The Roots of Global Citizenship: Rollins’ First Latin American Students, 1896-1897

cubanvillageontherollinscampus1902watermarked-jpegRollins students from Cuba, 1902

The Archives is pleased to share this guest blog post from Susan Montgomery, Public Services Librarian at Olin Library. Prof. Montgomery’s recent scholarship includes research on the first international students to attend Rollins, who came from Cuba in the late 1890s.  Thank you, Susan!

 * * * * *

From September 15 to October 15, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month.  During this time, we recognize the contributions Hispanics have made to our history and culture.  More than food or dance, it is about people.  People who have either recently moved to the U.S. from Spanish speaking nations or those raised here in Spanish-speaking households. As the library liaison to Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, I am passionate about learning more about the countries of the region and the relations between the U.S. and these countries.

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with 11 colleagues.  Before leaving, I wanted to explore the connection between Rollins and the island country.  During my research I learned that the first internationals students to study at Rollins were in fact from Cuba.  Members of the Gonzalez family, Eulogio and Jacinto, arrived in the 1896-97 academic year.  Subsequently their sisters, Trinidad and Francisca, joined them.  Of course, questions followed. Why did they come to Rollins? How did they learn about Rollins? Do we know anything about their experience?

gonzalezfrancestomokan1917watermarked-jpegFrancisca Gonzalez studied at Rollins from 1897 to 1899 and 1900-1902.  She also taught Spanish at the College for two years (1916-1918).

I uncovered some of the answers but am still looking for more.  George Morgan Ward first served as President of Rollins from 1896 to 1902.  Rollins was a young institution then and looking for new ways to attract students.  The island of Cuba was in the midst of war, the Spanish-American war or the Cuban War for Independence, depending on whose perspective.  Nonetheless, violence was rampant across the island.  The young Gonzalez children traveled to Rollins to continue their education.  Others followed.  It is still unclear how these students learned about Rollins.  President Ward hired Dean Elijah C. Hills, who had traveled and lived in Cuba prior to joining the Rollins faculty.  According to Ward’s papers, he was involved in recruiting Cuban students to Rollins, but to what extent is not clear.  There are notes from a man named B.L. Gonzalez, presumably the Gonzalez family patriarch, who also recruited Cuban students.  Among the documents I found newspaper advertisements about Rollins translated into Spanish.

cubannewspaperadsept1897Rollins advertisement from an unnamed Cuban newspaper, September 1897

For these Cuban students, Rollins College provided an escape from the violence in their home country and an opportunity to continue their learning.  They became immersed in U.S. culture and received instruction only in English.  These students came from successful Cuban families whose financial security was compromised due to the war.  Not surprisingly, serious emphasis was placed on their appearance.  One note from B.L. Gonzalez to Dr. Ward dated May 29, 1902, describes a young man who is traveling with him from Cuba to Rollins.  In it, Gonzalez describes the student: “The boy is 17 years old, white boy and his name is Jose Manuel.”  I am exploring more in-depth their experience in Winter Park while they studied at Rollins.


Students at Pinehurst in 1899. Their average age was 14; most of the boys pictured here were enrolled in the College’s preparatory division and came to Rollins from Cuba,                             under the Latin American Program created by Pres. Ward.

So as my research continues, I find it inspiring that Rollins has maintained some of the values that began in the first years of the college.  Our commitment to global citizenship and responsible leadership was probably not at the forefront in the minds of the first college presidents.  However, Dr. Ward’s willingness to enroll students from another country without strong English comprehension skills demonstrates Rollins as a place of inclusion and acceptance.  The recent resettlement of a refugee family from Colombia, another Spanish speaking country, further demonstrates that commitment. Thus during this month when we celebrate Hispanic culture in the U.S., it is important to remember that it is more than food and music.  It is about people, what we can share and learn from each other and how that relationship is central not only to the past but also to the future.

bretosmiguelwithbaseballteamcroppedwatermarked-jpgMiguel Bretos (front row, left) from Mantanzas, Cuba, played on the Rollins baseball and basketball teams in 1908. In 1925, he wrote fondly of his student days at Rollins and of “Winter Park itself with its beautiful sites,” adding, “I can emphatically say that Rollins is well engraved on my soul.”

~by Prof. Susan Montgomery

Note:  To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month activities at Rollins, please visit Chase Hall. To read more about Rollins’ connection to Cuba, please see Rollins360.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Classroom and Historic Image Pay Homage to Rollins’ Professor of Books

groverroombyamandavockswatermarkedThe 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.

groverinclassroom1937watermarkedEdwin 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.

animatedmagazine1941watermarkedHamilton 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.

holtbethunegrovercroppedwatermarkedEdwin 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.

walkoffameceremonywatermarkedProf. 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

~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.

groverroomclassbyamandavockswatermarkedA 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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“I Feel That You Are All My Friends”: Alexandra Tolstoy in Winter Park

AnimatedMagazine1940Alexandra Tolstoy, the daughter of author Leo Tolstoy, speaking at the Rollins Animated Magazine in 1940

Sometimes it is surprising what one finds–or in this case, doesn’t find–in the archival record. Although Alexandra Tolstoy, the youngest daughter of Leo Tolstoy, spoke at Rollins twice, we have found very little information about her in our holdings. Though we have a good deal of material for many of the other speakers who visited Rollins, for Alexandra Tolstoy the record is slight, without any correspondence or other personal documents.

The records we do have indicate that Countess Tolstoy first spoke at the College’s Animated Magazine in 1937. (The Magazine was an annual event at which contributors read their pieces before an audience, rather than having them printed.) The subject of her talk was “The Relation of Leo Tolstoy’s Philosophy to Communism.”  Since we don’t have a transcript of her speech, what we know of this visit comes mainly from a Sandspur article with the promising headline, “Countess Tolstoy Gives Interview to Student,” (available at, page 3). The piece never quotes the Countess, however, and so has an impersonal feel, seeming mainly to summarize events recounted in her 1934 memoir I Worked for the Soviet.

AnimatedMagazine1937An Animated Magazine audience, circa 1930s. Due to a rainstorm, the event was held indoors during the Countess’s first appearance in 1937.

On that same visit, Countess Tolstoy also spoke at the Congregational Church and gave a talk to “a full house” at the Woman’s Club of Winter Park, where she presented “A True Picture of My Russia” (Winter Park Topics, 2/27/1937). Afterwards, she joined Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and several other Animated Magazine authors at the Bookery, where they autographed copies of their works.

It was most likely at this book signing that she inscribed a copy of I Worked for the Soviet to Prof. Edwin Grover, the College’s Professor of Books.  Prof. Grover later gave this volume to his neighbor, Max A. Weissenburger, a teacher at Winter Park High School. In more recent years, Mr. Weissenburger passed the book on to Dr. Gordon Howell, Associate Professor Emeritus of Physical Education at Rollins. We thank Dr. Howell for generously donating this historic work to the College Archives, where it is now held in the Rollins Collection.

DustJacketThe dust jacket of Alexandra Tolstoy’s memoir, I Worked for the Soviet (1935 edition)

InscriptionCountess Tolstoy’s inscription to Prof. Edwin Grover

In 1940, Countess Tolstoy made another appearance at the Animated Magazine, speaking on the topic of “Finland and Russia.” The next day, an article with the same title appeared under her name in a local newspaper, with presumably the same content. In this piece, she addressed the Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland in 1939 and called “the Red invader” “the first and greatest enemy of civilization and democracy” (Orlando Evening Star [?], 2/26/1940).

Countess Tolstoy devoted the rest of her life to relief efforts for international refugees and was an early advocate for human rights. In 1939, she co-founded the Tolstoy Foundation, created to aid Soviet refugees. During World War II, the activities of the foundation expanded, as the organization offered assistance to European refugees, prisoners of war, and many others. Alexandra Tolstoy would serve as president of the foundation until 1976, just a few years before her death in 1979.

Though she did not return to Rollins after 1940, we do have correspondence indicating that the College was interested in having her appear in another edition of the Animated Magazine. In 1951, Horace Tollefson (Executive Assistant to Pres. Paul Wagner) contacted the Lee Keedick organization (“Manager of the World’s Most Celebrated Lecturers”), which by that time represented Alexandra Tolstoy and collected fees for her appearances. We don’t know why she did not participate in the program again, but we do know that the Animated Magazine did not pay its contributors.

TolstoyPosterA flyer promoting Alexandra Tolstoy as a lecturer, circa 1951. She had given up her title after becoming a U.S. citizen in 1941, which may be why it is shown in parentheses. Newsreel footage about Oksana Kosenkina and the Tolstoy Foundation, an international incident mentioned here, may be viewed at

We have few words or images from our archival records to share, but Alexandra Tolstoy can be seen relating highly personal memories of her family in this 1970 documentary footage from the National Archives. For our part, we can say that in 1937, Countess Tolstoy said of her visit, ‘After the way in which you have received me here, I feel that you are all my friends'” (Winter Park Topics, 2/20/1937).

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rollins Football: A History

The Rollins College Archives is pleased to share this post from our student assistant, Morgan Mueller ’18. Thank you, Morgan!

FirstFootballTeam1904First football team, 1904.

Rollins College, as Florida’s oldest post-secondary institution, is famous for its strong academics, beautiful campus, and many of its more successful Division II sport teams. However, many do not know that for 45 years, Rollins bragged of a fairly successful and popular football team. The Rollins Tars football team began in 1904 and played (with the exception of a few years missing here and there) until their final season in 1949. Though the program was ended many years ago, football programming has fought to make a comeback on campus ever since. This article will discuss what you might not know about Rollins College football, including its history, it success, its decline, and its more recent status on campus today.

The Road to Victory (1904-1908)

The Rollins Tars football team came to be in 1904. Only one game was played in that first season, and it was against South Florida Military College, who scored 3 touchdowns while the Tars scored nothing. The following year they played a total of three games, losing all three. It was not until 1906 that the Tars finally won their first football game against the University of Florida with a score of 5-0, and that was the only win of the four-game season.[1]

firstfootballteampage2The first football team at practice in 1904.[2]

However, by the 1908-1909 season, the Tars football team had become the State Champions, alongside Rollins’ baseball and basketball teams. The football team finished that season with a total of four wins and a tie against Havana YMCA (0-0). The greatest victory of the 1908-1909 season was the game against Orlando City’s Team, in which the Tars scored a whopping 33 points, while Orlando City failed to score anything. For the overall season, Rollins scored a total of 53 points and shut out every opponent, leaving them with a final season score of 53-0. [1]

StateChampionsof1908State Champions of 1908.

 The Effects of War and a Victorious Comeback (1909-1925)

Although the Tars had a rough beginning, they pulled through for the 1909 State Championship and continued to play well (except for 1911, when there was no team) until 1915, when they lost the only two games played that season. The following season was just as rough, and no football was played from 1917 until 1919, most likely due to the draft and war efforts. However, even with two seasons of absence, the Rollins Tars came back fighting and ended the 1919 season with a total of three wins, with their final and fourth game against the University of Florida cancelled. They continued their winning streak and ended every season until 1925 with a winning record.

The Slow March to Victory Over a Southern Rival (1925-1942)

However, the 1925 season was less than spectacular; the Tars lost all seven games played, only scoring a total of 2 points for the entire season. The next five years seemed to be just as bad for the Tars. However, they reclaimed victory in 1931, when they finished with an overall tally of 6-1 wins; the one and only loss was against Miami, a major rival at the time. But increasingly the Tars began to challenge their southern opponent, finally defeating the Miami team with a score of 6-0 in 1932. The Tars ended that season undefeated, with six wins and one tie game. The following ten years were equally kind to the Tars, yielding victorious seasons (excluding 1935).

ImagesofFootballTickets Images of football tickets from 1931 and 1932, featuring different styles through the years and different seat sections.

The Effects of WWII and (De)Segregation (1943-1947)

Football was cancelled after the 1942 season due to the war effort and a lack of male enrollment as a result of the draft.[3] The Tars’ return to football in 1946 was less than stellar, yielding a 4-4 record. However, the Tars became victorious again in 1947 with an overall of five wins, two losses, and one cancellation against Ohio Wesleyan. This game against Ohio Wesleyan was meant to be the final one of the season, and the school’s Homecoming game.[4]

This cancellation was a big disappointment to the student body of both schools, and the reason behind it was nothing short of controversial. As a result of desegregation in Ohio, there was an African American player on Ohio Wesleyan’s team, Kenneth Woodward, but since segregation was still a hotly contested issue in the southern state of Florida in 1947, the Rollins Board of Trustees feared for Woodward’s safety and what might happen if the College allowed the game to take place. President Hamilton Holt himself remarked that since the game was “a community affair” and “Rollins is situated in the deep South” the College “could not be responsible if any untoward event should take place over which it might have no control.”[5]

To further complicate things, if the team were to bring along Woodward, not only did they risk the problem of hate crimes, but Woodward would have to stay in a separate hotel from his teammates, use a different locker room, and even a different bathroom. Many ideas were tossed around between the two schools, one them being for Ohio Wesleyan to play without Woodward, but the trustees of Ohio Wesleyan voted only to play the game with the whole team, refusing to let race be a conflict.[6] Fearing for the player’s safety, the Rollins student council voted to cancel the game instead of risk further dispute.

In a response letter to the Student Body President at Ohio Wesleyan, President Hamilton Holt reflected on this decision, and his words were revealing: “. . . it is personally humiliating to me that we even had to suggest the course we did in the present case. It goes against my grain, but sometimes prudence is the better part of valor.”[7]

OhioWesleyanArticleArticle from Ohio Wesleyan University discussing the circumstances behind the choice to cancel the Homecoming game.

 The End of an Era (1948-1949)

The last season of football for the Tars was in 1949. The fact of it was, the football team required more money than the school could devote to scholarships, uniforms, fields, equipment, and other critical costs. President Wagner discontinued the sport for financial reasons, even with the offer of financial help from support organizations like the Tar Boosters, Inc., who proposed to take over football team costs through the 1954 season. However, many financial records and plans supported that fact that the school could not afford to keep the program, and it was officially ended before 1950. President Wagner offered to host one more season for the 18 senior players with scholarships, but the team voted against this, since many of the players would likely transfer to other schools with strong football programs, and the final season boasted of many wins. Charlie Wadsworth, a writer for the Orlando Morning Sentinel, reflected about the end of the program thusly: “And Rollins will get along just as well or perhaps better without football. It won’t be the same, but the school will get along.”[8]

LastRCFootballTeam1949Photo of the last Rollins football team in 1949.[9]

 Going Behind Enemy Lines and Other Alternatives (1950-2010)

Though football was officially cancelled at Rollins, it did not completely disappear. There were many new ideas throughout the following years about how to continue the tradition of football on campus. One idea came from Myra Brown in a letter to President McKean, suggesting Tars become “Part-Time Gators”[10] and join the University of Florida in Gainesville for a set number of games at student prices. It also involved participating in UF’s homecoming in an attempt to boost school spirit in the fall, seeing as most of the spirit-boosting games were played during the spring, such as baseball and the more popular water sports. However, many strongly opposed the idea, claiming that students coming to Rollins already knew that there was no football team, and that “Part-time Gators” would only boost morale for UF. Either way, the idea never became a reality. But football continued on campus in the form of intramural men’s and women’s flag football teams, which played intermittently with varying levels of support throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s[11], as well as co-ed teams later on. As recently as 2009, Rollins fraternities and sororities picked up the torch, successfully reviving the flag and touch football tradition, but never the full-contact version of the sport.

Football1974TomokanImage from the 1974 Tomokan of a flag football game between Rollins teams. (Fraternity TKE can be seen on some of the shirts).

 The Mysterious Club Years (2011-2014?)

Football started to make a comeback officially in 2011 with the establishment of the Rollins Football Club. Though as only a club officially, they battled many Junior Varsity teams from other Division II schools. The team was established by Jeff Hoblick ’14, who thought Rollins was missing something in its social-sports life. Hoblick not only established the club and began all the fundraising, but was the team president and quarterback.[12] Will Graves ’77 helped establish the Founder’s Program for the young club team, comprised of the initial 10 donors willing to sponsor $5,000 to support the team needs and activities. However, as the club’s members graduated and disappeared from campus, so did the Football Club. Without anyone to continue its leadership, the excitement for the football club fizzled out, and after 2013 all mention of the club stopped entirely. Most assume that it is no longer in existence, but it is possible that the club could enjoy another renaissance should the right group of students come along in the future.

FootballClubFootball club logo from the team’s website in 2011.

 The Spirit of Football at Rollins

Although Rollins may not be currently known for its football team, for 45 years the sport was cherished and supported by the whole of Winter Park and the surrounding Orlando area. And more recent history has proven that Rollins has not quite given up on football; intramural, organized co-ed, flag football games, and a budding club team are all proof that football has remained important for Rollins students’ campus morale and school spirit.

Written and Researched by Morgan Mueller ‘18
Marine Biology and Environmental Studies Double Major
Student Worker in Archives and Special Collections

Note:  a list of the football team’s record from 1904 to 1950 is available at .

[1] Football at Rollins College 1904-1950 (Timeline), Sports at Rollins, Series 5, Box 1, Folder Football: General, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[2] Players Standing: Chas Swain, Carl Moble and George Phillips. Front Row: Berkeley Blackman, Ralph Benedict and Stewart Ankeny. Not all players are identified.

[3] The Sandspur, Vol. 50, Number 10. Page 11.

[4] Mary Seymour, The Ghosts of Rollins (and Other Skeletons in the Closet)

[5] Hamilton Holt, “Remarks by Hamilton Holt at the Annie Russell Theatre on the Cancellation of the Ohio Wesleyan Football Game. Friday, November 28, 1947 (Speech)” Sports at Rollins, Series 5, Box 4, Folder: Ohio Wesleyan University: Football 1947 Game, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[6] Mary Seymour, The Ghosts of Rollins (and Other Skeletons in the Closet)

[7] Hamilton Holt to Mr. John P. Adams, 11 November 1947, Sports at Rollins, Series 5, Box 4, Folder: Ohio Wesleyan University: Football 1947 Game, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[8] Charlie Wadsworth, “Rollins College Decides to Drop Football Too Expensive to Operate on Even Terms it Means Small College Football is Doomed.” Orlando Morning Sentinel, Thursday March 23, 1950. Sports at Rollins, Series 5, Box 5, Folder: Football 1950, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[9] 1st Row: G. Barrington, J. Bryson, J. Bedortha, L.D., Bochette, D. Brinegar, H. Brumley, D. Daugherty, P. Fay, G. Franklin and B. Gordin.

2nd Row: M. Gruelke, B. High, K. Horton, T. Hudgens, J. Imand, G. Johnson, S. Justice, J. Kelly, C. Knecht, D. Matchett

3rd Row: G.W. Mooney, F. Natolis, F. Polak, B. Rodenbaugh, B. Riggs, S. Smith, J. Swicegood, B. Tate, J. Vereen and D. Work.

[10] Myra Brown to Hamilton Holt, 2 July 1953 Sports at Rollins, Series 5, Box 5, Folder: Football 1953-1954, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[11] Dick Cohen, “Rollins Takes on Miami in Orange Bowl” The Rollins Sandspur September 24, 1964. Sports at Rollins, Series 5, Box 5, Folder: Football 1960’s 1970’s, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[12] “Rollins Football Club-Webber International JV 48, Rollins 17” October 24, 2011.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rollins’ China Connection

AlumniRecordApril1984The April 1984 issue of The Alumni Record. Top:  President Thaddeus Seymour and Dr. Harry Gao ’31 in Wuhan, China. Bottom left:  George Gao, Rollins’ first exchange student from the People’s Republic of China. Bottom right:  Dr. Charles Edmondson (right) at Wuhan University with Dr. and Mrs. Harry Gao. The Chinese calligraphy reads, “Long live the friendship between Rollins and China!”

As a comprehensive liberal arts college, Rollins strives to educate students for global citizenship and responsible leadership, and this mission can be traced back to Hamilton Holt (1872-1951), the eighth president of the college. A journalist by training, Holt was an ardent internationalist in the early 20th century. He was very active in the world peace movement, serving as the president of the National Peace Congress and helping to found the League to Enforce Peace. He was also a strong supporter of Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations proposal, touring the country to promote American membership in the organization.1

When Holt was named the college’s president in 1925, he sought to revolutionize the curriculum, rebuild the faculty, increase enrollment, and develop a new master plan for the lakeside campus. Although he had no experience in higher education leadership, Holt successfully transformed Rollins from a small and struggling institution into a national leader in pragmatic liberal arts education. As an internationalist, Holt endeavored to diversify the academic community, and it is during his tenure that Rollins began to see a sizeable increase in international students from not only Europe, but also Latin America and Asia.

InternationalStudents1930President Holt with foreign students in 1930. Harry Gao was the first on the third row from the left, Wu-fei Liu stood to Holt’s right, Yasuo Matsumoto of Japan sat second from the left. Other students came from Austria, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Norway, Russia, Turkey, and Uruguay.

Archival records indicate the first Chinese student who studied at Rollins, Ling Nyi Vee, enrolled in 1928-29; however, little is known about this student. Another Chinese student, Harry Gao (高尚荫, ’31, ’81H), was a native of Suzhou, China and came to Rollins as a foreign exchange student in 1930. He was also a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, which facilitated cultural exchanges and fostered friendships between American and international students.2 After earning his PhD from Yale and returning to China, Harry eventually rose to become the vice president of Wuhan University, a professor of virology, and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.3 Other Chinese students during the Holt era include Paul Ma (1937-39), Sze Tsung King (1941-43), Nien Feng Liu (1947-48), and Johnson Tai (1948-49), but most notable among them were the Liu sisters. Wu-fei Liu (1930-31) and Wu-gou Liu (1935-36) came from a very influential family in southern China, whose father Yazi Liu (柳亚子, 1887-1958) was a famed poet and political activist to whom Mao Zedong presented one of his most celebrated poems, written in the classic style.4 More significantly, it was through the sisters’ connection that Wu-chi Liu (柳无忌, 1907-2002) became the first Chinese and Asian faculty member to teach at Rollins.







                                                                                                                          Wu-fei Liu and Wu-chi Liu

WuchiLiu01221936Wu-chi Liu with his wife Helen Gao (sister of Harry Gao) and daughter Shirley Liu, on January 22, 1936, the second anniversary of their wedding while in China.

Born in Shanghai, Wu-chi attended Tsinghua University before receiving a doctorate in English literature from Yale in 1931. He then returned to China and taught at Nankai University, Southwestern Associated University, and the National Central University. Through his sisters’ relationship and his Yale link, President Holt offered him a two-year visiting professorship (1946-48) that helped Wu-chi escape the chaos of the looming Chinese Civil War.5 It was around this time that Wu-chi realized that to be a successful academic in the U.S., his research focus should be on Chinese instead of English literature. With the title of Professor of Oriental Culture, Dr. Liu taught Chinese literature, philosophy, and drama at Rollins, later becoming the founding chair of East Asian Languages and Literature Studies at Indiana University. An accomplished scholar, Liu published more than two dozen books over his career, including titles such as A Short History of Confucian Philosophy, An Introduction to Chinese Literature, and Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. While at Rollins, Liu also presented “A Page of Chinese Poetry” in the 1948 issue of the Animated Magazine.

AnimatedMagazine1948Speakers gathering for the 1948 issue of ‘Animated Magazine’ at Rollins. Wu-chi Liu was fourth from the left, and Soo Yong Huang was third from the right. Other notables include John R. Mott, Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Thomas J. Dodd, Prosecutor of the Nazi Nuremberg Trials; Alberto L. Camargo, Director General of the Pan American Union & former Columbia President; General Jonathan M. Wainwright; Claude Pepper, U.S. Senator from Florida; and “Buz Sawyer” Creator Roy Crane.

A cherished legacy of Rollins College and an illuminating chapter in the cultural history of Central Florida, the Animated Magazine was not a print publication, but rather, an annual program during Founders Week in February, where invited contributors appeared in person and read from their writings in front of a large audience. Over a four-decade span, it brought numerous distinguished visitors to Winter Park and offered unique educational opportunities to many Rollins students and citizens of the local community.6 Besides Wu-chi Liu, Soo Yong Huang (1903-1984) was another Chinese contributor to the Rollins Animated Magazine. Born in Hawaii as Ah Hee Yong, Soo Yong attended the University of Hawaii and received her master’s degree in education from Columbia University. She adopted her stage name Soo Yong when she was featured in Painted Veil next to Greta Garbo in 1934.7 She also appeared in Hollywood movies such as China Seas (1935), Klondike Annie (1936), Mad Holiday (1936) and The Good Earth (1937).8 However, since it was impossible for Asian actresses to play leading roles then, Soo Yong performed in a series of monologues about Chinese life that sparkled with humor, which she presented multiple times in the Animated Magazine (1944-46 & 1948-49).

ladypreciousstreampage4-1Lady Precious Stream, produced at Rollins by Soo Yong in 1946, with Madge Martin,                                  Jack Kelly, Ilo Lorenz, and Jenelle Gregg (left to right).

On a national tour raising funds for the United China Relief, Soo Yong ran into Chun Ku Huang, a businessman from Tianjin and a Nankai University graduate who had a passion for Peking opera. The couple married in 1941, settled in Winter Park, and opened the Jade Lantern on Park Avenue, a seasonal, luxurious novelty store north of Central Park selling items such as Chinese arts and crafts, jewelry, linens, and furniture. Because of her artistic talent, Soo Yong was invited to help Rollins produce Lady Precious Stream (王宝钏). During March 26-30, 1946, the widely-acclaimed Broadway play by Chinese playwright Hsiung Shih-I (熊式一) premiered at the Annie Russell Theatre. Soo Yong not only directed and staged the play but also designed the costumes and served as the honorable reader. In 1961, after two decades in Central Florida, the Huangs decided to return to her native state of Hawaii. For their contributions to the academic community, President Hugh McKean awarded the Rollins Decoration of Honor to both C. K. and Soo Yong Huang, the first people of Chinese heritage to receive such recognitions from the college.9 When she passed away in 1984, she willed Rollins the C. K. and Soo Yong Huang Memorial Fund, which has since been used to support the learning of Chinese culture at Rollins.

SooYongHuangHuang, Soo Yong: 1961 Rollins Decoration of Honor Recipient.

 Arguably the most prominent Chinese scholar who ever spoke at Rollins was Hu Shih (胡适, 1891-1962), a Chinese philosopher, essayist, key contributor to Chinese liberalism, and an influential leader in the New Culture Movement. However, he came to Rollins not as an academic, but as the Chinese Ambassador to the United States. As part of the Rollins Institute on International Relations, co-sponsored by the World Alliance for International Friendship through the Churches and the Church Peace Union, Hu delivered a speech entitled “The Far East and the Future Peace of the World.” Before a packed audience of 900 in the Knowles Memorial Chapel on March 5, 1940, he forcefully denounced the Japanese military aggression in China and outlined a new vision for international peace and order.10 Besides Hu, another notable Chinese diplomat also spoke at Rollins. In 1955, V. K. Wellington Koo (顾维钧, 1887-1985) was featured in Rollins’ Animated Magazine along with Florida Governor LeRoy Collins and other noted figures.11 A Shanghai St. Johns University graduate, Koo received his PhD in international law from Columbia in 1912. He first served as the English secretary to Yuanshi Kai (袁世凯), first president of the Republic of China, then attended the Paris Peace Conference and was a participant in the founding of the League of Nations and the United Nations. Over the years, distinguished speakers such as Hu, Koo, and many others not only provided unique perspectives on important issues of the time to the academic community, but also greatly enhanced the cultural landscape of Central Florida and turned Rollins into a cosmopolitan college in the South.

Sandspur1940ResizedThe Feb. 28, 1940, issue of ‘Rollins Sandspur’ announces the opening of the Rollins Institute on International Relations, for which President Holt served as co-chair.

Among the more tangible objects related to China at Rollins are three stones in the Walk of Fame that represent the Middle Kingdom. Created by President Holt in the late 1920s, the Walk of Fame is an oak-shaded walkway located around Mills Lawn that features stones engraved with the names of famous men and women gathered from places of their associations. In 1923, General William F. Martin of the U.S. Army took a piece of granite from the Great Wall of China near Nankou Pass in Peking, and later presented it to the college when Rollins began to collect stones from around the world.12 The Confucius stone was found by Wu-chi Liu and his wife Helen Gao inside the house where the great Chinese educator allegedly taught his 3,000 disciples 2,500 years ago. It was dedicated on February 6, 1933, by President Holt, along with Dr. Chih Meng, Associate Director of the China Institute in America, and a 72nd-generation descendant of Mencius, the Chinese philosopher who founded neo-Confucianism in the third century B.C.E.13 The third stone also has a Liu family connection, as it came from Sun Yet-sen’s tomb and was sent to Rollins by Wu-fei Liu in 1935.

GreatWallWOFStone“Great Wall of China: Erected by Shi-Hwang Di, First Emperor of the Tsin Dynasty.”

ConfuciusWOFStone“Confucius, Chi-Fu, Shan Tung,” with Chinese characters “Ultimate Sage” (至圣 Qufu, Shandong).

SunYat-SenWOFStone“From the Tomb of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Nanking, China.”

Cultural exchanges are always two-way communications. While China came to Rollins, some members of the Rollins community also made their way to China. A case in point was George H. Kerr (1911-1992). After leaving Rollins in 1932, Kerr first studied at the University of Hawaii and Japan, and then taught English for three years in Taipei, Taiwan. While in Asia, Kerr presented “The Rollins Plan for New Education” during the Pan-Pacific New Education Conference in Tokyo.14 When World War II broke out, Kerr became a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve, first working as an analyst and consultant on matters related to Taiwan for the U.S. Department of War, then becoming the Director of the Formosa Research Unit at the Naval School of Military Government and Administration.15 In 1945, Kerr, as an assistant navy attaché, escorted Chinese Governor-General Chen Yi to Taiwan to accept the Japanese surrender. After serving briefly as a U.S. vice consul in Taiwan, Kerr launched an academic career at the University of Washington, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, as well as the Hoover Institution, and published multiple history books on the islands of Taiwan and Okinawa.

During the Cold War era of the 1950-1970s, because of the ideological conflict between capitalism and communism going on at the time, only a few students of Chinese heritage enrolled at Rollins. Among them were Gilbert Chan and Gee Kin Wong (1958-59); Mariette K. Fung (1961-62); David C. Chan (1964-65); Diana L. Hardoon (1966-67); and Michael Fu (1972-74). Most were from Hong Kong, none from mainland China. However, after the United States and China restored diplomatic relations and through economic reform in the early 1980s, the Middle Kingdom began to reopen to the outside world, thus marking a new chapter in Rollins’ relationship with the Asian nation. Despite tremendous suffering experienced during the Cultural Revolution, Harry Gao rose to become a successful researcher and administrator in Central China. Upon renewing his connection with the college, President Thaddeus Seymour invited Gao for a golden homecoming after five decades of separation and awarded him an honorary degree in 1981. Two years later, when Wuhan University celebrated its 70th anniversary, President Seymour became the honorary guest of the university, thus making him the first Rollins president to visit the People’s Republic of China (PRC).16

tseymourinchinaDr. Thaddeus Seymour, President of Rollins College, and alumnus Harry (Shangyin) Gao at the 70th anniversary celebration of Wuhan University in Hubei Province.

Also in 1983, invited by Harry Gao, Dr. Charles Edmondson, Professor of History, became the first Rollins faculty member to spend his sabbatical in China. Although it took a whole year to secure the Chinese visa, Professor Edmondson had a very positive four-month experience getting to know ordinary people in Wuhan, which he later reflected on with humor while expressing high hopes for the country’s future.17 Shortly after, George (Chao) Gao, Harry Gao’s son, became Rollins’ first exchange scholar from the PRC, working as a visiting fellow in the chemistry department while teaching Chinese and taking some undergraduate classes.18

In the 1990s, with the rapid economic development and the country’s rise on the world stage, there was a growing interest within the campus community regarding anything related to China. The college saw a steady increase in enrollment among Asian students, and consequently, the Asian American Students Association as well as the Chinese Students Association were established. People also began to celebrate cultural holidays such as lunar new years and moon festivals. Rollins continued to host speeches and events related to the country’s history and contemporary development, including a Diversity Week program by Shen Tong (沈彤), a key student leader in the democracy movement at Tiananmen Square and one of Newsweek’s People of the Year in 1989.19 In 1993, President Rita Bornstein also welcomed a homecoming visit by Wu-fei Liu; four years later, on her way to return the statue of Ninomiya Kinjiro and sign the collaborative agreement with the Okinawa Prefecture, Bornstein also visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Guilin, the sister city of Orlando, Florida.20 It was during the Bornstein administration that several key faculty members with a research focus on China were strategically recruited, and as a result the Asian Studies minor was established in 2001 to provide students with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary study of the fastest-growing region in the world.

Sandspur10101990Shen Tong, author and a Peking University student, presented in the Bush Auditorium during Diversity Week in October 1990.

Liuwufei05281993On May 28, 1993, President Rita Bornstein (center) and Dorothy Shepherd Smith ’33 (left) welcomed Wu-fei Liu ’34 back to the Rollins campus.

Entering the new millennium under the leadership of President Lewis Duncan, Rollins greatly intensified its efforts of internationalizing its faculty and curriculum. In 2005, the Rollins China Center was established by a group of faculty members from a variety of disciplines who shared a common interest in furthering the understanding of Chinese culture, economy, politics, and history. With the support of the President’s Internationalization Initiative, two groups of Rollins faculty traveled to China in 2006 and 2009 to gain a better understanding of the country and its culture, with the goal of transferring this knowledge to their students and enhancing faculty scholarship. Consequently, Rollins has been recognized as a national leader in this regard by The Chronicle of Higher Education.21 Under the umbrella of the China Center, Rollins hosted a number of high-profile conferences and workshops, including the 51st annual conference of the American Association for Chinese Studies, the National Workshop on Chinese Centers of Excellence, and the Associated Colleges of the South China Research Conference.22 Moreover, the China Center has been a co-sponsor of the annual China Goes Global conference since its inauguration at Rollins in 2006. Other notable projects include the Crummer Business School’s partnership in faculty teaching and student internships with the East China University for Science and Technology, and Disney’s Learn & Earn Program with Chinese university students in the Hamilton Holt School. In addition, following Holt’s tradition, Rollins has invited a number of internationally known China scholars to Winter Park and has frequently facilitated scholarly exchanges on issues related to China. All these efforts have substantially increased Rollins’ global footprints and contributed to the institutional mission of educating students to become active global citizens.

camelsrockParticipants in the 2001 Journey to the Middle Kingdom field study course pose in front of the Camel Rock in Guiling, Guangxi Province, China, where President Bill Clinton gave his speech on environmental protection.

In recent years Rollins has seen a significant increase in course offerings related to Asia and China from faculty members in anthropology, economics, education, history, international business, philosophy, and political science. Some of them have begun to routinely lead student trips through field study courses such as “Journey to the Middle Kingdom” and “Engaging Changing China.” With Mandarin being regularly taught in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department, a new Asian Studies major and Chinese Studies minor have also been launched. In addition to the existing exchange program with Hong Kong Baptist University, the college has also established a semester abroad program at Shanghai Jiaotong University and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics so that students can gain in-depth firsthand experience while studying language and cultures in China. Inspired by Rollins’ commitment to Chinese Studies, George Kao (高克毅, 1912-2008)—a Chinese-American author, translator, journalist, and Winter Park resident—decided to create the George and Maeching Kao Endowment. The memorial funding, a testimony to Kao’s lifelong dedication of promoting mutual understanding between the American and Chinese peoples, has since been providing annual awards and grants for student scholarship and language learning in Chinese studies.

The U.S.-China relationship is arguably one of the most important in the 21st century. Although China is more than 8,000 miles away from Florida, our world is interconnected now more than ever. Built on the college’s rich heritage in liberal arts education, Rollins faculty, staff, and administrators are committed to promoting global citizenship, responsible leadership, and cross-cultural diversity through a global curriculum and cultural experiences. Looking forward, guided by the principles of excellence, innovation and community, and through various engagements in teaching, research, and outreach, Rollins’ strategic connection with the Middle Kingdom will continually be strengthened. This belief is best summarized by Harry Gao on the cover of the Alumni Record: “Long Live the Friendship between Rollins and China!”

~by Wenxian Zhang, Head of Archives and Special Collections

A version of this article was published in the December 2015 issue of The Independent.


1 Jack Lane, Rollins College: A Pictorial History (Winter Park: Rollins College, 1980), 52.

2 Tomokan Yearbook (Winter Park: Rollins College, 1931), 149.

3 Harry Gao, “A Letter across the Pacific,” Rollins Alumni Record, Apr. 1984, 4.

4 “Liu Ya-tzu,” in Howard Boorman, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Republican China vol. II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 421-23.

5 45G Visiting Faculty Files, Archives and Special Collections, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

6 Wenxian Zhang, “Animated Magazine,” It’s About Time: Reflections from Central Florida 2:1 (Apr. 2004): 20-21.

7 Gayle and Steve Rajtar, “Called the Silver Screen,” Winter Park Magazine, Aug. 2010, 83-85.

8 “Soo Yong,” Internet Movie Database, accessed Oct. 9, 2015,

9 43 College Awards & Recognitions, Archives and Special Collections, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

10 “China’s Ambassador to Speak at Chapel,” Winter Park Topics, Feb. 17, 1940, 7; “Chinese Envoy Speaks on New Order for World: Hu Shih Outlines Steps for Establishment of Peace, Security at Institute,” Rollins Sandspur, Mar. 6, 1940, 1, 4.

11 Tomokan Yearbook (Winter Park: Rollins College, 1955).

12 Wenxian Zhang, David Smith, and Patricia Strout, Walk of Fame: A Rollins Legacy (Winter Park, Rollins College, 2004), 102.

13 Ibid, 28; “Paul Chih Meng, 90, Headed China Institute,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 1990.

14 “Kerr, Rollins Alumnus, Speaks in Japan,” Rollins Sandspur, Oct. 2, 1935, 10.

15 “Register of the George H. Kerr Papers,” Hoover Institution, University of California Online Archive.

16 “Seymour in the Orient: President Seymour Travels to Wuhan as Guest of Harry Gao ’31,” Rollins Alumni Record, Apr. 1984, 4.

17 Charles Edmondson, “Perspectives on China,” Rollins Alumni Record, Apr. 1984, 2-4.

18 “And China Comes to Rollins,” Rollins Alumni Record, Apr. 1984, 6.

19 Catherine Jones, “Almost a Revolution: Chinese Student Leader Highlighted during Diversity Week,” Rollins Sandspur, Oct. 10, 1990; “People of the Year – China: Communism is not the Only Way,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1989, 36.

20 Rita Bornstein Presidential Records, Archives and Special Collections, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

21 Karin Fischer, “Professors Get Their Own Study-Abroad Programs,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 55:10 (Oct. 2008): 2.

22 The China Center at Rollins College: 2008-2010 Activities Report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments