A Georgia Baptist Institution
|HISTORY OF SHORTER|
Brief History and Traditions of Shorter University
By Alice Taylor-Colbert , Class of 1977
Conceived in the mind of educator Luther Rice Gwaltney, the Cherokee Baptist Female College opened for students in 1873. As pastor of Rome Baptist Church, now First Baptist, Gwaltney encouraged the active participation of church members in the establishment of a school for young ladies.
Because of the generous contributions of Alfred and Martha Shorter, in 1877 the college was renamed Shorter College. Originally, the college was housed in Victorian structures located on Shelton Hill, near Clock Tower Hill in downtown Rome. In its early years, Shorter had three departments--primary, preparatory, and collegiate. Young women in the collegiate department studied the classics, science, music, art, and drama and established the literary magazine The Chimes as well as two societies--Eunomian (now Epsilon Sigma Sorority) and Polymnian (Pi Sigma Sorority). The strict rules and chaperones as well as the special kindnesses and affection of school officials reminded the young students that Shorter was their substitute family. That relationship was well documented in correspondence, the Iris yearbook, and scrapbooks.
By 1910 a new vision of a "Greater Shorter," and contributions from the J. L. Bass family and the J. P. Cooper family made the relocation of the school to its current site a reality. As construction symbolized a new era, President Azor Van Hoose and the trustees looked to the past for inspiration--the first Founder's Day was instituted. The young women students celebrated the opening of the new campus in dozens of ways in the 1910s, including the first May Day Festival, the writing of "Alma Mater", and the creation of the Periscope newspaper.
In 1914 a Rome businessman gave the women a shepherd's crook with which to develop a game. Although suspended for several decades in mid-century, the tradition of seniors hiding the crook for juniors to attempt to find was revived in the 1980s and continued for several years. Rarely have the juniors proven themselves superior by finding the carefully concealed crook; however, they did succeed in 1996 and again in the spring of 1998.
When not in class or consumed with studying, music practice, or club or sorority business, upper-class women of the 1910s and 20s could take the 20-minute, once-a-day trolley ride down the hill into town, provided they had permission, of course. Classes were held Tuesday through Saturday, and commencement included days of special performances, examinations, and activities in addition to the Baccalaureate service at First Baptist Church and the actual graduation ceremony. In the spirit of the era of the New Woman, several innovations occurred in the 1920s: a swimming pool was built, and swimming became a graduation requirement; and the first women were selected for the Board of Trustees. Florenz Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld's Follies fame judged the senior beauty contest for the new yearbook, the Argo. In this era, Shorter's standard of academic excellence was recognized with membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency under which Shorter remains accredited.
Through the years of the Great Depression and World War II, Shorter suffered financially as did most small, private colleges. Her strength prevailed, however, under the leadership of President Paul M. Cousins and a dedicated faculty who took cuts in salary in the periods of crisis. Membership in the Association of American Universities and the National Association of Schools of Music brought recognition of Shorter's academic excellence. WSB radio station, the first one in the South, recognized the talents of Shorter faculty and students by offering them regular, live performance slots in the 1930s. To reward excellence in student work, an Honors Day was established and two days of comprehensive exams required. In this era, language professor John Ware wrote several books and special poems commemorating his love for Shorter. After his wife, also a language professor, died, Dr. Ware lived on campus and was pampered by devoted students until his death. On the lighter side, a new Shorter tradition was established. A ghost named Mrs. Harper moved into the attic of Van Hoose. She apparently came and went as she pleased, taking up residence in Cooper and Roberts at one time or another. Sometimes she had relatives who came for extended visits.
A significant innovation in the history of the college came in the early 1950s when school administrators and trustees made the decision to recruit the first male students. The "Girl's Creed" had to be abandoned, a residence hall for men constructed, new sports teams created, fraternities initiated, and very different rules of conduct established. The changes seemed phenomenal at the time, but quick adjustments followed. Coming to Shorter in 1958 as its president for the next 24 years was Randall Minor. Under his leadership, the Georgia Baptist Convention was given control over the election of trustees; new faculty were hired, many of whom are still familiar faces on campus; a new administration building and student center, a new library, and a fine arts building were constructed; the first African-American student graduated from the college; and most Shorter men were moved from Roberts Hall on campus to the Greystone Building in downtown Rome.
Students at Shorter in the 1960s through the early 80s were more conservative than those on most college campuses in this period, but the student government's power increased, special memorial services were held after the Kennedy and King assassinations, Earth Day was observed and even streaking made a brief appearance on the hill. The Hawks teams made their debut in this era; many new organizations were started; and the Shorter Chorale proved its excellence by touring Europe for the first time. Shorter's traditions, innovations, and excellence were honored most appropriately during the 100th anniversary activities, the most important of which was the publication of On the Hill, the history of the college by religion professor Dr. Robert Gardner.
In the 1990s, Shorter continued to lead. International programs, the establishment of the School of Professional Programs in the Atlanta area, the creation of the Hugh Davis Center for Ministry Education and the offering of an MBA degree program in business represent only a few developments. Under President Larry McSwain, Shorter celebrated its 125th anniversary, dedicated the Winthrop-King Centre; converted the old gymnasium into the Fitton Student Union; and constructed the Bass apartments, the J. Robert Eubanks Welcome Center and the Robert H. Ledbetter baseball field. Declared one of " America's 100 Best College Buys," Shorter gained the national recognition it has so long deserved. Dr. Ed L. Schrader assumed leadership of the college in 2000. In 2003, U.S. News and World Report named Shorter one of the Best 25 Southern Comprehensive Colleges and one of the Top 10 Best Buys among Southern Comprehensive Colleges.
Dr. Harold E. Newman was named Shorter’s president in January 2006 after having served as provost for 20 years and as interim president for one year. Under his leadership, the college continues to receive significant recognition. During the 2009-2010 academic year, Shorter was ranked for the ninth consecutive year among the South’s best comprehensive colleges focusing on bachelor’s degrees. Shorter also was ranked for the fourth consecutive year as a "Best Southeastern College” and a “ Best Value College” by the Princeton Review; Shorter was one of 300 colleges nationwide selected for the Colleges of Distinction guidebook. Also, in the fall of 2006, Dr. Carmen Acevedo Butcher, scholar in residence and a graduate of Shorter College, was named the 2006 Georgia Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education; in 2010, longtime music professors William and Mary Ann Knight were honored with the National Teachers of the Year award from the Music Teachers National Association.
Presidents of Shorter College
1873 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luther Rice Gwaltney
| SHORTER UNIVERSITY • 315 Shorter Avenue • Rome, Georgia 30165 • Phone: 800-868-6980 • www.shorter.edu
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