Fayerweather Dedication Speech

Martha Hess, '62, Maryville College Registrar

In the spring of 1965 Dr. Carolyn Blair, beloved professor emerita of Maryville College, was teaching Victorian Literature in old Anderson 316 – the back corner room that looked out over Baldwin and Pearsons Halls, the little Bookstore/Post Office, Thaw Hall in the distance, and Fayerweather Hall.

It was a warm day in early spring and Dr. Blair was leading the class in a discussion of a selection from John Ruskin’s book, "The Seven Lamps of Architecture." The class was moving somewhat slowly, until Dr. Blair read the following lines: "The greatest glory of a building is not in its stones nor in its gold. Its glory (value) is in its age." And a lazy voice from the front row said: "Oh, Dr. Blair, I don’t see any value in old bricks and old mortar." The class took on life and a lively discussion followed.

This last week I have been thinking about a question that Dr. Blair asked during that class hour. " In 50 years what will you remember about the old buildings on the Maryville College Campus?" As she asked the question I looked out of the window next to my desk … it framed Fayerweather Hall.

Now it is 36 years later (not quite 50). Although I remember a 67-year-old, three-story building of bricks and mortar, the eyes of my memory move inside quickly. I see Dr. Randolph Shields standing in the hall … boots on … hat in hand … hoping that a student will stop and ask: "Dr. Shields do you suppose the Yellow Trillium or the Ragwort are beginning to come up in the woods?" And before the question is finished Dr. Shields is leading a procession to the College woods to look for anything that is "becoming …"

Down the hall Mr. Howell and Dr. Griffitts are preparing for the afternoon chemistry labs … a ritual they have performed for a combined total of 83 years. The warm day reminds Dr. Griffitts that Spring Break is approaching. For many years he toured with the Concert Choir where he told the Maryville College story to audiences of prospective students, parents, and friends. A newcomer in the Chemistry Department is Dr. David Young who will become Chair of the Department in 1968. He has the heart of a poet and the soul of a philosopher … and he dreams of interdisciplinary courses and experiments in ecology.

Upstairs, Mack Tolar, who is in the twilight of his career, watches a group of students struggle with a difficult problem in differential equations. And next door, a young Bill Dent … just beginning his career … teaches Calculus. He is quiet, steady, thoughtful – characteristics that will serve him well during a 38-year career which will include the Chairmanship of the Division of Math and Computer Science and a two-year term as Chair of the Faculty. John Nichols is a senior in the Spring of ’65 and is beginning to consider a career in college teaching.

The third floor is strangely quiet. Gertrude Meiselwitz died a few months earlier and the college is now beginning the painful process of phasing out the major in Home Economics. During a 39-year career Miss Meiselwitz taught clothing, dietetics, and a non-credit Bachelor’s course as she worked tirelessly to build a strong major. The lights are off and the door is closed on the College Tea Room where home economics majors gained practical experience preparing and serving meals to faculty and visitors. Joan Jenkins who will be the last home economics major to graduate from Maryville College and a handful of other young women are working on degree plans with Florence Harter.

The old walls and worn stairs of Fayerweather are filled with the prayers of a generation of faculty who served in the early years of the 20th Century. Professor Edgar Roy Walker taught math in the Preparatory School and Physics in the College for 46 years. He began the landscaping of the Campus and with a few students constructed the fish pond. (I’m sure several of you gentlemen took a dip in the fish pond on the day you proposed to that special girl.) Susan Allen Green Black, Professor of Biology & Chair of the Division of Science, paved the way for women in the sciences during a 44-year career which began in 1906. The College conferred on Miss Green the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1930. On that occasion Dr. Samuel Tyndale Wilson said: "For the first time, but not for the last time, in the history of Maryville College, a Doctor’s degree has been conferred upon a woman, and a queenly woman at that!"

Perhaps the most notable character among the faculty from those early years was Dr. George (Daddy) Knapp who taught Math, Physics and Astronomy for 24 years before retiring in 1938. He was an exceptional teacher but perhaps was best known for his wit, practical jokes and contributions to Campus life. He surveyed and leveled the first good baseball field on Campus, helped to organize Alpha Gamma Sigma and supervised The Chilhowean.

All of these professors along with such well-known names as Dr. Augustus Sisk, Dr. Lyle Williams, Bonnie Hudson Brown and Dr. Robert Ramger stand as examples of the many dedicated teachers who gave value to Fayerweather Science Hall for 70 years.

In the spring of 1965 there is an air of great anticipation yet a feeling of uncertainty in Fayerweather. The plan for a new science building is no longer just a dream. Construction will begin in two years. But students wonder: "What will happen to old Fayerweather?" By the end of the decade a bold sign on the front of the building answers the question: Campus Center and Bookstore.

And for the next 30 years Fayerweather was the center of campus life for students. It provided office space for Student Development, Housing, Career Services, Multicultural Affairs, Counseling, Continuing Education, The Chilhowean and the Echo. The Bookstore, the snack bar and eventually the Post Office occupied the first floor. In the late 1970’s Sharon Crane, Student Activities Director, renamed the snack bar Isaac’s in memory of the College’s founder. Over the years other dedicated staff members such as Jane Richardson and Dr. Sue Wyatt, Jean Jones, Dr. Jo Wood and Marlene Hodge, Julie Rop and Beth Stewart, Mrs. Buchanon and Mrs. Delaney provided creative and efficient leadership in the area of student life.

On June 11, I spent my last full day in Anderson Hall in the old office that housed the academic records of the College for 131 years. Before I locked the door for the last time that afternoon, I wrote a letter to Dr. Carolyn Blair and Dr. Viola Lightfoot sharing my memories of 27 years in Anderson and my hope that the heritage of old Fayerweather would be preserved in the life of this new building.

I received the following reply from Dr. Blair: "(Your letter) catches the spirit of another turning point in Maryville’s history. After over 130 years in Anderson the heart of the College shifts to a new/old building whose history will establish it as a symbol of the constant blending of the old with the new."

The value of old Fayerweather was not in the bricks and mortar which the fire destroyed but in the hearts of the faculty, staff and students who lived and worked there and now march in spirit with those who live and work in new/old Fayerweather … the symbol of where we have been and where we are going.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.