Guests attending the inauguration of Maryville College’s new president on Saturday, April 16, better hope Dr. Tom Bogart doesn’t take his lessons from the college’s first president.
A group of volunteers and staff preparing a special exhibit to honor past presidents have found Isaac Anderson’s inaugural address.
“It is 14 pages of difficult reading,” added Gail Hafner, “but I did enjoy the history of it.”.
“It’s a 200-year-old, 14-page sermon,” said Rob Kennedy.
In the basement of Fayerweather Hall at Maryville College, these volunteers are preparing for inauguration of the college’s 11th president by researching the inaugurations of the previous 10.
Since the fall of 2010, the volunteers - some alumni and others simply friends of the college - have spent hours each week researching the former presidents and their inauguration ceremonies. They’ve taken this information, along with pictures and whatever else they can collect, and created tri-fold board presentations for guests to enjoy during the festivities at Dr. Bogart’s inauguration, April 13-16.
Bogart took over for retiring president Gerald Gibson in July of 2010. The volunteers began researching the archives to find information on each of the previous president’s inauguration ceremonies in the late summer/early fall of 2010. “He (Dr. Bogart) wanted to commemorate the inaugurations of the former presidents,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy said the position to which Bogart will be officially inaugurated has had only 10 men hold it since 1819. “We have a lot of stability in our leadership,” Kennedy said.
As a part of the displays, there will be notebooks with copies of the inauguration speeches. The tri-fold boards with images and other graphics will serve as backdrops for each presentation.
The volunteers learned many things about the presidents. The third president, P. Mason Bartlett, for example, had no inauguration. “He assumed the office with no inauguration,” said volunteer Martha Hess. The college had been closed for two years during the Civil War. Bartlett took over in 1866, but the college didn’t reopen until 1869. He recruited staff and moved the college to its current location, Hess said.
There also will be displays on other aspects of the history of the college. A Fine Arts Archival Display will showcase the history of fine arts at the college and will feature such notables as Sally Shane and Dorothy Horn and Nita Eckles West, the woman who started theater at the college 100 years ago. Hess, who spent 35 years as registrar at the college and retired in 2009, said there have been plenty of interesting artifacts discovered in the archives, either in the registrar’s office or the library. Many of these items were moved to Fayerweather Hall after it was rebuilt and reopened in 2001 following a fire started by a lightning strike in 1999.
“We have Isaac Anderson’s powder horn and communion service,” Hess said.
Hess said the volunteers regularly sift through documents that go back through the 19th century. In the early 1970s, the first volunteers to come work at the college gathering documents for archives were two sisters, Mary Gladys Piper and Lynn Ann Best. They had retired from teaching at an out-of-state school system and had returned to Maryville College to volunteer.
“I started working here in 1974 with Viola Lightfoot, who had been registrar for 40 years. She emphasized the importance of maintaining the history of the college,” Hess said.
Dori May is the collections development librarian and archives liaison at Maryville College, and she is helping with the display. Much of her work at the college involves scanning vintage documents, some of them dating to the early 1800s, to digital files.
Jane Huddleston first started working in the Archives several years ago when someone asked her to identify individuals in vintage pictures that had been thrown in the trash by the yearbook staff. “A custodian got the photos out of the trash and took them home. When he died, his daughter brought them to the Archives department. They had no dates or identification, and I was asked to see if I could identify the people in the pictures,” Huddleston said. “I was able to bring them up to date.”
From then on, Huddleston began volunteering to come in, cutout and catalog any news stories printed about the college, its faculty or students. “It’s really important, and it is a fun place to work,” she said.