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.

A New Perspective on The U. Roberto Romano Papers

Marijane Ceruti, Assistant Archivist of the U. Roberto Romano Papers, is a 2014 BFA graduate of the UConn School of Fine Arts. Since graduation, she has worked as a freelance photographer and photography assistant in addition to exhibiting and gaining notoriety for her fine art photography work. She has an extensive technical background in addition to her knowledge of the history of photography.

My first day on the job as the Assistant Archivist of the U. Roberto Romano Papers was a good one. I was handed the torch by fellow UConn alumnus and friend Brooke Foti Gemmell who was taking a different position within the UConn library through her work here. “The first couple of weeks will be intimidating, but you’ll get the hang of it” were words that I heard come out of her mouth more than once. As I got settled in and took the time to dive into the collection I began to realize I shared a lot with the photographer whose work I would be getting to know. Robin and I were both Italian-American photographers who spoke French, liked crass humor and made a lot of the same choices in photography. Robin cited the greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank as some of his inspirations and I too could count them as some of my own.

 

 

As I sifted through memory card after memory card of born digital images in the first couple of days, I started to notice that Robin and I made the same aesthetic decisions in our work. Photographers holding their subjects hostage in front of the lens until finally giving into the moment, making corrections to posture and hair as shoots progressed and even down to equipment choices. Without being prompted I found myself collecting my favorite images of Robin’s in a  folder on my desktop titled “Notable Images”. Now the folder is 600 images strong and I’m sure it will continue to grow. As I look at them, I am reminded of how unique of a person Robin was as he exhibited  equal parts compassion and ruthlessness, humility and prestige, documentarian and artist. These traits are necessary and rare in someone that captures such emotionally charged scenes and shares them with the world. I look forward to sharing this information with the public so that they can see the truth behind child labor, the life of an artist and the complexities that come with processing such a large and vast collection that spans a revolution in photography.

Marijane sorting through prints from Robin’s early work in Pakistan

Now that I have been in this position for 6 months, I am starting to get comfortable curating and archiving with Robin’s voice in mind. I see the choices he made and feel confident that I can respect his vision as well as his compassionate and strong voice when representing the collection. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to take a peek inside the collection of such an empathetic and talented photographer. I feel blessed that I get to hold a position that is important and valued within the university and the world alike. I hope that I am able to share Robin’s work in the way in which he intended, care for it in the way that it deserves and bring my talents of exhibiting and marketing to the  collection for students and scholars to learn from and enjoy.

I’m proud to say I will bring pieces of Robin’s work into my own as an artist. In a world that is hurting, I am honored to be able to represent a body of work that was founded by the desire to end suffering.

Thank you to the University of Connecticut Library for this opportunity and to everyone that donated to the Robin Romano Foundation to make this position possible.

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.

Charles Lewis Beach’s Legacy at UConn

Charles Lewis Beach (1866-1933), 4th President of the Connecticut Agricultural College.

Charles Lewis Beach was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1866, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1886, and came to the Connecticut Agricultural College as an instructor in Dairy Husbandry in 1896. He stayed with the college until 1904 when he then went to the University of Vermont, but returned to Storrs in 1908 to take the position of the CAC’s 4th President, a role in which he served until 1928.

Under Beach’s leadership the CAC grew and prospered. In 1908 the college had just 165 students enrolled; by 1928 there were 518 student enrolled. Beach sought to increase the number of women enrolled so in the same approximate time period the number of women students grew to 133 from 22. In 1908 there were 18 bachelor degrees granted; by 1924 that number increased to 78. Beach recognized that the growth of the college depended upon increased funding from the state, and, as Walter Stemmons wrote in his book Connecticut Agricultural College – A History, “Beach compelled a reluctant State to take pride in its college.”

Other initiatives under President Beach included an expanded curriculum that included courses in the liberal arts, a fairly radical idea for a college with such deep roots in the study of agriculture. He believed that “students graduating from the college [go] into the world equipped not only to be efficient farmers but also to be understanding individuals” as is written in his obituary.

Charles Lewis Beach Hall under construction at the Connecticut Agricultural College in Storrs, ca. 1927

Charles Lewis Beach retired from the presidency on July 31, 1928. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on September 1, 1933, and died on September 15, 1933.

Beach Hall is, of course, named in his honor. Built in 1927 for $343,000, it was originally used as an administrative building and held the library and science classrooms. An extensive renovation of the building was done in the 1970s.

You can find more information about the life of Charles Lewis Beach in this profile of him in our digital repository at Conecticut Digital Archive.

-Laura Smith

 

 

In Search of Walt Dropo

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The following is a guest blog post by Rebecca A.R. Edwards, Professor in the Department of History at Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. Edwards was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant to conduct research in Archives and Special Collections. Her research supports a book project tentatively titled Play Ball: Sport, Community, and Memory in Connecticut,” a microhistory that “utilizes local sports history to explore the formation of community identity, social capital, and public memory.”

Sometimes, historical projects get personal. I am a historian at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. I teach, among other things, the history of baseball and have a long-standing interest in sports history. I could say that my current project is a sports history, and that would be true, but it is also a family history. When I was a girl, growing up in southeastern Connecticut, my paternal grandfather, Danny Rourke, was famous. He played both semi-professional basketball and semi-professional baseball in the state, from 1935-1955. In this way, he was like so many other men in Connecticut in those years, as I have been discovering in the course of my research for a book on this lost sporting world of eastern Connecticut.

We have lost the category of “semi-professional athlete” today. These were men who played organized, competitive sports, largely without long-term professional aspirations. Their basketball was not played to lead to them to the NBA; their baseball was not a road to the MLB. It was an end in itself. Forrest C. ‘Phog’ Allen, the celebrated University of Kansas basketball coach, argued that their play was, in fact, professional. In 1937, he wrote, “The professional—paid or unpaid—plays to win at any cost. Herein lies the significant difference between amateurism and professionalism, whether it be independent or collegiate. When competition becomes a business, it becomes professional. By such interpretation professionalism is not determined by the acceptance of money. The tenor of most independent teams who play outside schedules is professional in spirit, for their stress is on winning and not on the sport for the sport’s sake.”(i) He continued, “The universally accepted definition for a professional player is one who receives compensation for athletic skill or knowledge. If we interpret ‘compensation’ to mean either fame or money or its equivalent, this definition holds.”(ii)

In this way, my work seeks to recover the hidden history of these local professionals. These independent teams that my grandfather played on no longer exist, teams like Pep’s Flashes, the Shymas, and the Danielson Elks. And yet these were teams that attracted hundreds of fans, garnered lots of local press coverage, and brought their players lasting fame. And sometimes, though comparatively rarely, they produced a professional athlete from their ranks.

My research brought me into contact with what one might call the pre-history of one of those athletes. He is pictured in the photograph, from the Norwich Bulletin of 31 March 1941, below.  He really is famous. Find him yet? He is a very young Walt Dropo, then in his senior year of high school. He is in the back row, all the way to the right. Dropo was the youngest member of Pep’s Flashes, pictured here after winning the Norwich Bulletin-Record basketball tournament.

The captain of the team was my grandfather, seated at the far left. The Sunday sports page announced the news of their victory. “Pep’s Flashes Win Bulletin-Record Tournament, 48-37; Jimmy Hoffman and Danny Rourke Are the Stars.” The game was played before a “packed house of about 450 noisy customers…making it the third night that the games were played before a capacity audience.” Pep’s led the entire way, and though the “game was never close enough to get the fans steamed up…it was bruising, tough basketball from start to finish and nobody was disappointed.” The Norwich Record praised the team, saying, “Pep’s really looked the part of champions. Their passing and their shooting was a beautiful thing to watch and were altogether too classy” for their opponents, the Doco Eagles of Norwich. Hoffman was the game’s high scorer, while Rourke played “a marvelous floor game.” They had help from ‘Boots’ Dropo, who contributed nine points.(iii)

‘Boots’ Dropo, as he was then known, would go on from Plainfield High School to attend the University of Connecticut, as probably everyone already knows. Upon Dropo’s death in 2010, Coach Dee Rowe called him “the greatest all-around athlete this school has ever seen.” Dropo played football, basketball, and baseball for the Huskies. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 9th round of the 1946 NFL draft. He was drafted in the first round of the 1947 BAA (Basketball Association of America, a pro-league pre-NBA) draft by the Providence Steamrollers. But he turned it all down to sign with the Red Sox organization in 1947.

In 1950, Walt Dropo was the American League Rookie of the Year, the first Red Sox to be named Rookie of the Year. He finished sixth in the AL MVP race. His .583 slugging percentage that year was second only to Joe DiMaggio (.585). “New England was full of Walt Dropos then,” Bill Reynolds writes, “small town kids who stole the hearts of their communities because of the way they played this New Game.”(iv) But that was still ahead of him. As late as 1946, you could have seen Walt Dropo playing basketball in a 200 seat auditorium in southeastern Connecticut with my grandfather.

By then they were both playing for the Shymas, who would also win the Norwich Bulletin-Record title. Dropo is seen here, in the semi-finals of the tournament.

The press coverage noted that Dropo and Rourke were key members of the team. “The Shyma club five of Taftville steamrolled to a 65 to 49 victory over the Windham Packards of Willimantic at the Norton Gym Saturday night to win the eighth annual Norwich Bulletin-Record basketball tournament before a capacity crowd of better than 600 fans….The Packards held the lead twice in the opening minutes of play, 2 to 0 and 4 to 2, but after that point they didn’t stand a chance as the Villagers swept down the floor time and again using the height of MacDonald and Walt Dropo and the floor work of Bill Kelly and Danny Rourke to great advantage. Besides giving a brilliant offensive exhibition throughout the contest, the Shyma put up a tight defense that the Willimantic combination had plenty of trouble cracking.”v Another account concluded that, in winning the tournament, the Shyma had demonstrated that they were “the outstanding hoop combination in eastern Connecticut during the past year.”(vi)

Dropo left for the Red Sox farm system the following year, in 1947. But he left having already played for two different championship basketball teams in Connecticut. As we remember his sports history today, we largely assume it starts with the Red Sox. His time in college sports is seen as a prelude to his professional career. My work allows me to see that he brought a champion’s play to UConn with him. He had been playing alongside semi-pro athletes since he was in high school. That was the drive he brought with him to Storrs.

The distance between the professional world of sports that Dropo would enter and the semi-professional levels of sport he was leaving behind was not very wide. Professionals were a part of their local communities then and semi-professionals were treated with much the same reverence and respect. October 14, 1950, was Walt Dropo Day in his hometown of Moosup, Connecticut. Dropo came into town with a barnstorming baseball team, the Birdie Tebbett’s All-Stars. George ‘Birdie’ Tebbett’s was a catcher with the Red Sox. Also barnstorming with Tebbett’s team that fall were Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Pesky.

They faced a home team, put together for the occasion, called the Connecticut All-Stars. Walt’s brother, Milt Dropo, himself a star athlete at the University of Connecticut, managed the All-Stars. Playing for them in right field was Danny Rourke. He was at that point playing for the New London Raiders in the Class B Colonial League, an effort to revive minor league baseball in southern New England. The original Colonial League had folded in 1915. This Colonial League was formed for the 1947 season; its last season was 1950. Walt Dropo Day was the last time that Dropo and Rourke took a field together.

Dropo’s career brought him to the MLB. Rourke’s career ended in Class B. Yet, the two men shared an athletic journey together that dated back to 1941. My grandfather is still remembered in some circles in southeastern Connecticut today, where I still sometimes meet old fans who call me “Danny Rourke’s granddaughter.” So I know sporting memories can be long. I had wondered, as I came to the Archives to search for images of Dropo’s college career, how well he was remembered on campus today. I worried a bit as the young archivist, whose name will remain unmentioned to protect the guilty, admitted that he had never heard of him until I started asking for files to be pulled. (He was brave to admit that to me and he was otherwise a perfectly nice professional, just to be clear.)

I was worried for nothing. As I settled into the Nathan Hale Hotel, I stopped at their pub for a beer, after a long day in the archives. I glanced over my head and found that I had taken a seat under Walt Dropo.

‘Boots’ Dropo. Still here, after all these years.

 

– Rebecca A.R. Edwards

 

Notes:

i  Forrest C. Allen, Better Basketball: Technique, Tactics, and Tales (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937), 7. ‘Phog’ Allen coached at Kansas from 1919-1956. He coached the Jayhawks to victory in the NCAA tourney in 1952, the same year that he coached the Olympic basketball team to a gold medal at the Helsinki games. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.
ii  Allen, 8.
iii  All coverage from “Third Annual Bulletin Record Tourney.” Undated clipping. Potts family scrapbook.
iv  Reynolds, Our Game, 7.
v  “Shymas Take Bulletin-Record Tourney With 65-49 Win,” Norwich Record (March 31, 1946), 13. From Rourke family scrapbook.
vi  “Bulletin Record Tournament Won By Shyma Club.” Undated press clipping. Rourke family scrapbook.

The Story of Richard Scarry’s Busytown with Special Guest Lecturer Huck Scarry

ScarryBusiestpeopleeverP7Busytown, the bustling small town and home to such resident characters as Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Mr. Frumble, Police Sergeant Murphy, Mr. Fixit, and Hilda Hippo, was first depicted in the book Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World.  The fictional town was a central feature in several Richard Scarry books and has been depicted through time in a variety of formats, including games, toys, activity books, and an animated series.

Richard Scarry, the popular and much-loved American author and illustrator of over 300 children’s books, is known for such classics as Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever released in 1963, Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World (1965), Richard Scarry’s Storybook Dictionary (1966), and What Do People Do All Day (1968).  Selling millions of copies during his lifetime, many Scarry books, though regularly updated and re-issused, have never been out of print.  Several have have been translated into over 20 languages.

Join us tomorrow evening, Tuesday November 10, 6:00pm for a special guest lecture Huck Scarry 2The Story of Richard Scarry’s Busytown” with Scarry’s son, Richard “Huck” Scarry II. Also an artist and author of children’s books, Huck Scarry published a new Scarry picture book for the first time in the U.S. since the elder Scarry’s death in 1994.  With Richard Scarry’s Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! Huck Scarry began a season of re-releasing Scarry’s classics to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Richard Scarry’s best-known book, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever.  The guest lecture event will take place in the Class of 1947 Room, Homer Babbidge Library, University of Connecticut in Storrs.  The lecture is free and open to the public and is presented in conjunction with the 24th Annual Connecticut Children’s Book Fair taking place at UConn on Saturday and Sunday, November 14 and 15, 2015.

Richard Scarry’s personal papers and archives, preserved and available in Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center, document the creation, production, and distribution of his books for children. The archives are part of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and contain materials and correspondence concerning Scarry’s early work, with Western Publishing and Little Golden Books, beginning in the 1950s. The bulk of the material in the archives concerns the works produced by Scarry during his later association with Random House.

NCLC and Friends Sponsor Workshop

"Crafting a Public Identity" Workshop 9/28/2012 Dodd Research Center, Storrs, CT

“Crafting a Public Identity” Workshop 9/28/2012 Dodd Research Center, Storrs, CT

“Crafting a public identity: a workshop for creative artists, writers and performers on navigating the arts business maze” will be presented at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on September 28, 2012, from 1-3:30pm in Konover Auditorium. Susan Raab, CEO of Raab Associates, will moderate a panel consisting of Charles Coe, Program Officer at the Massachusetts Cultural Council; Sharon Butler, Professor at Eastern Connecticut State University; Jeff Raab, 2012 graduate of NYU’s Steinhardt Musical Theatre Program;  Roxie Munro, author/illustrator of over 35 children’s books; and Laura Rossi Totten, a book publishing and public relations expert.

The panel will discuss the strategies, techniques and tools used to build an effective marketing presence.  Sponsored by the Aetna Chair of Writing, English Department at the University of Connecticut, The Straightors Fund, and the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection at the UConn Libraries.  Attendance is limited, so reserve now with jean.nelson@lib.uconn.edu.

“Crafting a Public Identity” Workshop 9/28/2012 Dodd Research Center, Storrs, CT