October 22, 2015—revisiting LMU.
In 2015, Bouchercon was held in Raleigh, North Carolina. During our stay in the area, we took a side trip to Harrogate, Tennessee, to tour Lincoln Memorial University (LMU). I was excited at the idea of seeing my alma mater; it had been years since I had set foot on the campus. The two-hour drive seemed endless as we motored along the two-lane road that wound and twisted its way through a national forest. When the campus entrance finally came into view, I felt a certain sense of pride that I did not feel as a teenager the first time I set eyes on the town and the college grounds. Everyone I knew was enrolled in a “real university,” but there I was stuck in the remote mountain town of Harrogate on a campus of barely five hundred, a town with a gas station and a mini-mart and not much else.
We entered the campus from the north, not the main entrance, and parked in the first available space near the new student union. The day was crisp and clear and the mountain air clean, exactly as I had remembered those fall days as winter was about to close in. Such weather was the harbinger of feet and feet of snow soon to blanket once-verdant, undulating hills I wouldn’t see again until spring.
We were gazing around us, deciding where to start our tour of the campus, when a man walked up and introduced himself as Chip Weisgerber, Vice President of Student and Enrollment Services. I proudly informed him I was an alumnus. He’d thought we were there for Homecoming. He offered to show us around, as the school had grown considerably, but I wanted to do a self-guided tour, to be alone with my memories. While Dave tagged along at a distance, I set out ahead of him.
LMU is a private four-year liberal arts college. The thousand-acre campus borders the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. When I attended, the student body numbered less than five hundred. Today attendance exceeds four thousand, and the school has also opened a college of veterinary medicine and the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, and in 2014 their law school received accreditation.
In 1892, Alexander Arthur, an entrepreneur, spent millions building the Four Seasons Hotel, a seven-hundred-room structure that was the largest hotel in the US. It included a separate sanitarium that still stands today, as I was happy to see. I attended philosophy classes in the former sanitarium and remember well the hike up the steep grade to the building, especially in the winter. Not long after the hotel’s grand opening, came its demise. The details are described on a plaque posted on “the Quad.” All that remains of the lavish establishment is a stone wall displayed on the LMU campus near the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum.
In 1896, General Oliver O. Howard, who founded Howard University, and Cyrus Kehr, Howard’s agent, suggested Howard establish a university as a living memorial to President Abraham Lincoln. While on a lecture tour, Howard spoke at Harrow School, an elementary school at Cumberland Gap, founded years earlier by Reverend A. A. Myers. With the help of Howard and Kehr, Myers purchased the Four Seasons property, and Lincoln Memorial University was chartered on February 12, 1897—Lincoln’s eighty-eighth birthday.
In closing, today’s blog post is dedicated to my father, D. L. Myers Sr., whose father’s family migrated from Clarksville, Tennessee, to Mobile, Alabama, in the early 1700s.
Next week: University of Oregon.