The new Edwin O. Grover Room at Olin Library (Photo: Amanda Vocks)
The Olin Library and the Rollins College Archives are happy to share this guest blog post from Dr. Eduard Gfeller, a documentary filmmaker and friend of the Library. Dr. Gfeller’s most recent project is a documentary about Edwin Osgood Grover, who was named Professor of Books at Rollins in 1926. Thank you, Dr. Gfeller, for sharing your research and expertise!
It is so great to see Edwin Grover’s classroom re-created on the ground floor of the Olin Library. What a wonderful way to celebrate and memorialize his contributions to Rollins and Winter Park! Edwin Osgood Grover should be a household name, particularly at Rollins. Thank you to the Director of the Olin Library, Jonathan Miller, for spearheading this project. The renovation was made possible through a gift from David F. and Nancy Berto. Dave met Grover while waiting for a bus at the corner of 17-92 and Fairbanks Avenue in 1950, and after spending time in the Army during the Korean conflict, he graduated in 1956. He and Grover kept up a correspondence until Edwin died in 1965.
Edwin Grover (1870-1965) was accustomed to sitting around a large, oval table that had been in his family for over two hundred years. When he came to Winter Park in February of 1926 to talk with Hamilton Holt (1872-1951) about becoming Professor of Books (1926-1949) and learned about Holt’s Conference style of teaching, he wanted to make sure that his students would sit comfortably around oval tables with green felt covers to protect the bindings of the books they would be reading. In the fall, Edwin had the college carpenter build several of those tables at his expense. Grover’s courses were very popular and, in fact, had to be limited to upperclassmen. He taught three courses: the Romance of the Book, Literary Personalities, and Recreational Reading. The Olin Archives has copies of his ample lecture notes and some of the artifacts he used to teach his courses, ranging from Mesopotamian tablets to medieval manuscripts to movable type and modern book making materials.
Edwin Grover in class, 1937. Pres. Holt asked him what kind of classroom he would design for Conference Plan classes, and Prof. Grover envisioned an “oval table, green felt cover to protect the binding of books, students gathered around, bookcases on walls for 2,000 books, and fireplace.” He also noted, “Got all but fireplace.”
Grover didn’t just encourage students to read, he encouraged students and faculty to write prose and poetry alike, and he emphasized how important it was to have one’s creations published. His Angel Alley Press, founded in 1927, published several tomes of Rollins poetry. He also started the Flamingo (1927-1968), the Rollins student literary magazine. His correspondence with Zora Neale Hurston is remarkable and he fostered other writers, including Bucklin Moon ’34.
Grover and Holt hit it off. Together, they created the Animated Magazine, an annual literary show that brought famous speakers to Winter Park, and oversaw its production from 1927 to 1949. Grover was also director of the Carnegie Library (1928-1931), and served as Vice President of the College from 1938 to 1951.
Hamilton Holt and Edwin Grover at the 1941 edition of the Animated Magazine
After his wife’s death in 1936, Edwin started the Hannibal Square Library. Both Grover and his wife Mertie (1871-1936) were dedicated Congregationalists who strongly believed in the importance of education for African-Americans. Members of the Winter Park Congregational Church remember him from Sunday services: everyone knew “the professor;” he was almost a head taller than the rest of the congregation. Working with young people and educating them to become responsible adults was Grover’s overriding goal in life. He was a textbook and art supply publisher before coming to Rollins and always actively engaged in a number of community and youth initiatives. He founded a “Fecit” club (a forerunner of a Boy Scout troop), taught Sunday School and spent summers conducting a boy’s camp at Apallachee Lake near Boothbay Harbor, ME, and taught at the Blowing Rock School of English and at the Huckleberry Mountain Artist Colony, both in North Carolina. Edwin, together with John H. “Jack” Connery ’35, also founded a Botanical Garden that they named in honor of horticulturist Theodore Mead (1852-1936). As Taylor Briggs, the first director of Parks and Recreation in Winter Park, said, Grover was a mover and shaker.
Edwin Grover (right) with Hamilton Holt and Mary McLeod Bethune ’49H, President of Bethune-Cookman College, in 1949. Prof. Grover was a trustee of the college (now Bethune-Cookman University).
While checking out the new Grover classroom, make sure you stop at the Archives and see the plaque that Ruth Sherwood (1889-1953) sculpted of him in 1949, and on the way out, check for the Grover stone in the Rollins Walk of Fame.
Prof. Grover receives a stone in the College’s Walk of Fame on his 88th birthday (June 4, 1958)
The Grovers lived on Osceola Avenue from 1926 to 1943, then on Camellia near Mead Garden. Grover Avenue and the Grover Family grave in Palm Cemetery are the other local landmarks that remind us of this great man who has been called an unsung hero of Rollins and of Winter Park.
For additional information on Edwin Grover and his family, or to view clips from the Grover documentary, please visit www.groverprofessorofbooks.com.
~by Dr. Eduard Gfeller
The Grover Room is located on the first floor of the Olin Library (one flight down from the main entrance) in room 104. When classes are in session there, passersby can see the image of Prof. Grover’s classroom in 1926 alongside our current students, also seated at a conference table before their professor. Prof. Grover surely would have been pleased to see this wonderful juxtaposition of Rollins’ past and present.
A class in session in the Grover Room (Photo: Amanda Vocks)
We thank Mr. and Mrs. Berto for this gift to the Library in tribute to a man who helped establish the innovative Rollins Conference Plan of Education while proclaiming “The Fun of Professing Books.”
~ D. Moore, Archival Specialist