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Guest blogger, Athletics, Student Life, Scholarship, International student, Persia

A Brief Study of Fun, Frolics and Homecoming Queens

By Ellen Huggins, JEC Archives Fellow

Post 1: Introduction

Crowning of Barbara Kelley, Homecoming Queen 1981, Image #27-1414

In the spirit of the “Fun and Frolics” theme of this year’s Archives Month, I’ve been rifling through our folders of archival photographs from college events (Freshman Orientation, Cake Races, Spring Flings….) to get a sense of what fun has looked like over the years on Davidson campus. The 50th anniversary of coeducation this year has also been sticking in the back of my mind, particularly the question of how women show up in the Davidson Archives before they were officially full time, degree earning students. Surprisingly, one of best places to find pictures of young women pre-1972 in the archives is the “Homecoming Queen” folder, which dates all the way back to 1959. It would be easy to view the title as a relic from a time when women were considered guests at Davidson, but as I dug deeper into the folder, I found it even more intriguing that the Homecoming Queen continued to be crowned far past the beginning of coeducation, and into the present day.  

In 2022 the College’s tradition of crowning a Queen during the Homecoming weekend football game might be all but forgotten, but it remains unexplored as one the longest running institutions for women on the Davidson campus. What can the history of Homecoming Queens tell us about the evolution of women’s roles at Davidson College from before coeducation to the present? I’ll be attempting to answer this question in this series of blog posts, so follow me through the archives as we explore fun, frolics, and Homecoming Queens at Davidson! 

Homecoming Banner, 1983, Image #27-1323

But first, what is Homecoming?

Every school has a different definition of what Homecoming means and how their traditions inform that meaning, but essentially, Homecoming is a weekend early in the school year where the college welcomes both current students and alumni to campus, hosts a football game, and traditionally, a dance. Homecoming weekend exists at the intersection of multiple interests; alumni who want to have a nostalgic time on campus, faculty who wants to show off their campus to those alumni (and maybe get appreciation in the form of money) and students who just want to have a carefree weekend. By extension, the Homecoming Queen represents an equally wide array of parties on campus; unlike a student dance like Prom where the title would be announced and given solely in front of their peers, the Homecoming Queen ceremony takes place on the football field in front of faculty, parents, alumni and students alike.  

Crowning of Sara Porter, Homecoming Queen 1963, Image #27-0357

So, who (or what) does the Homecoming Queen represent?

For more than a decade before women could be degree earning students on the Davidson campus, the original Homecoming Queen candidates were female students from different colleges in the area. Initially, it confused me to see how far back in time the Homecoming queen folder extended. I had always assumed a school’s Homecoming Queen was elected based on their great grades, their involvement on campus (and yes, more often than not they just so happen to be conventionally attractive as well); that they represent, at least subjectively, the best that the student body had to offer. But this is a fairly modern interpretation of what the Homecoming Queen competition was originally conceived to be. At least at Davidson, Homecoming Queens were initially crowned not as student representatives, but as feminine figure heads of the wholesome, nostalgic heart of Homecoming itself. In the next blog post, we’ll discuss more about how women were tied into the “wholesomeness” of Davidson Homecoming celebrations starting with the introduction of the Homecoming Queen competition in the midcentury, and what this reveals about the connection between fun, frolics and understandings of gender at Davidson.  

Thank you for tuning in, and come back soon for Part 2!

Works Cited: https://davidsonarchivesandspecialcollections.org/archives/encyclopedia/homecoming-results 

Guest Blogger: Michaela Gibbons on “Dean Rusk: Dean Rusk’s Ideology”

At a young age, David Dean Rusk memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Its main question, “What is the chief end of man?” is one that Rusk referred back to throughout his career. While this question—at its essence—asked about life’s purpose, Rusk considered how it can drive governments. Rusk thought governments must work to preserve our inalienable human rights in order to ensure the survival of the human race. From Rusk’s perspective, these rights were violated by communism. His generation, the Greatest Generation, was imbued with anti-communist views. Members of this cohort grew up during the First Red Scare, were the primary fighters in World War II, and began careers during the Second Red Scare. Rusk, in particular, feared the spread of communism as it actively denied people the freedom to choose. 

A young Dean Rusk wearing a military uniform

There was, however, the correct choice to make: democracy. In Rusk’s opinion, democracy was the finest form of government. While the term was not coined until later, Rusk’s ideology falls under neoliberalism. He wanted free market capitalism and that freedom to choose correctly to be available to everyone. Rusk explains:

The men and women of the developed and less developed nations are coming together, day by day, in a wide range of other human activities: scientific cultural, medical, civil and social action. The ties between them as fellow citizens of a common planet in an exciting century are becoming stronger. And they form an essential basis for progress toward the community of free nations. It is also playing that there are differences of view between developed and less developed countries within the free world. Notably, those arising from old colonial experiences. These differences have been disruptive at times, but they should not be exaggerated. We shall find as time goes on a widened area of community between the more industrialized and less industrialized peoples. A community based on a common desire for peace, a common dedication to the principles of independence and a free choice, a common commitment to the United Nations Charter.

Dean Rusk, Dean Rusk Evening Lecture, 47:04

Here, it is important to note Rusk’s desire for progress. He perceived democracy as fundamental to the advancement of the human race:

“To bring about a unified and independent Congo seems to us to be the only objective that offers a realistic chance for the advancement of the peoples of the Congo and for peace in Central Africa.”

Dean Rusk, Dean Rusk Evening Lecture, 26:25

After World War II, many feared that terrorizing institutions would grow in power again and threaten the human race. Rusk referred to terrorism as barbarism that hindered the world’s advancement. 

How do we make neoliberalism accessible to all global citizens? Rusk’s answer was collective security. The theory he credited as the key to world peace required the unification of Western countries against shared threats. Collective security proved difficult, particularly in the instance of Vietnam, but Rusk did not realize this until later in his career. In the Davidson College Fall Convocation of 1985, he reflects:

[America has] taken, as I mentioned earlier, almost 600,000 casualties and dead and wounded since the end of World War II, in support of collective security, and it has not been all that collective, we put up 90% of the non-Korean forces in Korea, 80% of the non-Vietnamese forces in Vietnam. So if my cousins down in Georgia say, look, if collective security is going to require 50,000 American dead every 10 years, and it’s not even collective, maybe it’s not a good idea.

Dean Rusk, Fall Convocation 1985, 56:48

Dean Rusk speaking at Davidson College

At this time in Rusk’s life where his political career was over, he had come to realize that collective security may not be the only strategy for peace. Earlier, however, he would have argued collective security was the solution and if it required the continued presence of Allied forces to ensure a nation’s independence then so be it. The idea was not unpopular, especially after World War II. Rusk’s ideology did not change, but the country’s did. Prior to the Vietnam War, America’s tendency to get involved was celebrated. It reaffirmed the country’s position as a world power; it maintained good international relations. A cultural shift came with the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers who argued the interests of other nations are not worth the loss of American lives. 

Rusk encourages us to reexamine the purpose of government as it should align with the purpose of humankind. He urges newer generations to protect humanity by unlocking the key to world peace. If it is not collective security that will unify countries in the common interest of man, then we must ask ourselves what will. In a world of differences, what are the similarities that will bridge international communities?

Digitization and transcription funded courtesy of the Dean Rusk Program for International Studies. This blog post was written by Michaela Gibbons ’22. To listen to these interviews, browse the Dean Rusk Collection in Digital Davidson.

Guest Blogger: Michaela Gibbons on “Dean Rusk: Rusk and the Media”

  Dean Rusk walking down Main St., Davidson.

While David Dean Rusk was often berated by the media, he proved able to separate his own experiences with newscasters as a political figure from the ones he experienced as an American citizen. News media was not only growing as a competitive industry but was also playing an increasingly important role in political affairs. Rusk, however, felt as if they fell short of their new responsibilities:

One problem I have is that the very answer given by the news media to the question ‘What is news?’ cannot help but give us a distorted picture of the real situation and the real world. For example, I can tell you with complete accuracy today that the overwhelming majority of international frontiers are peaceful [….] But if that is not your impression it is partly because agreement, normality, serenity are simply not newsworthy. 

Dean Rusk, Fall Convocation 1985, 1:05:17

News cycles more often than not emphasized unrest and upheaval. Rusk claims that about eighty percent of the work in the U.S. State Department goes unreported by the press as it is simply maintaining the good international relationships that have been in existence. 

Dean Rusk giving a press conference

News media rarely gave topics of international importance the space and time that was necessary to fully comprehend the stories told.

“All the limited column inches in a newspaper on the limited breathless moments on radio and television news. So you’re always snatching at fragments of problems which might require much more time to put into any context.”

Dean Rusk, Chapel Talk

These fragments — headlines and descriptors — force consumers to react instantaneously and form implicit attitudes. Rather than providing informative reports, news outlets began to construct their own evocative narratives to boost their ratings. Rusk was particularly critical of the ABC television network’s choice to broadcast a film depicting nuclear disaster in America without any disclaimer. On November 20, 1983, The Day After was viewed by over 100 million Americans, reinforcing the fear of an inevitable nuclear war. Rusk points out how careless ABC was to frame a dramatization as a prediction. He explains,

“I personally think that ABC has a duty to have one of its top newsman come on at the very beginning of that show, and remind us that we are put behind us 38 years as a nuclear weapon has been used, and that they can find no situation present in the world today, which seems to be pointing toward a nuclear war.” 

Dean Rusk, Fall Convocation 1985, 1:05:17

Regardless, Rusk had faith in the news media to educate the American people. He claims,

“I think that the American people are overtime far better informed, more accurately, and in broader context than the people of any other country I know about.”

Dean Rusk, Dean Rusk Speech – Atlanta, 38:15

Perhaps this confidence comes from knowing the threat of communism and believing in democracy. Today, however, Americans are generally suspicious of media sources, especially those that have an established political identity. The news media will have to reevaluate its content and delivery if it wants to reestablish its credibility as an educator of the American people.

Digitization and transcription funded courtesy of the Dean Rusk Program for International Studies. This blog post was written by Michaela Gibbons ’22. To listen to these interviews, browse the Dean Rusk Collection in Digital Davidson.

Guest Blogger: Michaela Gibbons on “Dean Rusk: Foundation of the Dean Rusk Program”

The Dean Rusk Program for International Studies, now known as the Dean Rusk International Studies Program, was started by Frontis Johnston while he was interim President of Davidson College. Inspired by David Dean Rusk’s confidence that a liberal arts education would make a “universal man,” the program was established to offer all students a breadth of global insight through “scholarships, professorships, travel, and much, much more.” In the international city of Atlanta on November 2, 1983, the Dean Rusk Endowment for International Studies nearly reached its halfway mark of their $1 million goal as the speeches were ending. Meanwhile, endowments in Dallas and Houston were already raising additional funds to meet the program’s 1989 goal of $10 million. The Dean Rusk International Studies Program was the first of its kind, particularly in the South. 1

Dean Rusk standing in front of a podium

On the surface, the program aimed to integrate international issues into the Davidson bubble. Program director and former ambassador Jack Perry worked closely with the faculty-led International Education Committee, which was integral in conceptualizing the program and its direction. While some global education existed in the college’s curriculum, Perry was determined to broaden its offerings, introducing Latin American, African, and Asian studies. Funding was provided to faculty interested in international travel and incorporating global topics into their courses across departments. It was imperative that these studies were not a school within, but an integral part of Davidson College. As the program aimed to reach every student, a diverse board, Dean Rusk Program Student Advisory Committee, was founded to represent the student body and their interests.

Dean Rusk speaking to students

Confronted with globalized differences and similarities, students would have the tools to reflect on their privilege and fight for liberty. In Rusk’s eyes, the values instilled in students by the college were fundamental to this program’s success. Hoping this work would start locally, the program cooperated with other offices on campus to expand their efforts into Charlotte, North Carolina. More ambitiously, the Rusk Program aspired to prepare students as future world leaders. In Atlanta, it was dictated:

“Equip them with a world related knowledge, equip them with a global thinking perspective, and to equip them with a multinational understanding with a multi-cultural appreciation and with a multilingual capability.” 

Speaker 2, Dean Rusk Speech – Atlanta, 37:02.

 Dean Rusk Program in International Studies inaugural program

The Rusk Program collaborated with other offices, programs, and universities “To give each student, first, an informed awareness of our whole planet, and second, direct knowledge of at least one foreign area.”2 While the first half of the mission became achievable on campus, the second half encouraged students to think beyond the small college town. Study abroad opportunities began in 1968, but with the Rusk Program’s support, it grew substantially. President John Kuykendall lauded:

A key aspect of our program both in the immediate past and for the foreseeable future has been the development of programs in conjunction with colleges and universities abroad. Our term abroad and junior year abroad programs currently provide remarkable experiences for personal growth to at least one of every four Davidson students.

John Kuykendall, Fall Convocation 1985, 0:00

Junior Year Abroad provided a unique opportunity for cultural immersion in countries, such as Germany and France at first and then across Europe, South America, and Southern Asia. This aspect of the Rusk Program has grown immensely in student participation and has granted Davidson College an international identity in higher education. Dean Rusk was enthusiastic about this program’s potential and was confident in its excellence. He urged program administrators to stay true to Davidson’s liberal arts identity while developing its global consciousness.3

Works Cited:

  1.  Dean Rusk, Dean Rusk Speech – Atlanta, 11:46. Speaker 2, Dean Rusk Speech – Atlanta, 30:35.
  2. Printed Material – Davidson College – Dean Rusk Program. 1989 – 1990. DC004. Dean Rusk Collection. Davidson College Archives, Davidson College, NC.
  3. History File, 1981 – 1983. 1981 -1983. RG 3/6.1. Dean Rusk Program. Davidson College Archives. Davidson College, NC.

Digitization and transcription funded courtesy of the Dean Rusk Program for International Studies. This blog post was written by Michaela Gibbons ’22. To listen to these interviews, browse the Dean Rusk Collection in Digital Davidson.