar’s defense of secession and slavery before the war is indefensible. His reputation now rests on his post-war efforts toward reconciliation between North and South and on his integrity at the risk of his political career (he is the only Deep Southerner profiled in JFK’s Profiles in Courage).

Henry Adams, writing in 1907, had this to say about Lamar, who died in 1893: He “had grown to be one of the calmest, most reasonable and most amiable Union men in the United States, and quite unusual in social charm. In 1860 he passed for the worst of Southern fire-eaters, but he was an eccentric by environment, not by nature; above all his Southern eccentricities, he had tact and humor. . . . He would have done better in London [than the Confederacy’s actual minister to Britain]. . . . London society would have delighted in him; his stories would have won success; his manners would have made him loved; his oratory would have swept every audience; even [those unsympathetic to the Confederacy] could never have resisted the temptation of having him to breakfast between Lord Shaftesbury and the Bishop of Oxford” (from Chapter XII).

It would have been fascinating indeed to hear these two — one a former slave owner, the other an ardent slavery-hater, both of the highest intelligence and mutual respect — in dinner conversation at Lafayette Square circa 1885.

 

Love at first photo op

Dateline: Church School Building Fellowship Hall, April 12, 1956 —

The four years in Emory College had challenged Clint Rodgers, but he had done well. Emory’s Air Force ROTC had prepared him for a career flying jets. His major in Spanish had satisfied his delight in language. So here he was, weeks away from picking up his diploma at the Emory Commencement exercises in the Church School Amphitheater.

Meanwhile, there was work to do in the Language Lab, in old Fishburne Hall (where the Goizueta Business School now stands). He tutored students, set up instruction tapes, and plied his expertise in Spanish. Leaving the lab one April day, he turned to make his way to the Church School Building. There, Emory faculty would mingle with the best language students from each Atlanta-area high school, who had been invited to “Language Day” to learn  more about the university.

As he set out, Clint encountered two young women who were lost. Did he know where the Language Day program was being held? Why, yes he did, and he was headed that way himself. He’d be happy to accompany them.

One of those young women was Susan Russell, a student at Girls’ High School in Atlanta. Clint and Susan sat together at the program, and a friendship bloomed. Then a romance. And then marriage. After her freshman year at Emory–during which Clint worked while awaiting an Air Force commission–they tied the knot and headed to Lackland Air Force Base for their honeymoon.

But it all began at Language Day.

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Language Day, April 12, 1956. Clint Rodgers and Susan Russell are shown in circle. Judson C. “Jake” Ward, then dean of Emory College, is seated fifth from the left in front. This room, in the Church School Building, is now named for Ward, who taught Sunday School there for 50 years.

 

 

 

Hidden and half-forgotten time capsule

Mere yards from one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares at Emory, and just steps from the DUC terraces, lies a treasure obscured by holly and time. It’s the Sesquicentennial Time Capsule.

On December 10, 1986, immediately after the Sesquicentennial Convocation in Glenn Memorial, a procession wended its way across the campus to the relatively new Dobbs University Center, whose terraces are visible in the photo below. The site from which this photo is taken is the location of the time capsule.

View from the time capsule to DUC terraces
View from the time capsule to DUC terraces

Here you see the holly bush that has grown up over the time capsule.

View from DUC terraces to the bush hiding the time capsule
View from DUC terraces to the bush hiding the time capsule

And here is another view, courtesy of Bob Hamilton in Campus Life.

DUC time capsule

Once the procession had made its way to the “grassy knoll” in front of the DUC, a crowd gathered around Dooley, present for the burial of something other than himself into the gaping hole prepared for the ceremony. A time capsule planned for the 150th anniversary of Emory’s founding was filled with 150 items, including cans of Classic Coke, Cherry Coke, and Diet Coke. (The controversy over New Coke had recently filled the newspapers–clippings from which were also included in the time capsule.) A commission appointed by President Jim Laney to review the university’s investments with regard to South Africa’s apartheid struggle had recently issued its report; a copy was placed in the time capsule. President Laney had delivered an attention-getting speech at Harvard titled “The Education of the Heart.” Into the capsule. Someone thought to include a copy of a Chem 141 exam and a videotape of a Rathskellar performance (but not technology to play it on). A tee shirt from the local watering hole, P.J. Haley’s, was included; the time capsule already has outlasted the pub. Emory’s first intercollegiate basketball team had played its first away game days before, losing to NYU; a team photograph, signed by all the players, went into the time capsule.

And then the things was buried, to be dug up in fifty years.

Burying the time capsule

Within a couple of decades, however, a little holly bush soon grew up to hide the marker indicating the time capsule’s location.

Bush that hides the time capsule
Bush that hides the time capsule

DUC time capsule 3

If you know where to look, you can find it–though you may have to scrape away leaves, pine straw, and dirt to read the plaque.

Time capsule

Here it is, photo inverted to make the text readable.

Time capsule inverted

Sesquicentennial Time Capsule

buried here on December 10, 1986

to be opened in 50 years on

Emory’s 200th Anniversary

I hope to be present at the opening!

Meanwhile, there’s a plan afoot to raze the DUC and rebuild a magnificent new university center in its place. Let’s be sure to work around that time capsule.

Gary Hauk

Two Woodruff letters seven decades apart

Who knows how a disgraced student will respond to adversity? In Robert Woodruff’s case, the full impact of the response took seventy years.

In the fall of 1908, Robert W. Woodruff, scion of Atlanta businessman and banker Ernest Woodruff, enrolled as a freshman at Emory College, which was still in Oxford, Georgia. His letters home complained of eye strain from reading, leaks in his ceiling, and shortness of funds. By the turn of the calendar to 1909, his prospects at Emory looked bleak. So much so, that the president of the college, James E. Dickey (no relation to the later poet and novelist), wrote to Ernest Woodruff to suggest that a pause in Robert’s studies might refresh him.

Dickey letter to Ernest Woodruff

More than a pause that refreshed, of course, this was the end of Robert Woodruff’s collegiate career. He began work shoveling sand at the General Pipe and Foundry Company, then earned several promotions and soon was hired by his father as the purchasing agent for Atlantic Ice and Coal. Robert’s part-time stenographer was William B. Hartsfield, who was studying law and later would become mayor of Atlanta.

The story of Woodruff’s rise from laborer to head of the Coca-Cola Company has been told many times. Fascinatingly, seven decades after Emory’s president wrote a letter dismissing him from Emory, Robert Woodruff would write to Emory’s president with another aim.

Woodruff letter of November 1979

This letter conveyed $105 million dollars to Emory for unrestricted use. The letter was read to Emory’s board of trustees at their meeting on November 8, 1979, by his younger brother George, an emeritus trustee of the university and the instigator of the idea for the transfer. It was the closing of a circle begun seventy years previously.