What is your favorite part of Halloween? The costumes or the candy? Since the 1920s, AU students have decorated their dorm rooms and hosted dances on and off campus. In the 1930s, the DC Board of Trade held a parade on Constitution Avenue. AU students had a float in the 1933 parade. AU’s location in Washington, DC has led to some unique traditions such as trick or treating on Embassy Row. In one evening, students can visit a variety of embassies and sample international treats. Partying in Georgetown was all the rage in the 1980s. Two memorable student pranks included painting 1942 on the roof of McKinley in 1941 and painting the flame atop Kay red in 1967.
American University introduced interdisciplinary courses in the late 1960s. One of the first was called “University and Revolution,” a three credit hour independent research course. This course was extremely popular and ran for two years. 250 students enrolled in its first semester. In small, seminar style classes, students discussed topics including the Black student in the university revolution, the individual spiritual awareness and revolutionary social vision, the effects of social revolution on the structures and functions of the contemporary university and the university in revolution centering on the university in the U.S. A volunteer faculty member moderated each of the sections. About once a month the entire class came together for a guest speaker. The Kennedy Political Union provided funding for honoraria for a diverse array of guest speakers including Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panther Party, Ralph Abernathy from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, student leaders Ewart Brown (Howard) and Mark Rudd (Columbia), and conservatives Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley. Students enrolled in this pass/fall course had to submit a research paper on their seminar topic. During the second year, the course delved into specific themes such as “White Student Movement and Black Movement: A Contrast and Comparison.” In the fall of 1969, the course leaders Gary and James Weaver, published a compilation of the lectures from the previous year.
Do you remember your commencement speaker? You can listen to some of the commencement addresses given at AU from the late 1980s through the early 2000s in the AU Digital Research Archive.
Commencement speakers typically offer advice and encouragement to the graduates as they launch the next phase of their lives. The twenty plus commencement speeches in this collection will allow researchers to compare them to see if there were common themes.
The featured speakers include educators, international dignitaries, journalists, politicians, and scientists. Of note are Lonnie Bunch, Barney Frank, Stephen J. Gould, Diane Rehm, Elie Wiesel, and Andrew Young. We will be adding new content to this collection periodically.
Although there has never been any formal connection between American University and the White House, eight presidents, one vice president who became president, and two former presidents have all visited campus. AU’s Board of Trustees included a sitting U.S. president for its first thirty years. The longest serving trustees were Herbert Hoover (1945-1950) and Theodore Roosevelt (1900-1919). AU awarded honorary degrees to four sitting presidents.
A new exhibit on the first floor of Bender Library features photographs from these significant moments in AU’s history. Visitors can also hear excerpts from speeches made by John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. The exhibit will be on display through Inauguration Day 2017.
In May of 1970 in the heat of the campus protests over the events at Kent State, Professor Glenn Harnden, from AU’s Department of Communications, pulled all the 16mm film on hand and sent several students off with cameras to shoot activities both on and off campus. The footage was reviewed, compiled and edited into one master film with accompanying soundtrack. Both the master film and some of the raw footage were re-discovered two years ago. We hope we will eventually find the soundtrack. We conserved and digitized the film and put snippets on AU Library’s YouTube Channel.
We recently added the full film and some of the raw footage to American University’s Digital Research Archive. Viewers can watch the events as they unfolded on campus including AU students washing windshields and distributing flyers to cars stopped at Ward Circle. The films document the interaction between the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and students including an arrest and the use of tear gas. They follow the students as they head downtown for a large rally and concert on the National Mall. Special events like a concert in the amphitheater and a meeting with AU President George Williams and other campus administrators are also featured.
The digital collection of American University’s student newspaper is almost complete. We just added content covering the 2009-2010 through 2014-2015 academic years. This batch covers The Eagle’s transition to an online only format with occasional special print editions. These special editions were timed to come out right before special events such as All American Weekend and Commencement. The digital collection is available 24-7 and is browseable and full text searchable. Searching is based on OCR of the digital files so it is not always 100% accurate.
100 years ago today American University conferred its first degrees – two PhDs and one MA. The recipients Junius Sidney Cates, Morton Oscar Cooper, and Elbert Clyde Lathrop were all employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Junius Sidney Cates, an investigator in the Office of Farm Management, received a PhD in agricultural economics. The title of his dissertation was “Some Investigations on the Weed Problem in American Agriculture.”
Elbert Clyde Lathrop, a biochemist in the Bureau of Plant Industry, received a PhD in chemistry. The title of his dissertation was “A Chemical Study of the Organic Nitrogen Compounds of Soils and Fertilizers.”
Morton Oscar Cooper, a scientific assistant in the Office of Farm Management, received a MA in Agriculture. The title of his thesis was “Economic study of the production of beef in the Corn Belt States.”
In the 1930s, American University ran a Memorial Day poetry contest to honor the “American men who were killed or disabled during the World War.” The organizing committee requested that all submissions be “free from all propaganda, either militaristic or pacifistic.” Students submitted their poems under a pen name and the winner won a $10 gold coin. The prize was a gift of Mary Meares Galt, an Assistant Professor of French, who served in France during World War I and lost a cousin in the conflict. A panel of three judges reviewed the submissions. The panel included a member of the faculty, a student and a journalist at least one of whom served in the war.
Here is a list of the winners and the titles of the prize winning poems:
- Helen MacLeod (1928)
- S. Carlton Ayers (1930) In Memorium
- Alfredda Scobey (1931) To H.A. – Dead at Verdun
- John Lee Coulter Jr. (1932) Realization
- Albert George Cooper (1933) White Sentinels
- Natalie Haines (1934) Sonnet
- George Sanderlin (1935) Sonnet
American University Archives recently launched a new interface for the digital archive of The Eagle. We hope you will find the search interface more intuitive. You should get your results faster and it will be easier to scroll through them.
Advanced search options are readily available including analytics that show the distribution of your search results by date of publication.
From the browse page, you can read an issue like a traditional newspaper. You can easily zoom in on an individual article, navigate around the page, or scroll through the entire issue.
The new interface makes saving and sharing articles easier with print, email, social media, link and my collection buttons. You can download entire issues from the browse screen.
We will be adding a new batch of content 2009-2015 later this summer. We will make an another announcement when that content is live.
In 1997, AU made campus beautification a part of its strategic plan. The goal was to transform the grounds into a horticultural showplace, a “suburban–like destination” in the city. The transformation was gradual and took several years. The design team greened campus by replacing parking lots with landscape and grass with perennials. They emphasized a holistic approach with an emphasis on sustainability.
American University formally dedicated the American University Arboretum and Gardens in 2004. AU campus features green roofs, pocket parks, and lots of trees, shrubs, and grasses. In 2016, AU joined the DC government and others in Canopy 3000, a public-private partnership, to plant 3,000 new trees in DC. AU planted new trees at several campus locations during Campus Beautification Day earlier this month.