This spring, Alea Harris ’22, Dieran McGowan ’22 and Destiny Shippy ’22 reviewed their scripts, recorded voice-overs and posed for photos. By the first of July, a new public walking tour of Wofford College will be available, and it’s rooted in their research, persistence and commitment to sharing Wofford’s history.
“This is us trying to leave Wofford better than we found it,” says Shippy.
The research for the project started two and a half years ago during a research methods Interim with Dr. Rhiannon Leebrick and a Council of Independent Colleges grant to study Wofford’s past and how it connects to the Spartanburg community. That grant was a collaboration between Rebecca Raulerson Parrish ’99, grants specialist at the time; Jessalyn Story, director of the Center for Community-Based Learning; Luke Meagher, special collections librarian; and Brad Steinecke, assistant director of local history with the Spartanburg County Public Libraries.
In the research methods Interim with Harris and McGowan were Kaycia Best ’20, Bryson Coleman ’23 and Vera Oberg ’20. Harris and Best were paid through the grant to continue the work during the spring. The goal was to present their findings to the CIC and at the Spartanburg County Public Libraries, but COVID-19 altered plans. Unable to deliver a culminating presentation, the group continued to pore through archival materials and secondary sources. Shippy and McGowan joined the research group during the summer, and the researchers met weekly with Dr. Tasha Smith-Tyus, who helped them think through how the research could be used. Harris, McGowan and Shippy then helped Leebrick turn their research into a publication, and they presented the findings via Zoom during the fall of 2020. Eyon Brown ’21 and Noah Ravan ’23 began editing the research document in the spring of 2021 to create a user-friendly tour of the campus that includes the college’s common history.
“This project was always meant to be the beginning of a conversation about public memory and a way for undergraduate students to get hands-on research experience,” says Leebrick, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology.
For the three women who have seen the project from its infancy to completion and for Best, who was an early leader, the project has been much more.
“We were evaluating ourselves and where we learn and grow and how this affects us,” says Shippy.
“We were connecting the dots,” says Harris, who spent time investigating leads in archives across the Upstate as well as at Wofford. “Every name was important to filling out a complete story and coming to terms with what had happened and what was happening.”
They discovered the complexities of archival research and the importance of documentation as they read the papers of each of Wofford’s past presidents. The Interim group had traveled to Montgomery, Ala., and met Freedom Riders; they sparked conversations about how history is shared in a variety of ways. The student researchers talked with some of Wofford’s first Black students and benchmarked the work other colleges and universities are doing to share their histories.
Best interviewed Doug Jones ’69, Wofford’s first African-American graduate. After Dr. Phillip Stone ’94, college archivist, shared letters that the college received during integration, she had questions, and Jones provided answers.
“The most interesting part of archival research for me is the chase,” says Best, who is now a flagship manager with Enterprise in Rockingham, N.C. “You find one little piece of information, and you follow the leads until you discover the complete story. It can be tedious, but it’s worth it.”
Spending time in the archives with boxes and boxes of materials, some of which were full of fragile scraps of paper, gave McGowan a sense of urgency. “I realized that vital documents could get lost so easily... or overlooked... or forgotten,” says McGowan. She was particularly concerned that Wofford students know the story of Wofford’s integration told in President Charles Marsh’s papers. “There were nuances in the Marsh papers about integration that could easily be missed, and we didn’t want that to happen.”
“The student researchers were phenomenal in the passion and professionalism they brought to their work,” says Leebrick. “What an amazing group of young scholars.”
Dr. Dwain Pruitt ’95, chief equity officer, and Stone also supported the students by reviewing the finished project.
“This is great,” says Best, referring to the new tour. “The goal was always to make Wofford’s history more available to students.”
Start the tour at Wofford.edu/historytour. The tour is designed as a walking tour accessed from a smart phone and is also available to view virtually.
Following is a summary of the stops on the tour, along with a few Wofford facts to whet your appetite.
Pick up a brochure on the porch of the Hugh S. Black Building. Scan the QR code or log onto the site and listen to Harris, McGowan and Shippy share information about Alumni Hall, constructed in 1888 and funded by alumni donations. Then discover how the college regrouped and developed an improvement plan after being turned down by the F.W. Olin Foundation.
Quote from the tour: “The foundation changed its mind after the college’s 1988 strategic plan and vision process. The building was designed to enhance faculty-student mentoring by inserting state-of-the-art technology into the relationship. The connections between faculty and students remain a hallmark of the Wofford experience.”
Learn about what the campus was like before it became a college. This section discusses the Milliken Arboretum and Burwell Building, which was the site of the first Wofford Theatre production and includes rooms named for Al Gray ’71 and Doug Jones ’69, the college’s first African-American student and first African-American graduate, respectively, as well as Anna Todd Wofford, Benjamin Wofford’s first wife.
Quote from the tour: “When Wofford was founded, the college was situated on the city of Spartanburg’s northern border. Now Wofford, which is a short walk from the restaurants, hotels and shops in downtown Spartanburg, is surrounded by other colleges and universities, Spartanburg Regional Medical Center and our neighbors in the Northside community.”
Wofford’s campus was home to six buildings when it opened in 1854: Main Building, a home for the president of the college and four houses for faculty. All but one still exist and have been repurposed over time. This section also discusses the curriculum and the impact President Nayef Samhat has had on the college since he became president in 2013.
Quote from the tour: “The curriculum of the late 1800s emphasized the classical tradition and the instillation of moral values. Students read the works of Caesar and Cicero in Latin, studied the Bible in Greek and Hebrew, and took classes in chemistry, moral and natural philosophy, geology and political economy. Wofford students were expected to avoid profanity and drunkenness. Students were required to attend chapel.”
In the heart of the academic commons, discover how Wofford was founded and learn about Benjamin Wofford, Anna Todd Wofford and Maria Barron Wofford. This section of the tour discusses the college’s founding, United Methodist roots and the impact of influential trustees and donors such as Roger Milliken, Delores and Harold Chandler ’71, and Jerry ’59 and Rosalind Sallenger Richardson.
Quote from the tour: “Like the United Methodist Church of this era, Wofford’s early history also is intertwined with the institution of slavery. The college’s founder, members of its original faculty and its first three presidents all enslaved African Americans. As you will learn later on this tour, these enslaved persons played important roles in the college’s construction and operations and in the city of Spartanburg.”
Main Building, Wofford’s first building, remains central to the college experience. All students attend classes in the building. Inside Main is a memorial to those who died in military service as well as a section of exposed brick and an excerpt from Nikky Finney’s poem “The Thinking Men.” The building also includes a tribute to retired faculty.
Quote from the tour: “Inside Main is the college bell, purchased in 1854 from the Meneely Bell Company in West Troy, New York. It weighs about 700 pounds and is 33 inches in diameter. It rings the hour on campus and tolls three times for each student: once when joining the community as a first-year student, again at graduation four years later, and finally on All Saints Day after their death.”
Learn about the history of the library at Wofford. The college's first library was in Main Building. The Whitefoord Smith Library, now the Daniel Building, was the college's first freestanding library.
Quote from the tour: “Teszler was a Hungarian immigrant and Holocaust survivor who fled to the U.S. in 1948. He was the founder of Olympia Mills, and in retirement he was a favorite on campus, taking classes and talking with students. He audited more than 50 classes at Wofford in the 1970s and 1980s and helped begin Wofford’s permanent art collection with notable Hungarian paintings.”
Housing for first-year students is clustered at this end of campus, with Greene, Marsh and Carlisle halls all named for Wofford presidents. Learn about those presidents and their impact on the campus as well as about Andrews Field House, which stood where Jerome Johnson Richardson Hall now houses 150 first-year students.
Quote from the tour: “Greene Hall is named for Dr. Walter K. Greene, class of 1903, the only Wofford graduate to become president of the college. Greene served Wofford as president from 1942 to 1951. He guided the college through World War II, and at one point served as president of both Wofford and Columbia College. This followed a proposal by the South Carolina Methodist Conference to merge Wofford, Lander College and Columbia College into a denominational university that would serve men and women. (Obviously that didn’t happen.)”
Discover the origins of baseball and intercollegiate athletics on Wofford’s campus. Learn about generous gifts from the Kings and Switzers that brought baseball back to campus.
Quote from the tour: “The Terriers made headlines in 1913 when Ty Cobb played on campus. Wofford lost 9-8 to the professional team, but the headlines were more about a student brawl with Cobb, who was infamous for his temper, than about the outcome of the game.”
This section of the tour is packed with information about the start of student publications at Wofford and the early literary societies. Generous trustees and donors, such as Steven Mungo ’81 and Joe Taylor ’80, are mentioned in this section, as are President Paul Hardin and Dean A. Mason DuPré.
Quote from the tour: “While women had occasionally attended Wofford, Hardin’s administration saw the first steps toward coeducation. In 1971, the college began admitting women as day students. Full residential coeducation began in 1976.”
Gibbs Stadium, the home of Wofford football thanks to a lead gift from Marsha and Jimmy Gibbs, now has a monument in Eli Sanders Plaza to commemorate the first football game in South Carolina as well as great moments in Wofford football history.
Quote from the tour: “In December 1889, Wofford challenged baseball rival Furman to a football match at Spartanburg’s encampment grounds, which were located west of the campus on Howard Street in the Northside. It was the first intercollegiate gridiron contest ever staged in South Carolina. Wofford won the original contest 5-1 and the rematch a month later 2-1.”
Many African Americans who have played significant roles in the area’s history lived near the college in the neighborhood known as Back of the College. Tobe Hartwell Jr., who came to Wofford in 1859 as Wofford President Albert M. Shipp’s bondsman, was one of the neighborhood’s earliest residents. Years later, Russell Miller, who was a groundskeeper at Wofford in the 1940s, was a resident. His grandson, Dr. Douglas Wood ’90, was the college’s 2018 Commencement speaker. Wood said his grandfather was his first teacher of Wofford history.
Quote from the tour: “One of the final homeowners in the Back of the College neighborhood was Hattie Belle Penland, a longtime teacher at Cumming Street School and a mentor to countless children. She grew up in a home close to where the Gibbs Stadium scoreboard is now located and was a tough negotiator when she was ready to sell her property. Penland spent much of her childhood in the home of Professor and Mrs. J.A. Gamewell, where her mother was a cook. That home is now the Hugh R. Black Wellness Center.”
The Cumming Street School was built in 1926 as the first modern high school for Black students in Spartanburg County. It’s currently used for storage and as the headquarters of the college’s Facilities Department. The school sits across from the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, the home of Wofford basketball, volleyball and lacrosse.
Quote from the tour: “In 2021, Jerry Richardson made a $150 million gift to the college’s endowment. Portions of the money are being used to support building maintenance and to raise the minimum compensation pool on campus to $15 per hour. The majority of the funds are used to support need-based scholarships and opportunities for experiential learning.”
Discover how fraternities — and later sororities — became a part of the campus culture. President Francis Pendleton Gaines was president when the college built the original fraternity row. This stop on the tour also touches on the legacies of President Albert M. Shipp and President Bernie Dunlap.
Quote from the tour: “Shipp resisted letting Wofford students join the Confederate war effort because he believed that the South would need educated men after the war. The college did, however, support the Confederate effort by investing over $85,000 into war bonds, all of which became worthless when the South lost the war.”
Juniors and seniors live in this area of campus, conveniently located near the Mungo Exchange. The Mungo Exchange houses the Career Center, International Programs, Community-Based Learning and Undergraduate Research and Post-graduate Fellowships. Wightman Hall is named for Wofford’s first president. Lesesne Hall is named for Wofford’s ninth president, Dr. Joab M. Lesesne Jr.
Quote from the tour: “The college went through a major growth phase — both in enrollment and facilities — during Lesesne’s tenure. The college also moved from NAIA and NCAA Division II to Division I and entrance into the Southern Conference. He coached football for the Terriers and taught classes after retirement.”
The Neofytos D. Papadopoulos Building, constructed in 1987, is dedicated to the memory of the father of Dr. C.N. Papadopoulos ’54, the college’s first graduate to give $1 million to the college. The building houses the Alumni Office, and the Papadopoulos Room is one of the first spaces prospective students see when visiting Wofford. In 2012, the college dedicated the Montgomery Music Building, made possible by a gift from Betty and Rose Montgomery.
Quote from the tour: “Wofford’s network of alumni support has been nationally recognized for decades, with particularly strong programs in health careers, law, research, entertainment, journalism and business.”
McGowan served on the Judicial Commission, Orientation Staff and the COVID-19 Student Response Team. She worked as a writer for the Old Gold and Black student newspaper and as a resident assistant and for the Wellness Center. She was on the leadership committee of the Launch program through the Wofford Career Center.
At Wofford, Shippy was elected to Campus Union and chaired the Wofford Athletics and Recreation committee. She was a member of the track and field team and is the founding president of the Wofford Anti-Racism Coalition. She was a resident assistant and past president of Wofford Women of Color. During the summer of 2021, Shippy studied at the University of Ghana as a Frederick Douglass Scholar.
Harris was a member of the women’s basketball team. She was on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and was involved in Wofford Women of Color, where she is a past treasurer. A member of the Black Student Alliance, Harris was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this spring.