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Peterson Hall, named for Dr. F. M. Peterson, was dedicated with proper ceromonies on May 18, 1914.  Two young grandsons of Dr. Peterson, Edgar Gilmore Givhan and Francis Peterson, who were also the sons of the school’s first physician, unveiled the dedication plaque.

The infirmary had been built in record time.  The Board authorized its construction on May 19, 1913, designating $13,000 for the building and its furnishing to which they later added $500, and less than a year later, on April 1914, it was ready for patients.  It had beds for thirty-six patients, and an isolation area, offices and apartments for a resident physician and nurse.  It was the first structure placed in accordance with a landscape plan drawn up by Charles W. Leverette, Jr.

Previous to this, sick patients had been housed in rooms on second floor Main, and later in King House (then called Nabors Hall) which had been renovated for that purpose.  Presently, it is being renovated to house the Arts Department.

Dr. Francis Marion Peterson (1854-1908)

Unlike Captain Reynolds who made no pretense at being an educator, Dr. Peterson, his successor in 1899 was a classical scholar, a Methodist minister and a member of the faculty at Southern University in Greensboro.  The fact that  he had been acting president of that institution was probably the deciding factor in choosing him as president of AGIS.

To keep the new president from making some financial errors, the Board gave him specific intructions as to the manner of handling school finances.  He must have done well for Senator Sol Bloch, chairman of the Board’s Finance Committee, was “wholehearted in his endorsement of the president’s scrupulous and careful bookkeeping.” Nevertheless, Bloch often complained about expenditures for specific items, such as buttermilk and turnip greens, that he believed could have been bought at lower prices.

When Dr. Peterson took over the school, the annual legislature appropriation was $15,000, the same as it had been in 1896.  This was simply not enough to pay expenses, especially since the Board had added two departments.  So he decided to demonstrate to the Legislature the need for larger appropriation.  To that end he invited the whole body to spend Thanksgiving Day, 1900, on campus to see for themselves demonstrations of the training the school was giving.  The L&N Railroad ran a special train to take the legislators from Montgomery to Montevallo.  Evidently they approved what they saw for the next day they appropriated $65,000.  This money enabled Dr. Peterson to lengthen the school term to nine months and raise teachers’ salaries from $480 per year to $750.  Heads of departments were paid $1000.

During Dr. Peterson’s years, the physical plant was expanded by adding East Wing to Main Dormitory and installing steam heat, electric lights, and running water.  Wings were added to Reynolds Hall, so that the school had twenty-seven classrooms.  There was now a home on campus (between the present Wills and Palmer Halls) for the president and his family.

Dr. Peterson was a classical scholar with no training in “industrials” but he used every opportunity to acquaint himself with them.  He was in sympathy with the purpose of the school but he wanted to be sure that the students were getting well-rounded educations.  He tried, as reported to the Board, to “magnify the work of the individual departments and to correlate the literary and industrial features of the school.”  In other words, he wanted each graduate to be able to not only to earn her living but to be fitted “to adorn any society.”

Dr. Peterson, a popular father figure to the young students, took his responsibilities seriously.  He stated publicly that he was never too tired or too busy to see anyone.  Evidently, the girls took him literally so that his family complained “his meals, his naps, his attempts to escape from school problems within the circle of family were interrupted constantly.”

Dr. Peterson needed rest.  His health declined so rapidly that the Board of Trustees granted him a year’s leave of absence in 1906-1907.  He never returned to his duties, dying on March 3, 1906.  Half a century later his students still remembered the grief they shared at the death of their beloved president.

(This is an excerpt from White Columns & Red Bricks by Lucille Griffith, Ph. D.)


Julian Robinson Producer/Editor Reel from julian robinson on Vimeo.

One of our goals in the Admissions Office is to share with our prospective students the success that many of our alumni have achieved in their professional and personal life.  It often requires us tracking down alums in the far reaching corners of the world, but in Julian’s case we only had to go as far as Los Angeles, California.  Julian is a 2002 theatre graduate of Montevallo and already has several producing/directing/writing and editing credits to his name; and has even started his own production studio while finishing his Masters in Fine Arts in Film Directing/Producing from Columbia University.  If you have paid any attention to one of the fastest growing television networks in the country, Current TV ( ), then you have seen Julian’s work.  Work that has already earned him an Emmy nomination!

While talking with Julian he shared that one of the misconceptions that students often have is that because you attend and graduate from a smaller university, you might not be as prepared as students who graduated from larger, more recognized universities, and that they might have an advantage over you; and in Julian’s experience (as is many Montevallo alums experience) that is just not the case.  “Graduating from Montevallo didn’t put me at a disadvantage among my colleagues, who are often your competition.  I worked alongside people who graduated from Yale and Harvard, and I quickly realized that I was just as prepared as they were and that their education did not give them any advantage over me.   In some cases I found myself to have advantages over them, because they might have graduated from film school and learned the technical side of film and television, but because I graduated from a strong theatre program I had experience in working with actors and directors, which made it very easy for me in my current work.  When you graduate from Montevallo and work on a project the size and scale of College Night, that is experience that students from other universities just don’t have.”

It goes without saying that Julian represents a lot of the characteristics and qualities that many UM alums possess.  That realization when you enter into your career that Montevallo really has prepared you, and often times provided you with experiences that your colleagues just didn’t receive in their undergraduate experience.  The Montevallo family is proud of what Julian has accomplished at such a young age and wish him the best as he continues his work with Current TV

Jeter Hall

Jeter Hall

Jeter Hall was not originally one of the college buildings, but the elementary school.  In 1915, when the town needed a new school, there was no money for an architect’s fee so Mr. Murice P. Jeter, Sr. Chairman of the Montevallo School Board, drew the plans and kept watch over construction.  Much later the structure was named in his honor.

After fifty years it no longer served the needs of the town as a school.  In a property swap, Alabama College acquired the building, which was in danger of being taken down, and completely renovated it with college labor.  In February 1965, the Social Sciences Department moved in; for the first time, it had a home of its own and the faculty has individual offices.  The first classes were held on February 5.

Despite the 1964-1965 renovation, the old building needed further repairs.  They were made in 1978 when the floors were completely carpeted, the heating/cooling system replaced and other changes made to make it serve the needs of the department. In 1985 Judge James H. Sharbutt of Vincent, Alabama furnished an area on the third floor for seminar rooms and such and to serve as a repository for the memorabilia of a long public life.  It was dedicated on February 15, 1985.   In 2004 the carpet was taken up ad replaced with tile.

Murice Presley Jeter (1873-1953)

Mr. Jeter, for whom the Social Science Building is named, was a Virginian who came to Montevallo in 1900 after more than a decade in Marengo County.  Here he became a partner in the mercantile firm of Davis and Jeter.  In 1922, it became the Jeter Mercantile Company which lasted until 1977 when the family sold the property.  The last of the old-time mercantile companies, it attracted many visitors who were interested in the kinds of goods stores once carried.

Mr. Jeter was a useful member of the Montevallo community.  For ten years he was the official weather observer for the town; he was elected repeatedly to the City Council; for a time he was president of the Merchants and Planters Bank; he was active in the Exchange Club.  A member of the First Baptist Church for over 50 years, Jeter was also chairman of its Board of Deacons much of that time.

It was his interest in, and work for, the schools, however, that entitled the family to have his name on this building.  He was chairman of the Montevallo School Board in 1915 when it was built for the elementary school.  The Board was so short of funds that it could not hire an architect, so Mr. Jeter drew the plans and gave this building and many others in Montevallo “unofficial supervision.”  Later he was on the County Board of Education for many years, choosing to retire in 1946.  Few people have rendered greater service to Montevallo over a longer period of time than Mr. Jeter.

(This is an excerpt from White Columns & Red Bricks by Lucille Griffith, Ph. D.)

That’s what HBO is saying about their new miniseries The Pacific which is scheduled to air in March of 2010. So why are we promoting an HBO miniseries? Well the series just happens to be based off former UM professor Dr. Eugene Sledge’s book With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa.

Eugene B. Sledge was born on November 4, 1923 in Mobile, Alabama. He graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile in May 1942 and entered Marion Military Institute (MMI) in Marion, Alabama, that fall. Sledge enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1942 to train as an officer, but in order not to “miss the war” he joined as an enlisted man and was eventually assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (K-3-5). He served as a Private First Class in the Pacific Theater and saw combat at Peleliu and Okinawa. After being posted to China after the war, he was discharged from the Marine Corps in February 1946 with the rank of Corporal. In the summer of 1962, Sledge was appointed Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo. In 1970 he became a professor, a position he held until his retirement in 1990. He taught zoology, ornithology, comparative vertebrate anatomy and other courses during his long tenure there. With the Old Breed was published in 1980 and is considered by many the defining account of WWII in the Pacific theatre.

The Pacific is being produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and is the follow up to the critically acclaimed HBO series Band of Brothers. HBO has stated that the production is the biggest production in the history of HBO and could easily be the biggest production in the history of television considering that each episode was the equivalent of filming a major motion picture.

Over the next several months, UM will be highlighting Dr. Sledge’s book and his 30 years at UM.


August 2009
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