Something Extraordinary ...
In 1986, the UMES Centennial Steering Committee advanced the idea of a time capsule to commemorate a milestone year in the life of the institution.
Elizabeth Doane-Clark, a staff member and alumna; Herman Franklin, vice president for student affairs; Mortimer Neufville, then vice president for academic affairs; Abraham Spinak, faculty member; Willie Baker, National Alumni Association president; and Valerie Watts are listed as committee members on a plaque marking the capsule’s location. The name of the late William P. Hytche, the university’s chancellor at the time, is on the marker as well.
Participants in the decision to bury a time capsule also remember Jessie Cottman Smith, the Frederick Douglass librarian, being involved.
Earlier in his professional life, Spinak participated in the burial of a time capsule and knew what was required to protect the contents from disintegrating over time. Consequently, he provided the leadership for that portion of the project.
When asked why the capsule is to be exhumed on the university's bicentennial, Neufville said it was decided it was an appropriate way to honor its 100th anniversary.
Capsule contents include: all programs and memorabilia from the 1986 centennial celebration, a list of administrative officers at the time, a college catalogue, institutional structure, academic offerings, size and qualifications of faculty, pictures of the campus and description of the student body.
The items were viewed at the time as important and significant, and told the campus story in 1986. In hindsight, Neufville, who returned to campus in August 2011 to serve as interim president, says he wishes the capsule had also included a picture of one of the earliest graduating classes and a picture of the 100th class.
It also may have been instructive, Franklin noted (in 2011), to have included items that would give those who will open the capsule on Sept. 13, 2086 some feel for what the political and relationship climates were like at that time in the university’s history; the town-gown interaction; the perception state officials and others had of the value of continuing to support and finance the institution; and perhaps something to indicate the struggles faced by the institution during its first 100 years. Franklin said such items might give those in 2086 a greater appreciation for what they inherited.
The centennial time capsule was buried Feb. 19, 1988 in front of John T. Williams Hall. The marker reads, in part, “Something Extraordinary Happened Here.”
As the University of Maryland Eastern Shore celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2011, it is important to recognize the creativity of those who decided to give descendants a sense of what the institution was like at its centennial. After all, how can we understand our present or glimpse our future if we do not know our past?
As told to Veronique Diriker, Ph.D. by Herman Franklin and Mortimer Neufville