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

OU Museum of Art Now Exhibiting “Jiki to Hanga: Japanese Porcelain and Prints”

The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is now exhibiting “Jiki to Hanga: Japanese Porcelain and Prints,” featuring 49 color woodcuts and more than 30 porcelain and earthenware objects. Twenty-eight woodcuts are by shin-hanga style master printmaker Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950). The exhibition runs through Sunday, August 25, 2013.

The Yoshida prints and several others are on loan, courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. Terry Taylor. The Japanese porcelain and earthenware displayed include 18th century Kakeimon ware and 19th century Imari vessels and other Japanese ephemera. These objects are part of a generous gift from Ms. Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson, the granddaughter of esteemed former Oglethorpe University President Thornwell Jacobs.

Several objects from OUMA’s permanent collection are also on view, including a 14th century Amitabha Buddha of the Kamakura period and Utagawa Hiroshige prints given in memory of Dr. Ronald Carlisle, beloved OU professor. Haiku, bi-lingual essays and calligraphy by the children of Seigakuin Atlanta International School are exhibited in the center gallery.

Hiroshi Yoshida, Sending Boats, detail

“Jiki to Hanga is inspired by regional collectors who have a keen interest in supporting Oglethorpe University and arts and culture in the Atlanta metro area,” said Elizabeth Peterson, director of OU Museum of Art. “Furthermore, Oglethorpe offers a thriving Japanese program, has a growing international student population, and has a historical connection to Seigakuin Atlanta International School, which once resided on campus. This exhibition is timely, relevant and exciting.”

 

Mark your calendar for the lecture series scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition:

Wednesday, June 12, 7 p.m. “Ikebana – Blending Traditional and Modern Forms,” by Ms. Elaine Jo, Ichiyo Ikebana of Atlanta. A lecture and demonstration regarding the art of Ikebana.

Wednesday, June 19, 7 p.m. “The History of Collecting Japanese Art in Western Culture,” by Mr. John Daniel Tilford, Collections Manager, OU Museum of Art. A chronological study of Western collectors of Japanese art beginning in the mid 19th century.

Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m. “The Genius of Hiroshi Yoshida,” by Dr. Robert Steen, Oglethorpe University Professor of Japanese Language and Literature. A lecture regarding Yoshida’s life, work, travel, and the interplay of language, culture and landscape imagery.

Wednesday, July 10, 7 p.m. “US/Japan Joint Educational Endeavor in Atlanta – Raising Global Citizens Who Are Peacemakers,” by Ms. Minako Oki Ahearn, Principal of the Seigakuin Atlanta International School. A lecture about the education of Japanese American children in Georgia.

Wednesday, July 17, 7 p.m. “History and Methods of Color Woodcut,” by Ms. Elizabeth Peterson, Director, OU Museum of Art. A lecture exploring the European and Asian origin of color woodcut and the techniques and process of printing in this traditional media.

Wednesday, July 24, 7 p.m. “Shibumi: Elegant Simplicity in Japanese Clay,” by Mr. Roderick A. Hardy, Owner, Hardy & Halpern Appraisers. A lecture regarding the Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson Collection of Japanese porcelain.

The exhibition is supported by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, the Japan Foundation (New York), and the Georgia Council for the Arts. OUMA is open Tuesday-Sunday. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. More information: museum.oglethorpe.edu.

 

Day of Service Celebrates Extraordinary Alumnus Fred Agel ’52

Mr. Fred Agel '52 (center) is surrounded by Day of Service volunteers, gathered in his honor.

Chances are that you’ve met Fred Agel ’52, a devoted alumnus, loving family member, and incredibly generous personhe is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and the Board of Trustees, and you can often find him volunteering his free time in the library archives.  November 19th was a special day for Fred, who celebrated his 85th birthday with friends, family… and a big surprise.  To honor Fred and show how much they love and appreciate him, his entire family planned a Day of Service volunteer event with the OU community at Books for Africa.

“I hoped that we could find a way to work through OU since it has been, and continues to be, such an important part of my father’s life,”  said Laurie Agel Amerson, Fred’s daughter. “I believe that my entire family has watched my father’s community service, and each and every one of us finds a way to be involved in our communities. He taught by example the importance of giving back, and three generations later, he is still teaching.”

The volunteer event on February 16th brought together more than 40 students, alumni, Center for Civic Engagement staff, and friends of Mr. Agel. Members of the newly established Thornwell Jacobs Society were especially excited to join in, as the project not only highlighted their goals of integrity, initiative, and perseverance, but took place during Thornwell Jacobs’ birthday weekend.

“Celebrating Fred Agel is celebrating Oglethorpe,” said Ruwa Romman ’15, historian of the Jacobs Society. President Antonio Mantica ’15 said with a smile that, if Fred were a sophomore, he would be a prime candidate for membership in the Society. 

In addition to the Day of Service, several departments have sent Fred thank you cards, and the baseball team (of which Fred is a former member) has given Fred a baseball, signed with all of the players’ names.

“This is a great way to celebrate his legacy,” said Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, who helped plan the event. “It’s exciting to see family, alumni, and students working together in his honor.”

“The day was a huge success,” added Laurie.  “My dad spent a lot of time just looking at everybody working and sorting books with a big smile on his face.  The most wonderful thing for me was seeing all four generations of my family working side-by-side with OU students.”

If you would like to participate in future service projects, contact Heather Staniszewski.

New Sophomore Tradition Celebrates the Legacy of Thornwell Jacobs

In early October, the Oglethorpe sophomore class gathered for the inaugural Thornwell Jacobs Legacy Celebration, a new annual tradition for the sophomore class. The event celebrated Thornwell Jacobs, Oglethorpe President from 1915-1943, who fulfilled a lifelong dream of restoring Oglethorpe to its present location on Peachtree Road in Atlanta.

Sophomore students gathered to learn interesting history and facts about President Jacobs and his mission from award-winning author and historian Dr. Paul Hudson ’72 . Later over dinner in the Great Hall of Hearst, students heard from Sophomore Class President Kurt Reynolds, Alumni Association Vice President Austin Gillis ’01, and Georgia State Representative Dar’Shun Kendrick ’04, an Alumni Association Board member who spoke about her OU experience and how it helped to shape her career and future.

Remembering FDR’s Commencement Speech at Oglethorpe

Backstage at the Fox Theatre, Judge Edgar Watkins adjusts Governor Roosevelt's doctoral hood. Dr. Thornwell Jacobs stands to the far left.

On May 22, 1932, then New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt received a Doctor of Laws honorary degree from Oglethorpe University at the commencement ceremony held at the Fox Theatre. He gave a rousing speech about the state of the nation—and that speech went on to become  historically significant as the beginning of the future President’s New Deal plan.

“The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!”

Thornwell Jacobs, the President of Oglethorpe at the time, chose to award Roosevelt with the honorary degree “in recognition of his high achievements in statesmanship, economics, and philanthropy.”  (New York Times, March 28, 1931.)

FDR had deep connections to Georgia. He often visited the state for treatment of his paralytic illness. His personal retreat, Little White House, was built on his 1,750-acre farm at the top of Pine Mountain. The farm is now part of Georgia’s biggest state park that was named after him.

Our own President Schall also reflected on this speech in his personal blog.

President Roosevelt’s words withstand the test of time—and his entire Oglethorpe commencement speech is well worth the read!