UNCG Magazine

Personal touch: Letters from President Foust to parents

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic our campus has faced.

Julius Foust

In 1918, influenza hit what was then called State Normal and Industrial College. That was just months after the campus was shortly quarantined for a measles and diphtheria outbreak.

Sophomore Abigail Knight began researching the flu pandemic’s effects on the campus in an “Interrogating UNCG’s History” Lloyd International Honors College seminar last fall. (She is seen in Jackson Library with Archivist Erin Lawrimore.) Abigail had no idea how relevant her research would become.

One of her most interesting findings was how President Foust handled the pandemic.

“I feel like I became close to President Foust in a way,” said Abigail. “Most of my research involved reading his letters from the time of the pandemic.

Most of them were to families of students who’d fallen ill and were in the campus infirmary. The campus was quarantined for months, and families could not visit. For every day a student was in the infirmary, President Foust would send her family a letter updating them on her condition.

“That was a personal touch I wouldn’t have expected.”

Perhaps what stood out most to Abigail was not only how Foust handled the pandemic, but also how the campus community as a whole handled this difficult time – with resilience, positivity, and care.

“It is encouraging to consider how resilient State Normal and Industrial College was. Records of students and accounts of faculty members hardly dwell on the difficult times. No matter how many class scrapbooks and personal manuscript one might look through, one would be hard- pressed to find accounts of how the quarantine impacted the lives of students. Instead, they were writing about the bonds and friendships that they had with one another.”

By Alexandra McQueen
Photography by Martin W. Kane; additional visuals courtesy UNCG Archives.


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