By RUTH MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News
Many years ago, a lady I have admired for many years gave a presentation at the First Faculty and Staff Recognition Day at Mississippi State University held in 1983. It was entitled “Remembering Some Years.” She kindly gave me a copy to share herein. This lady’s name is Dr. Lois T. Kilgore. She is a native of Oktibbeha County and has given untiringly of herself to the county, the town and the campus which she deeply loves. She is a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church where she serves as an honorary member of the Administrative Board. She has served over fifteen hundred hours on the Hospital Auxiliary Board. I asked her how much time she gave to volunteering and she said, “100% for it is in doing that I keep going. In other words, “it is in giving that I receive.”
In 1968 Dr. Kilgore instigated, promoted and assisted in writing the proposal for the Department of Home Economics. She established a proposal for Human Nutrition to become a part of the ongoing Interdisciplinary Program in Nutrition. The Human Nutrition Program became the strongest arm on the program. Although she was the Head of Home Economics from 1969-71, she gave it up because she wanted back in the field she loved so much of nutrition and research.
After 31 years with the university, in 1984 she retired as a professor and research scientist and was honored as the first Professor Emerita in the Department of Home Economics.
The presentation is as follows.
Greetings. I suppose I was chosen for this honor because my memories of Mississippi State University begin earlier than most folks. I was born in the shadow of the great university, Mississippi State University. I guess that is the reason I never attained any great height, as all Ag folks know that nothing grows well in that much shade. Our property bordered the South Farm and the house was located on Sessums Road which at that time was the principal road to Columbus. On weekends, college boys would don their ROTC uniforms (in order to identify themselves as college students) and walk down the road close to my house to catch a ride to Columbus to visit the girls at the neighboring college. As soon as I learned the alphabet, I asked what the ROTC on their uniforms stood for and was told that it stood for “Run Over to Columbus.” Now I am not going to tell you how old I was before that fallacy was dispelled.
Let’s back up a little beyond my memory. After the War Between the States, the land grant impulses caused agricultural and mechanical colleges to burst forth all over this land. Three-fifths of the first Morrill Act funds which came to Mississippi went to Alcorn A & M and two-fifths went to Ole Miss, but Ole Miss was unable to attract agricultural students so A & M at its present location came into existence in 1878. Almost two years went into planning. Old Main Dormitory opened in 1880. Each room had a fireplace and rainwater was caught in a cistern to provide water. The first water tank was installed in 1896 – in case of fire. By 1898 running water and electric lights were installed. When the lights were turned on in the 100-room structure, I understand the Starkville citizenry turned out in mass to see the bright lights. Coeds were admitted to the college in 1890. They were mainly children of the faculty but during the 1912-1913 session, some boy students were seen talking to some girl students in the English library and no coeds were admitted for the next eighteen years. Then for 1930-1931session, the Board reinstated coeds. There was no dormitory for girls until enrollment fell during World War II. At that time, Magruder Hall became the first girl’s dormitory.
Athletics began for A & M in 1885 as a baseball game played in a cow pasture, of course. Competitive football began in 1895. In the early 1930’s my older sister was going to Ole Miss. She entered before State became coeducational. After an Ole Miss-A & M game, she brought home a group of friends by the house to wait for the “dust to settle, and I do mean, “settle” for all Mississippi roads were gravel then. They had the Golden Egg but I hardly looked at it- you see I was already a staunch A & M supporter and had bad years even then.
A turn for the better in 1935, Mississippi State upset an undefeated Army team and we also beat an Alabama team that had an end named Paul “Bear” Bryant. I finally achieved my life’s goal in 1939 and became a student at Mississippi State. In November of that year, the mascot Bully who ran free on the campus was run over by a bus in front of the Y. The students gave Bully a tremendous funeral – glass covered casket with at least a dozen wreaths of flowers. We marched from the YMCA to the football field. The funeral dirge was suppose to be: “Beat Ole Miss, Beat Ole Miss, but as usual we ended up with telling Ole Miss exactly where to go.” We buried Bully under the player’s bench on the 50-yard line. This ushered in State’s greatest football decade – the 1940s. We won 67% of our games during the 1940s even though in 1949 the team, which included a tackle named Jerry Clower, did not win a single game. The time during the 1930s and early 1940s was also the big band era. The Student Association would bring big bands in twice a year for large dances in the cafeteria. They simply took up the chairs and tables and it made a great dance hall. How many of you remember Jack Teagarden or Kay Kaiser’s band with Ish Kabibil? Fraternities and sororities were now quite legal and there was a dance in the cafeteria almost every Saturday night. There were almost 2,000 students but still everyone spoke as they went across campus.
Later on when I was an employee instead of a student, there was that sad morning during exam week, January 1959, when we arrived on campus to see the smoldering ruins of Old Main Dormitory. The dormitory had grown from a building housing 100 students, to a U, to a 4-storied quadrangle which could house 1500 students. It was said to be the largest dormitory under one roof in the world. The four inside walls surrounded an area with grass and trees. As a youngster when I skated on the campus, all the boys skated through Old Main but the girls could not. We were told there might be “unclothed” boys in that quadrangle. Now people are quick to tell us our educational system is failing—the caliber of our students gets lower and lower, but let me ask you this: “If those students of 50 years ago were so smart, what in the world were they doing in their birthday suits – out in front of God and everybody – in the cold months of January and February, when I was wearing the new off of my Christmas skates?”
I can see we’re going to have to have a rerun because my allotted time is about up and I haven’t told you anything about Bilbo’s purge in 1930. The presidents of Ole Miss, State Teachers College (Delta State) and A & M were all fired, along with one-third of our faculty and many support staff that Bilbo wanted to replace. Nor have I told about how the A & M Student Body petitioned the State Legislature to change the name to Mississippi State College in 1932 when the state was near bankruptcy and enrollment had dropped to around 800 students----nor about the president who left the campus only a jump ahead of a court injunction in 1963 so Babe McCarthy’s basketball team could play in the integrated NCAA tournament and nor about Si Marchbanks receiving the first PhD degree that was granted in 1953; believe it was in agronomy—or Richard Holmes entering the University as the first black student in 1965. I watched him from my third story window - Security was not far behind him. He was a pre-med student. Later, he became my graduate student in nutrition. He left in 1973 when he was accepted by a Michigan medical school. He then came back to State and practiced medicine in the Student Health Center. Our baseball team has gotten to Omaha and as far as Hawaii.
How many of you remember that when taps sounded on campus, no matter where you were, inside or out, you stopped, faced the flagpole and silently meditated while the flag was lowered and folded. While we’re on this note, students are our business. We at the university must seek to help each student bring together discontinuous experiences and unorganized thoughts into more coherent patterns, into structural concepts that help in understanding man, nature and the world within which we exist. Learning how to think at this conceptual level is particularly important to our present complex age. For no individual can master the whole of our society’s accumulated knowledge. We each live but a part of it. Our inherited culture is so vast that in order to grasp it’s significance, we must convert fragmentary glimpses of it into our larger understanding. This ability to use knowledge to think at a deeper level remains the first goal of all university education.
So now I want to say: Thanks for letting me be a part of the University for this has certainly helped to make my life more intellectually meaningful. More than this – I know most of you are truly grateful for the opportunity you have had to work with young people who have chosen to study in the same area that you chose – the subjects that hold most of your interest – that are closest to your heart. By educating students in your chosen area, you have assured that even when you have shuffled off this mortal coil, the field of your choice will continue to develop and expand – you can’t ask for more than this. This is the best life..
Dr. Richard Holmes, Physician and former student, remembers. I remember Dr. Lois T. Kilgore as one of my favorite professors. I was the first male student in the department. She took me in and made me feel accepted - like I was part of the family. She was a great leader and professor. When I was accepted to Michigan State Medical School, she was very supportive of me and encouraged me to pursue my dream. I always remember her professionalism, character and understanding.