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Libraries & Spaces
Georgetown, The Library, The South, Atlanta and The Olympics
Jon K. Reynolds
Luncheon remarks, Atlanta, Georgia
April 26, 1996
We are gathered here to celebrate Georgetown, her alumni, the South, Atlanta, the Olympics, and last, though certainly not least, the Year of the Library, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the opening of Lauinger, which some old timers still call the "new" library. This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of an organized library at our university, and yes, Dixie, it was a tough winter in them northern hills.
In this century, it has been easy to forget that Georgetown was, at its founding, a largely southern institution, and that Washington was, until very recently, a southern city. Our founders were all products of the Maryland plantation economy, and Georgetown was a tobacco port, located well south of the Mason Dixon Line.
In the early years, we did attract some students from the north east, but the bulk came from Maryland, with sizable representations from Louisiana, Georgia and other southern states.
Indeed, 925 Georgetown alumni served the confederacy, while 216 chose the union. Confederates included General Lewis Armistead, who led a brigade in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, and died with his hand on a union gun, at the so-called high water mark of the Confederacy.
Also Thomas Semmes, shown here on the right, of the class of '42 was elected to the Senate of the Southern Confederation, where he chaired the committee that designed the flag and great seal of the southern union. James Dougherty, on the left, of the class of 1857, a Pennsylvania Yankee in the Federal army, discovered a new use for a Georgetown education when he was taken captive by a unit of Stuart's cavalry. It turned out so many of the men were Hoyas, that they decided to let him go, thus possibly saving him a stay at Andersonville prison camp, also in Georgia.
On the other hand, I hope we will all be allowed to leave town peaceably, if I show this wonderful photo from the University collection...
...since it shows Sherman and his staff before Atlanta, and if I point out that General Sherman was actually a Hoya Dad - - his son Thomas of the class of 1874 eventually became a Jesuit AND Fr. Durkin wrote his biography. By the way, I am happy to report that Fr. Durkin is still doing well at the age of 93. He remains an avid user of the library, and still charges across the campus with a lighter step than the vast majority of our faculty.
We should also remember Patrick Healy, perhaps the most impressive Georgetown President of the nineteenth century, who was born on a plantation in Georgia. Since he was of mixed race, his parents sent him first to Quaker schools and then to Holy Cross College, where he decided to become a Jesuit. He would set Georgetown on the course of becoming a modern university.
Now we mustn't forget that the Olympic torch is on its way to Atlanta, and we will conclude with a small dose of history.
I can report that Georgetown has been involved with the Olympics throughout the modern era. In the 1890's, Georgetown was a hot bed of track and field activity. Olympic historians have told us that Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern games, actually visited Georgetown, but no record survives in the archives. Perhaps this visit inspired the formation of a Georgetown delegation to the 1900 Olympics, held in conjunction with the Paris International Exhibition. The university archives includes this copy of the official program brought back by sprinter Arthur Duffey.
Oddly enough, the word "Olympics" does not appear in the Program. Perhaps the French did not wish to detract from the concurrent military exhibition. The United States delegation included Team manager Charles J. Martell, Georgetown Law '99, Coach William Foley; sprinters Arthur Duffey, Edmund Minihan, and William Holland; and trainer Mace Montgomery, who was probably the first African-American involved in Georgetown athletics. He is shown on the right, with Theodore Woodward, groundskeeper.
This next photo shows the athletes and coaches with Fr. Whitney, and with Georgetown alum John Quinn, the great collector and patron of the arts, who once owned the manuscript of Ulysses, but who did not give it to our Library. One of the goals of the Library Associates is to make sure that no fish like that ever escapes our net again. Your help is solicited.
Arthur Duffey, who held the world record in the 100 yrd. dash at 9.6 seconds, was recognized as the premier sprinter of his day, but he fell during the Olympic final, and his injury kept him from competing in the 60 meter dash, which was then an Olympic event. E.J. Minihan finished fourth in the 60 meter dash. William Holland, a medical student, won the silver medal in the 400 meters. This unfortunately dim photo shows Holland winning his heat.
Financing international competition was no small feat at that time or any time, for that matter. And so the athletes held a Benefit performance featuring the mandolin club, which performed such snappy ditties as "Whistling Rufus" and "The Sweetest Dream of All." The university lawyer seems to have been the fundraising chairman, and the archives has his letter dunning the University President for a $100 contribution, as well as describing William Holland's attempts to find a political job that would require no work and only sporadic attendance, so that he might continue to train and keep up with his medical studies. The university's friends on Capitol Hill expressed much amusement at this notion, but apparently someone found him a job as a night watchman. Did he stay awake all night? ... deponent sayeth not.
Since that time over thirty hoyas have competed in the games, including champions such as Bob LeGendre, who won the bronze medal in the Pentathlon at the Paris Olympics in 1924. During the competition he broke the world record in the long jump at 25' 5 and 1/2". The Olympics came to Los Angeles in 1932, and Georgetown was represented by Leo Sexton, C'30, one of the legends of Georgetown track and field. In the 1932 Games, Sexton put the shot 52 and a half feet to capture the gold medal and at the time set an Olympic record.
It was not for twenty years that Georgetown placed another competitor in the Olympic games. However, we should note that had the war not caused the cancellation of the 1940 games, Al Blozis would have been a clear favorite to win the shot put. Al's fame was such that he was featured in an issue of True Comics, that we see here. Al died leading a squad in the battle of the Bulge.
Relatively few qualified for Olympic competition in the fifties and sixties. Charles Capozzoli, Business '53 competed in the 5,000 Meters at the Helsinki games. Crew Coach Tony Johnson earned a silver medal at the 1968 Olympic Games while he was coaching the varsity heavyweights at Georgetown. Jay Forster B'70 was the first Georgetown student-oarsman to row internationally, and was a reserve with the 1972 U.S. Rowing team during the Munich Olympics. Michael Vespoli, B'68 also competed in the 1972 games, rowing with the fours with coxswain. His team placed fifth in the finals.
Coach Thompson assisted Dean Smith in '76 and Coached the '88 squad along with Assistants Craig Esherick, Mike Riley, and Mary Fenlon. There are six one-time Hoyas in this photo.
The 1992 Olympic Games saw more Hoya competitors than any other Olympiad. The contingent included Patrick Ewing, who needs no introduction, trainer Lorry Michel, rower Kelley Jones, kayaker Alexandra Harbold, and track stars John Gregorek, John Trautman and Steve Holman.
Holman is one of fifteen track and field athletes competing in Olympic trials later this spring and summer, other strong candidates include: Kevin McMann in the hammer, and Joline Staeheli, NCAA indoor mile champ. and finally, Melissa Schwen has already qualified for the Olympic women's pairs rowing team.
We thank these athletes for representing us so very well.
And now, for a change of pace... As mentioned earlier, this is the year of the library, and these are revolutionary times for all branches of the information industry. One week we are told the internet will lead American commerce into the next century, the next that it is all hype. In between, the guardians of morality fantasize about somehow controlling it all, though even the KGB found control beyond their capacity during the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Our Special Collections Division is convinced that the World Wide Web, though still in its infancy, is the most important development in information delivery since movable type. And we have "put our effort where our mouth is", and developed one of the most advanced Special Collections Web sites on the internet. If the computer cooperates, I will show you where we are now, and where we hope to go in the very near future...
If you are reading this on your computer, you have found us, and in effect, are in the middle of the demonstration given in April. If you have come directly to this entry from a search engine, please visit the main page. The page features links to our Guide to Special Collections, links to over 200 finding aids, and links to articles about Georgetown and the library. We hope to implement a searching function in the near future, and we will be adding additional articles, on-line exhibitions, and a historical tour of the campus and Georgetown.
Thank you for your attention.