Type to search


Goucher myths & legends tour

Michael Curry on his Myths & Legends tour

On Goucher’s campus there are three entombed Goucher presidents, as well as a wife; a nuclear fallout shelter; and—ghosts?! If these claims are unfamiliar, you’ve likely never been on Professor Michael Curry’s wildly popular Goucher Myths & Legends Tour over Alumnae/i or Family & Friends weekend.

By Martha McLaughlin, M.F.A. ’16

Michael Curry’s Goucher career, which began in 1987, has spanned six Goucher presidents. Over his 36-year tenure, he’s gathered facts and folklore from them and many others. And, in addition to reading the 2016 encyclopedic biography, John Franklin Goucher—Citizen of the World, by Marilyn Southard Warshawsky ’68, Curry’s done his own research.

This infamous tour shines a spotlight on the integrative arts studies and theatre professor’s institutional knowledge and professional storytelling powers. It begins when he climbs atop the three-foot high wall between the Athenaeum and Mary Fisher Hall so the crowd, which has numbered as many as 200, can hear him. He starts here because the hall is the first building the college built after purchasing the land from the Chew and Ridgely families, when it was known as Epsom Farm, in 1921.

Curry asks his tourists who Fisher was and, invariably, at least one person knows she was John Goucher’s wife. Her eponymous hall, built in 1942, housed the first library on campus, as well as the main dormitory, the dining hall, a laundry, and classrooms.

He points out the predominant feature of the buildings’ architecture—the warm-toned gray and brown Butler stone with its shiny flecks of mica, which comes from a quarry 80 miles north. In recent years, new campus buildings have continued to accent modern architecture with the traditional Butler stone.

He then talks about the Athenaeum behind him, which was completed in 2009. “Athenaeum is a Greek word meaning ‘meeting place,’” he informs. “In ancient Greece, it was where people went to find a teacher to study under.” These details are his flourishes, additions that make the school’s history come alive.

Sandy Ungar was president of Goucher from 2001 to 2014. Through his vision the Athenaeum became the most prominent and important manifestation of Goucher’s ideals. It’s home to the library, a spacious open forum, an art gallery, and a radio station, among other features.

Near Mary Fisher Hall is the study abroad pole, erected when the Athenaeum was completed. With arrows pointing in all directions, it indicates the distances from Goucher to locations with semester-long study abroad programs.

Walking in the direction of Van Meter, just before the chapel, is the labyrinth—a single path from the edge to the center outlined by bricks used for walking meditation. Curry asks his tourists, “What’s the difference between a labyrinth and a maze?” The answer: “You go into a maze to lose yourself. You go into a labyrinth to find yourself.” He smiles.

Next stop is Alumnae/i House, with the Alumnae/i Relations and Annual Giving offices, as well as Buchner Hall. Above the mantel in Buchner hangs a large pastoral painting of campus from the perspective of a woman who lived on a top floor at Edenwald, the high-rise senior living community to the southwest—land that was originally part of Goucher College. The painting was donated by the woman’s family after her death.

Next stop is the permanent Stone & Spirit exhibition. Arranged by Rhoda Dorsey, the college’s president from 1974 to 1994, it offers viewers a black-and-white photographic pilgrimage of Goucher’s first 120 years, from Baltimore City to the Towson campus.

Some notables include the photo of Bennett Hall on the old Goucher campus, which housed the Physical Education Department. Another depicts a fencing or a dance class, with students in black bloomers and long-sleeved black tops. “Bennett Hall had a pool in the basement at a time when inground pools were rare,” Curry informs. There’s a photo from 1935 with six students sitting on the side of the pool and another in the water holding a beach ball, all wearing swim caps and one-piece bathing suits.

Bennett Hall is now home to the Geological Survey of the State of Maryland.

There’s a photo of President Guth and his wife holding a corner of a sign reading, “The Campus of Goucher College / 421 Acres.” Interestingly, they are standing near the spot where their ashes would be interred years later in the Guth Memorial Gate at the campus’s main entrance.

In 1921, when Goucher was still located in Baltimore City, Guth committed to buying the land for approximately $150,000. At that time, however, only one board member had seen it, and Guth hadn’t received permission from the others. Nevertheless, a $6 million fundraising campaign began for the land, for construction, and to add to the school’s endowment. Students were instructed to raise money and bring it back to campus.

We walk toward the Academic Center at Julia Rogers and spot the silo with an observatory, which still has the telescope from 1954. “But when Towson Town Center was built, the light pollution was too intense, rendering the telescope unfeasible,” Curry explains. “It was replaced by a radio telescope on a tripod, which turned out to be useful, except that it kept getting hit by birds.”

Then we’re off to the Psychology Annex, where monkeys once lived. “They were used for behavioral studies by a psychology professor, but she didn’t stay long,” says Curry, “and the monkeys left when she did.” The Psychology Annex is near the Springhouse, one of two buildings on campus that were part of Epsom Farm.

Outside Meyerhoff Arts Center is a stone bench in which the ashes of Otto Kraushaar are interred. Kraushaar was Goucher’s president from 1948 to 1967. A sign on the bench reads, “If you would see his monument, look around you.” In other words, Kraushaar had a big influence on the layout of the campus. He chose the architect and maintained the façade of Butler stone. Curry tells his tourists, “Kraushaar is one of the ghosts spotted on campus. He was seen in the basement of what used to be the Julia Rogers Library. The campus archive was in the basement. It was all enclosed. When Kraushaar died, his hat, walking stick, and favorite chair were on display in the basement and the archivist insisted she saw him by his chair regularly. But when the library moved to the Athenaeum, they discovered a lot of black mold, which may have contributed to the archivist seeing things—like ghosts.” For Curry, every ghost sighted has an accompanying scientific explanation. (For every ghost story, Curry offers a possible reasonable explanation.)

“Another ghost spotted is thought to be the son of Charles Ridgely of the Ridgely Estate,” he continues. Ridgely Estate is now part of Hampton National Historic Site, just north of campus on the other side of the Baltimore Beltway. “The son was fond of riding horses around twilight, and at one point his horse tripped. Ridgely fell, broke his neck, and died. It’s thought to have happened on campus. Sometimes people go down to the stables in the middle of the night and swear they see his ghost. But there are other reasons people go to the stables at night,” he says, smirking.

“I got confirmation on Ridgely’s sighting, however,” he admits. “On the spring tour, someone said her mother was a student here and when her mother came out of the barn one evening after a performance—because the barn is where they used to perform the plays—she saw this figure on a horse run by.”

The third ghost is that of Mildred Dunnock 1922, for whom the theater in Meyerhoff Art Center is named. “She was a Goucher student,” Curry says. “In her late 30s, she decided she wanted to be an actor, so she moved to New York. She was a classmate of Marlon Brando and became well known herself. She is best known for her Broadway portrayal of Linda, the mother in Death of a Salesman. She played Big Mama in the premier of Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and was in the film in which Elizabeth Taylor won her first Oscar.”

Curry remains skeptical of her ghostly presence. “Students have insisted they’ve seen a tiny figure move around in the tech booth on the second floor,” he says. “But this is after students have been awake for three days preparing for opening night.”

But during Curry’s production of Hamlet he admits that Dunnock’s ghost may have stopped by. In the play’s opening, the actors (characters in the play) are looking for a ghost. Then, though it wasn’t part of the script, all the lights went out, except for one, “called the Ghost Light, in theater [vernacular].” he says. “The actors finished their scene. Then the lights came back on, and no one could ever figure out why.”

Moving toward the Dorsey Center, mounted along some stairs we come upon a cannon, which, Curry notes with amusement, “is aimed right at the administration building.” It’s from the War of 1812 armory and was unearthed in 1951 when construction of the Julia Rogers Library began.

We walk over to Dorsey College Center, which is named for Rhoda Dorsey—the third president interred on campus, in a wall near the center’s central fountain. Dorsey started as a history professor at Goucher in 1954, then became a dean, then, acting president, then, in 1974, president. “While it’s very rare for that progression to occur now, it was much more common in those days,” says Curry. She was the first president he knew, and he describes her as “a strong-willed woman who saw where things needed to go, and she went there. The hardest probably being going coed, in 1986. There was a lot of opposition.”

Right below that outdoor fountain, and Dorsey’s ashes, is a nuclear fallout shelter, which has been there since the 1960s. A National Defense symbol marks the entrance and it still has a couple of big cans with giant plastic bins filled with drinking water.

Our last stop is the Admission Office, where a triptych of stained-glass Tiffany windows hangs. A gift to the college from the Class of 1903 in honor of Fisher, who died in 1902, the windows were in the chapel on the Baltimore campus. The largest, center, image—of a woman who’s blindfolded—is said to be a likeness of Fisher. The word CREDO (Latin for “I believe”) is across her chest. “Why she’s blindfolded, is unknown,” Curry says, “but perhaps it symbolizes blind faith.”

And here our tour ends.

Next Article

Next Up