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University Historian Describes “Amazing” Response to His Book on the History of Southwestern

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September 2007 marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University 1840-2000. University Historian William B. Jones discusses some of the response he has received since the book was published.

Note: September 2007 marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University 1840-2000. In this interview with Ellen Davis, director of communications, University Historian William B. Jones discusses some of the response he has received since the book was published.

Question: How many letters have you received since your book was published in September 2006?

Answer: We have received dozens and dozens. I say “we,” because some of the letters came directly to me, some to the President’s office, some to the Development Office, and some to the University Relations Office. The “dozens and dozens” includes letters, e-mail messages, and donations that we know came specifically as a result of the book.

Question: What are some of the topics people have written you about?

Answer: The largest number of people are graduates who comment on events mentioned in the book that they experienced as students. A good example is a letter from Andy Fowler, a 1957 graduate who now lives in Killeen. He was one of the 124 students who signed the petition to President Finch in 1954 to integrate Southwestern after the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision. He even sent me a rough draft still in his possession of the student petition before it was given to Finch. Another group of people consists of descendants of persons who figure in the book. Two of the families most prominent in this category are descendants of Robert Stewart Hyer and Claude Carr Cody. Robert S. Hyer was the president who left Southwestern to become the first president of SMU (Professor 1882-1898, President 1898-1911). Claude C. Cody was the first Dean of the University (Professor 1878-1907, Dean 1907-1915). Descendants of both Hyer and Cody, living in Dallas and Houston respectively, have visited the campus. We have established a continuing relationship with them.

Question: Did you expect to get so much response to your book?

Answer: Frankly, no. I was amazed. The most amazing example occurred in March of this year when a delivery service left a package at my front door from Mrs. Louise Walsh in Houston. It was a beautiful, multi-colored 400-page book consisting of about 600 letters, photographs, and commentary. Most of the letters were from Mrs. Walsh’s grandmother, Early Walton Price, who was a piano student in the Ladies’ Annex from 1901 to 1908. She and Morris Fleming, a 1906 graduate, were married in 1909. The book was titled The Ties that Bind. The title came from the hymn “Bless Be the Ties That Bind.” All the alumni attending the first (1909) Southwestern Homecoming sang this hymn at its closure. Mrs. Walsh wrote me that she had decided to do her book after receiving a copy of my book. In it she found a mention of the role of Captain Frank L. Price, one of her ancestors, who, in 1872, helped to secure Southwestern for Georgetown. Mrs. Walsh and her sister recently drove up from Houston, toured the campus, and visited the old Price homestead on 10th Street. She plans to return to Southwestern for the centennial of that first Homecoming in 2009.

Question: What have you learned from the people who have written you?

Answer: Two things. I have learned that the heritage of Southwestern is one of its most precious assets and that there is a great deal of positive, latent sentiment among alumni that we need to always recognize and honor.

Question: What was the most unusual letter you received?

Answer: The most unusual letter was one from Professor Dieter Gaupp, a retired teacher from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), also a Southwestern grad. He was one of two sons of Professor Frederick Gaupp, my colleague in the History Department at Southwestern in my first few years as a teacher here. In To Survive and Excel I indicated that I had not been able to determine how Southwestern had first gotten in contact with Fred Gaupp. During the war he and his wife had lived in Switzerland after having fled, first, from Germany, then from Italy. Professor Dieter Gaupp, Fred’s oldest son, solved the mystery for me in a letter. He said that during the first part of the war the Gaupp family lived in Florence, Italy. “… [I]n 1938, Hitler made a state visit to Italy and included Florence in his itinerary. To safeguard his life, orders were given that each German family provide a hostage which, in case of an attempt on Hitler, were to be summarily executed. So my father was picked up and spent about 10 days in a local prison, where he met Dr. Lenz and others he had not known previously, many of whom became close friends. He frequently was quoted as saying ‘You meet the nicest people in prison.’” Subsequently, in 1946 Lenz, who had already been employed by President Score to teach German at Southwestern, suggested that Score consider Gaupp for employment, which he did, leading to Fred Gaupp’s employment.

Question: What will you do with all the letters you have received?

Answer: I have a large scrapbook that I have been keeping ever since I started the writing project seven years ago containing all the letters and other memorabilia related to it. It is quite large and quite full now. I intend to donate it eventually to the library’s Special Collections section.

Question: Have you discovered any errors in the book?

Answer: We have discovered a few small mistakes. One is that sculptor of the “Madonna and Child” in the Chapel garden is “Charles” Umlauf rather than Fred Umlauf. Fred Umlauf has been a prominent librarian in New Mexico. Readers can consult Sheran Johle, assistant in Special Collections, if they want to know what other errors are.

Question: Have you learned anything since publication that you would have included if you had found evidence for it prior to publication?

Answer: Yes. I wish I had searched harder to find the derivation of the “Pirate” nickname. Since completing the book, I have found the first mention of it in The Megaphone for Nov. 14, 1916. Southwestern athletic teams had no nickname prior to that date. After that date, all references to S.U. teams refer to them as Pirates or, in some instances, Buccaneers, which is also listed as a derivative in the same issue of the paper. I also wish I had searched harder to find out the background of the Southwestern alma mater, which is:

Hail alma mater, Glory to thy name.
Loyal voices blend to sing thy everlasting fame.
Hail to Southwestern, Ever thine are we.
Hearts of youth ever sing thy truth, and be faithful unto thee.

Edward P. Onstot, a Southwestern graduate, wrote it. It first appears as having been used in 1940.

Question: What is your next project?

Answer: I have continued to work with Kathryn Stallard in Special Collections to accumulate historical material about Southwestern and its root institutions that has become available as a result of the book. I have also felt that I could write a small, simple, graphic brochure that would serve persons who want to do a walking tour of the present campus and who would perhaps want to do a walking/driving tour of the old campus and the I.O.O.F. cemetery. The land comprising the old campus is still intact as the original 10 1/3 acres acquired by S.U. when it came to Georgetown in 1873, though it is presently owned by G.I.S.D. and configured quite differently. Nevertheless, we have a pretty good idea how it was configured before the new campus was developed and could speak to that in the brochure. Also, five of the first nine presidents of S.U. are buried in the cemetery, beginning with Francis Asbury Mood. Many trustees, such as the Snyders, administrators, such as the Codys, professors such as Herbert L. Gray, as well as Jessie Daniel Ames, so famous in the anti-lynching movement, also are buried there.

Question: A lot of people have expressed interest in seeing the sites of the four “root” colleges. Have you talked to anyone in the alumni association about organizing a tour to do this?

Answer: I have talked with several people about the possibility of doing a tour that would focus on Chappell Hill, the site of Soule University, of which Mood was president when he originated the idea of establishing Southwestern; Navasota, where Martin Ruter and Robert Alexander are buried; and Brenham, where J. D. Giddings, Mood’s foremost champion in the establishment of Southwestern, lived and is buried. All are remarkably close to each other and could be visited by a bus leaving the campus at Southwestern at 8 a.m. and returning at 6 p.m. The sites in this itinerary are still well marked and worthy of attention, especially the museum at Chappell Hill. Rutersville, though not too far away, should probably be visited separately. Clarksville, the site of McKenzie College, and San Augustine, the site of Wesleyan College, are too far away to visit on a tour from Southwestern. There also is very little to see from the past at those two sites, principally the markers stating that such-and-such stood here. Most of what is worth seeing can be seen easily in a day’s trip from Georgetown, two days if Rutersville is included.

Question: Can people who have not read the book yet still get copies of it?

Answer: Yes. All alumni or persons connected with the University in any way may receive copies free of charge courtesy of the Brown Foundation by going to the Southwestern Web page at www.southwestern.edu/thinkingahead/history.html and requesting one there. The book will be sent by land courier to the recipient. Also, there will be a book signing during Homecoming in the Alumni Office on the 2nd floor of the Cullen Building. Persons interested in this opportunity should check the Homecoming schedule to learn the time set for the event.