Emory History Department Newsletter-May 2007

Bowden Hall, Emory University Recollections at Emory
Mack Holt (Ph.D. 1982)

When I arrived on the Emory campus for the beginning of the Fall quarter 1978 – yes, this was still the era of the quarter system and Wonderful Wednesdays – I could have no idea of how much Emory was going to change during my time as a graduate student.  I was one of thirteen newly admitted Ph.D. students, allegedly the largest doctoral class that the History Department had ever admitted at the time, and all of us soon got caught up in the whirlwind.  The first major Woodruff gift of $105 million was announced shortly after our arrival, and the university and the History Department would never be the same.  My memories of this time, however, are dominated by more mundane things:  racing to complete a seemingly endless succession of seminar papers, walking and carrying groceries from Kroger in the Village back to the house I shared with two other students in the neighborhood opposite the Law School, or saving up for the occasional splurge at Everybody’s or Jagger’s.  The university community and the department were much smaller then, and at least from the perspective of a graduate student, things seemed much more personal and friendly.  I treasured the many dinner invitations from faculty that I and other students received, and some of my fondest Emory memories were shared around their dining tables.  Oh sure, it was great to get a real meal prepared by someone who actually knew how to cook, but those evenings were more about being accepted and taken seriously by our faculty mentors.  The hospitality we received from Blair and Russell Major, Claydean and Rondo Cameron, and George Cuttino and his smelly dogs showed us how much they cared about us.  And though we didn’t know it at the time, they were also teaching us how to become future mentors.

I also remember how closely I seemed to bond with my fellow graduate students. Unlike the cut-throat reputations of some graduate History programs, Emory’s fostered a sense of community and an “all for one, one for all” mentality that got many of us through prelims as well as our dissertations.  Indeed, I might never have made it without the support of Donna Bohanan, Pat Bradley, Jeff Hamilton, Ed Shoemaker, George Sims, and Pat Sullivan. Everyone picked each other up when it was needed, and we also made sure no one’s head ever got too big.  Sadly, Pat Bradley is no longer among us, but I want the rest of you to know that, even though I don’t see you nearly as often or as much as I’d like, you all meant a great deal to me during my time at Emory.

But lest I be accused of using this space simply to wallow in self-indulgent nostalgia, many things at Emory are inarguably better now than they were in 1978.  Back then there was no gym, swimming pool, or DUC.  Recent visits also confirm that on-campus food is superior to what I remember being served in the dining hall. And the remodeling of the Quad resulted in the History Building (now called Bowden Hall) at long last acquiring air-conditioning. But it was the people who made Emory what it was in 1978, and that is surely still true in 2006.

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