Wills Hall

Wills Hall

Wills Hall was the library from 1923 until Carmicheal Library was opened in 1969.  The Board of Trustees authorized the construction of the building at the same meeting (May 1921) that it instructed Dr. Palmer to expand the curriculum to make the school a degree-granting college.

The library originally (1896-97) was a project of a number of Montevallo women interested in forming a literary club.  They engaged the support of the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs in supplying books and periodicals for a library.  Before 1923 the books had been stored in many temporary places, from the pastor’s study at the Baptist church to the “Fun Room” on the second floor of Main.

Warren, Knight, and Davis were the architects, and Smallman and Bryce the contractors, who used Alabama materials almost exclusively.  Interesting architectural features include beautiful arched windows on the side toward Palmer Hall and a triple arch Palladian window at each end of the ninety foot reading room.

In 1939-40, more stacks and a periodical room were added, doubling the size of the building.  Another change came in 1968-69 when the building was renovated and enlarged for the College of Education.  Air-conditioned, completely carpeted, serviced by an elevator and furnished with colorful equipment, it is now an office classroom building – but one that combines the traditional and modern.

In 1975, an addition was added to the west, doubling the size of the building.  Dampier Harris and Associates were the architects; R.H. Parsons and Company the contractors.  Funds came from the Alabama Public School and College Authority.

Edward Houston Wills (1882-1946)

Edward Houston Wills was connected with this school from 1909 until his death in June 1946, thirty-seven years.  To each of the three presidents he served under – Palmer, Carmichael, and Harman – he was “a good right arm, handling the countless business details of the college.”

With degrees from both Alabama Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University, he was equipped to move from position to position as the need arose.  He came to what was then Alabama Girls’ Industrial School as purchasing agent; he was soon adding classes in history and, later, commercial law.  By 1929 he had become Registrar and Business Manager; but in 1945-46, his last year, the two positions had been divided with him remaining Business Manager.

But Mr. Wills was more than a good business manager.  As the Montgomery Advertiser said at his death, he was an admirable gentlemen “with warmth and an honest humanity that drew students to him for friendship and counsel.”  Twice students honored him publicly – in 1933 they dedicated the yearbook to him and in 1940, College Night.

Wills Hall is named in his honor.  After his death his widow, Phoebe Wills, continued to live in Montevallo, maintaining a close relationship with the campus.  She was for many years the gracious hostess at Reynolds Hall and assistant to the Head of Residence.  She outlived her husband by a third of a century, dying in 1981.

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

Calkins Hall

Calkins Hall

Calkins Hall was originally built to house the Department of Music and served that purpose from its completion in 1917 until the new music hall was completed in 1971.  It was renovated for administrative offices in 1972-73 and today, is used accordingly.

Wartime conditions with shortages of labor and materials delayed the completion of the building and, by 1917, had increased the final cost several thousand dollars to $31,237.50.

Although the building was smaller than originally planned and the studios diminutive in size, it was the “jewel” of the campus.  Built of brick in the Williamsburg style, it had “unusual charm and permanence from the (hand) carved stone entrance to the lovely concert room upstairs.”  The whole interior was decorated with details of musical instruments.  The concert hall was finished in ivory and old gold and the walls richly decorated with plasterwork.  The dark blue stage curtain gave an accent of color.

Evan Terry was the architect for the renovation in 1972-73; Lewis Mayson, an authority on old buildings, who had supervised the work at King House, was the contractor and general supervisor.  Under their direction, Calkins was completely renovated.  Almost everything inside, from the roof to the carpet and drapes was moved, replaced, refinished or redecorated.  The most obvious change was on the second floor where suites of offices replaced the concert hall.  The rooms are still beautiful but more functional than before.

Housing the offices of the President it was the first building on campus wholly given to administration.  The Board of Trustees Conference Room, where the Board meets quarterly, is also located in the building.

Charles Rendell Calkins

Calkins Hall is named for the man who directed the Music Department from 1916 until his death in Boston on August 28, 1921, just a few days before the opening of the fall term.

Mr. Calkins was a New Englander by both birth and training.  He lived in Melrose Highlands, Massachusetts and studied Faelton Pianoforte School where he graduated in 1908.

His first teaching assignment was in the South, although it is not clear how he got from Boston to Evergreen, Alabama.  In Evergreen he was in charge of music instrumentation at the Second District Agricultural School where he put many of his ideas in to practice; he organized an orchestra, a brass band for the boys and a community choral society.  Furthermore, he was an organist and choir director at the Baptist church where, according to the pastor, he was an exceptionally fine musician and teacher.

After leaving Alabama, he spent the next to years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he was soloist with the largest choral group and gave concerts in conjunction with Saint Paul Symphony.

He had many opportunities to use his musical skills in Canada but the severe climate there made him long for the mild weather of Alabama.  So when President Palmer offered him a position in Montevallo, he readily accepted, but with the clear understanding that he would reorganize the department.  The school bulletins of the next two or three years show that he enlarged course offerings and organized music groups, both on campus and in the community.

As time went on, he became one of the most influential factors in standardizing school music study in Alabama and other states where he was a frequent consultant.

At the first meeting of the 1921-1922 session, the faculty adopted resolutions which praised him for being a great and inspiring leader and an artist of the highest type, a man of high ideals, clear vision and lofty purposes, a devoted friend to faculty and students, a true citizen active in all that made for the highest good of the community and state.

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

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Bloch Hall

Bloch Hall was the first entirely academic building built for the new school, but it was not built until 1915.  During the prior twenty years, the “industrials” which made the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School distinctive had been taught “all over town” – in Reynolds and Main Halls, in temporary buildings and even in private homes.  In the early years, for example, cooking was taught in the kitchen of the E. S. Lyman home.

On August 27, 1914 the Building Committee accepted plans of architect W. T. Warren for the “new science building.”  It was ready for use the following June.  Contractor R. V. Labone built it for $60,000, the original contract price, “unusual in Alabama school building history.”

As in the case of all other old buildings, Bloch has been renovated several times to make it more modern and more adaptable to current needs.  In the beginning, all science classes were taught in this two-story (plus basement) building but after Harman Hall was built, only Family & Consumer Sciences and Art departments are housed here.  The gracious Lois Askerley Living Room on first floor is a special feature, as is The Gallery in the basement.

Bloch Hall is named for Sol D. Bloch, who introduced the bill in the Legislature to create this school.

Sol D. Bloch (1855-1924)

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Sol Bloch in the early history of this school.  In fact, it is doubtful that the school would ever have taken form or survived those first crucial years without Mr. Bloch’s wisdom and sound business sense.

For years the idea of some kind of practical school for girls had been tossed about, but it was Senator Bloch from Camden who introduced the bill in the Alabama Legislature to establish the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School.  On the very last day of the legislative session, February 21, 1892, the bill passed both houses; Mr. Bloch had himself appointed a special messenger to take it to Governor Thomas G. Jones for signing all in one day!  It was a great triumph for Bloch and the young women of Alabama.

This was only the beginning of Mr. Bloch’s connection with the school.  He served on the Board of Trustees until shortly before his death in 1924.  Until the school had a treasurer, he was chairman of the Finance Committee, scrutinizing every expenditure (and often complaining the school was spending too much for such items as butter and turnip greens) and paying every bill.  But he kept the school solvent.  He often visited the campus several days at a time to see if there were ways to make improvements.  He considered being a trustee the greatest honor of his life.

Until shortly before his death he always came to the opening of the school and returned for commencement.  In the fall, he would go to Montevallo on the same train with “his girls,” seeing that they were well cared for and had all the fruit and candy that the “butcher boy” had.  He loved the girls and they loved him.  Once he overheard one of the girls say they were all “chips off the Old Bloch.”  That pleased him greatly.  After he could no longer visit the campus, he regularly sent flowers for the opening of school, Founder’s Day and other ceremonial occasions.

While the school may have been his “true love,” he had other interests.  He was born of Bavarian immigrant parents in Wilcox County, Alabama where he grew up.  He studied law, became a merchant with wide connections, served his hometown as alderman and mayor, and his state as a legislator.  He was a Democrat, a Mason, a Pythian and an active member of many historical and wrote long sketches for the Wilcox Progress and the Wilcox Progressive Era, both of which he owned.

Mr. Bloch was present for the dedication of the science building on January 16, 1915, but although he had worked hard to get it built, he did not know until then that the new hall was to be named for him.

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

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 (www.current.com ), 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.

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The Tower

This tall concrete structure was built in 1910-1911 by the Piedmont Construction Company of Atlanta at a cost of $6,074.84.  From the time of its construction until 1962, it was the only means of water storage on campus except the large tank behind Main Dormitory, which held the water for the sprinkler system.  It is probably the most photographed landmark on campus.  For all its usefulness, many generations of students thought it was purely ornamental.  A report from the Alabamiam in 1940 interviewed Mr. Maurice Jones-Williams, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, about the structure.   “It is 112 feet from the ground to the top,” he said.  “It supports a tank within it which is 32 feet deep.  The capacity of the tank is 109,000 gallons of water.”  Water was pumped into the tank from a filtration plant off campus.

In 1962, at the insistence of President Howard M. Philips, a new tank was erected and the Tower was converted into offices for the three student publications: The Montage (yearbook), the Alabamian (newspaper), and the Tower (literary magazine).  Currently it houses offices for Sodexho, our food services.

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

Montevallo has slowly eased into a summer state of mind, with some students staying around campus to take classes this summer, while others have gone off to various parts of the world to enjoy their summer. One of the more exciting places you might find UM students at this summer is Real Centro Universitario in Spain, http://www.rcumariacristina.com/esp/index.php . Dr. Rosa Maria Stoops, is currently spending the summer with a group of UM students at RCU-Madrid. While taking classes in anything from Law, to Business Administration & Management, they also get to take excursions to Madrid, Segovia, and Monastery of El Escoria.
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Not only is UM currently in Spain, but Japan as well. As we speak President Williams and a group of faculy and administration are currently in Echizen, Japan, Montevallo’s sister city in Japan, to expand our study abroad opportunities in Asia. We have been following Dr. Williams on Twitter this week, http://twitter.com/UMPrez .
And if you are in the Fort Walton Beach, FL area this summer pay a visit to either the local Sonic or Fudpuckers, because there is a good chance you might run into Kaitlyn or Jessica; two of our student staff in the Admissions Office who are spending their summer at Beach Project as a part of Campus Outreach. Hope your summer is going great!

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Main Hall

When Alabama Girls Industrial School opened in 1896, it had a classroom building, which for many years was called merely the Chapel, and a few temporary “out buildings.”  There were no living quarters; however, the president found several good families who agreed to board girls that first year of operation, and shortly after began planning the construction of a dormitory.  The Southern Railroad hauled the building materials free of charge.  The work went so well that West Wing, with a capacity of about 100 girls, was ready by the fall term of 1897.  It was the first of the three wings constituting Main Hall.

Before 1907, during the presidency of Dr. Peterson, what is now Central Main, containing the basement dining room, was added.

When Dr. Palmer became president in 1907, he made the completion of the dormitory top priority.  The job was finished late in the summer of 1908.  Following the plans of the architect William Earnest Spink of Birmingham, the East Wing was built, the West Wing enlarged and the front finished.  The complete building housed more than 400 young women and, at one time, was thought to be the largest female residence hall in the Deep South.

Special features of Main are the two tubular Kirker-Bender fire escapes, which have been the terror and delight of generations of students, and the balky elevator affectionately called “Mr. Otis.” It is very noticeable that the arcade on either side of the front entrance differs in style of architecture.  The west side has arches and the east side has straight lines with modified doric columns.  No one seems to know why.  The exterior has remained essentially unchanged but the interior has undergone a number of renovations and alterations.  In the early days, there had been a wide staircase leading from the second floor into the lobby.  In 1946, it was replaced and in 1986 restored.

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

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