Tag Archives: Phoenix Ball

How Does the Fighting Phoenicians Sound?

6 Jun

In a few hours, we will be at the Phoenix Ball, the annual fundraising gala for my alma mater and my employer. It is a fun-filled affair with women in their gowns and men doing their best James Bond imitations.

It is called the Phoenix Ball because, during the Civil War, the campus of Cumberland University was burned. In decades that followed, classes were held in various buildings around town. It was not until the 1890s that another campus was established.

Because the university “rose from the ashes” the Phoenix has become the symbol of the university. The mythical creature can be found on our letterhead, on our athletic uniforms and in some stained glass.Phoenix

This confuses a lot of people because our mascot is the Bulldog. In other words, the Cumberland Bulldogs walk around with birds on their shirts. On more than one occasion, opposing fans will ask someone what that is all about.

The bulldog is a common mascot for college teams, but our dog has a story behind it. In the old days, Cumberland University had a prominent law school. Cordell Hull was one of its graduates. If you have never heard of him, then I bet you have heard about one of his creations – the United Nations. He also helped create the federal income tax, but we will not discuss that sordid episode.

Anyway, there was a time when an old bulldog hung around the law school and became the student pet. There is a contentious debate about where this dog is buried, but there is not debate that it continues to be our mascot.

However, should that tradition continue? In my opinion, it is time to make a change. The Phoenix symbolizes the history, strength and perseverance of the university, and, as I have written, it has become part of our everyday fabric.

Besides, there are a bunch of Bulldogs out there. It is one of the most common mascots in the land. Let us stand out with something unique. After all, how many universities are known as the Phoenix? Or, the Fighting Phoenicians? Or, the Fighting Phoenix? Or, the Phoenixes?

Heck, this may be more complicated than I thought.

The Legacy of the Phoenix

13 Jun

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that we attended the Phoenix Ball, an annual fundraiser for Cumberland University. For decades, the Phoenix has been the symbol of our institution. It is represented on the uniforms of our teams and is etched in the stained glass of Baird Chapel.Baird Chapel

This is strange to a lot of people because we are called the Bulldogs. They always ask why we have a bird as a symbol if our mascot is a dog. Well, this is why.

Cumberland University was founded in 1842 and quickly established itself as one of the best institutes of higher learning. Its claim to fame was having the first law school west of the Appalachian Mountains. However, problems arose in 1861 and the start of the Civil War. Most of the students and faculty enlisted in the armies of their states and made their way to the battlefields.

Eventually, the Civil War made its way to campus, and the original buildings were burned.Cumberland Original

Some say that the campus was burned by the Union army. Others say it was burned by the Confederates when they found out that the campus had been used to house African-American soldiers of the Union. It does not matter who did the deed. What matters is that Cumberland University no longer had a home.

When the war ended, the leadership of Cumberland University was determined that the school would continue. For years, classes were held in buildings around town. In 1892, the generosity of others allowed the university to purchase land for a new campus and build a new building. Memorial Hall was completed in 1896.Memorial Hall 2

The university was destroyed by fire and rose from the ashes. That is why the mythical Phoenix became the symbol of the university. However, the university has risen several times from the brink of disaster.

It survived the loss of support from both the Presbyterians and the Baptists.

It survived as students went off to more wars. In fact, it became the headquarters of the Tennessee Maneuvers that trained soldiers for the invasion of Europe in World War II.

It survived a tornado that ripped across Memorial Hall. The scars of its reconstruction can still be seen.

It survived the loss of its law school, which was renown for its graduates. One of those graduates was Cordell Hull, the Father of the United Nations.

It survived the move to become a junior college and returned to being a four-year institution in the 1980s.

Today, Cumberland University has the highest enrollment in its history. We offer undergraduate degrees in many disciplines. We also offer several graduate degrees.

As a graduate and faculty member at Cumberland University, I know the trials that the school has endured and its ability to survive and thrive. It is a special place with a long and proud history, and I can think of no better symbol than the Phoenix.

Money Cannot Buy Class

8 Jun

One of my favorite movies is Home from the Hill, a 1960 melodrama starring Robert Mitchum and Eleanor Parker. It follows the lives of Wade Hunnicutt and his family through a myriad of Shakespearean conflicts. Their’s is far from the perfect family. However, there is another aspect of Wade’s life that attracts me to the movie. He is the richest man in town.Home from the Hill

Hunnicutt owns all of the good farmland and lives in the biggest house. Everyone calls him Captain as a sign of respect, but it is also a sign of obedience. Hunnicutt’s stature leads him to believe that he has the right to do anything he wants. He plainly states his outlook on life when he says that he is the “kind of man that walks around with nothing in his pockets, no identification because everyone knows who you are. No cash because anyone in town would be happy to lend you anything you need. No keys ’cause you don’t keep a lock on a single thing you own. And no watch because time waits on you.”

Hunnicutt also believes that he is the kind of man who can have any woman he wants, single or married, because his wealth and power allows it. In fact, the movie begins with Hunnicutt getting shot by a jealous husband. As the movie continues, it gets more and more complicated.

So, why am I interested in the story of Wade Hunnicutt? Because he is the perfect example of how people with wealth or power should not act. People who are lucky enough to hold such status should be humble and should realize that it does not make them better than others. They should realize that they do not have the right to treat others with disrespect.

A lot of discussion has focused on the 1%. Well, it is real people like the fictional Wade Hunnicutt who give the 1% a bad name. Sure, Hunnicutt may be an over the top caricature, but he still represents the idea wealth and power allows people to act in ways that are inappropriate.Phoenix Ball

Last night, we attended the Phoenix Ball, a local gathering that raises money for Cumberland University, and I started thinking about this. We ran into a lady who has been a long time resident of our town and is someone of means. However, you would not know it by talking to her. She does not put on airs and always takes time to ask about family and friends. In essence, she knows how to act. She has class.

I have been in the presence of a lot of people who are like her. You would never know what they have through their actions. However, I have also been in the presence of a lot of people who make a point to let you know who they are and where they rank. I wonder which ones are truly the more successful.

As I tweeted earlier, money can buy a lot of things, but it cannot buy class. I wish more people would realize that money does not bring respect. Being a good person and treating people right is what brings respect. That is something people from all economic levels can do.


Having a Ball

1 Jun

As I sit looking out the back window, I see a lot of things going on out there. The grill cover is faded by the sun. The swing is slightly moving in the breeze. The trees a moving a little more briskly. Usually, there are rabbits or deer roaming around, but they are probably hunkered down in the shade.

It is quiet in the house. I just turned the television off, and the air conditioner is not running at the moment. The only sound is coming from the keys of the laptop. Uh oh, here is one of those pop-ups from Apple. They are always updating.

Shortly, I will have to start getting ready for the big event tonight. It is the Phoenix Ball, a fundraiser for my university. The Phoenix was adopted by the school to symbolize its rising from the ashes of the Civil War, when the original campus was burned. The last time I went to the ball things were definitely burning. That’s the year that the air conditioning cut out. If you have never sweated in a rented tuxedo, then you should try it at your earliest convenience.

Anyway, the members of my town’s social register will be at the ball. I don’t think my name is in the book, but it is important to support the university. There was a kickoff party a few nights ago at a local home. It is called the Patrons’ Party, and there was a lot of patrons. The crowd was good. The weather was good. The libations were good. So, that made for a good evening. Hopefully, the ball will be just as good.

My rented tux is hanging in the closet. When I picked it up, I noticed a long list of names of fellow renters. I tried to get a good look at other people who will be wearing rented clothing. I figured the people not in the social register rent while the people in the social register have their own. That way I would know who the other non-book members are. Of course, if someone comes in with a top hat and cane, then it’s a good bet that they are actually a product mascot.Mr. Peanut

That reminds me. I wonder what kind of food they will have.