Monday, April 22, 2013

Commencement Remembered

Suber Archives and Special Collections offers an interesting collection of documents relating to Commencement.  Celebrations of student achievements have long been a part of academic traditions.  Recitations, concerts, readings, theatre productions, addresses, prizes, awards and the conferring of degrees drew crowds of family and friends to Commencement activities at LaGrange Female College.  For decades the College’s Board of Trustees also met during Commencement, extending the elaborate celebrations to nearly a week.   Each year the occasion received detailed coverage by the “LaGrange Reporter,” now published as the “LaGrange Daily News.”   

A sampling of our holdings follows: 

Entitled “Twilight,” the student essay pictured at the right is the earliest example of student work included in the Suber Archives collection.  Dated June 21, 1871 this essay was composed and read by Jennie Barber, Class of 1871, during Commencement Week. It consists of five pages written in Jennie Barber’s elegant, flowing script.  The pages are secured by a satin ribbon, tied in a bow on the back as this is the side which would have been viewed by the audience as it was read aloud.  Presented to the College by Mrs. Julia H. Chatham, great granddaughter of Jennie Barber Truitt and a member of the Class of 1970, this essay and the collection of letters which accompanied it, give ample testimony to the meaning that this occasion held for Jennie Barber as well as the esteem and  love for her which prompted her family to preserve the paper for so many generations.
The oldest Commencement program at Suber Archives and Special Collections chronicles the graduating exercises which took place on June 11, 1884. Orchestrating the occasion was the president of LaGrange Female College, the Reverend Dr. John Wesley Heidt. The eight graduates included: 
         Beulah B. Arnold
         Elene E. Barry
         Mary G. Broome
         Mary L. Revill
         Eugenia A. Simms
         Mamie Spears
         Adelaide Wadsworth and
         Mary Lizzie Wright.        

The three pictures above is an invitation from the 1901 Commencement. On the right is a portion of the program of activities which included: Elocution and Debate, Monday, June 3, 1901 at 10 A.M., “Trolien Queen:  Operetta in Four Acts,” College Chapel (later named Dobbs Auditorium), June 3, 1901, 8 P.M., Junior Essays and Address, Tuesday, June 4, 1901, 9:30 A.M. Graduating Exercises and Address, Tuesday, June 4, 1901, 8 P.M.

On April 26, 1994 Grace Boren presented a scrapbook to LaGrange College inscribed, “to Deasie from Alonzo, Spartanburg, S.C., 1857.”  The scrapbook is filled with articles and poems from a variety of published sources. Pasted in the scrapbook was a newspaper reprint of the address delivered by President W. A. Harris at the Commencement of LaGrange Female College on July 6, 1859.   The text of the address was reprinted by LaGrange College in pamphlet form in May of 1994. 

On May 17, 2003, Dr. Terry Kay, acclaimed novelist and member of the class of 1959, delivered a stunning Commencement  address. In response to numerous requests for a copy of this speech, the College reproduced it in booklet form.  With Dr. Kay’s permission it is currently featured on the Archives web page. 

Visit the Archives in person or online to discover for yourself the collection of rich resources which preserve the history of LaGrange College.  Generous and often unexpected donations insure that the collection continues to expand.  Displays on the main floor of Lewis Library and just outside Suber Archives on the ground floor of the Library provide a further insight into our holdings.  Let us know if we can be of assistance. 

Suber Archives and Special Collections
Frank and Laura Lewis Library
LaGrange College
LaGrange, Georgia
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 8:30am until 5:00pm Friday, 8:30am until 12:30pm

Patricia Barrett,
Jacqueline Hornsby,

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