Over the course of our university’s existence, many individuals from a diverse array of backgrounds, have helped the institution become what it is today. Like the voussoirs (pronounced voo-zwahz) elements in an arch, while despite being essential to its structural integrity often go unrecognized in favor of more visible keystones, too many of these individuals have received too little attention. This webpage is dedicated to examining some of these individuals and their past contributions in an effort to continue to make the University of Mary Washington and more inclusive and welcoming institution.

William Wallace Alsop

William Wallace Alsop began working for the Fredericksburg Teachers College, later the University of Mary Washington, in 1922 as a chauffeur and general utility man. Thirty-five years later, he would retire, honored by the institution with a meritorious service award. His likeness was preserved in George Washington Hall in the murals painted by Professor Emil Schnellock during the early 1940s. Click on the link above to discover more about Wallace’s story.

Image from the 1924 Battlefield Yearbook showing the chauffeur for the “State Normal School”, likely William Wallace Alsop.

Ida Thornton

Between 1922 and 1953, the payroll of Fredericksburg Teachers College and later Mary Washington College (MWC) listed Ida Thornton as a janitor. A “quiet and polite” person, as a student journalist described her in 1946, Ida lived in Fredericksburg for most of her life. Her husband and three children died rather young but faith and dedication to work kept Ida grounded. She lived to see her only granddaughter earning a teaching degree from Virginia Union University in Richmond and not from MWC, which formally desegregated only in 1964. Click on the link above to learn more about Ida’s life.

Ida Thornton, ca. 1946

Behind the Line:The Cooks of Mary Washington College

African American staff members of Mary Washington College are rarely present in documentary materials pertaining to the school’s history. Scant photographs show them as anonymous figures blended in the background (Fig. 1) or identify them only by their first names (Fig.2).

Fig. 1 Seacobeck Kitchen (ca.1955). Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington

Fig. 2 “John, Willie, Lee” The Battlefield (1936)

A rare view into the work of dining-staff members comes from a student-written article titled “The Men Who Cook Our Meals” and published in the campus newspaper The Bullet from 1947. The author identifies Leroy Hamm, Eugene Johnson, and Robert Wormley as three of the twenty-eight workers whose task was to feed the 1,600 students on campus. Knowledge of the full names of these three African American employees led to additional documentary materials that provide a glimpse into their lives. Visit the link above to get acquainted with their story.