4th Research Log: Interviews

"Alvey Hall" Photographer Paulette S. Watson, Photo courtesy of Publications, University of Mary Washington http://museum.umwhisp.org/index.php?id=195

The decade of the 1930’s had many influential professors here at the University of Mary Washington who helped transform the college into the school that it is today.  One of these professors was Dr. Alvey who has a dormitory on campus dedicated in his name.  Ruby Lee Norris was here when he first arrived on campus and talks about her experiences with him in an interview.  Dr. Alvey came to Mary Washington from the University of Virginia to take the position as Dean of the college.  He was also a teacher at the time however Mrs. Norris said “His classes were not great by the way, I hate to put a shadow over this saint, his class, it was a course in education, and it was just not dynamite.”  Ruby Lee described him as more of an introvert but that he was very competent as a Dean.  He became more influential as time went along and students began to endear him for his efforts.  Mrs. Norris and Dr. Alvey became great friends throughout the years.

Another interesting aspect of the curriculum that Ruby Lee Norris discussed was swimming as a core subject.  Back then, swimming was a required course and was part of the college curriculum.  She noted “..everybody had to take swimming, it was part of the state law, we used to have the department of education in the high schools and college had strict rules about what you had to do and some girls almost flunked because they couldn’t pass that swimming.”  Mary Washington is actually where Ruby Lee learned how to swim despite being from the Rappahannock River/Chesapeake Bay area.  The students had swim lessons at the pool that was located in the basement of Lee Hall.

Members of the Terrapin Club from 1942 poses for their photograph next to the Lee Hall pool. Originally Uploaded by UMW Centennial.http://centennial.umwblogs.org/2007/12/04/terrapin-club-poses-next-to-lee-hall-pool/

These two topics that she discussed in her interview were the closest she came to describing the classroom environment at UMW in the 1930’s.  Her interview was very helpful in painting a picture of what life was like around campus and in town but she doesn’t really go into what classes were like at the time.  I think that the memories from outside the classroom were more prevalent for Ruby and are the moments that stuck with her for over seventy years.

The interview with Ruby Lee can be found here: http://www.projects.umwhistory.org/alumni/profiles/norrisr.html



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