Thursday, February 29, 2024

Dr. Lloyd Cofer: A Look Back at a Leader of the CMU Board of Trustees

by Arianna Day

Dr. Lloyd McGee Cofer—the name might be familiar around the Central Michigan University campus. As we wrap up Black History Month and reflect on the 60th anniversary of the first meeting of the CMU Board of Trustees, we share more about this leader who helped shape CMU for nearly two decades. 

Dr. Cofer was born in New York, New York, December 18, 1905. He went to college at Tufts College during the fall of 1924. While he was there, he joined Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest African American Greek letter fraternity in the U.S.

Dr. Cofer graduated from Tufts in 1928 with his Bachelor of Science degree and then served as the Dean of Men as Fisk University from 1930-34. In 1934, he was hired in the Detroit public schools, becoming the first Black man to be a counselor in Detroit school system. Later, Dr. Cofer served as assistant principal of two different schools and, in 1965, he became Principal at Mackenzie High School. During his more than 30-year tenure with the Detroit public schools, he earned his master’s degree at Columbia University and his doctorate degree at Wayne State University.

Dr. Cofer left the Detroit Public Schools in 1967 to work at Michigan State University, where he served in many capacities focused on increasing the recruitment and retention of Black students until his retirement in 1979. At MSU, he created a development program as well as special services for minority students at MSU (MSU News May 27, 1971, p. 6). 

Dr. Lloyd M. Cofer at the first
CMU Board of Trustees Meeting, February 24, 1964

For Central Michigan University, Dr. Cofer is most well-known as a charter member of the Board of Trustees and the namesake of a long-standing scholarship for Central students. On the 60th anniversary of the first meeting of Central Michigan University’s Board of Trustees, we recognize Dr. Cofer’s contributions to the Board.

In February 1964, Dr. Cofer was among the first group of eight who was appointed by Michigan Governor George Romney to CMU’s newly formed Board of Trustees. Joining him on this group that met for the first time on February 24, 1964 were Jean Backus, Willis Campbell, Katharine Hafsted, Lawrence Rahilly, E. Allan Morrow, John Sivier, and Walter Wightman.

During his 17 years of service on the Board of Trustees, Dr. Cofer was elected chair three times, the first time being in 1967, just three years after his initial appointment. Among the major changes that Dr. Cofer oversaw as a Trustee, Cofer was the Chair of the Board that approved Amendment V to the Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, which abolished the practice of in loco parentis. Cofer supported the students in their efforts to assert their rights and to demand that the university stop acting “in place of the parents” and monitoring students' behavior.

Many other developments and progress occurred during his 17 years on the Board including:

Outside of education and higher learning, Dr Cofer found the love of his life in Evelynne J Jones. Together, they had two daughters and they remained married until her death in 1972.

Dr. Cofer was always devoted to students, working up to the time of his death on January 11, 1980. In death, he was remembered for his contributions to education in Michigan and across the U.S. Rev. Malcolm G. Dade of St. Cyprian said of Dr. Cofer, “Lloyd never went for a job; every position sought him.” Horace C. King, MSU Registrar and Professor, said, “[Dr. Cofer] influenced higher education not only in the state of Michigan but also on a national level.”

Two weeks after the passing of Dr. Lloyd M. Cofer, the CMU Board of Trustees established the Lloyd M. Cofer scholarship. Created in 1980 in his memory, the scholarship provided for full tuition and fees awarded to a deserving student who is the graduate of a public high school of the city of Detroit. The scholarship still exists and today and "recognizes a select few Detroit high school graduates for their dedication to the advancement of underrepresented groups in America."

Friday, January 26, 2024

In Search of Sibouin

by Tristen Woodruff

When working on historical projects, the need to conduct at least some minimal sleuthing is part and parcel within the line of work. This sleuthing can range from the simple fact check, to a slightly more in-depth academic journal cross reference. Rarely, however, is the rabbit hole of research followed to its proverbial wonderland. In the case of the search for the a set of islands in the Great Lakes, however, the journey to wonderland became the only way to determine the facts of the matter.

While working on the metadata for the letters of noted Civil War officer Orlando M. Poe, I was drawn down this path. Prior to the Civil War and his promotion to Major General, Orlando Poe served as Second Lieutenant of the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. The Topographical Engineers were a part of a large survey of the Great Lakes region prior to the War and were notable for the many islands and shorelines they mapped during this time. During the summer of 1857, Poe was assigned to chart and map the eastern portions of the Saginaw Bay. This would lead to a direction from his commander, George G. Meade, to map a set of islands identified by Meade.

Meade's longhand: "the ??? islands"

The problem was that, in Meade’s longhand, what were the name of the islands. Did they begin with an L, or an I? Was the second letter an E? The word ends in “o-u-i-n,” but what islands in and around Saginaw Bay end in “o-u-i-n”?

Saginaw Bay from J.H. Colton's
Map of Michigan, 1857
Click to enlarge.
Looking at a map today, the letters on the page seemed odd because there are no contemporary islands on current maps with similar letters. When looking into maps of the 1850s, a name that seemed similar to Meade’s writing did not appear, either. Thus began the spiral into figuring out the true name of these islands. The first place needed to look was in the official reports of the Great Lakes Survey that the Corps released a few years after Poe was first instructed to map these islands. In these reports, I searched for Poe’s name to see the location where Meade reported that he sent Poe. With this, there was, in fact, a location that Poe was sent with the name ‘Sibouin’ Islands. But, there was no map to point to them.

The only known location of these mystery islands, based on the letters and the report, was that they were in the eastern portion of the Saginaw Bay. Naturally, knowing the general location of the islands, I attempted to search the national and local newspapers to find them, including the millions of scanned pages available through the the Library of Congress and the Clarke Historical Library, but to no avail. Surely then, they would exist in the national archives! Still no such luck. Even looking at the amazing collection of maps provided by the David Rumsey Map Collection, no islands named ‘Sibouin’ were mapped in the eastern Saginaw Bay. Finally, I searched “Sibouin” in Hathi Trust, which includes numerous US and State of Michigan government reports among the 17+ million digitized volumes in the database, and there was only one document about a set of islands in the Great Lakes with the name “Sibouin” – Meade’s report mentioning where he sent Poe.

Armed with the knowledge that George Meade was the only person referring to these islands with the name “Sibouin,” I returned back to the report for more clues. Near these islands, Poe was instructed to map the wider “Wild Fowl Bay.” This was helpful as it even further narrowed our search, but there was still no record of the mystery islands in Wild Fowl Bay. I then moved to the amazing Hathi Trust again in search of “Sibouin” (or variations of the spelling). Here would be the key to this whole mystery, the Report of the Chief of Engineers of 1860 had a reference to the “Sebouin Islands.” The report also listed latitude and longitude for the mystery islands, finally!

Map of Fairhaven Township,
from the Atlas of Huron County,
, 1890
. Click to enlarge.
Using the maps of David Rumsey, current map websites, and the coordinates of the Chief of Engineers report, I could divine a location. The answer was revealed, hiding in plain sight right in Wild Fowl Bay. The Sibouin Islands were in fact the modern day Maisou Islands of Huron County. These islands are now apart of the Wild Fowl Bay State Wildlife Area and are no longer owned privately, but back in the 1850s they had been called Kate Chai Island and North Island. These islands had gone through many name changes since the 1850s, and that had done a good job of obfuscating their prior titles. These name changes, however, would eventually be peeled back, due in large part to the help and skills of Bryan Whitledge, without whose guidance I would not have fully figured out even the name of these mystery islands that seem to exist only now as ghosts of the documents of the 1850s.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Unearthing Enchantment: Discovering Hidden Fairy Tales in the Clarke Historical Library

by Katie Clausen, visiting scholar and recipient of the Clarke's 2023 International Children's Literature Research Grant

For five days in August 2023, I nestled into a quiet corner of the Clarke Historical Library and rigorously searched for fairy tales waiting to be discovered. With the generous support of the International Children's Literature Research Grant, my quest was to unearth captivating stories that could resonate with young readers. As an Information Science scholar specializing in fairy tales, my research focuses on identifying stories that offer opportunities for girls and women to connect their experiences with these timeless narratives.

Some interpretations of classic fairy tales (*cough*Disney*cough*) have perpetuated harmful stereotypes and ideals, often portraying female characters as submissive, beautiful, and thin. Fairy tales need not reinforce such limiting narratives. Indeed, iconic princesses like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty may seem one-dimensional at first glance, but they can be understood more profoundly, revealing layers of resilience, determination, and inner strength. However, it's equally important to acknowledge a world of untapped potential in fairy tales, unknown or lesser-known, waiting to be discovered.

Perhaps we must reimagine what heroism and empowerment mean for today's generation. A more complex, inclusive, and diverse narrative landscape—one that offers a broad spectrum of stories for girls and women of all backgrounds—reinforces the fundamental right of everyone to see oneself as the hero of their own narrative. Amidst my research journey at Clarke, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon fairy tales that embody richness and complexity.

Published in 1877, "The Toy Princess" by Mary de Morgan1 is a fairy tale about a girl named Ursula who is born into a regimented kingdom where she is restricted from expressing any emotion. No laughing or crying, and people “never said more than was quite necessary, as ‘Just so,’ ‘Yes indeed,’ ‘Thank you,’ and ‘If you please.’” Ursula’s father, the king, wants the successor to his throne to be obedient, detached, and well-behaved. With magical help from a fairy godmother, Ursula escapes the kingdom, replacing herself with a mechanical toy princess who looks identical to her and behaves in the same polite and reserved manner as the people in the kingdom. Ursula is taken to a humble fishing village, where she grows up with a loving fisherman and his family. Years later, the kingdom is shocked when, by chance, the toy princess's head falls off, revealing its true nature. I won’t give the ending away…please read it!2

In the 1912 collection, The Maker of Rainbows,3 a fairy tale titled “The Rags of Queen Cophetua” retells the story of a legendary African king. King Cophetua of Ethiopia falls in love with a young woman he sees begging for money. They marry, and she becomes Queen. But in this 1912 version of the fairy tale, the Queen grows weary and longs for independence. When she opens the box containing her old, tattered clothes, she remembers who she once was and puts on the ragged garments. Suddenly, the king accidentally interrupts her. Seeing her in her tattered dress, the king recognizes the sadness in her eyes and asks, “Are you weary of being queen?” These two characters love each other immensely, but is love enough? This fairy tale contains themes of loss, longing for independence, love, identity, and change.

Illustration from,
"The Rags of Queen Cophetua"

Both of these fairy tales offer new and profound interpretations that delve into the complexities of identity and self-discovery. My research, supported by the International Children's Literature Research Grant, underscores that while well-known princesses can be read with depth and complexity, untold stories are waiting to be uncovered in libraries like Clarke. Let us remember that these narratives are not only vehicles of enchantment but also tools of empowerment, capable of reshaping our perceptions and inspiring new generations of readers to see themselves in the stories they cherish.

Note: I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to all who have made this grant possible, especially Dr. Susan M. Stan, whom this grant honors. Her legacy and dedication to children’s literature paved the way for scholars like me to pursue our passions and make a meaningful impact.

[1] Mary de Morgan, "The Toy Princess," from On a Pincushion, and Other Fairy Tales, 1977 (PZ8 .D399 On3).

[2] Links to "The Toy Princess" point to an anthology by Louey Chisholm, The Enchanted Land : Tales Told Again, 1906, which includes a reprint of "The Toy Princess" authorized by Mary de Morgan.

[3] Richard le Gallienne, The Maker of Rainbows, and Other Fairy-tales and Fables, 1912 (PR4881 .M3 1912).

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The 100th Anniversary of Hemingway's “Three Stories and Ten Poems”

written by Magdelyn Gipe

The Clarke's copy of
Three Stories and Ten Poems
Ernest Hemingway has solidified his place in the American literary canon as a prolific author and cultural touchstone. He is most well-known because of noted books such as A Farewell To Arms (1929), The Old Man and the Sea (1952), and The Sun Also Rises (1926). Although these works are pieces that helped him rise to fame and stay there, his earlier writings set the tone for his career.

The earliest book in Hemingway's long bibliography debuted 100 years ago. Three Stories and Ten Poems was released in Paris, France, on September 1, 1923. Privately published when Ernest was just 24 years old, this first collection did not lead to Hemingway becoming exceptionally famous. However, the book was well received by critics and those who could get their hands on it. With only 300 copies made, securing one at the time was no easy feat, and it is even more of a tall task, today. In 2018, the Clarke was pleased to acquire one of these rare copies, which was made possible by the generous donors who have supported the Clarke Historical Library's Hemingway in Michigan collection over the years.

This collection of stories and poems was inspired, in part, by Hemingway’s experience during World War I and his summers spent in Michigan from his birth through his late adolescence. Indeed, the story, “Up in Michigan,” is the centerpiece of this collection of writing. The controversial story, set in fictional “Hortons” Bay, Michigan, graphically describes Jim forcing himself on Liz on a Lake Charlevoix dock after a night of drinking. It is said Hemingway’s own parents refused to have the book in their home because of the content.

List of best short stories of 1923, from the Omaha Morning Bee

100 years after the first collection of fiction by the future Nobel laureate hit the shelves, there is little doubt of Ernest Hemingway's legacy as a writer and cultural icon. For researchers examining Hemingway's life and career, his formative experiences in Michigan offer a great deal of insights. Thanks to our donors, the Clarke is proud to support such research with original sources, like Three Stories and Ten Poems, to accurately document Hemingway’s life with the works and writings he produced.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

The 100th Anniversary of the Central Marching Band

by Bryan Whitledge, adapted from a 2014 post by Casey Gamble

100 years ago, in September 1923, the students of the Central Normal College were hustling around in a frenzied attempt to register for classes (Central State Life, 9/25/1923, p. 2). The only peace to be had on campus was coming from the newly formed school band. It was the band’s duty to lighten the atmosphere and remind students that their first days in Mount Pleasant were the start of an exciting chapter of their lives. A century later, the CMU Marching band is still setting the tempo of the return to the Mt. Pleasant campus. The drum line’s infectious beats pulse through the air while the Leadership Safari participants explore their new campus. The blare of the trumpets in unison is the soundscape for students moving back into residence halls. And while friends meet up after three months of summer vacation, the Marching Chips are on the practice field and the tick-tick-tick of the metronome sets not only their cadence, but the cadence of all of those in earshot.

Group photo of the 20 or so marching band members in 1923
Central Marching Band, 1923

The first mention of a “school band” goes back to January of 1922, when the idea was “referred to [Central’s] Ways and Means Committee." It seems that they hoped to organize by that fall, but their plans didn’t come to pass until the next year. In the first issue of the Central Normal Life of the 1923-24 school year, the headline, “That Umpah Band an Assured Fact” triumphantly announced that Central would have a “real Normal band, instruments, uniforms, and even a drum major.” And that week, the band, which was organized by the Department of Music and lead by Mr. Powers (the man for whom Powers Hall – the old music building – is named), was lightening the mood around the Central campus with their music.

By November of 1923, the band had new uniforms and were ready to be a formidable 12th man for the football team when Central squared off against Alma College down in Alma later that month: “The new maroon and gold uniforms … are to be donned on that occasion, and a formal army of musicians will appear upon the Presbyterian battlefield* in the colored garb of war.”

CMU MArching band at the end of the football field, circa 1980s
CMU Marching Band, circa 1980

100 years later, the Marching Chips are still the loudest supporters of Central’s football players when they take the field. And getting to gameday involves quite a bit of practice and hard work. During band week, which happens right before the start of classes, the band members are on the practice field all day, every day, whether in the blazing heat or the pouring rain. Throughout campus, the Marching Chips break into sections that work on the songs and routines that will be on display for thousands of fans throughout the fall. All of the musicians put in hours of work to learn the songs for football halftime shows in addition to the dozens of pregame tunes, stand times, and of course, the CMU Fight Song.

Marching Chips in a line with drum major running, in 2014
Marching Chips, 2014
But the work doesn’t stop after band week—members of the Marching Chips are first and foremost CMU students. Once classes start, many of the music majors will be taking 10+ classes, and they combine that with marching band practice a few hours in the afternoon, except for game days when some sections will be practicing by 7:00 am. Graduate students and senior section leaders will help the younger marchers keep each foot together and each note in sync until the formations are performed to perfection.

And what is the payoff of all this hard work? After 100 years, the Marching Chips still brings cheer to the students of CMU when they need an upbeat song to get them through their studies. They continue to uplift the football team and entertain the crowds at halftime and throughout the game. The members hand down beloved traditions across multiple generations of band members. And the Marching Chips make lifelong memories and learn some of the most important lessons of their college experience in terms of discipline and perseverance. 

*Alma College was founded as a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in 1886 and remains so to this day.