This week I gave the Digital Archive a break and ventured into the Special Collections room for the first time, to take a look at the faculty files. At UMW, the faculty files include different things for different professors, depending on how significant a role they played in shaping the school, their tenure here, and the body of work published by or about them during their time here.

Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 10, 1954, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Before I began looking at specific faculty members’ files, I decided to take a look at some of the minutes from faculty meetings  to get an overarching sense of the direction the school was taking in the mid-1950s. I looked at the final meeting of the 1953-1954 academic year, to see how the faculty prepared for the longest break of the year and the completion of another academic year. The minutes, dated May 10, 1954, provide a glimpse into the changes that were overtaking the school at the time. At that faculty meeting, a new committee was created (the Faculty General Co-Operative Committee), and a new, verbosely titled “Constitution of the Inter-Institutional Faculty Committee of State Supported Institutions of Higher learning of the Commonwealth of Virginia” was proposed, voted on, and adopted.1 Within the minutes from the faculty meeting were some fascinating insights into daily life at Mary Washington, circa 1953. For instance, six girls’ names were proposed for nomination for the Kiwansis Award; student Elizabeth Mason was chosen to receive the honor at Class Day, and the information on the unsuccessful nominees was to be destroyed. The faculty had to move to approve the graduation of the candidates eligible to receive their degrees at that May’s convocation, “subject to certification by the Registrar.” 2 Most fascinating to me was the last entry in the meeting minutes, largely because of their mundanity: “Dr. Alvey wished a happy summer to all, and adjourned the meeting.” 3

In order to figure out whose files exactly I wanted to explore, I began by looking at the Faculty Roster.4 The Roster was organized not by department, as I expected, but by Administrative Staff and then, simply, everyone else, alphabetically. In order to simplify, I decided to focus on faculty in the History Department. I decided to focus on Dr. Oscar Darter, Head of the History and Social Science Department, and his colleague Almont Lindsey. Once I decided who to focus on, I switched over to the faculty files themselves.

Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 10, 1954, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Dr. Darter’s faculty file featured a brief biography of the man and his contributions to the school and to college-level academia on the whole.5 Darter headed the History and Social Science department for twenty-nine years, during which time he also co-sponsored numerous history, faculty, and student interest clubs on campus, taught fifteen hours per week at Mary Washington and numerous extension classes in addition, and authored a variety of works on the history of Fredericksburg. The “Personal Notes” summary of Dr. Darter was an interesting display in contrasts: while the majority of the piece focused on Dr. Darter’s professional career, his contributions to the school, and his tenure more generally, there were two very notable breaks from that professionally-focused summary. The first came in the middle of the summary, surrounded by the typical discussions of his good works, and read simply: “Member of the Masonic Lodge, a Democrat and a Baptist. Taught the College Sunday School Class at the Baptist Church for many years.”6 While Darter’s involvement in the College Sunday School Class linked those facts to the history of the school as a whole, the information on Dr. Darter’s political and religious views seemed out of place and surprising. Even more surprising was the yet more blatant break from professional objectivity, with the closing remark that Dr. Darter was “still going strong; never wears a hat nor an overcoat unless the temperature drops to near zero (has not had a cold in thirty years); takes Marye’s Height like a youngster of sixteen summers.”7 The remainder of Dr. Darter’s file consisted of his writings, including “Colonial Fredericksburg, VA: Its Impact on American History” and a tract regarding iron’s role in Fredericksburg’s history.

Dr. Almont Lindsey’s file provided an intriguing contrast to that of his employer and coprofessor Dr. Darter. Perhaps because of his shorter tenure or less notable position within Mary Washington, or perhaps due to clerical error or administrative oversight, Dr. Lindsey’s file did not contain a file containing “Personal Notes” summarizing the life and collected works of Dr. Lindsey. What his file did contain, however, was fascinating in a different way: a collection of summaries, editorials, and reactions to Lindsey’s controversial political works, including Socialized Medicine in England and Wales and his article “A Review of the British Health Service,” both of which portrayed socialized medicine as a more positive endeavor than it was portrayed in the media at the time; indeed, Free Lance-Star journalist William Lakeman noted that Lindsey argued the beneficial aspects of the British healthcare system and bemoaned its vilification at the hands of American media.8 Although much of Lindsey’s collected body of files is from outside the 1950s, he was a significant figure at Mary Washington throughout the 1950s, and his blatant politicization of his beliefs is thus germane and a fascinating look at contemporary boundaries.9

  1. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 10, 1954, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  2. Faculty Minutes.
  3. Faculty Minutes.
  4. Roster of Faculty and Department Staff, 1955-56, of the Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  5. Personal Notes, 1, Faculty File of Dr. Oscar H. Darter, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  6. Personal Notes 1.
  7. Personal Notes 2.
  8. William Lakeman, “Lindsey Book is Due Amidst Medicine Debate,” The Free Lance-Star, May 23, 1962, 19.
  9. Faculty File, Dr. Almont Lindsey, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.