Students Uncover Long-Lost Elephant Bones on Campus

This week, as Oglethorpe students were digging beds for a community garden, a student’s shovel hit what was, at first, believed to be a rock. However, upon removal and closer examination, it was revealed to be a bone. And, not just any bone, a colossal ELEPHANT bone!

Elephant-boneYes, students have found the remains of the infamous elephant of Oglethorpe legend. For those who have not heard the story, in November 1941, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was performing in Atlanta. Sadly,18 circus elephants were poisoned by what was later determined to be arsenic. An ingenious professor in the Oglethorpe medical school,  Dr. Barnard, had one of the elephants hauled to campus and placed behind Lowry Hall, where Philip Weltner Library is located, for use in his comparative anatomy class. As the animal began to decay, a hole was dug next to the body and buried. When they were finished, no one thought to document where, exactly, the beast had been buried. So, for 74 years, the animal’s bones had stayed hidden!

So, now we’ve got an elephant in the room. April Fools! While it is true that there was, in fact, an elephant dissected and buried on campus, the bones have yet to be uncovered. The elephant remains remain hidden … for now.

Einstein Makes an Appearance at Oglethorpe

photo by Travis TaylorIn celebration of the 100th anniversary of our campus, Oglethorpe University has put one of its rare treasures on display: Albert Einstein’s handwritten manuscript, “The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity,” on view through April 30, 2015 in the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art (OUMA).

The manuscript, penned in 1920, was written by Einstein by request from his colleague Robert Lawson, an English physicist. Lawson was in the process of translating Einstein’s 1917 work, “Relativity: the Special and General Theory” and asked Einstein to give him observational proof of general relativity for the 1920 English edition. The exact documents Einstein gave to Lawson are now being exhibited for a special few months, exclusively here on campus.

Thornwell Jacobs

Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, President of Oglethorpe University, 1915-1943

Oglethorpe came into possession of the documents in a unique way that spans back to its founding in 1835. Oglethorpe originally had its roots in Midway, a town near Milledgeville, Ga. Because of the Civil War, the school closed for a while. However, Thornwell Jacobs, a generous and well-educated Presbyterian minister, was determined to restore the school. He had grown up hearing stories about Oglethorpe from his grandfather, Ferdinand Jacobs, who had been a faculty member there, and it became his dream to someday reopen the school. A skilled fundraiser, Thornwell Jacobs raised enough money and interest to organize a Board of Trustees for the college by 1912. With land donated by the Silver Lake Park Company and the help of Atlanta architectural firm of Morgan Dillon and Downing, Oglethorpe University at last reopened in 1915 and welcomed 45 students in 1916. Serving as president of the university through 1943, Jacobs accomplished many things, including launching the Crypt of Civilization and establishing a medical school. Jacobs was a true Renaissance man with a talent for writing that led him to found and publish The Westminster Magazine. He will always be remembered for his detailed letters and amazing ability to positively influence others.

As for the Einstein manuscript, it was given to Oglethorpe University by alumna Nellie Jane Gaertner ’34 in 1982. She was the daughter of Herman Julius Gaertner, one of the first faculty members appointed when Jacobs re-opened Oglethorpe at its current Atlanta location in 1915. The manuscript had been retained by Lawson for some years before it was acquired by Herman Julius Gaertner, a professor of German and Mathematics. Oglethorpe is lucky to posses the manuscript as most of Einstein’s work now resides at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

Jordan Michaels_Holly Bostick_John Tilford

Students Jordan K. Michels and Holly Bostick examine the manuscript with OUMA Collections Manager John Tilford.

OUMA Collections Manager John Tilford helped to illustrate the historical context of the manuscript’s creation, as well as the history of Einstein’s expansive archive. He relied on a number of rarely-seen images of Einstein and his colleagues, including personal secretary Helen Dukas and Professor Otto Nathan, both co-trustees of Einstein’s literary estate. According to John, Helen Dukas preserved Einstein’s papers for decades before they were given to Hebrew University after her death, and for this, scholars and historians owe her an enormous debt.

“Staff and faculty of Division III (Natural Sciences), OUMA, and the Philip Weltner Library, with the enthusiastic input and support of OU students, came together seamlessly to present the manuscript and a rich program of lectures, films, and other events,” says Elizabeth Peterson, director of OUMA. “We are grateful for a Georgia Humanities Council grant which supports these activities and thrilled to again be part of the Atlanta Science Festival.”

The Einstein exhibition has generated robust student involvement with interest from scholars of all disciplines and departments. Students from a variety of majors including physics, theatre, English, and philosophy came together to participate in a group reading of Einstein’s Dreams. Additionally, Oglethorpe University senior and physics major Antonio Mántica leads “A Tour through Time”, during the week of the Atlanta Science Festival. His presentation will explain the historical and current understandings of how time functions and how we can use that knowledge to inform our experience of it. Other events include three film screenings and discussions about Einstein-related movies, and an evening of astronomy with Fernbank Science Center astronomer April Whitt.

“The manuscript should be viewed in person to truly appreciate its uniqueness as each word, diagram and calculation, including a few corrections, were all penned by Einstein’s own hand,” says Tilford. “Anyone can read the transcribed text in print and digital formats but the power of the handwritten documents must be witnessed first hand.”

Ariana Feiner is a writer and a student at Oglethorpe University. She enjoys art history and recently published her first children’s book, Ariana Rose: A Story of Courage.
This online story was adapted from an assignment for her journalism class.

The Refounding of Oglethorpe University

Thornwell Jacobs, the future president of Oglethorpe, pictured in an undated photo given to the university archives by his granddaughter, Ms. Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Thornwell Jacobs, the future president of Oglethorpe, pictured in an undated photo given to the university archives by his granddaughter, Ms. Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

By Thornwell Jacobs, President of Oglethorpe University (1915-1943)
March 1927

In all the history of American educational institutions there has never been written a more charming chapter, interwoven with real romance and moral beauty, than the story of the birth and death of Old Oglethorpe University.

And rarely has there been in America a finer illustration of the immortality of high ideals than is exhibited in her resurrection from the gray ashes of fratricidal strife to her present position of honor and power among her sisters. She is perhaps unique among standard institutions of learning in that she alone, having died for her ideals, has also been raised from the dead. For today, on Peachtree Road, she is rapidly arising as one of the most beautiful universities in the whole world.  …

My personal interest in this tragic romance originated in the stories told me when I was a little boy by my grandfather who used to visit his son in a little village of South Carolina and tell us, among his grandfather’s tales of the days when he was a professor at this old school in Milledgeville. I remember I used to say to myself, “When I am grown up and ready for college, I am going to Oglethorpe.” But his reply was, “No, my boy, you will never stand on the Oglethorpe campus.”

 As a matter of personal history, I finished my University work at Princeton. …During those wonderful three years at Princeton I heard the mention from the far West talking about Leland Stanford; the men from Illinois praising the new University of Chicago; the men of New England telling of Harvard and Yale, and before my own eyes were rising the exquisitely beautiful buildings of the new Princeton. During all that time, I knew in my heart that there was not in the Southern states a single university whose architecture and construction could be compared with the best of Eastern and Western institutions. All this seemed to me strange because the South, more than any other section of America, is the home of beauty and ideals, of romance and courage. So I made up my mind that if the time ever came I would be true to the great University with its dreams and its deeds. …

So it came to pass that without invitation save from within, and without authorization save from above on September 13, 1909, we came to Atlanta to refound Oglethorpe University. For there was practically no choice in the matter of location. Oglethorpe had been founded originally in the capitol of Georgia, and when later the capitol was moved from Milledgeville to Atlanta there had been an attempt to reopen the University on the site of the old Girl’s High School on Washington Street, where it had lasted for a couple of years until the disorders of reconstruction days rendered further efforts futile. Since that day the little city had grown into a great metropolis and had become the intellectual, artistic, and commercial capitol of the Southeast. Thus did she who was founded by invisible, intangible, and inaudible powers draw another spiritual adventurer to her borders.  …

[The story of Oglethorpe] is the story of the immortality of the ideal which is an illustration of the way in which the beautiful thing persists to influence the lives of men, for here, in the city whose name Oglethorpe never heard and of whom Lanier knew little is being gathered the most precious heritage of all Georgia—the legacies left by her two best citizens, James Oglethorpe, her founder, and Sidney Lanier, her poet. For they are centering on their campus three great traditions. One is that inimitable excellence of statecraft and philanthropy exhibited by James Edward Oglethorpe, cleanser of the prisons of England and founder of the commonwealth of Georgia. The second is the tradition that clusters around the incomparable Lanier, first of that sweet chorus of Southern singers whose word-music breathes the same principle of magnanimity and generosity and love. From Oglethorpe they draw the inspiration of humanitarianism and wisdom in politics and government. From Lanier they win their ideals of literature and art. For this Oglethorpe boy, one among the Southern-born, has won his right to sit down with the nine immortals of American Literature: Bryant, Longfellow, Emerson, Lowell, Whittier, Holmes, Whitman, Poe, and Lanier. His diploma hangs over the desk of the President and his spirit hovers over the campus of his Alma Mater. The third is the spirit of the university itself into which is gathered all the love of the invisible., intangible, and inaudible greatness of the past and the splendid generosity of spirit, the elegance of soul, and the purity of sentiment of her Lanier and Oglethorpe and to this is added the utter abandon of love of new worlds of science and discovery which is the perpetual gift of God to each generation, and all the solid conviction of the essential sinfulness of veneer and sham or anything short of the absolute truth which is so well expressed in her architecture and construction and management.

Two men were standing in the Great Hall of the Administration Building of Oglethorpe University. They had been looking at the beautifully carved oak room, the heavy, quartered oak furniture, the leaded glass-work, the sturdy tiling, the attractive lighting system, and the beautiful lime-stone fireplace with the inscription carved on it,

 “Square round and let us closer be,
 We’ll warm our wintry spirit;
 The good we each in other see
 The more that we sit near it.” 

The visitor turned to the president of the institution and remarked: “Doctor you have spent enough extra money on this great hall alone to educate one hundred men! Why have you done it?”

“Because we plan to educate one hundred thousand men with it,” replied the President.

This is the keynote of Oglethorpe University. The purpose of the founders of the institution is to build a school which will express all the fine qualities of a great human soul in its architecture, equipment and appointments.

Adapted by J. Todd Bennett

Oglethorpe Day 2014 Welcomes Arthur Blank & Freddie the Atlanta Falcon

Oglethorpe Day, one of the university’s most cherished annual traditions, honors our namesake, James Edward Oglethorpe. Usually held in February, Oglethorpe Day commemorates the anniversary of General Oglethorpe’s arrival in the new world in Savannah, Ga. In 2014, the scheduled Oglethorpe Day was snowed out, so the festivities were rescheduled for a bright and sunny day, April 2. (Not so bad, as it turned out!)

Each year, the celebration kicks off with the Petrels of Fire race—Oglethorpe students race around the quad in hopes of making a full lap before the carillon bells’ twelfth and final chime. Feel the thrill of this year’s race:

Then the crowds process down to the Conant Performing Arts Center to hear from a special guest speaker. This year, we welcomed Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons. President Larry Schall’s conversation with Mr. Blank touched on business, family, philanthropy—and football, of course.

So, although Oglethorpe Day was a few months late, it was certainly no less exciting—just take a look at the photos below, including Petey’s special guest, Freddie, the Atlanta Falcons’ mascot:

Omicron Delta Kappa Recognizes Scholarship & Leadership

ODK Large LogoOmicron Delta Kappa is a national leadership honor society that recognizes, what I would like to call the “crème de la crème” of Oglethorpe students, faculty, staff, and honoris causa members. ODK was founded on December 3, 1914 at Washington and Lee University in Lexington,Va. and has been expanding ever since.

Membership in the society is an honor awarded to students of junior and senior status who place in the top 35% of their class. In addition to exceptional scholarship, potential members must be a leader in at least one of the five main phases of college life: athletics, campus or community service, scholarship, social and religious activities and campus government; journalism, speech, and the mass media, and creative and performing arts.

Brittney Blalock '14, ODK President

Brittney Blalock ’14, ODK President

Last December, multiple new members were initiated during the annual Boar’s Head Ceremony, including: Tirzah Brown ’14, Kirsten Glaeser ’14, Kendall Burke ’13, Krista Gray ’14, Jeet Budha Magar ’13, Marisa Manuel ’13, Justin Munson ’14, Corey Ray ’14, Caitlyn Mitchell ’13, Lindsey Mitchell ’13, Kate Siess ’14, alumnus Eli Arnold ’06, board members Arnie Sidman and Jim Hagalow, faculty member Dr. Mario Chandler, and staff member Katie Paden.

Each year, O∆K sponsors five main events: Geek Week, a plant fundraiser, the Boar’s Head Ceremony, a leadership workshop, and the Last Lecture. For those of you who are Oglethorpe veterans, you are very familiar with these O∆K traditions. For those of you who aren’t, just give it some time. You will see the flyers soon enough.

Ali Hadd_s

Alexandria Ree Hadd ’13, pictured with President Schall at the 2013 Commencement, was among only 20 students nationwide who were awarded a 2013 O∆K Foundation Scholarship. From Fort Myers, Fla., Ali double majored in Psychology and Mathematics. She was active on campus, serving as an R.A. and active in O∆K, APO and Psi Chi. Ali is now pursuing her Ph.D. in Quantitative Psychology at Vanderbilt University.

As O∆K’s newly elected president, I am looking forward to the Boar’s Head Ceremony the most. Between my love for the Christmas season and O∆K itself, the ceremony has proven to be one of my favorite experiences at OU. Last but not least, be sure to mark your calendars! The annual plant fundraiser will be held in the new Turner Lynch Campus Center on Tuesday, September 3 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Please be sure to stop by and support O∆K.

If you are a junior or senior and believe that you have what it takes to be a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, applications are now available. I encourage everyone to apply! If you are interested in O∆K and would like more information, you may contact me, Kendra Hunter, or Dr. John Nardo. O∆K is not only an honor but a wonderful opportunity that will allow you to advance your leadership abilities in ways that you would never imagine.

Applications are due by September 13, 2013.