Friday, January 23, 2009

An Unlikely Antihero: Bernie Madoff at the Capstone

Bernard Madoff, yearbook picture, 1957 Corolla

An article appeared in the New York Times last week by Allen Salkin, entitled Bernie Madoff, Frat Brother, which provides a fascinating short oral history from his fellow fraternity brothers (Sigma Alpha Mu) on their fellow Sammie, Bernie Madoff.

And where was he in school, you ask? He was in fact at The University of Alabama, where he spent his freshman year, 1956-57. He transferred after that year.

As referenced in the previous post, Jewish students (and non-Jews as well) came to the Capstone from the Northeast and other parts of the country in the first decades of the 20th century. This continued well into the 1950s and beyond. Of course today we have students from all over Alabama, across the United States and indeed and all over the world -- The University of Alabama brings the best and brightest to our continually growing and eternally beautiful campus.

And though we do not know why specifically Mr. Madoff made Alabama his choice, it would be very interesting to ask him. But I think he's a little bit busy with other matters right now.

But he was here, just for that year. Here are some images from the 1957 Corolla to prove it --

Two page spread of the Sigma Alpha Mu ("Sammies") Fraternity, 1957 Corolla

Undergraduates page where Madoff appears, second row third from left

Detail from the Undergraduates page with his listing

Two Unlikely Rose Bowl Heroes (in 1938, that is)

Irving Berlin Kahn

The University of Alabama in the 1930s was home to a significant population of Jewish students, both from around the state of Alabama, and from other parts of the U.S., particularly the Northeast. Then UA President, Dr. George Denny was very skilled at bringing in students and much needed funds during this period. He recruited actively in Northern newspapers, publicizing the opportunities for a fine education at The University of Alabama at a time when Northern schools had quotas as to how many Jewish students they would admit.

George H. Denny

Such was the case for a young man named Irving Berlin Kahn. Kahn came to UA from New Jersey on a scholarship as a drum major, and led the Million Dollar Band in the 1938 Rose Bowl. Kahn graduated in 1939 with a degree in Business Administration, and went on to a lucrative if somewhat tainted career in the cable industry. He was best known for founding and developing TelePrompTer, the company that developed automatic cue cards for actors and anchormen. Under Kahn’s leadership, TelePrompTer became one of the largest cable companies in the country. And if you are wondering about his name – yes, his Uncle was THE Irving Berlin! And it is worth mentioning that in Jewish tradition, children are not named after living relatives. Perhaps the Kahns found an exception with Mr. Berlin's namesake. Irving Berlin lived to be 101 years old and died in 1989.

Captain of the 1937 football team and All-American guard, Leroy Monsky led the Crimson Tide through an undefeated season, but finally lost to the California Golden Bears in the 1938 Rose Bowl. A native of Montgomery, he was All-State, All-Southern and All-American in football at Sidney Lanier High School. At The University of Alabama he was consensus All- Southeastern as a junior and was All-American as a senior. Frank Thomas and Hank Crisp rated Leroy the "smartest and best guard we ever coached.” And while there aren't an overwelming number of Jewish football heroes, they certainly do exist -- and Leroy Monsky certainly was one of them!

Leroy Monsky

A little postscript -- a tribute to Irving Berlin (with Bernadette Peters and Peter Allen) from the 1982 Oscars, which were hosted by Richard Prior. If you think aren't familiar with Irving Berlin's work, take a listen -- he wrote sooooo many songs, including God Bless America, Easter Parade, and White Christmas.

Irving Berlin (May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989) was a Jewish American composer and lyricist and one of the most prolific American songwriters in history. Berlin was one of the few songwriters who wrote both lyrics and music for his songs. He composed over 3,000 songs, seventeen film scores and twenty-one Broadway scores in his 101 years on the planet -- a planet that would have been a very different place without him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuscaloosa's Jewish Community: An Exhibit

In conjunction with the 7th Annual Jewish Cultural Festival, held each year in Tuscaloosa, we have put together an exhibit, Campus meets Town meets all Around: Glimpses at Tuscaloosa's Jewish Community from the Hoole Library Collections.

The exhibit, which opened this week in the lobby of the Hoole Library, features interesting information about the Jewish community -- on campus and in the city itself dating from the 1860s to the present. The title exhibit label, seen above uses a detail from a beautiful book plate (wood cut engraving) from the 1930s for the Hillel House library at UA. It features Denny Chimes, Gorgas Library, and a group of students.

The Cool@Hoole blog will feature some interesting tidbits from the exhibit in the coming weeks. Please be sure to visit the exhibit in the Hoole Library lobby. The exhibit will be on display through April 12, 2009.

More information on the Jewish Cultural Arts Festival can be found here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wherever you are, and Whoever you Were, Happy Birthday!

The Real Elvis: Good old Boy by Vince Staten, published by Media Ventures, Dayton, Ohio, ca. 1978. This volume, which is not widely known or distributed is one of the many books about Elvis Presley housed in the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture.

Elvis would have been 73 today -- he was born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

And of course he visited Tuscaloosa -- performing twice on The University of Alabama campus. Some say that he visited Tuscaloosa fairly often and stayed with friends on Lake Tuscaloosa. This image of Elvis and George Wallace taken in 1974 after one of his concerts on campus is among the personal favorites from our collections!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Spring Semester has Sprung! Classroom visits and Photographs of Photographs!

The spring semester at The University of Alabama begins today, and it is a good of a day as any to mention the very cool experience of bringing students to Special Collections!

Featured above are two photographs by UA student Samantha Hernandez. Samantha, a student of photography and a truly excellent photographer, took these photographs during a classroom visit last year for a course on the history of photography.

The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library houses a growing and diverse collection of historic and contemporary photographs. Included are photographs of individuals, structures, and scenes from around Alabama, as well as of people, buildings, and events at The University of Alabama. The earliest photographic image of the University dates to 1859. The Hoole Library is home to an impressive collection of photographs of nearly every format and type including salted paper print; matte collodion; daguerreotype; tintype; cyanotype; ambrotype; and albumen.

One of our most prominent photograph collections is the Wade Hall Photography Collection. A continuing gift of Union Springs, Alabama native Dr. Wade Hall, this collection is a truly international in scope, and provides a unique view of American life and experiences around the world, including Europe, South and Central America, Asia, the South Pacific, North Africa, and the Middle East. The collection of more than 24,000 images includes photographs taken by families on vacation trips in both the 19th and 20thcenturies, portraits of floods, fires, and other catastrophes. The collection comprises a broad scope of subject matter ranging from images of farm life in rural America to images of historic events and locations, including the American liberation of a Nazi concentration camp and the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Photographs of African-Americans make up a significant part of the collection. The collection contains examples of almost every type of popular 19th and 20th century photographic process.

As part of the University Archives, photographs from The University of Alabama are also a significant component of our collections. These include a vast collection relating to the history of The University of Alabama and members of the university community as well as historic photographs of the city of the Tuscaloosa area. Other important collections include a group of photographs of Alabama steamboat and river traffic, and glass plate negatives by the Alabama
Geological Survey.

As part of our Digital Program, photographs from our collections like this one (featuring a festive New Years feast!) from the Perkins Family Papers are accessible online.

Faculty members who would like to discuss a classroom visit should contact me at to initiate arrangements with as much notice as possible! Please note that we do not have a classroom, so class visits are limited by size and available times. Welcome back everyone, and a very happy new year!