National Goals


Dapper President Edwin Alderman died of a major stroke April 30, 1931. He left behind a considerable legacy. Between the years 1904 and 1929, the student body grew from 500 to 2200, instructors from 48 to 290; total income increased from $160,000 per year to $1,741,352 and the endowment leaped from $350,000 to $10 million (Dabney, 133). The deepening of the Depression brought calls for a quick succession. Instead, after 18 months the University was still run ably by Acting President John Lloyd Newcomb. In fact, the Raven Society awarded Newcomb the first ever Raven Award to a faculty member for his "handling of the University's problems..in this crisis" (Dabney, 138). Amidst student and faculty petitions and agitations, the Board of Visitors was forced to abandon its search for a nationally recognizable president and voted unanimously October 6, 1933 to elect Newcomb the University's second president.

Newcomb immediately had trouble in his lap as a 20% reduction in state monies for the years 1929-1932 meant a like reduction in funds available for faculty salaries. While serving as Alderman's aide de camp for the past decade, Newcomb learned the administrative ins and outs of the University, enabling him to weather the storm and deliver every paycheck to every professor (Dabney, 141). Enrollment dropped to 2435 at the bottom of the Depression, but by 1937 had risen to 2741 and continued to grow (ibid., 164).

Alderman and Newcomb shared the desire for Virginia to expand in order to become a nationally recognized hotbed of scholarship (Mannina, 2). With a doubling of the faculty, the addition of fine scholars, and the expansion of facilities, Newcomb was able to move the University ever closer to his and Alderman's goal.

Building Projects


Edgar Allan Poe's room on the Range benefited from refurbishing in 1930. Robert Edmund Campbell, Dean of the Architecture School, led the crew charged with paying the strictest attention to detail (Dabney, 126). After outgrowing Minor Hall, the Law School moved into brand new facilities in Clark Hall, made possible by a large gift from a University alumnus (ibid., 182). Scott Stadium, in its first incarnation, opened in time for the 1933 football season. The Thomas H. Bayly Art Museum, with the aid of 100,000 federal dollars out of its $138,000 price tag, opened its doors boasting of a Rembrandt Peale portrait of George Washington.

Alderman Library Under Construction

Thornton Hall, home of the Engineering School, reached completion in 1933 after attaining a grant of $379,000 from the Public Works Administration. Two new wings added to the hospital in 1934 were made possible by PWA grants totaling $350,000. For the first time in history, rooms on the East Range gained the use of hot water with an upgrade in facilities in 1938 (ibid., 184). The Rotunda received a facelift in 1939, paid for with a $61,000 PWA grant and state monies. Marble steps on the Lawn side were installed, plus balustrades and columns of the same material (Gilliam, personal conversation). The feather in the cap, however, was the new library, unanimously dedicated in honor of President Alderman in 1938. Built at a cost of $950,000, Alderman came into being through a PWA grant of $427,909 and a bond issuance. Its completion brought a slew of important acquisitions including the McGregor Collection of historical documents. The Garnett room, constructed to resemble a Virginia Gentleman's library from the antebellum period, housed the new Collection.

Alderman Library ca. 1938

A decade draws to a close

Virginia men, while aware of the emergent conditions around the country, occupied a distinctly cushioned position during the 30s. When questioned whether or not he felt the Depression, William Spong responded, "No, those years were over" (2). Francis Crenshaw agreed. "Frankly," he told an interviewer, "the impression that I got was more a reverse because I got to know some people who were quite affluent. The vast majority seemed to be getting along without really too much emphasis on deprivation" (3). Baxter concurs by drawing a comparison to the decade previous. Less 'disposable' money burned holes in student pockets, but otherwise, there was no extreme hardship in the student body.

Virginia students during the Depression shared many of the same characteristics with their forebears. The real difference between UVA and other schools "was the way in which the University translated national events into elements of its own social life" (Baxter, 436). Virginia students thought (and think) themselves different from their peers at other institutions (ibid., 446). This understanding of themselves comes from a constant immersion in the amniotic fluid of tradition. A striving towards the ideals of the Virginia Gentleman birthed a new man upon his graduation from the University. The events of the coming years would severely test the limits of the University. Robert P. Englander:

When war broke out on December 7, 1941, my roommate and I, who were in Davis Hall at the time, were sitting in our living room studying. All of a sudden we heard this big guy clomping down the stairs. And a great big guy who played tackle on the football team came running in the room and said, "The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor!" Al Lohman looked at me, and I looked at him and we said to each other, "Where in the world is Pearl Harbor?"

Virginia students would find out soon enough. The result would change their world forever.

Further Reading and Works Cited

Athletic Tales | Academic Tales | Social Tales | Community Tales | Progressive Tales | Introduction

American Studies at Virginia