About Laura Smith

Archivist

Weston A. Bousfield Psychology Building

 

In 1972, when ground was broken for what would be a new home for the Psychology Department, the university’s Building Names Committee was contacted by several members of the faculty who advocated for the building to be named in honor of Professor Weston A. Bousfield, who served as head of the department from 1939 to 1960 and continued on as a respected Professor until his retirement at the end of the Spring semester in 1972.

Bousfield’s colleagues, including Karl Hakmiller, A. Robert Rollin and Sam L. Witryol, pleaded with the committee, writing  that he “built the department in every sense and has been as strongly identified with the University of Connecticut as he has been with the Psychology Department.” Also, “In addition to his tireless and dedicated efforts on the local scene, he achieved national prominence for his research on organization in memory and recall…he is a pioneer in this area which really flourished 10 years after his initial investigation…”

Albert Van Dusen, the committee chairman, wrote Dr. Hakmiller on May 22, 1972, to tell him that the committee would “keep in mind the name of Weston A. Bousfield for future reference in connection with the Psychology Building…[but] believed, however, that it would be wise to adhere to the Trustees regulation that an academic building be named only for a deceased faculty member. Committee members individually, without exception, expressed the highest praise for Bousfield as a man and scholar. Everyone was very unhappy about this decision, yet we all felt that it was the correct one.” Three days later, on May 25, a petition was sent to the committee, making clear that the faculty was disappointed with the decision, but to no avail.

Weston A. Bousfield was born on April 22, 1904, and came to UConn in 1939 as an Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology after teaching at Tufts University. He earned degrees from Northeastern University, Boston University and Harvard University (including his PhD from the latter). At UConn he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1941 and full Professor in 1946. He was a pioneer in the concept of organization in memory, clustering in recall, and the knowledge that materials we have learned become organized in memory, even though they were originally learned as separate, unconnected units. Bousfield was a prolific author in the field with over seventy publications to his credit.

Professor Bousfield died on September 6, 1986, and the building was finally named for him on April 29, 1989.

Benjamin Franklin Koons Hall

 

In recent years, the University of Connecticut has seen ever-larger classes of students arrive on campus each fall, swelling the school’s already overburdened facilities. But it was ever thus. Around the turn of the twentieth century, an expanding student population at what was then called the Connecticut Agricultural College similarly overwhelmed classrooms and dormitories.

A 1904 issue of The Lookout, an early version of the student newspaper, reported that laboratories once built for soil physics were being outfitted with rows of beds. And even the president’s residence was overtaken by nine students and two instructors. The president and his wife had to relegate themselves to two small rooms in another building on campus.

In response, the Connecticut General Assembly appropriated funds for new construction in 1911. One building to emerge out of this appropriation was Koons Hall, built in 1913 as a men’s dormitory at the cost of $75,000. The building was almost an exact replica of Storrs Hall, built just a few years before in 1906. Koons Hall was named after Benjamin Franklin Koons, an early faculty member and the first president of what would become the University of Connecticut.

Koons was born in Sulphur Springs, Ohio, in 1844. He was one of twelve children in a typical farm family, and his parents sent him and his siblings to the local school. In 1862, Koons enlisted in the Union Army and fought in several major battles, including Cedar Creek and Appomattox. He escaped major injury, and his regiment even received special praise from General Ulysses S. Grant.

After the war, Koons returned to his education, enrolling in Oberlin College in 1870. He graduated in 1874, and then spent several years teaching in schools across the South. He returned to Oberlin in 1878 to continue his education and then went on to study at Yale University. He graduated from Yale in 1881 and took a job teaching at the Storrs Agricultural School, which opened in the fall of that year.

Koons was hired as a professor of natural history, and taught classes as well as published research in a range of fields. He dedicated much of his career to the kinds of research that would serve the school’s initial focus on agricultural education. But he was also drawn into administrative work early on, and when the Board of Trustees voted to change the school’s name to Storrs Agricultural College in 1893, they appointed Koons as its president.

Yet Koon’s time as president would prove short-lived. He resigned from the position in 1897 and stepped down the following year. Although the reasons for his resignation are largely unknown, some have speculated that Koons rankled the Board of Trustees by allowing professors too free a hand on campus. Still, the school grew significantly under his direction. During the Koons years, the number of students and faculty multiplied, female students were admitted for the first time, and educational activities grew along with state funding.

After he left the presidency in 1898, Koons retained an appointment as professor of natural history and political economy. He was also appointed curator of the Natural History Museum, and his family moved into a newly-built cottage on campus. Koons died on December 17, 1903. The ceremony began at his home before moving to a local Congregational church for public services. He was finally buried in Storrs cemetery. In a final symbol of his influence on campus, former graduates served as coffin bearers while students in uniform led the procession from the church to his grave.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

The Ramnapping Incident of 1934

 

In 1934 the football rivalry between Connecticut State College (as the University of Connecticut was known then) and the Rhode Island State College (now the University of Rhode Island) was white hot. As these two institutions of higher learning looked forward to the showdown of the game in Storrs on November 10, their rivalry was jolted by what is now known as the infamous Ramnapping Incident of 1934.

In the early hours of Friday, November 9, intrepid students of the CSC drove east to Kingston, Rhode Island, stole into one of the campus barns, kidnapped the RISC’s mascot, a two-year old ram with the regal name of Rameses II, and brought him back to the Storrs campus. Rameses was briefly paraded, wearing a Connecticut banner and hat, before the students during a pep rally that evening but was otherwise hidden in various buildings, including fraternity houses. It was said that while Rameses was hosted in Storrs he feasted on oats, alfalfa and cabbages and seemed quite content.

In the early hours before the game on November 10 several carloads of RISC students hightailed it to Storrs, intent upon rescuing their beloved mascot. Connecticut students surrounded their cars and forced them to return to Kingston without the ram.

As it is written in the November 13, 1934, issue of the student newspaper, the Connecticut Campus, before the game commenced “while the grandstand strained its collective ear, the ram was brought around in an automobile to the Rhody side of the field and presented to Rhode Island with due ceremony and the snapping of camera shutters.” The heist failed to help the Connecticut team with their efforts on the field, for Rhode Island won the game 19-0.

Also as written in the student newspaper, “Rumors as to who had a hand in the odd disappearance of the Rhody ram have been flying thickly and furiously around the Connecticut State campus. Thousands of solutions have been put forth by would be Philo Vances, but it is likely that the Rhody ramnaping [sic] will remain forever unsolved in the annals of Connecticut crime.”

Hugh S. Greer Field House

The Hugh S. Greer Field House was built in 1954. It originally served as the University of Connecticut’s basketball stadium, replacing the “Cage,” a temporary structure composed of two airplane hangars. In 1990, it became part of the student recreational facilities after the basketball teams left for the new Gampel Pavilion. A year later, the University Board of Trustees voted to rename the building after former UConn basketball coach Hugh S. Greer.

Hugh Scott Greer was born in Suffield, Connecticut, on August 5, 1904. He attended the Connecticut Agricultural College, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1926, and later received a Masters of Education from Springfield College. After a successful career as a high school coach, Greer came back to the University of Connecticut in 1946. He was hired as an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and coached the Men’s Basketball team. According to one report, Greer “never lost his composure on or off the court,” and he was awarded the Gold Key from the Connecticut Sports Writer’s Alliance in 1957 for outstanding contributions to sports in his home state.

At the time of his death in 1963, Greer held the record for most wins as UConn basketball coach. After he unexpectedly died from a heart attack, a plaque was installed in the Field House to commemorate his celebrated service at the University of Connecticut.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Francis L. Castleman Building

Francis L. Castleman Building

The Francis L. Castleman building rests along one edge of the quad on the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus. It’s marked out by its central stone façade and curved staircases. Originally called Engineering I, the building was officially completed in 1941 (though it opened for partial use the year before). It was constructed during a major period of campus renovation carried out by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s-early 1940s under the direction of President Albert N. Jorgensen (whose presidency from 1935 to 1962). In 1970, the building was renamed after Francis Lee Castleman, Jr., a noted professor of civil engineering at UConn.

Francis L. Castleman Building

Castleman was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1902. He received an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University in 1925 and received the John B. Carson prize for distinguished work there. He later pursued graduate study at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his doctorate in 1935.

After completing his studies, Castleman designed bridges for the well-known American Bridge Company, formed out of a merger of twenty steel companies in 1900 by J. P. Morgan & Company. He also served as a professor of structural engineering at Vanderbilt University before coming to UConn in 1942.

Francis L. Castleman, Professor of Engineering

At UConn, Castleman was appointed professor of civil engineering and named chair of the department. He was then named Dean of the School of Engineering just a few years later in 1946. He was a member of several professional organizations and published widely on topics involving structure and mathematics. In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, Castleman was active in and around Storrs. He served as a faculty adviser to UConn’s Engineers’ Club and on the Connecticut State Building Code Commission. Castleman died on December 30, 1955.

Francis L. Castleman Building

The Castleman Building continues to house offices for the Dean of the School of Engineering, as well as classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. It remains one of the older buildings on campus, though it underwent significant renovation in the 1990s.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Alfred Gordon Gulley Hall

Gulley Hall, 1922

 

The cornerstone of Gulley Hall was laid on May 28, 1908. Back then, UConn was known as the Connecticut Agricultural College, and Gulley Hall had a different name too— Horticultural Hall. A brick building in the colonial style, it was built at a cost of $55,000 during the presidency of Charles Lewis Beach.

The building was designed to support the school’s work in horticulture. The basement had a large room to demonstrate and house spray apparatuses for garden cultivation, as well as rooms to prepare produce for market and cool rooms to store fruits and vegetables. The other floors had dedicated areas for classroom instruction, laboratory work, and a large space for the Museum of Natural History. A greenhouse also sat next to the building.

Laying Corner Stone Gulley Hall, 1908

Horticulture Hall was renamed in February 1921 in honor of Alfred Gordon Gulley, a professor of horticulture at Connecticut Agricultural College from 1894 until his death on August 16, 1917. Professor Gulley was born in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1848. He received Bachelor and Masters of Science degrees from Michigan Agricultural College, where he worked for four years. After a year-long stint at the Vermont Experiment Station, he arrived in Storrs to work and teach.

Gulley Hall, 1938

Gulley was described by one school administrator as “a lover fruits, flowers and trees.” He was reportedly a successful teacher and well-liked by his students. Others said he served the school loyally and even helped shape its appearance, managing the ornamental plantings around campus. He also helped promote Connecticut’s fruit growing interests and frequently appeared at meetings of state farmers.

President Homer Babbidge moved into the Gulley Hall during his tenure (1962-1972), and the building has served administration purposes ever since. Today, Gulley Hall is probably best known as home to the offices of the University President and Provost.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Albert Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts

 

When Albert Nels Jorgensen (1899-1978) came to the Connecticut State College as its seventh President in 1935, at the age of 36, enrollment numbered a mere 800 students and consisted of one campus, in Storrs. By the time he retired, 27 years later in 1962 at the age of 63, the school was known as the University of Connecticut, enrollment had grown to 13,000 students, and there were four regional campuses around the state plus plans to build a medical school in Farmington. Jorgensen led the university through trying times that included the Great Depression, the Hurricane of 1938, World War II, and the McCarthy era where academics were targeted as Communists.

On November 12, 1960, at the Silver Convocation honoring Dr. Jorgensen as President in his 25th year, he was heralded for his leadership in building the University of Connecticut from a small, rural college into a major university. Professor of Zoology Dr. Hugh Clark said that “from the beginning President Jorgensen’s tenure has been characterized by vision, by wisdom, by understanding and by courage….It is a result of recognition of the intellectual needs of Connecticut’s citizens; it is the realization of a further purpose of a University to expand the sum of knowledge and to extend its influence into the future.”

Upon notifying members of the University community of Jorgensen’s death in February 1978. then UConn President Glenn W. Ferguson wrote that “Dr. Jorgensen was a…champion of academic freedom…a person who recognized that excellence is the critical quest for a university, and who built an institution that cared about its future and cared about that quest for excellence.”

The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts was established in 1955, named in honor of the university’s president. Its first performance was the Boston Symphony Orchestra on December 6, 1955.

 

 

Brien McMahon Hall

 

The Brien McMahon Residence Hall opened as a dormitory at the University of Connecticut in the fall of 1964. It was one of the first buildings constructed during the presidency of Homer D. Babbidge. From the outset, the building was named after Brien McMahon, the prominent lawyer and politician from Connecticut.

McMahon was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1903. He attended Fordham University and Yale Law School. He briefly became a judge for Norwalk’s City Court before serving as special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. McMahon was elected as United States Senator for Connecticut in 1945 and served until his death in 1952. During his time in office, he became an expert in nuclear energy, authoring the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and promoting the civilian control of nuclear development.

In the Senate, McMahon served alongside William Benton, who later became a member of UConn’s Board of Trustees. In 1958, Senator Benton inaugurated a successful lecture series at UConn, the Brien McMahon Lecture Series, in honor of his late friend and fellow senator from Connecticut. The lecture series ran for a number of years, bringing prominent politicians and scholars to campus, such as Hans Morgenthau, J. William Fulbright, and Romulo Betancourt.

Today, the building is easily recognized by its recently renovated dining hall with a striking glass façade that faces onto Hillside Road.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Augustus Storrs Hall

 

It will surprise no one with even a remote connection to the University of Connecticut that Augustus Storrs was an important person in the history of our state university. Born on June 4, 1817, in Mansfield, Connecticut, to a family that came to America six generations earlier, Augustus Storrs was the son of farmer Royal Storrs. Augustus started a store in the Gurleyville section of Mansfield when he was just 22 years old. He moved to Hartford in 1841 and by the time he moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1851 he was a well-established businessman.

In 1875 Augustus bought the family home in Mansfield and developed a stock farm of nearly 1000 acres where he raised thoroughbred cattle and horses. That same year an orphanage that had been established in 1866 for the children of Civil War soldiers was closed down, and Augustus brought that property, which had been situated next to the farm.

In December 1880 Augustus offered 170 acres of land — the former orphanage property — with buildings to establish an agricultural college in Mansfield. Augustus’s brother Charles made a generous offer of $5000, and with these two gifts the Connecticut General Assembly, under the authority of the federal Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, established the Storrs Agricultural School to train boys in farming. The school opened its doors to twelve students on September 28, 1881. In 1888 a post-office was placed near campus, thus establishing the section of town of and near the campus as Storrs.

Augustus Storrs died on March 3, 1892. He and many other members of the Storrs family are buried in the cemetery on campus off of North Eagleville Road.

Augustus Storrs Hall was built in 1906 and was the first brick building on campus. It was initially a men’s dormitory with 66 two-man rooms but within two years each room held three students. In 1952 it was renovated for offices and classrooms. It is now home to the School of Nursing.

Wilfred B. Young Building

 

Since its founding in 1881, the University of Connecticut has undergone many changes, and the Wilfred B. Young Building perfectly embodies this dynamic history. In the years after World War II, a surging student population spurred a raft of new construction under the tenure of President Albert N. Jorgensen. The building that later became known as the Young Building appeared during this period, officially opening in the fall of 1953.

Along with the growing student population, the building also reflects the changing academic climate at UConn. When it first opened, the building housed the College of Agriculture. In the 1960s, it became home to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Now it holds the College of Agriculture, Medicine, and Natural Resources. The multiplying specialties illustrate how the university’s educational mission has developed over the years, shifting to meet the needs and interests of students and the wider society.

The building’s namesake, Wilfred B. Young, also played an important role in UConn’s history. Born in Indiana in 1903, Young spent his early life learning agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as working in the famed Chicago stockyards. He came to Connecticut in 1931, recruited by Professor Harry L. Garrigus to teach and conduct research through the Agricultural Experiment Station. He served as Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources from 1945 to 1966. Young retired in 1966 and died in 1978. The building was named in his honor the following year in recognition of his many contributions to the university.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

J. Louis von der Mehden Hall

 

J. Louis von der Mehden, Jr., was born July 20, 1873, in San Francisco, California. A musician and composer, von der Mehden held several positions in San Francisco before moving east to New York City after the 1906 earthquake. He was steadily employed as a cellist or conductor with theatrical or commercial bands and worked for a year as the musical director of Herald Square Theater before becoming involved full time in the recording industry, working at different times for five different phonograph studios: U.S. Phonograph, Pathé Frère, Columbia, Lyraphone and the Victor Talking Machine Company. On some recordings he played cello in the orchestra; more regularly he would conduct performances, often arranging the music the night before the recording sessions. In 1926, von der Mehden and his wife Susan moved to Old Saybrook, Connecticut, full-time, having purchased a house in 1911.

J. Louis von der Mehden, Jr. died on August 27, 1954, in Middlesex Memorial Hospital and was buried in Cypress Cemetery at Saybrook Point.

In 1956, UConn President Albert N. Jorgensen reported to the Board of Trustees that under the provisions of the will of the late Susan Evelyn von der Mehden, who died less than one year after her husband, the University was to receive a considerable sum from the estate. There were three provisions: first, the University was to receive all of the original compositions of the late J. Louis von der Mehden; second, the University was to erect a building to be used as a concert hall in which this music could be performed; and third, the University was to provide a vault for the safekeeping of the music. The von der Mehden’s had no obvious connection to the University of Connecticut so it is unknown why Mrs. von der Mehden chose to make such a large donation to the university.

The J. Louis von der Mehden Recital Hall was completed in 1961 and has been in regular use as a recital and performance hall.

Archives & Special Collections holds Mr. von der Mehden’s papers, which consist of diaries, newspaper clippings, correspondence, notes, financial records, photographs, musical manuscripts, scores, publications, and celluloid cylinders. The finding aid to the collection can be found here: http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860140533

 

Homer Babbidge Library

Homer Daniels Babbidge, Jr., was born in West Newton, Massachusetts, on May 18, 1925. His father was a captain of merchant ships and the family soon moved to New Haven, Connecticut; in 1935 the family moved again, this time to Amherst, Massachusetts. Babbidge graduated with his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Yale University, and taught at Yale’s Department of American Studies before taking positions with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and acting as the Vice-President of the American Council on Education.

In 1962, at the age of 37, Babbidge became the 8th President of the University of Connecticut. In his Inaugural Address on October 20, 1962, he said “The task of a public university is to wed the new spirit of democracy to the old values of learning.”

In 1962 total enrollment at the University of Connecticut was 12,000 at the main campus in Storrs and across the regional campuses; by 1971 enrollment had grown to over 23,500. During Babbidge’s tenure he oversaw the development of a Junior Year Abroad program, the elimination of the rule that women students be forbidden to wear slacks in the Student Union, and the formation of the Benton Museum of Art on the Storrs campus, the School of Social Work on the Torrington campus, and the UConn medical and dental schools, including the UConn Health Center in Farmington. While serving as President he also taught classes in the Department of History on the History of American Higher Education.

Babbidge led the university at a challenging time. As it was on almost every campus in the country, UConn students demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and on racial discrimination. On November 26, 1968, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) demonstrated against the recruitment on campus of students for the chemical company Olin-Mathieson. Sixty-seven students were arrested for demonstrating and Babbidge called it “the saddest day of my life.”

For what he stated was a promise he made to himself to not hold the job for more than ten years, in October 1971 Babbidge announced that he would resign from the Presidency of UConn on October 1, 1972. More than 7000 students, staff and faculty petitioned his resignation, asking him to reconsider, but to no avail.

After his time at UConn Babbidge returned to Yale as Master of the university’s Timothy Dwight College; in 1976 he became the Hartford Graduate School’s first president. He even briefly dabbled in politics, running for Governor in 1974. Babbidge died on March 27, 1984, from cancer.

During Babbidge’s tenure the UConn library gained its 1,000,000th book. Even before Babbidge left office plans were drawn up to build a new library, given that the space in the Wilbur Cross Library had exceeded the limits of the collection and library services. A study done after 1972 determined that the Wilbur Cross Library had space for just 753 students, less than 5% of the student population.

Groundbreaking for a new library costing $19 million was on July 10, 1975. The library had seven floors with a total 385,000 square feet and shelf space for 1.6 million volumes.

The building opened in 1978, known then as simply the University of Connecticut Library. After Babbidge’s death in 1984 the name was changed to honor the university’s 8th president.