Category Archives: Guilford College

Tarboro, Edgecombe: sources of talent & positive models at Guilford College and in wider world

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was at Guilford College yesterday. The Guilford College Bryan Series brought him to town.

Guilford’s great alumnus, M.L. Carr, came back from Boston to join Abdul-Jabbar and talk with him about the legendary rivalry between Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Lakers and Carr’s Boston Celtics, and also about the many social values and achievements of the two. Great models for Guilford students.

In conversations and in a public presentation Abdul-Jabbar lifted up Tarboro several times.

Abdul-Jabbar’s mother was from Wadesboro. Carr himself is from Wallace. At different points, Abdul-Jabbar remarked with interest on how many players with North Carolina connections were connected with the Los Angeles Lakers while he played there. 

He consistently mentioned Tarboro prominently among those connections. Magic Johnson’s mother came from Tarboro and Johnson still has family there. Apparently, Magic made Tarboro well-known to Abdul-Jabbar and among their Lakers teammates.

Abdul-Jabbar’s achievements and his commitment to social justice are quite amazing and a bit inspiring. Carr is right there with him (although Carr may not have authored quite as many books as Abdul-Jabbar has). The two of them, together with Magic Johnson, bring highly principled, positively oriented, upbeat role models to Guilford students.

How great to hear Abdul-Jabbar lifting up Tarboro in his conversations and presentations at Guilford College and at the Coliseum.

This thing of remarkable people coming out of Tarboro and Edgecombe is nothing new. It’s where they come from.

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Renovating in the groves of academe

The Greensboro News and Record has a good article about it: Guilford College is on theGuilford College 1 move.

A game-changing new curriculum is on the way. “The Guilford Edge” – coming next year – will be a major innovation in higher education and for Guilford. It puts the focus on the student, re-imagines the college experience, and connects immediately to the world that students will graduate into. But that’s next year.

The Orangerie

Right now, Guilford is reshaping the campus – the buildings and grounds – to hold the new program. 

Maybe the most dramatic uplifts are the Nancy-and-Dennis-Quaintance-inspired restoration of dormitories and living spaces, the creation of a dynamic new Student Quad, the Orangerie, and upgrades to the athletics facilities. But those flashy projects overlook what feel like unique and most amazing reinventions of the arts facilities at the Hege-Cox complex, with exhilarating expansions of Guilford’s traditionally very strong arts department. There’s a new sculpture studio, a new ceramics studio, new galleries, and new, state-of-the-art classrooms. Arts students can hardly argue (as some do in other places) that sports are prioritized over arts at Guilford.

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One of the new studios behind Hege-Cox

Excitement is palpable among the sculptors. The new spaces and new equipment and other facilities are fostering impressive, contemporary student work and the student locker room calls to mind the locker rooms over at Ragan-Brown Fieldhouse, except with artworks in progress in the lockers instead of “seasoned” sports gear.

What’s more impressive is to learn what happens in the new classrooms, where students and professors integrate arts, social sciences, physical sciences, and traditional liberal arts into reimagined learning – and connect the learned skills of sculptors with real-world, contemporary issues and problem-solving. The sculpture professor over there is on fire with the ways that learning sculpture translates into practical, meaningful work across a broad spectrum of industries after college.

MidLaw would never argue that sculpture is not a great preparation for 21st Century law practice.

To the contrary.

Not your traditional groves of academe. Not only art for art’s sake.

Guilford College facing acutest issues of social change in forthright, creative ways

Interesting to see how Guilford College President Jane Fernandes’ most recent post at her blog, Jane’s Friendly View, “What #metoo Compels Us to Do” parallels the core theme of Guilford creative writing professor Mylène Dressler’s new novel, The Last to See Me.

To victims of sexual assault and harassment, Jane says “We see you. We understand you. You are real.” Professor Dressler comes at the same thing in a ghost story.

I’m pretty sure the two did not coordinate what they have done. (That would be a conspiracy, wouldn’t it?)

Since 1837, the Guilford College community is always wrestling with the acutest social issues of the times. Always learning. Always creative. Always facing forward.

Hot new book from crackerjack Guilford College novelist

Greensboro author and ace Guilford College professor, Mylène Dressler, who is the Director of Guilford’s Sherwood Anderson Creative Writing Scholarship Progam, has a new book out. The Last to See Me. It’s a good one, a ghost story.

Ghosts, one of her characters says, are

[l]ike those waves out there hitting on the beach. Again and again and again. Unsettled souls are like that. They don’t release emotion the way that we do. If they did, we’d have to say they were still living. We can try to imagine what they’re feeling, but we can’t really do it. Because they are what they are, and we are what we are. The charge isn’t life. The charge is all that’s left.

Professor Dressler says that her book is about “work, class, and justice, and what it means to be visible or invisible in history.”

The story is set on the West Coast and it is indeed about justice and class, and unreleased emotion, and invisibility in history. But those are themes that are not limited to the West Coast. They come up in almost every place where there’s a past. In M. Dressler’s telling though, there’s also this woman whose face is gone from being underground.

It pops at the end. (The story, not the face.)

I got me a copy of The Last to See Me. You should too.

Guilford College President uniquely prepared to prepare students uniquely — intelligence that is not artificial

Jane Fernandes’ Blog

Gradually, articles written about her, her own writing, and her speeches and oral presentations are showing us more of Jane Fernandes’ personal story.

The President of Guilford College has been deaf from birth. So was her mother. Over time, we have learned that

  • When Jane was a small child, her mother would give her a few coins or a small bill and send her to the store, charging her to buy some item, pay for it, and return with the correct change — without the store keeper realizing that Jane could not hear.
  • Jane attended public schools and after school, her mother would ask “What questions did you ask at school today?” (“My mother knew that if I asked my own questions and found the answers to them, I would have powerful preparation for life.”)
  • Throughout her school days, Jane’s mother caused her to take piano lessons. When Jane complained, her mother sent her to a concert. (“I sat very close to the stage and watched Van Cliburn. As he played, I saw his soul. I saw what chords meant.”)
  • In college, Jane majored in French and spent a year in France.
  • At Guilford College, Jane celebrates the Eastern Music Festival, which is held on Guilford’s campus.

There’s more to tell, but you tell me:

  • Is that a practical liberal arts education or what?
  • Can you imagine a better preparation for a 21st Century educator?
  • Can you imagine a better orientation for a leader in a learning community at this moment?
  • What core capabilities do you want today’s emerging adults to have for what’s coming?

And how about that mother?

Allan Gurganus tells all at Guilford College. Was it in Edgecombe or Nash County?

The Sherwood Anderson family made a major gift to Guilford College several years ago to encourage “the daring and power of the artistic imagination.” The endowment provides scholarships and brings major writers to Guilford’s campus every year.

Allan Gurganus, major author and native of Rocky Mount, was at Guilford this week, teaching and reading his work.

Last night he read a story he said he’s been working on for 40 years. It stemmed from a one-paragraph report he found while looking through Rocky Mount newspapers from the end of the 19th Century. (Was it called “the Evening Telegram” then?)

The circus came to Rocky Mount and a baby elephant escaped. Local citizens caught and killed it.

Gurganus did not say whether this occurred on the Nash or Edgecombe side.

Guilford College president makes brave decision, teams undefeated after

guilford_college_fernandes_college_boardGuilford College President Jane Fernandes recently posted on her blog a dynamite note titled “Moving from Safe to Brave.” It mirrored her remarks as a featured speaker at the 2017 Higher Ed Colloquium in Florida, a national program of the College Board.

That post puts me in mind of an earlier Guilford leader who chose “brave” over “safe.”

In the period immediately after Lincoln called for troops, “trouble and perplexity were in the air” at Guilford College and in North Carolina. War was coming. Many Quakers and others who opposed secession were leaving. At that point, New Garden Boarding School (later Guilford College) was full. Nereus Mendenhall was its Superintendant and the principal teacher. But Mendenhall owned property in Minneapolis and his brother-in-law urged going there. For Mendenhall, this promised “worldly advancement and the accumulation of wealth.” And, as a pacifist and abolitionist, he had concerns about raising his family in slave territory.

So, he and his wife, Orianna, packed their bags for Minnesota.

On the day before they were to depart, they went over to the school to close up. But when it came to closing the school and leaving the students, Nereus could not do it. Their daughter Mary later recalled both her parents standing at the library, weeping. Nereus said, “Orianna, if I feel that the Lord requires me to stay, is thee willing to give up going and stay here?” Orianna said, “Certainly, if that is thy feeling, I am satisfied to stay.”

So Nereus and Orianna made the brave choice, certainly not the safe one. They stayed.

Opposed to secession, opposed to slavery, and opposed to war, Mendenhall kept New Garden/Guilford open throughout the war. During that time, people associated with the College often gave food and shelter (refuge) to deserters, bushwhackers and escaped slaves.

Guilford was “the only school in the South that was not closed during the war or during reconstruction.”

From this evidence, it may be deduced that Guilford’s athletic teams must have gone undefeated during that period.

Brave. Undefeated.

The Mendenhall home, The Oaks, is for sale now by Preservation North Carolina and likely to be demolished.

Guilford College president meets with Congress, President

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NC Capitol

War came and North Carolina Quakers were in a bad spot. They were abolitionists and unionists and pacifists to boot.

A bill was introduced in the North Carolina legislature to require that every free male over sixteen years old must publicly renounce allegiance to the government of the United States and agree to defend the Confederacy. The penalty for noncompliance was banishment.

It was a bridge too far. Former governor William Graham, who Bishop Cheshire said was one of the greatest men North Carolina ever produced and who represented North Carolina’s traditions of progress and moderation, spoke against the bill. He said it would be “a decree of wholesale expatriation of the Quakers.” “The whole civilized world would cry ‘shame,’” he said.

And so the bill was defeated, although “not so the hostility” from which it came. “Hatred and malice … fell with much violence” upon North Carolina Quakers.

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Virginia Capitol

Legislation was proposed at both the State and Confederacy levels to provide exemptions from military service for Quakers and other “peace churches.” North Carolina Quakers recruited a committee to go to Richmond and make their case to the Confederate government.

Among the five-person committee was Nereus Mendenhall, the leader of New Garden Boarding School (later Guilford College) in Guilford County. He was “well known as one of the most learned men in North Carolina and a prominent educator.”

At Richmond, they met with a committee of the Congress. It was summer and they met at night outside on the grounds of the Capitol. One of those present said later,

It was the feeling of the delegates that Nereus Mendenhall was preeminently the man to present our case. It seemed impossible, almost, to secure his consent, owing to his natural reserve. Finally, [the chairman] said: “Gentlemen, the Committee is ready. Please state your case.” A dead silence followed. In a few minutes, fearing the committee would not understand or appreciate our holding a silent Quaker meeting then and there, I reached over and gently touched Nereus. He arose slowly, and when fully aroused and warmed up to his subject I thought I never heard such an exposition of the doctrines of Friends on the subject of war.

Later, the group visited Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Davis received them courteously but remarked that he “regretted to learn” there was a group of people who were not willing to fight in defense of their country.

A statute was passed that exempted Quakers and members of other peace churches from military service upon either payment of money or rendering noncombatant services. A participant in the process said that

To Nereus Mendenhall’s argument, perhaps more than any other one thing, was due the passage of this law.

In later times, some Quakers refused to serve and refused to make payments or perform noncombatant services. Some of them were punished severely.

Mendenhall’s home, The Oaks, was located on what is now NC 68 between Greensboro and High Point in Guilford County. It is for sale by Preservation North Carolina and may be destroyed.

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Nereus Mendenhall

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The Oaks

Guilford College president charged with possessing subversive literature, house for sale

nereus_mendenhall_the_oaks-16Circulating anti-slavery literature was a crime punishable by imprisonment and a whipping in North Carolina in the years just before the Civil War and The Impending Crisis by Hinton Rowan Helper was the very definition of such literature.

Nereus Mendenhall, the Superintendent (president) of New Garden Friends School (which became Guilford College) and himself an abolitionist, owned multiple copies of The Impending Crisis which he made freely available to others. So Greensboro authorities determined to seize his books and put him in jail. They sent out a posse for that purpose.

But Mendenhall’s brother Cyrus, a Greensboro lawyer, businessman and the Treasurer of the North Carolina Railroad, had learned of the plan and sent word to his brother. More to the point, he also sent word to his to his sister-in-law, Orianna Mendenhall. Upon receiving the news, Nereus sat stolidly in his chair and refused to take any action. He continued reading. No so, Orianna. When she saw what Nereus was doing, she gathered up the books and threw them into the fire. Arrest averted. (Go Orianna!)

nereus_mendenhall_the_oaks-21
nereus_mendenhall_the_oaks-19Mendenhall’s home and Orianna’s fire were on a farm known as The Oaks between Greensboro and High Point out on what is now NC Highway 68. The house where Mendenhall received his brother’s message and the room in which his books were burned are now for sale by Preservation North Carolina. The house was built in 1830 and is an architecturally significant example of a Quaker Plan house. If not sold, it will likely be destroyed.

Mindful governance for boards of directors, trustees

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

The Mindful Board: Mastering the Art of Conscious Governance by Charlotte Roberts & Martha Summerville is just out.

It will take anyone involved in making decisions for a group or a system onto new ground. Good book. More here later.

Available at fine bookstores from one end of the World Wide Web to the other.

Roberts and Summerville are high-powered Guilford College trustees.