HSOC Alumni Dave Morton and Matt Hild Author New Pictorial History of Georgia Tech

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Georgia Tech builds on the scholarship of previous histories of Georgia Tech such as Engineering the New South, which was authored in 1985 by various HSOC faculty.

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  • Matthew Hild and David Morton Matthew Hild and David Morton

There are robust histories of the Georgia Institute of Technology, but for many alumni memories of campus are most vividly tied to the senses. The sight of the trees lining Cherry Street blooming in spring, the buzz of students darting between classes, or the view of Tech Tower rising over campus can persist in one’s mind when other details fade.

A new history book captures this visual memory with a browsable, pictorial retrospective of the Institute.

Simply titled Georgia Tech, the book was written and researched by Matthew Hild and David L. Morton, both alumni of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts School of History and Sociology (HSOC), where they earned Ph.D.’s in the History of Technology.

Published by Arcadia Publishing as the latest entry in its Campus History Series, Georgia Tech builds on the scholarship of previous histories of Georgia Tech such as Engineering the New South, which was authored in 1985 by various HSOC faculty.

In total, Hild and Morton present 200 archival and recent images of Georgia Tech’s campus, student life, sports, faculty and staff, and campus organizations from various eras throughout the Institute’s 130-year history.

A Diverse Past Unearthed

Even though both authors already had a rigorous understanding of Tech’s history before writing the book, they still uncovered a wealth of information that surprised them to find. Most notably, Hild and Morton discovered that Tech was unexpectedly diverse in the early 20th Century, bucking the notion that the student body was completely homogenous.

“Everyone assumed there was no one but white males on campus until the 1950s, but that wasn’t exactly the case,” Hild says. “There was a group of students from India. There was a Puerto Rican Hispanic society. There were also a lot of Asian students from the early years going back farther than we thought.”

Their research also provided a more nuanced understanding of when women first integrated into the student body.

“For women the magic date that people always mention is 1952,” Hild says, “but if you look more carefully there were women in non-degree certificate programs before 1952. When the Tech Evening School of Commerce started in 1912 there were Georgia Tech women graduating from that program. 1952 is an important date because that’s the first time women could come here and get B.S. degrees, but there were plenty of female students at Tech in one way or another before 1952, so that whole date is important but overblown.”

Accessible History

Many regard Engineering the New South as the definitive history of Tech, but the 560 page treatise is a scholarly work geared more towards academics. Georgia Techstands out from previous histories in its ability to be accessible to the casual reader without losing any historical rigor. Hild and Morton wanted the book to appeal to Tech enthusiasts of all stripes, from alumni to sports fans to family members of students.

“If you want to know an exhaustive history of Georgia Tech, Engineering the New Southis the book to go to, but I don’t think that’s the kind of book about Tech many alumni wanted to read,” Hild says. “Georgia Tech is the kind of book you can read and see the kind of Tech you can remember, so it’s useful if you want to see what Tech was like a generation or two before you were there or what it was like when your parents or grandparents were there. It’s intended to be fun, interesting, and nostalgic.”

The emphasis on photos is also a useful way to engross readers in the physical memories of Tech, whether it’s the Freshman Cake Race or a favorite campus building. The photographs Hild and Morton curated were specifically chosen to represent a range of experiences and visual symbols that are dear to Tech alumni.

“The pictorial aspect is so important because that's the way people remember their experiences at Tech,” Morton says. “They remember being here, seeing the buildings, remembering what the grounds looked like and what people were wearing.”

The Secret Life of Pets

One of Hild and Morton's lighter discoveries was Tech's robust legacy of pets. Many Tech alumni are familiar with the story of Sideways, the beloved terrier with a slanted walk who made a lasting impression on campus in the mid-1940s and is commemorated by a plaque near the west entrance of Tech Tower. However, after scouring through yearbooks that featured a number of pictures of campus dogs, the authors realized Sideways wasn't the only popular pet at Tech.

“There was this culture of campus dogs that we didn’t expect to find,” Morton says. “One electrical engineering professor used to bring a dog to class with him, and he allegedly buried his dog near the Van Leer building. Yearbooks were full of these pictures of dogs over the years, so the students evidently knew them.”

Yet many of these pictures lacked any description or historical context, which was one of the most persistent problems they encountered during their research. Unfortunately, the stories of these clearly adored pets may be lost to memory.

“They were in the yearbook so I assume these dogs were important but we couldn’t find any information. The problem is you have a great picture with no caption, or you have a great caption with no picture and the architecture professor’s dog was one example,” Morton says.

Into the Present

Given that Engineering the New South covered the story of Georgia Tech through 1985, the book is especially relevant for readers interested in the evolution of the Institute into the present day. Hild and Morton wanted to not only give readers a window into the past, but update them on what campus was like during recent times such as the era of former President John Patrick Crecine, who reorganized Tech in 1990 and helped pitch Atlanta as a destination for the Olympics.

This attention to the recent past was critical in capping off Hild and Morton’s narrative of Tech’s history as one of growth, change, and momentum. Perhaps the most striking quality of Georgia Tech is its ability to display some of the drastic changes that have occured at Tech since its inception in 1888, and some of the ways that campus has stayed the same after 130 years.

“We didn’t want the book to seem so cheerleader-esque that it wasn’t a historical book,” Hild says. “But we tried to tell the story as a forward narrative where Georgia Tech begins as this tiny mechanical engineering school for would-be textile industrialists, this barely funded state school, and now it’s a $3 billion a year innovator for the state’s economy. We wanted to portray this history as a story of progress.”

The original article appeared on the Ivan Allen website and can be found here.

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  • Created By: Kayleigh Haskin
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Nov 12, 2018 - 12:25pm
  • Last Updated: Nov 12, 2018 - 12:26pm