A couple of months ago I posted something that was atypical in that it wasn’t a college campus at all - the Georgia Tech Transette. The Transette post was different for a few reasons. First, it was a post about a transit system. Second, it was different because it was a transit system that was never placed into service. I happened across the last remaining Transette car by accident and had never heard of the proposed system or it’s testing. Today’s post is also a reminder of something that never was, at least in the physical sense. Some very atypical and brutally cold winter weather hit just before Christmas, and I found myself stuck inside. I did some reading and then went online to check the forecast. As is frequently the case, this led to some random surfing on the web, and I found myself on eBay. That’s where I found the spark for today’s post – a lapel pin for the College of Oak Ridge. I had never heard of the college. Having spent years in Knoxville, TN, I am quite familiar with Oak Ridge. Since I had never heard of the College of Oak Ridge, I assumed it was in another town with the same name, or perhaps a college that simply had the same name as the city in East Tennessee. Turns out I was not as familiar with the city as I had believed.
The College of Oak Ridge (CoOR) was, or was supposed to be, in the city I thought I knew. Some internet digging led me to an institution that mostly existed on paper, although it did have a board, a president, and an endowment. The story begins in the 1960’s.
Oak Ridge had grown enormously during World War II as the site of the uranium enrichment facility for the Manhattan Project. The Cold War and the nuclear build up thereafter ensured an on-going presence of high-tech industry, a sizeable and growing populace, and an increasing need for supports as the Baby Boom generation came into existence. The people of Oak Ridge had the prescience to think ahead. Although the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee was twenty miles (as the crow flies) away in Knoxville, a plan was developed to create a private college in Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge was a growing town and had achieved status as an incorporated city in 1960. The city’s leaders – both elected officials and community leaders – hit upon the idea of a private, non-sectarian college and started a campaign to raise funds in 1965. They set their sights on the sum of $100,000 (just over $945,000 in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars). The community truly pitched in, eventually raising $107,300. A notable fund-raising event included a marathon baseball game which lasted more than 70 hours and 431 innings! Donations of $100 would lead to the donor being named a “Founder”, and such individuals received either a tie bar or a lapel pin (such as this one) and a Founder’s Card.
By 1966, a search was underway for a president for the fledgling institution. The man chosen for the job was Dr. Sumner Hayward. Hayward was a catch for the new institution. A native of Nebraska, Hayward went east to Ohio’s Oberlin College from which he would graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 1939. After graduating, he went to New York and worked in the music business before spending four years in the Army during World War II. After the war, he went to Brown University where he received his Ph.D. in psychology. After Brown, he accepted a faculty position at Carlton College in Minnesota. He moved up in the ranks and at the time of his hire as President of CoOR, he was a dean at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. He arrived in Oak Ridge to a college that existed on paper in late 1966 (he wouldn’t officially become president until January 1967). He shaped the college from an idea into a distinct plan. The CoOR campus would be on part of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s property. It was anticipated that enrollment would initially peak at 1,000 students, all of whom would be required to have two minors in addition to their major. Online records are limited, and I do not have ready access to microfilm copies of local papers of that time, but for reasons I do not know, the honeymoon did not last. By the following December, Hayward would leave CoOR for a job in the Midwest. He would remain in higher ed for the duration of his career, finally retiring from SUNY Empire State College in 1978. The Elizabeth and Sumner Hayward Professorship at Swarthmore is named in honor of him and his wife.
Despite his departure, the College of Oak Ridge would continue for more than a decade, although it would never officially launch. The CoOR hired a consulting firm to aid in continued planning and development after Hayward moved on. The result was a finance plan that called for more than $31.5 million in fund raising. For perspective, $31.5 million in 1970 would be worth more than $241 million today. Attracting that level of funding did not pan out. The growing profile of UT Knoxville and increasingly better roads in the area which allowed for easier access to the UT campus likely played a role in the demise of the college as well. In 1979, only fourteen years after its launch, the Board of CoOR met and determined to use the funds raised for the college as scholarships for local students to go to other institutions.
Eventually, the state of Tennessee decided to locate a campus of the Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge. The expansion of Roane State into Oak Ridge made sense for the same reasons that sparked interest in the College of Oak Ridge in the first place. Oak Ridge continued to be a growing and happening place, and it made sense to have a state-supported institution in the city. Today, the Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge stands in the very location of the planned College of Oak Ridge.
So, we are left to wonder what might have been. Although higher education flourished through much of the 20th century, small private colleges began to struggle as the Baby Boom generation aged out of college. As subsequent generations decreased in size and the higher ed market grew increasingly competitive and costly, many smaller schools closed or were absorbed into larger institutions. Kudos to the forward-thinking folks behind the idea, and cheers to a college that never quite existed. I purchased the lapel pin (I have quite the collection of collegiate lapel pins), which you see here, and I am now on the lookout for a CoOR tie bar and Founder’s Card.
I found myself in Raleigh, North Carolina this month on a very quick business trip. I have been to Raleigh before, and it is a lovely city. It is very close to the beaches of the Outer Banks, relatively close to the mountains, and full of its own charm. The hotel where I stayed during this very quick trip happened to be literally across the street from North Carolina State and its famous Memorial Bell Tower.
The Memorial was designed by William H. Deacy. Deacy is known for monuments and his other works include the Boy Scout Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Arkansas Memorial at the Vicksburg National Battlefield. NC State has a great page (see here) devoted to the history of the tower so I will not duplicate that information.
The tower is bathed in red lights only on special occasions. I was unable to find out exactly why the red lights were on during my visit which was before both the Fall 2022 Commencement and the upcoming Duke's Mayo Bowl game in Charlotte where the NC State Wolfpack is scheduled to play the University of Maryland.
Since this was the only element of the campus I was able to photograph, I will leave the history and other information about NC State for another post.
I was in Jackson, MS, over the weekend after Thanksgiving and had some extra time to make my first visit to Millsaps College. I never knew much about Millsaps until I started working at the University of Memphis. One of the office staff for my department did her undergraduate studies there. A former Millsaps soccer player, she always spoke highly of the college. Over the last six years or so, we have also had a number of students in our various counseling master's programs who came to us from Millsaps.
The timing for the visit was great in that the sun was out and the temperature was a perfect 70 degrees. But it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the campus was closed to visitors. I tried to sweet talk the lady working the main gate, but she politely let me know I could not come on campus. As such, I only have a few photos taken from the North State Street side of campus. Much like Rhodes College here in Memphis, Millsaps is a private institution that is surrounded by a fence and access to the campus is limited.
The college was founded by its namesake, Reuben Millsaps. Millsaps donated the land for the college and $50,000 (a gift worth just over $1.6 million in late 2022 value) to get the institution going. Reuben Millsaps was born in rural Copiah County, MS, in 1833. He attended present day DePauw University in Indiana and subsequently graduated with a law degree from Harvard University. He was a major in the Confederate Army during the Civil War during which he was wounded twice. After the war, he settled in Jackson, MS, where he entered the business world. He would rise to become president of the Capital Bank in Jackson. Millsaps was very active in the United Methodist Church (his younger brother was a minister in the church) and wanted to establish a Methodist-affiliated school in Jackson. Today, the college sits on about 100 acres of land and enrolls just over 700 students (FTE). It is located a few blocks away from the University of Mississippi’s Medical Center campus (which is to the north) and Belhaven University (which is to the east); it is also close to both Jackson State University and Mississippi College.
In addition to not being able to get on campus for a true tour, I was also unable to find much in the way of information about the sites I could see from the street. I will continue to try to find out information about the campus and if I am able to do so I will update this post accordingly. Perhaps I will be able to return to campus and have a more complete set of photos by then as well.
There are several signs for the campus along State Street. In the case of the first photo below, the sign is beside the Park Avenue entrance to campus. The sign in photos two and three is at Oakwood Street. The historic marker seen in the fourth photo is a few feet away from the Millsaps College sign seen in the previous two photos. The fifth photo is a view of the front of Whitworth Hall. Whitworth began its life as a women’s residence hall. The building opened in 1939. After a renovation, the building became the home to the college’s administrative offices in 1980. The Georgian Revival-style building peeks from behind the trees just west of Oakwood Street. I was unable to find out anything else about the building or its name. Next to Whitworth is Sanders Hall, seen here in the sixth photo. Unfortunately, I was also unable to find out anything about the history of Sanders. The building now houses student records and other administrative support offices. Lastly, we have a photo of the Millsaps Belltower.
I hope to return to Jackson to visit some of the other colleges mentioned above, and hopefully Millsaps as well. Although a small institution, it has a pretty campus (from what I could see) and a long history.
If you’re over twenty-five, or perhaps thirty, you may remember a time when you always made sure you had a t-shirt or something in your college colors. Perhaps you had quite a bit. At least those of us who went to a school where athletics were important you wanted to have something for game day. Most people age out of it at some point. At least the need to have enough for every weekend. If you’ve read other entries on this blog, you know that I am, quite obviously, a nerd about such things. I have a collection of t-shirts and other such things from many colleges and universities. Each time I visit a new school or happen back to one after a long period of time, I make sure to get something. Sometime ago, I shared that I even have a pair of red and black sneakers with the Texas Tech Double-T on them for my doctoral alma mater. Well, this week I nerded out in a big way and bought a second pair of Texas Tech-themed shoes. I was also going to buy a pair for my master’s and undergraduate alma mater Tennessee. The company who makes these shoes make two versions for UT. Both have the state and the “T” on them, with the only difference being that one style is orange on black and the other is white on orange. I would have bought a pair of the white on orange, but they didn’t have my size. Not wanting the black version, I will have to wait until my size gets in stock online. In the meantime, here are my new Red Raider shoes.
Today’s post is a bit of an odd one, given that it centers on something meant for a college campus, but which never came to fruition. I had never heard of it and did not encounter it on the campus in question. This past weekend I was in Atlanta and during some down time in the suburb of Duluth took some time to visit the Southeastern Railway Museum. It’s a small but very nice collection of things railroad and transit. In fact, it has one of the best collections of city buses I have seen. While there, I happened to notice a small, indeed very small, transit car. It turns out that it was part of a prototype people mover system for the Georgia Institute of Technology called the Transette. The museum has a detailed history of the Transette on its website here. Be sure to follow the many embedded links in that page for some cool photos and the official reports on the project. I won’t duplicate that information, but the Transette was a pilot project on campus that never carried a regular passenger. A quarter mile test track was developed linking the student union to a parking lot and tests were conducted over the years from about 1974 to 1981. Funding for the Transette came in the form of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The system ran on something akin to a conveyor belt. Numerous issues were encountered, and many were resolved, but the project was not a success and when funding ceased the plug was pulled and the system was scrapped. Only two cars were completed and the one you see here is the only remaining one. I am surprised that it was not painted gold and white, but I suppose branding would have come later if the system became operational. The university utilized school buses for transit on campus at the time and they were adorned in the official colors. The system is similar to the PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) system developed at West Virginia University a few years prior and which launched regular service in 1975. The WVU system was developed separately and does not use a belt system, but instead has more traditional on-board electric motivation. The PRT cars are also larger. Interestingly, Georgia Tech began utilizing a trolley bus system on campus shortly after the school-bus era and recently switched to standard transit buses. They rolled out two webpages on the new system and the history of transit on campus, but neither mention the Transette (see here and here). The photos below are from my visit. The Jack-o-lantern was part of the many Halloween decorations up during my visit.
University Grounds is a blog about college and university campuses, their buildings and grounds, and the people who live and work on them.
University of Melbourne
Glasgow College of Art
University of Glasgow
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Arkansas State University Mid-South
California State University, Fresno
University of California, Irvine (1999)
Illiff School of Theology
University of Denver
Indiana U Southeast Graduate Center
Blue Mountain College
Mississippi Industrial College
Mississippi State University
Mississippi University for Women
Northwest Mississippi CC
University of Mississippi
Barnes Jewish College Goldfarb SON
Saint Louis University
Baptist Health Sciences University
College of Oak Ridge
Jackson State Community College
Memphis College of Art
Southern College of Optometry
Southwest Tennessee CC Union Ave
Southwest Tennessee CC Macon Cove
University of Memphis
University of Memphis Park Ave
University of Memphis, Lambuth
University of Tennessee HSC
Texas Tech University
University of Utah