Friday, May 20, 2016

2016 Alumni Luncheon

Written by Joy Scherry

On May 19, 2016 I had a rare and wonderful opportunity to examine DSU history with the people who lived it. As the archivist I have the unique ability to examine primary source documents every day. While I count this as a very great privilege, the records do not provide clear pictures of human emotions or motivations. This level of understanding can only be gained by speaking with the people present at the time.

The 2016 Alumni Luncheon was one such occasion as alumni from as far as Florida convened in Dover for a luncheon where they swapped stories, shared memorabilia, listened to a presentation by Carlos Holmes (DSU’s Unofficial historian), and viewed a display of materials from the DSU archives.

I love alumni gatherings for a number of reasons but primarily because there are tidbits of information that cannot be captured on paper and are instead passed on through oral tradition.  Did you know that Dr. Maurice Thomasson, sociology professor and two-time acting-president, was fondly called Dr. Ether?  Like the drug, Dr. Thomasson’s lectures put students to sleep.  

By far, my favorite part of the day was a discussion of the 1968 student unrest. In case you’re not familiar with this event, the gist of it is that students wanted to name the first student center after Martin Luther King Jr. but because administrators didn’t reply to their request, the students interrupted the building’s dedication ceremony in order to so name the building. The circumstances of event have always been cloudy, but yesterday there were individuals present to offer three distinct perspectives – that of President Mishoe’s secretary representing the voice of administrators, the viewpoint of students present for the unrest, and lastly an individual who was a member of the Delaware National Guard that was dispatched to quell the demonstration.  Perhaps for the first time, contemporaries were able to reconcile their perceptions and gain a better understanding of the opposing viewpoint.  Because of the candid and chance nature of the conversation I doubt that this is an experience that can be duplicated.  I’m grateful that I was present to witness it.

Each time I attend alumni gatherings I am always truly inspired by the friendship and joy shared by the people present. Watching the DSU family reminds me that even though experiences can be shared, every life is unique and has immeasurable value.  

While listening to Mr. Holmes' presentation, Pauline Walker Wilkes, seated fourth from the left, had a special moment when she realized she was looking at a picture (below) of her younger self.  Additionally pictured here is the oldest living alumni, Mrs. Stevenson, age 102 (seated fifth from the left). 

Pauline Walker Wilkes, pictured in the center

Happy Birthday DSU!

Happy 125th Birthday Delaware State University! Here’s to wishing you many happy returns!

 Today, May 15, 2016,  we salute the 125 years of service DSU has dedicated to positively impacting the community, state, nation, world, and Mars! …Okay so we haven’t actually reached our neighboring planet yet, but the Optical Science program is doing its best. Thank you to the administrators, faculty, staff and more than 20,000 graduates who shaped this university.

Coming Soon!

Written by Joy Scherry

Surprise! The archives is getting a new and improved home!

Formerly, the archive was located on the second floor of the William C. Jason Library in a converted conference room and office suite.  Last summer, however, the athletic advising department, also located on the second floor, received a $500,000 grant to renovate the entire floor in order to create a more inviting space for athlete study halls.  The hope is that by enhancing student-athletes’ access to academic resources and advisers, retention rates will improve.  

On May 9, 2016 construction began! The first phase of the project centered around preparations for the future site of the archives including demolition followed by framing, electrical wiring, and drywall.  Once the walls were in place, work on the second floor began.  All traces of the former spaces have since been obliterated as walls were knocked out, lights removed, and wiring exposed.

Dan and I have been busy, busy, busy, relocating the archives into temporary storage and well out of the path of fast-moving guys with hammers.  The current status of the archives is chaos due to the archival materials being dispersed throughout study rooms and classrooms on first and fourth floors of the library (no need to hit the gym after work), but we’re hoping the end results are well worth the effort.  Time will tell!   
Former Second Floor Archives Suite
Future Home of the Archives
Former Second Floor layout.  The Archives entrance was located
in the back corner - second door from the left in this picture.
Same view as the picture above. The Archives door is
 next to the orange ladder. 
Alternative view of the Second floor. 
One of five rooms that is temporarily housing archival materials. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Vice President Who?!

Written by Joy Scherry

The entire DSU campus community is buzzing with excitement as preparations are made for Vice President Joe Biden’s visit for tomorrow’s commencement.  Facilities staff members are working overtime to complete campus improvements, campus safety officers are canvassing the area with secret service, and I’m confident the commencement committee has been meeting daily.

As a small, niche department tucked in the corner of the library I never expected the archives to be called upon.  Aside from a few reference requests in the prior weeks for photographic materials to support visual presentations at the ceremony, I fully expected my work to continue business as usual which, for the record, doesn’t include a call from the White House.

Scene: It’s 10:00 am on Friday April 29, 2016 and I’m counting the hours until the weekend.  The phone rings.

Caller: “Hello Joy! I’m calling from the Office of the Vice President, and we’re trying to locate speeches from former DSU presidents.” 

Me (in my head): Errr…. DSU doesn’t have a Vice President.  Wait…It’s a 240 area code….VP Of the United States? As in Biden?!

Just like that, this phone call was the start of a week-long partnership with White House interns. Many daily if not hourly phone calls later, I have provided the speech writers and staff in the office of the Vice President of the United States with much primary source research.

Today, on the eve of commencement, I continue to be amazed that even the smallest of archives can play such a large role in shaping and impacting communities  -  and from the sidelines no less!  Tomorrow, you and I may be the only ones to know that the DSU archives assisted White House staffers, but nevertheless, the resources this tiny, mostly unprocessed archives provided will assist the Vice President of the United States as he imparts advice to 700 graduates embarking on new journeys.

It wasn’t Dr. Williams or the commencement committee that asked me for help.  It was the staff of the White House! Tomorrow, when Vice President Biden speaks I will be listening for the nuggets of information that I, the lone university archivist, provided.  I’m pretty sure librarians silently rule the world.  Just saying.