Reorganizing the GMU Oral History Program Collection

This post was written by Emily Curley, our Oral History Program Coordinator.

The George Mason University Oral History Program has conducted over 200 interviews since 1999. Because we’re always adding to the collection, it’s time to reorganize the physical collection and the finding aid.

Oral History Collection, #R0122, in our closed stacks.

What we’ve done so far:

We’ve reorganized the physical collection. This included moving CD’s of oral history interviews into new boxes and arranging the individual interviews by date, rather than alphabetically. The collection increased from nine to eleven boxes and range from the late 1970’s to 2017. These histories cover a wide variety of topics including the history of George Mason University and Northern Virginia.

Our Next Steps:

  • Comparing the finding aid to the physical collection
  • Revising long abstracts and creating missing abstracts
  • Creating a new finding aid
  • Creating workflow for periodic updates of the Oral History finding aid

We will compare the finding aid to the physical collection and fill in any missing interviews. The finding aid was last updated in 2013, so there are over 50 oral histories that need to be added. After we have confirmed that all of the interviews are updated, we will check the finding aid once again and revise some of the abstracts. Some abstracts have too much information while others have too little. Our aim is to be as consistent as possible.

A box with an oral history pulled out to show what information goes on the labels.

After confirming that the abstracts are correct, I will be working with the Archives and Manuscript Librarian, Liz Beckman, to create a new finding aid, which is expected to go on our website sometime this summer.

Finally, I will create a guide for the next oral historian (who will start in September) so that they can periodically add new interviews and keep the finding aid up to date.

Links

GMU Oral History Program

Youtube

Finding Aid

Other Oral History Holdings

OMEKA Site

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections. Additionally, requests can be made to listen to oral histories in our Reading Room. Copies can also be made for a fee, which are listed on our website. Some oral histories may need to be converted to disk before they are available to patrons. For questions about oral histories, contact Emily Curley. To schedule an appointment or to request copies of an oral history, contact our Research Services Coordinator, Rebecca Bramlett.

George Mason University Mentioned in the Film Hidden Figures

When was the last time you heard George Mason University mentioned in a major motion picture? For this author, never. But in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, George Mason University found its way into the script during a memorable part of the film.  The reference to Mason was made by Janelle Monae in her portrayal of Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer and one of three African-American women who played key roles in the early development of the United States’ space program.

Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson in “Hidden Figures” Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Screenshot from video clip accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aiWlZJ6Pfg on 8 Mar 2016.

During the scene Mary Jackson is standing before a judge in a Hampton, Virginia courtroom to ask permission to attend night school classes in graduate-level math and physics sponsored by the University of Virginia and held in the then-whites-only Hampton High School.  When the judge informs her that segregation is the law in Virginia, and that an African American woman attending a white school is unheard of, Jackson pleads with him:

“Your Honor, you of all people should understand the importance of being first…You were the first in your family to serve in the  armed forces. U.S. Navy. The first to attend university.  George Mason… Your Honor, of all the cases you will hear today, which one will matter in a hundred years? Which one will you make the first?”

While the scene in the movie takes place sometime in 1961, as a later reference in the scene to Alan B. Shepard implies, we know that Mary Jackson actually attended the classes several years earlier and completed the program in 1958. A 1961 reference to George Mason University would have been a bit premature.  Mason was known as George Mason College (it became George Mason University in April of 1972), was a two-year community college, and had only been in operation for four years by 1961. So, it is highly unlikely that this jurist would have just finished his work at George Mason and became a high-ranking judge.

Nevertheless, it was gratifying to see that the writers of the film chose George Mason as the institution for the judge to have attended. This might spur some interesting reference inquiries in the future!

Before a Mason Team Made it to the Final Four, We Made it to the Final Two. And Won!

George Mason University Soccer team members (left to right) Sis Koskinen, Pam Baughman, and Meg Romaine lift the NCAA Division I National Championship trophy. Mason Magazine, George Mason University Archives, University Publications, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

George Mason University Women’s Soccer team members (left to right) Sis Koskinen, Pam Baughman, and Meg Romaine lift the NCAA Division I National Championship trophy. Image is from Mason Magazine. George Mason University Archives, University Publications, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

While many college sports fans are familiar with the George Mason University Men’s Basketball team’s run to the Final Four in 2006, not as many know about the Mason Women’s Soccer team’s National Championship title of 21 years earlier. The author of this post recalls reading about this achievement in the student newspaper, then called Broadside, while an 18-year-old freshman at Mason back in 1985. With the A-10 Conference Championship Tournament beginning this Thursday, November 3, it is as good a time as any to take a look back at what happened 31 years ago this month.

In November of 1985, the George Mason University Women’s Soccer team captured the highest prize in collegiate athletics, the Division I National Championship. After a 15-2-1 season, the Patriots earned a spot in the NCAA tournament.  The tournament began with a first-round thriller against William and Mary, where Mason scored two goals in the final 13 minutes to tie and send the match into overtime. Mason would eventually win in a penalty kick shootout after two overtime periods. Next, after a 1-0 win over Cortland State, Mason faced off against nationally number-one-ranked University of Massachusetts, who had gone into the tournament undefeated. Mason beat UMass 3-0, scoring more goals than had been scored against them during the entire season.  All that remained for Mason was to defeat then 4-time National Champion, North Carolina. Carolina had beaten Mason 4-0 in an NCAA semifinal match in 1983.

1985 George Mason University Women's Soccer team. From 1986 yearbook By George, George Mason University Archives, University Publications, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

1985 George Mason University Women’s Soccer team. From the 1986 yearbook, By George. George Mason University Archives, University Publications, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Mason had drawn home field for the Final on November 24th.  Before a partisan crowd of 4,500 and an ESPN television audience of millions, Mason scored first at 3o minutes on an 18-yarder from All-American Pam Bauman. The Patriots held the Tarheels scoreless for the rest of the game, while All-American Lisa Gmitter scored for Mason in the 86th minute to seal the 2-0 victory. The win, against a team that had a record of 99 wins and 4 losses during the previous 4 years, was indeed the first shot heard round the world for Mason athletics.

Let’s do it again, Patriots.

Mason Inaugurations through the Years

This past Friday, April 26 2013 marked the inauguration of Mason’s sixth president, Dr. Ángel  Cabrera. The event was a ninety-minute celebration of both old and new, both tradition and innovation.  Beginning with a staid traditional  procession accompanied by an orchestra and choir, the ceremony ended with a rousing recessional by the Mason pep band, the Green Machine and their leader Dr. Michael “Doc Nix” Nickens.  The program featured speeches by Virginia Secretary of Education, Laura Fornash;  James T. “Til” Hazel accompanied by other Mason Founding Fathers; and AOL founder Steve Case.  Dr. Cabrera, in full academic regalia, was invested by Rector of the Board of Visitors, Daniel Clemente. Vintage video footage and photographs of the university’s past were juxtaposed with modern videos promoting the Mason IDEA and a spoken word performance by Mason student Sha’air Hawkins.  Dr Cabrera emerged later in a jacket and an open collared shirt with no tie to give his inaugural speech before leading the inaugural party from the stage to the Green Machine’s rendition of Battle Without Honor or Humanity.

George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera speaks at the Installation Ceremony during his Inauguration at Patriot Center, April 26, 2013. Photo by Alexis Glenn, Creative Services, George Mason University.

 

We thought it would be appropriate to look back on previous CEOs at Mason and see how they assumed office.

Portrait of John Norville Gibson Finley in academic regalia. George Mason University photograph collection Box 76, Folder 1. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

George Mason’s first leader was John Norville Gibson Finley, for whom Finley Hall is named. At the time of his elevation to the Directorship of the University of Virginia’s branch college in Northern Virginia (July of 1957), he was currently serving as Director of another institution of higher learning, the Northern Virginia University Center, an extension center for the University of Virginia operating at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington.  On July 20, 1957, University of Virginia President Colgate W. Darden, Jr.  sent Finley a letter instructing him to take charge of the newly created two-year branch at Bailey’s Crossroads.  The college was not called George Mason in 1957, rather it was called University College of the University of Virginia.  It would later be named George Mason College of the University of Virginia in December 1959.  We have no record of any actual “inauguration” for Director Finley, but it can be assumed that there were more pressing agenda items for the University to attend to as classes were set to begin on September 23.

Since the college was only a two-year branch of the university, Finley was not referred to as “President.”  His title was “Director,” one that would be used at the college until it became a four-year institution in 1966.  Though he was not given the fanfare of an inauguration Finley was, however, honored upon his retirement in December 1963 with a dinner. In 1972 the former North Building was renamed for him.

Robert Reid, who was Mason’s first Director at Fairfax, was hailed as Director as part of the new Fairfax Campus’ Dedication on November 12, 1964. The event was attended by U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Stuart Udall; Virginia Governor,  Albertis S. Harrison, Jr.;  and several hundred public figures, students, and local citizens.  During the Dedication, the University of Virginia’s Chancellor of Community Colleges, Joseph L. Vaughan installed Dr. Reid as Director in a brief ceremony.  Reid’s speech was about three minutes long and contained less than 300 words.

Photograph by Oliver Atkins of director, Robert H. Reid addressing the George Mason College Dedication, November 12, 1964. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection Box 3, Folder 10. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

George Mason University President Lorin A. Thompson in academic regalia. Photo was taken in his office in Finley Building (formerly North Building), Room 208 on February 6, 1973. George Mason University photograph collection Box 3, Folder 4. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

On March 1, 1966 George Mason College became a four-year degree-granting college, though still part of the University of Virginia. Its chief executive would now be called “Chancellor,” and on July 1, 1966 Dr. Lorin A. Thompson was asked by the university to serve as Chancellor of George Mason College for one year until a replacement for the departing Robert Reid could be found. Thompson was a well-respected member of the faculty in Charlottesville and Director of the university’s Bureau of Population and Economic Research there.  Already sixty-four years old, he agreed to the one-year term.  But finding him to be an effective leader for George Mason, the university continued, successfully, to ask him to remain for another year every year until 1972. Under Dr. Thompson’s tenure the college moved rapidly forward, increasing in student body by five-fold, acquiring over four-hundred-twenty additional acres of land, and becoming an independent institution on April 7, 1972. At the first-ever meeting of the Board of Visitors of the now-independent George Mason University on May 31, 1972 the Board unanimously appointed him Mason’s first President, and once again Thompson accepted on the condition that it would only be for one year.  Dr. Thompson’s seven-year “temporary” assignment was not marked by an inaugural ceremony, though the then recently-completed Arts and Sciences Building was renamed for him in 1973.

Upon the retirement of Dr. Lorin Thompson, Dr. Vergil H. Dykstra took office as Mason’s second president.  In a ten-minute ceremony on July 2, 1973 the former vice president at the State University of New York at Binghamton met with both Thompson and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert C. Krug in his new office in Finley Hall. There, Thompson and Krug presented Dykstra with the keys to the President’s office and a set of quill pens and inkwell that were described as replicas of the ones George Mason himself used. Eighteen Mason administrators were on hand to welcome Dr. Dykstra and say goodbye to Dr. Thompson.  A university photographer captured the very brief ceremony.

Photograph of new president of George Mason University, Vergil H. Dykstra (right), shaking hands with Vice President for Academic Affairs, Robert C. Krug (left) while former president, Lorin A Thompson (center), looks on. Dykstra is holding the keys to the office in his left hand. The keys were just presented to him by Thomson during the July 2, 1973 ceremony in the President's Office in Finley Hall. George Mason University photograph collection Box 3, Folder 35. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

End of Part One.
Please click here to read Part Two.