A Special Milestone for a Special Building

On June 7 the Institute Celebrated Morgan Hall’s Centennial

by Margeaux Emery

Faculty, students, staff and even five descendants of Harcourt Morgan, for whom Morgan Hall was named, were on hand for a lively celebration of the building’s centennial. More than 1,000 more watched the festivities live online. Photo courtesy UTIA.

Members of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture family gathered with UT President Randy Boyd and Chancellor Donde Plowman on Monday, June 7, 2021, for a high-spirited centennial celebration of historic Morgan Hall.

Some 120 people were present in person for the event held in Morgan Hall’s first-floor corridor, which was festively decorated with orange and white balloons. Another thousand or more supporters watched the event via Facebook Live.

Five descendants of UT’s thirteenth president, Harcourt Morgan, for whom the building is named, were guests of honor at the ceremony. They included Morgan’s granddaughters Lucy Faye Morgan Hinds (BS education, 1965) and Sarah Lanier Davis, present with husband Phil Davis; great-grandson Jason Hinds, present with wife Brandy, and the couple’s children, who are Morgan’s great-great-granddaughters, Jacy and Kaly.

UTIA Senior Vice President and Senior Vice Chancellor Tim Cross made remarks, as did Boyd, Plowman, and Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation President Jeff Aiken.

But why celebrate a building in the first place? The dignitaries found plenty of reasons to do so. Cross gave historical context about Morgan Hall. Boyd centered his remarks on the outstanding leadership and example that Harcourt Morgan set. Plowman discussed how buildings are characterized by the people who use them and observed how the people present at the building’s 1921 dedication were a mere year past the conclusion of the Spanish flu pandemic. Aiken noted this year’s centennials of both Morgan Hall and the founding of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, and the impacts each has had in serving to advance the lives of the state’s residents.

A Landmark Building

The funding that supported Morgan Hall’s construction and execution of several other campus projects came from an unprecedented $1 million appropriation by the Tennessee legislature in 1917. The funds marked the beginning of an era of increased public support and financial stability for the university, both of which were vital to its future growth.

Construction of the new building began in 1919. In a ceremony held during Homecoming weekend, the little son of President Morgan, Harcourt Morgan Jr., laid the building’s cornerstone, and a time capsule was placed behind it.

The building, known then as Agricultural Hall, was formally dedicated on June 6, 1921. The ceremony took place amid several days of celebrations that included commencement and specially called meetings of residents from across the state to discuss ways to advance Tennessee. In all, some 2,500 people were estimated to be present on campus for the events.

Agricultural Hall is significant in that it brought the university’s diverse agricultural programs together under one roof. This move helped foster greater collaboration between them. Then, as now, the units were agricultural instruction, research, and Extension. To this day, the leadership of the units remains in Morgan Hall.

Morgan Hall is also notable for its architecture. The four-story building’s arched, recessed doorways, grouped casement windows, and buttresses are forerunners of today’s collegiate Gothic style of architecture. The graceful style characterizes the Student Union, and Geier, Robinson, Dogwood, and Magnolia Halls, among other recent campus buildings.

During the Morgan Hall Centennial Celebration, Cross identified another point of significance about the building. Despite the sweeping changes that have occurred in science, society, and the world around us since 1921, the core purpose of Morgan Hall—as well as chief purpose of UT agricultural programs—remains constant. And that is to serve and advance the farmers, and rural communities, and people of Tennessee. 

“This brings us to our mission as a land-grant institution,” Cross said to those gathered. “Morgan Hall is deeply entwined in that mission, if not a hallmark of it because of the building’s history of service.”

The Time Capsule from 1919

Much of the excitement at the Morgan Hall Centennial Celebration focused on the unveiling of the building’s 1919 time capsule and its contents. Alesha Shumar, assistant head and university archivist with the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections, was present to display the materials and answer questions, as was senior library associate Rebecca Becker.

Shumar noted that a small crack in the solder that sealed the time capsule’s copper housing had admitted moisture, which caused much of the capsule’s contents to disintegrate. However, because the time capsule’s intended contents were widely reported in 1919, Shumar was able to bring duplicate copies of much of the materials from the Special Collections’ holdings. These included copies of the UT Register course catalog; the Orange and White student newspaper; the UT Farmer, a publication of the Agricultural Club; a copy of the appropriation bill that funded the building; and photos of former UT Presidents Brown Ayres and Harcourt Morgan, among other items.


Alesha Shumar, right, assistant head and university archivist with the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections, and senior library associate Rebecca Becker display the 1919 time capsule and duplicates of the contents that were placed inside it.

A New Time Capsule for Year 2121

A centennial celebration doesn’t seem fitting without a new time capsule. Members of the Institute of Agriculture reached out to the Tickle College of Engineering for assistance in fabricating a new capsule capable of surviving the next century. Space behind Morgan Hall’s cornerstone is limited, and the new capsule had to have the exact dimensions of the original, which is 11 ½ x 5 ¾ x 5 ¾ inches. 

Students and faculty in the Tickle Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering accepted the challenge to design and fabricate a new capsule. The ten-member team was led by PhD students Greg Corson, Josh Penney, and Ross Zameroski and drew upon the resources of the UT Machine Tool Research Center, which is directed by professor Tony Schmitz. The team used five-axis CNC machining combined with robotic welding to transform plates of 304 stainless steel into the custom engraved capsule body. Internal joints are coated with a silicone sealant, and a three-layer lid and water-jet cut rubber gasket seal the capsule using twelve bolts. The resulting capsule, the team believes, is well positioned to remain both air- and water-tight across a century or more.

New Capsule Contents

UTIA leader Tim Cross wanted items placed in the new capsule to convey what the present-day Institute is like. Employees were invited to share their ideas of what to include, and as you might imagine, a COVID mask topped the list. Contents that Cross selected to be placed inside the new capsule are as follows:

  • The program from the June 7, 2021, Morgan Hall Centennial Celebration.
  • A list of people present for the Centennial Celebration.
  • A fact sheet about UTIA operations and its four units: UT AgResearch, UT Extension, the Herbert College of Agriculture, and the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • An orange COVID mask printed with the Institute’s wordmark and brand of Real. Life. Solutions.
  • A published interview of the Institute’s inaugural director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Craig Pickett.
  • A UTIA lapel pin.
  • A UTIA Smith Center for Sustainable International Agriculture luggage tag.
  • An engraved wooden Together We Grow ornament in honor of the record-setting UTIA capital campaign.
  • A card detailing UT AgResearch’s strategic impacts.
  • A list of 2021 Field Days.
  • An overview of the UT Systemwide One Health Initiative and UTIA member roles.
  • A sheet that describes UT Extension, and identifies its leadership, mission, vision, core values, and organizational principles.
  • A Transforming Tennessee lapel pin to mark the 2010 centennial of UT Extension.
  • A bookmark describing UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences.
  • An overview of a USDA initiative to create a farm and ranch stress assistance network, whose southern region leader is FCS faculty member Heather Sedges.
  • A brochure announcing the naming of Herbert College of Agriculture and the naming’s significance.
  • A Herbert College of Agriculture orange-and-white scarf.
  • A brochure about the Tennessee 4-H Youth Development Program.
  • A 4-H blue ribbon.
  • A 4-H clover lapel pin.
  • A fact sheet on impacts of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Two 3D-printed biomaterial devices used for bone and nerve tissue regeneration.
  • A 3D-printed surgical guide used to treat atlantoaxial instability in canines.
  • A commemorative UTCVM coin.
  • Pint and quart milk tokens from the original UT Creamery to commemorate a new UT Creamery expected to open in the near future.
  • A document that explains how the 2021 time capsule was manufactured.
  • A certificate of appreciation to the caretakers, present and past, of Morgan Hall and to the skilled craftsmen who constructed such an enduring building. The document is signed by members of Facilities Operations and Landscape Services who care for the building and its grounds.
  • A photo from the 1919 cornerstone laying that shows some of the building’s construction workers.
  • A Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation centennial lapel pin, presented by TFBF President Jeff Aiken.
  • A card that lists and explains the Be One UT values developed for the university, presented by UT System President Randy Boyd.
  • A 3D printed University of Tennessee coin, presented by President Boyd.
  • A sheet that identifies the Volunteer Principles for Leading with Courage formulated to guide UT Knoxville during the pandemic, presented by UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman.

A duplicate set of these items will be shared with Special Collections to preserve. Between that set and the sophisticated engineering of the new time capsule, it is hoped that these items from 2021 will be well intact when generations ahead, faculty, staff, and students open the time capsule intended for them.

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ORIGINAL MEDIA ADVISORY:
June 3, 2021

UT Morgan Hall Centennial Celebration and 1919 Time Capsule Reveal Scheduled for June 7

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is holding an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its flagship building, Morgan Hall. The event will also reveal the contents of a time capsule from 1919, along with contents for a new capsule to be opened in year 2121.

The celebration is scheduled for June 7 at 2 p.m. on the front lawn of Morgan Hall. President Jeff Aiken of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation will join Tim Cross, senior vice president and senior vice chancellor of UTIA, in brief remarks. Joining these speakers will also be UT System President Randy Boyd and UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman. Boyd and Plowman will present items for the new time capsule.

A team of PhD students in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Bioengineering at the UT Tickle College of Engineering will describe how they designed and fabricated a new time capsule that will remain intact across the next century and beyond.

Speakers will celebrate not just Morgan Hall entering its 100th year, but also how UT agriculture programs have flourished since the building began service in 1921. Historical photos of Morgan Hall and the dramatically changing campus around it will also be on display.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennesse.edu.

Contact

Margeaux Emery

UTIA Marketing and Communications