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The MetroWest Daily News
August 10, 2003, p.1, 3 (Globe West)


Celebrating Framingham State College's Rich History


By Chris Bergeron, News Staff Writer

FRAMINGHAM - Just in time for its 150 anniversary party, Framingham State College has received a unique birthday present.

Husband and wife authors, R. Marc Kantrowitz and Marianne Larson, have written, "Framingham State College," a 128-page collection of captioned photographs that chronicle the history of a ground-breaking institution.

Drawing from the college's archives, Kantrowitz, an associate justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and Larson, a 1976 FSC graduate, have published a comprehensive record of the nation's first public teacher training college and the people who made it special.

FSC President Helen Heineman said she was "delighted" the book was published in time for the September celebration of the college's relocation to Framingham 150 years ago.

"This book conveys what a venerable institution we are.  We have a very proud history," said Heineman, FSC's first woman president who began her 30-year association with the college in 1974 as an English teacher.  "Seeing all this history between the covers of one book gives a great sense of completeness."

Kantrowitz's and Larson's book documents the college's steady progress at three different sites from a one-building school in Lexington with just three students to a booming campus with 6,000 students in the heart of MetroWest.

Early photographs reveal an austere atmosphere that seems as distant from today's college as spats and whalebone corsets.

An early photograph of the Class of 1868 reveals 18 somber women wearing the full skirts and high necklines of the Victorian era.

Early faculty members, Cyrus and Harriet Coffin Pierce, convey a dour rectitude typical of mid-19th century portraiture.

Despite the college's early financial problems, the first building built in Framingham for $10,000 in 1853 on the site of present-day May Hall appeared spacious and stately.

The 150 black-and-white photographs the authors selected largely from FSC's archives show the college has successfully adapted to changing times.

A visitor to FSC today would meet a diverse mix of male and female students from as far away as Japan, carrying college-issued laptop computers and wearing the latest fashions in nose rings and tattoos.

The book includes a 1964 photograph of 13 well-scrubbed young men, the college's first male students.

Established in 1839 as the Normal School, the institution opened its doors in Lexington to just three students.

Facing financial difficulties, the college moved to West Newton in the mid-1840s and, then, to a 6-acre plot on Bare Hill in Framingham Centre, officially reopening on Dec. 15, 1853.

Heineman said she was gratified by Kantrowitz's and Larson's proposal to write the book because it would represent the first public institution profiled by Arcadia Publishing in a series that so far includes 25 private colleges.

Alumnis should be proud the book highlighted the accomplishments of early graduates like FSC class poetess Charlotte Stearns, the mother of poet T.S. Elliot, Ruth Graves Wakefield, inventor of the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie and Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, who perished in the 1986 crash of the Challenger Space Shuttle.

Heineman compared the college to the racehorse "Seabiscuit" because it had a proud spirit and exceeded people's expectations.

"This book will make people aware of the great things our college offers," she said.

And Heineman credited 19th century educational innovators, like Horace Mann, for "taking a risk" by supporting an all-women teachers' college.

"In those days, this school represented a tremendous experiment.  I've been here (as a teacher and administrator) almost 30 years.  This book shows we've had some long-standing history we can feel proud about." she said.

Larson said the idea for the book began a year ago when her husband, who'd already finished profiles of Ashland and Canton, wanted to write for Arcadia Publishing's "college series."

Since she'd graduated in 1976 as a French and Spanish major, writing about her beloved alma mater seemed a perfect match for Larson.

"We started around Christmas 2002 and finished by April 2003," she said.  "We wanted to have it ready for the September celebrations."

The husband-wife team divided their labors with Kantrowitz providing the research and Larson reviewing the photos.

As a guiding principle, they chose photographs of people that conveyed "a sense of the student experience."

Larson said, "I think originally we wanted to tell the college's story.  After we started, we realized what an important role the college had played for women's higher education by opening up career paths that hadn't been previously available."

She cited the educational foundation an FSC education gave graduate Olivia Davidson who went on to help husband Booker T. Washington found Tuskegee Institute.

"It's clear the college played an important role giving women opportunities.  That was the mission from the beginning.  The college has always been a place where women could do something other than be a mother and child-rearer," Larson said.

Nearly 30 years after her graduation, Larson said "I can't believe how much Framingham State has changed since my time there."

"In the old days, the area in front of Dwight Hall looked like a rotary.  Now, it's quite lovely.  The athletic facilities are quite remarkable.  And, obviously, there's a lot more men," she said.

Wile putting their book together, the authors enjoyed considerable help from Christopher Carden, FSC's special collections librarian and archivist.

He helped Kantrowitz sift his way through several thousand photographs to find the 150 that went into the book.

"Mr. Kantrowitz had a structure in mind from the book.  He definitely had an idea of what was there," Carden said.  While the college archives held several hundred 19th century photographs, the "vast majority" of available images came from the last 30 years," he said.

The authors organized the book into ten chapters, progressing from "The Early Years," "Buildings and People Behind Them" and "The Presidents" finally to "Sports" and "The 1970s Onwards."

In his first year at FSC, Carden said the project acquainted him with several famous alumni, like abolitionist Mary Miles Bibb, the college's first black graduate, playwright Jeffrey Stetson and Channel 56 anchor Kristen Daly.

"It was fun to research these people," he said.  "It got me cranking to know our college's history."

Carden believes "Framingham State College" documents "how the college has grown over the years and educated many famous people."

"This book shows this college has had a rich, diverse, interesting and important history," he said.  "It accurately shows how Framingham State College has grown over the years and what it's accomplished."

"Framingham State College" is published by Arcadia Publishing.  It costs $19.99.  It will be available in local bookstores this month.

Framingham State University

100 State Street

PO Box 9101

Framingham, MA 01701-9101

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Phone: 508-620-1220