Object Lesson

I appreciate your short article about the co-education lawsuit as part of the “Object Lesson” in the Summer 2014 edition. Let me add an additional, personal perspective. The University established the Committee on the Admission of Women, which, in the spring of 1970, approved a proposal for a 10-year quota system—with no promise of equal admission. I was the only undergraduate student who served on the committee, and I refused to sign the majority report. I wrote a minority report that said the University should immediately implement full equal admission, on a fairness basis, but that recognized the need to modify facilities and academics to accommodate the admission of women on an equal basis. My minority report recommended a two-year transition period with full equal admission of women after two years.

I was aware of the co-education lawsuit, and I provided a copy of my minority report to John Lowe, the Charlottesville attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. During the proceedings, it turns out that the University had not provided my minority report in its delivery of discovery. I did not know this until a few years ago when John Lowe explained how he presented the minority report to the University during the judicial proceedings and forced the Rector to acknowledge there had been a minority report.

Soon afterward, the Board of Visitors adopted a compromise plan that called for a two-year transition program with equal admission of women thereafter. I would like to think that my minority report had some impact on this decision.

Kevin L. Mannix (Col ’71, Law ’74)
Salem, Ore.


In the “Object Lesson” article, mention is made of the “Walter Ridley Scrapbook.” As written, incorrect inferences could be drawn from some of the words and that should be corrected. The troublesome words are as follows: “The Alumni Association administers a merit-based scholarship program for African-American students named in Ridley’s honor, which was established in 1987.”

Yes, such a fund does exist, however, it is not administered by the Alumni Association, nor has it ever been administered by the association. They have supported the fund and presently enjoy a key role of receiving and disbursing contributions.

However, a board composed solely of Black alumni has always managed Ridley. In fact, the fund was created as a result of the first ever Black Alumni Reunion in 1987. I keynoted that event and during it challenged those present to create such a fund. Jim Trice and Harold Marsh, Black alumni from the ’60s, joined with me in establishing the fund. We agreed to name it after Dr. Walter N. Ridley who, in 1953, became the first Black to receive a degree of any kind from UVA. He earned and deserved that honor.

It is worth noting that such a fund is the first of its kind in the nation to be created and managed by Black alumni. No other such effort exists. Like its namesake, the Ridley Fund is historical.

Since inception, close to a million dollars have been awarded to incoming Black students and the Fund has more than $5 million in its treasury, thus ensuring that the effort will be long-lived.

Incidentally, my roots at UVA go deep. In 1958, I was the first Black ever to receive a J.D. degree from UVA’s Law School and, in 1994, my daughter, Susan Beth Merchant, became the first child of a Black law school graduate to receive a J.D. from UVA’s Law School, thus creating the first Black legacy at the Law School; a fact that is a source of great pride for us.

John F. Merchant (Law ’58)
Newtown, Conn.

Our intent was to indicate that the Alumni Association provides administrative support to Ridley. We appreciate this clarification of the unclear wording. —Ed.


I read with considerable interest your feature story on the stories that various UVA-related objects tell. Well done!

Student license plates like this one caused a riot in the 1950s.

As I did so, another object—perhaps a relic—came to mind. I have an old (1957-58) metal student automobile plate. Long before decals and various stickers came into usage, the University issued these small (roughly 3 inches x 4 inches) metal plates for registered student vehicles.

The reason this particular year’s plate is part of the “rest of the story” is that the next fall, the administration determined that licensing of these plates would be tied to grade-point averages. As you might imagine, this was something less than a popular decision.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch article tells the story of the resulting riot. A photo accompanying the story was taken in Mad Bowl in front of the FIJI house. A student sits on a front fender, calmly smoking while the car under him goes up in flames.

The crowd eventually made its way down Main Street to the Corner, where police confronted and dispersed it.

It was, indeed, an interesting evening.

Dr. Wayne Whelan (Col ’60, Educ ’67)
Mount Pleasant, S.C.


I was delighted to see my sister’s 1945 wedding dress in the summer 2014 issue of Virginia Magazine. The photograph portrays the back of the dress, but the front of the dress is lovely and much more flattering.

James W. “Jim” Franklin (Law ’55)
Beverly Hills, Calif.

Pulitzer Winners

Impressive as it was, your list of “Pulitzer Winners with University Ties” in the Summer 2014 edition was incomplete in at least one important respect. James Alan McPherson was teaching at the University in 1977 when he published Elbow Room, and in 1978, when he became the first African-American winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for that short-story collection. I was a first-year student taking a creative writing course from Jim when the award was announced, and I wondered what the registrar could possibly do for me during my second, third and fourth years to top that thrill.

Charles K. Purcell (Col ’81)
Albuquerque, N.M.


I’d like to add my name, perhaps as a footnote, to the list of illustrious “Pulitzer Winners with University Ties.”

The editorial board of the Miami Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1983. I was one of nine members of that editorial board. I was the lead writer of the occasional series that won the prize that year for protesting the Reagan administration’s inhumane treatment of Haitian refugees in South Florida.

My name was not on the award—it went to the editorial board as a whole, for editorial writing was a collaborative craft, and each of our nine members played a role in the series. I was honored to be among them, and would be honored to be remembered along with the other distinguished writers you cited as Pulitzer winners with UVA ties.

Robert A. Rankin (Grad ’74)
Wilmington, N.C.

At What Price Athletics?

I read with interest the letter in the Summer 2014 issue from Neil O’Donnell regarding “Coaches’ Salaries” and your response to his letter. You state that “none (of coaches’ salaries) comes from University or taxpayer dollars.” True enough on taxpayer dollars. However, [UVA Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations] Jim Daves’ quote regarding money coming from the University seems contradictory. Jim’s statement includes “philanthropic gifts” (presumably gifts to the Virginia Athletic Foundation) and “student fees” as components of the revenue stream that are directed to the department of athletics. Given that, it seems that the University community does indeed contribute to the revenue used to offset expenses, including coaches’ salaries.

It is difficult to discern from the public record the degree to which annual giving to the VAF and student fees contribute to the revenue stream. I discovered a study completed in Fall 2013 that was commissioned by the General Assembly Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). It is a study of “auxiliary services” at all public colleges and universities in Virginia. Athletics is one of the auxiliaries reviewed.

The JLARC study indicates that none of Virginia’s schools have athletic programs that in aggregate break even without student fees. Also, one finds that expense categories with the greatest percentage of increase in the six years covered by the study are athletic student aid and coach’s salaries. No doubt that in order to have competitive Division I men’s football and basketball programs, the head coaches for those sports must receive million-dollar-plus compensation packages. Whether we are competitive or not, it appears that the revenues generated by men’s football and basketball are not enough to cover expenses in other sports, including the funding of scholarships mandated by Title IX. Interesting as the JLARC study is, it does not constitute a comprehensive financial report for UVA or for any of the other schools.

I would like to see an article in Virginia Magazine that addresses the financing of our Division I sports, and the response of the University administration to the 2013 JLARC study and its findings. Are the benefits that success in football and basketball bring being realized without an adverse effect on our core mission? Could we better fund AccessUVa, or be better able to attract and retain top-notch faculty, if we were not in Division I? Are we concerned with the increased imbalance between football and basketball coaches’ compensation and zero compensation for their athletes? Are we happy to have added “entertaining the public” to our core mission? To what degree are our students supportive of how their fees are used? Can we tell if marketing the University through the success of our participation in Division I is a material factor in the enrollment of the top-notch students we are seeking? These are the sorts of questions that could be explored in such an article.

My comments are not intended to impugn either the VAF or the administration of the department of athletics. I do not doubt their integrity nor their dedication to the success of the athletic programs at the University. I too yell without restraint for the Wahoos on our courts and playing fields. However, absent a full cost/benefit analysis report, it appears to me, as perhaps it does to Mr. O’Donnell and other alumni, that a line has been crossed where the entertainment value of big-time college sports on Grounds is greater than the value they bring to our core mission. I hope I am wrong.

Grady Lewis (Col ’65)
North Garden, Va.

An On-Grounds Casino

In the Spring 2014 issue of Virginia Magazine, you published an article on Major League Baseball and spring training in Charlottesville in the 1890s. In researching a similar article I wrote on the subject a few years ago for TheSabre.com, I discovered a few interesting facts your readers might enjoy.

With the advent of the American League in 1901, a new franchise was started in Boston. The Boston Americans (later renamed the Boston Red Sox), kicked off their franchise by playing two exhibition games against the University team that spring. Yes, the first organized game in the history of the Boston Red Sox organization was played against the University of Virginia on the YMCA campus, known today as Mad Bowl.

One of the reasons Charlottesville was advantageous for spring training was its Fayerweather Gymnasium, the largest athletic facility in the South when it was completed in 1893. The indoor track, batting cage, steam showers, hot baths and locker rooms were luxurious for that era. But it was the development of Lambeth Field in 1901 that was most alluring. Teams fell in love with the playing surface, which, according to a Washington Post beat writer, boasted a special combination of clay and ash that was “as level as a billiard table.”

The American League Washington Senators began traveling to Charlottesville in 1905, when manager Clark Griffith was wooed by its combination of amenities. According to the Washington Post, “The players will not only have a splendid field on which to practice, but in the event of inclement weather they [can] do useful work in the well-equipped gymnasium. These are advantages that few, if any, of the major league teams will have.”

In 1916 the Senators were working on a partnership with athletics director William Lambeth to build a new clubhouse at UVA at a cost of $30,000. It was to be called “The Casino at the University of Virginia,” and would have a swimming pool, lockers, showers and a trophy room. The Senators, of course, would have their own wing, complete with sleeping quarters, residing on the hill just above Lambeth Stadium.

Plans for "The Casino at the University of Virginia" were abandoned after the advent of WWI. The Special Collections Library holds these original architectural drawings.

This permanent spring home for the ballclub would have soon been unveiled, but the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917 put a stop to construction after only the foundation had been poured. By the time UVA officials resumed discussions of the clubhouse at the end of WWI, their thinking had changed, and 1921 saw the construction of an even grander athletic facility, Memorial Gymnasium, which would be the third-largest gym on the East Coast. The foundation for the abandoned clubhouse was later augmented to build the faculty apartments that still stand today.

The architectural plans for the Casino are archived at the Special Collections Library and show a glimpse of what might have been a grand baseball experiment. Alas, the weather is much more predictable in Florida during the spring.

Kevin Edds (Col ’95)
Arlington, Va.

Poor Judgment?

Professor John Portmann’s “Withholding Judgment” piece (First Person, Summer 2014) brings one question to mind—where is the sense of respect for a woman of eminence that the most personal aspects of her life are laid open for probing and speculation? The issues raised in that article invade the private life of the justice and introduce ideas that may not be grounded in her reality.

The topic of marriages impacted by the dementia of a spouse is most appropriate for our times. The invasion into the private lives of those impacted by dementia should require restraint and decency.

Barbara Slyder Rice (Grad ’61, ’65)
Huntsville, Ala.