Today in Milligan History, 5/5

Today in Milligan History

an ongoing project of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society

Good Day, Milligan!

Proverbs 5:15 – Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.

This is Tuesday, May 5, 2015, “Cinco de Mayo,” and on this day in Milligan history . . . 


1958    Milligan College elected its student leaders for the 1958-1959 school year. Students chose James Fisher (1959) to be President of the Student Council; Eric Crites (1960) to be his vice president; Ray Ross (1959) to be president of the Men’s Dormitory Council and Janice Rinnert  (1959) president of the Women’s Dormitory Council. The Stampede, May 30, 1958, p.1.

1960    Francis Gary Powers Story: Part III: USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev spoke before the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, announcing that on the Soviet national holiday, May 1, an American plane “in an aggressive provocation aimed at wrecking the Summit Conference” planned for Paris on May 16, had invaded Soviet territory and, on his personal orders, had been shot down by a missile.  Forced to bail out of the damaged spy plan was Milligan College alumnus Francis Gary Powers (1950) of Pound, VA. Francis Gary Powers with Curt Gentry, Operation Overflight (Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1970), p. 139.

1961    Milligan College President Dean E. Walker (1899-1988; Fide et Amore; President 1950-1968; Chancellor 1968-1988) wrote a letter inviting C. Robert Wetzel (Fide et Amore, Milligan 1961-1980 and since 2009) to join the Milligan faculty at the rank of Assistant Professor for an annual salary of $6,400.  “Boy, did that seem like a lot of money at the time,” recalled Wetzel decades later. Wetzel served as faculty member and academic dean 1961-1980; later became the president of Emmanuel School of Religion (now Emmanuel Christian Seminary) and upon his retirement returned to Milligan in an adjunct position to teach freshman Humanities until 2014. “During my student years I worked for the county road department, caretaker on a golf course, clerk in a grocery store, billing clerk for a truck line, cashier for an amusement park, and two years as a preacher.  Bonnie (1967) was working on her degree as well, which she eventually finished at Milligan.   Fortunately hamburger was 30 cents a pound and we could get turkey necks for 19 cents a pound.”  Regarding that letter, Wetzel remembered, “Having been written by Dean Walker, it bears his professionalism and dignity.  I had no idea that Milligan was in such bad shape at the time (which was just as well), but he had a way of making the College and his faculty feel that we were better than we really were. Bless you, Dean Walker.”  E-mail note from Professor at Large C. Robert Wetzel, May 4, 2012

1987    Hart Hall courtyard was the scene of Milligan College’s first Festival of One Act Plays. Members of Prof. Dick Major (1978; Milligan since 1985) Directing Class, including  Amy Snyder (1989), Adam Thornton (1988), Julie Pierce (1988), Randy Landry, Jerianne Seiter (1991), and R. W. Hessler (1988), presented six one-act plays during the week of May 4. Hessler, writing for the Stampede, expressed the hope that the festival would be “the start of a long-lasting tradition in the Milligan Drama department.”  The Stampede, April 1987, p. 4

2012   Milligan College conferred upon nearly 90-year-old Mrs. June Williams an honorary Bachelor of Science degree.  Mrs. Williams – then known as June Eileen Purcell – had enrolled in Milligan College in 1938, and was making progress toward graduation as a pre-med major in 1942, but she was taken ill with double pneumonia. Hospitalization, a lengthy recovery at home, and the outbreak of World War II all intervened, interrupting her college career.  On December 31, she married Nathaniel Taylor Williams, Jr. (1942) just before he went off to war.  The Williams and Purcell families had a rich Milligan College tie, including Nathaniel’s brother, Howard Williams (1937), and his father, Nathaniel Taylor Williams, Sr.  Miss Purcell’s father, John Ellis Purcell, attended Milligan, and her brother, Clifford V. Purcell graduated in 1937.  Clifford Purcell and Howard Taylor were room-mates and co-valedictorians of their class.  The connection to Milligan is even deeper.  In 1867 the Williams family donated some of the land on which the college now stands; and the current recently-restored Phillips-Taylor House on Gov. Alf Taylor Road was tied to both families; The Williams and Taylor families have been long-term financial supporters of the college. Jean Williams O’Dell, her daughter recalled in a letter of July 29, 2011, “She has never forgotten the instruction she received, nor the relationships that she formed at Milligan . . . It has been her lifelong dream to graduate from college.”  The degree was conferred in absentia.  Later, on June 5, 2012, the college made a personal presentation of the degree to Mrs. Williams.  Information from a letter from Jean Williams O’Dell, July 28, 2011.

Birthdays:  In 1993 Milligan College junior Milos Petrovic . . .  in 1994 junior Jenna Elizabeth Conkin in Knoxville, TN . . . and in 1996 freshman  Haley Breanne Greenwell.


Elsewhere . . .

In 1867 Mexican forces defeated the army of Austrian prince and would-be-Mexican-emperor Maximilian at the Battle of Pueblo, giving rise to the Cinco de Mayo celebration.

In 1925 law enforcement officials in Dayton, TN, arrested 24-year-old John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in the public school.

In 1962 the soundtrack from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story went to #1 on the best-seller list and stayed there for 54 weeks!


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