A change in the weather

October carriage rides in JMU’s arboretum

Today, the air is cold and damp, a clear departure from September’s warm days. A change in the weather. Leaves on the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains aren’t as blue as they were a few weeks ago. They are beginning to turn gold and red and yellow. It’s time for Ugg boots and North Face® jackets to come out of the closets all over campus. It’s the season where the walk to class becomes a brisk exercise in endurance. I passed one student this morning wearing a long coat, a scarf — and sandals. Clearly, we’re in a season of transition. October is a month of change.

I’ve often wondered why NorthFace is so ubiquitous around campus. It may be symbolic, though. The founders of North Face chose their company name  (according to Wikipedia) because the north face is generally the most difficult side of a mountain to climb. Ninety-four years ago this month, the campus was grappling with just such a challenge. The Spanish Flu, a worldwide epidemic that eventually killed more than 20 million people, had come to the Shenandoah Valley. Many fell ill on campus, including then-President Burruss. Classes were cancelled for two weeks and students unaffected were sent home. According to historian L. Sean Crowley, however, the faculty never left. Instead, they volunteered to stay and help.

“Although 125 of the 288 students enrolled for the quarter and over half of the twenty ­three faculty members who were on campus at the time fell ill during the outbreak, remarkably, there were no deaths.”*

A few years later, in October of 1924, the change was technological. That year, an election year like 2012, students could benefit from a significant advance.

“In the fall of 1924, … the student body received a superheterodyne radio for its own use. … the students themselves could tune in to hear political speeches, sermons, educational programs, and musical entertainment.”*

In 1938’s October, a significant change began with a groundbreaking. Dirt was turned to begin the building of a new library. Today students know it as Carrier Library.

Eight Octobers later, the change was in recreation. In 1946, “the male students organized the school’s first male sports team – a seventeen ­man basketball squad named the Madison Dukes. The name “Dukes” had been chosen unanimously by the team both to honor the school’s president, Dr. Samuel P. Duke, and also hopefully, according to Walter Eye who played forward on the team, to encourage Dr. Duke to ‘fork over some money to buy balls and equipment.’”*

And if you think football first started at Madison in the 1970s, think again. It was in October 1947 when President Duke first allowed football to be played on campus. According to Crowley, the teams of male students, sponsored by sororities were the

“1) ASA Raiders (Alpha Sigma Alpha) 2) PiKapCommodores(PiKappaSigma) 3) Sigma Dynamos (Sigma Sigma Sigma) 4) Tau Terrors (Alpha Sigma Tau). 5) Theta Thugs (Theta Sigma Upsilon)”*

Sixty years ago, in October 1952, the size of the campus quadrupled when Madison College purchased 240 acres of the “back campus,”  providing the land where Bridgeforth Stadium and Newman Lake would someday be built.

This October is more of the same: change. The weather and the leaves are changing, and a great way to enjoy both is on a carriage ride in the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum. Another election year rolls along with change, one way or another, in the air. A new Madison president is presiding. A new class, the class of 2016, is settling in and digging out their North Face jackets.  Change, as always, is the status quo at Madison.

And perhaps, it it never more visible than it is in every October.

The historical information herein comes from  James Madison University: 1908-­1909 to 1958-­1959  An Annotated, Historical Timeline researched and written by L. Sean Crowley 2006.

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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