Professor Emeritus Robert E. Jager Donates Original Scores and Manuscripts to Tennessee Tech Archives

By Jennifer Huffman and Megan Atkinson

Three-time winner of the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Composition Award and Tennessee Tech Professor Emeritus Robert Edward Jager donated his personal archives to the Tennessee Tech Archives & Special Collections. Dating from 1956 to 2018, the archives include original sketchbooks and manuscripts, published and unpublished musical scores, and papers that provide a near complete account of his music career as a conductor and composer from early childhood through 2018.  They include such works as Esprit de Corps (1984), Third Suite for Band (1965), and I Dream of Peace (1998).

Born in Binghamton, New York, a love of music started very early for Robert E. Jager; his parents even met while playing in Salvation Army Bands. Robert began his career as a composer by preparing hymns and hymn variations to play alongside his father at the church that his father was a minister. He enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as Staff Arranger/Composer at the Armed Forces School of Music from 1962 until 1965.  He completed a Master of Music from the University of Michigan in 1968 and soon after started as a lecturer at Old Dominion University, composing both the words and music for their Alma Mater. After an earlier performance at Tennessee Tech University, Jager was later hired to join the faculty at Tennessee Technological University. In 2001, he retired after thirty years. As of 2019, the Tennessee Tech Foundation is currently working to create the Robert Jager Music Education Endowment for students who wish to major in music education.

Robert Jager at his desk in 1982.

Robert Jager has travelled as a conductor and lecturer across the United States of America, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Republic of China. In addition to being the only three-time winner of the American Bandmasters Association’s “Oswald Award”, he has earned two fellowships along with numerous awards that span several decades. He has published over 150 musical works, many of them commissioned by major music organizations including every Washington-based military band, many large Universities, and the Tokayo Kosei Wind Orchestra.

A large portion of the Robert E. Jager papers, including published works and audio recordings, are available to search via EagleSearch at This collection showcases his musical processes from the beginning stages of development to finish.

Tennessee Tech Archives is grateful to be the administrators of this Professor Emeritus’s papers, which are open to all researchers wishing to investigate Jager’s history, career, and subsequent influence on the musical community or to casual patrons interested in hearing the fabulous compositions. The published works and audio recordings are searchable through library catalogs worldwide and the finding aid, processed by intern Jennifer Huffman, is available here:

You can listen to a few available performed pieces here:

Esprit de Corps

Third Suite\

Diamond Variations

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Volpe Library Exhibit and History

Students checking out books at the Jere Whitson Memorial Library, c. 1950. The Library was closed stacks, meaning library workers retrieved books for patrons.

Did you know Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library turned 30 in 2019? This was not Tech’s first library though. Tennessee Tech University’s first building dedicated solely to being a library was Jere Whitson Memorial Library. Prior to the Jere Whitson Memorial Library, the library operated in the administration building when Tennessee Tech was Dixie College and later when it was Tennessee Polytechnic Institute. The Jere Whitson Memorial Library was named in honor of Dixie College board member Jere Whitson. Jere Whitson was a driving force behind establishing a college in Cookeville, and he donated the land to build Dixie College. The Jere Whitson Memorial Library was located on the Quad in the same building that bears Jere Whitson’s name today.

Front of Jere Whitson Memorial Library, c. 1960s

Soon, however, Tennessee Tech’s enrollment increased and Tennessee Tech outgrew Jere Whitson Memorial Library. Students and librarians alike hoped for a new and improved library that could accommodate Tech’s growing student body. Jere Whitson Memorial Library would become so crowded during peak hours that there were not enough desks and chairs to accommodate all of the students. Thankfully, Tennessee Tech administrators understood that a new library was essential in properly serving the Tennessee Tech student body; construction began on Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library in 1987.

Prior to library book databases, students had to search for resources using a card catalog, which listed books and resources alphabetically by subject.

Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library opened its doors to students for the first time in the summer of 1989. Volpe Library is named after former Tennessee Tech University President Dr. Angelo Volpe and First Lady Jennette Volpe.  Dr. Angelo Volpe was Tennessee Tech University’s seventh president and third longest serving president (1987-2000). The library’s name includes both husband and wife because both were recognized for their contributions and hard work at Tennessee Tech. As of 2019, Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library has been an important part of Tennessee Tech campus life for thirty years.

The library has always been a popular hangout. c. 1950s.


Thousands of students have patronized Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library over the years, and thousands of students visited Jere Whitson Memorial Library before its closing.  Student life at Tennessee Tech University would be much different without the Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and the Jere Whitson Memorial Library. Tennessee Tech’s libraries have changed a lot over 115 years, but each library has been an integral part of campus that has been dedicated to helping students succeed. How did the library impact your time at Tennessee Tech University?

Volpe Library at Night.

If you are interested in learning more about Volpe Library and its history, visit the exhibit on the main floor of the library or stop by the archives.

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Archive Update! Quarantine Projects in the Works.

by Megan M. Atkinson

At the end of March, employees, students, and volunteers at Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections began working from home, with the exception of myself. I am working both on campus and off campus, managing what everyone is doing, but also keeping up with some of the less glamorous but equally as critical functions in archives such as monitoring and cleaning our facilities. If you follow our Facebook page (, you may be keeping up with some the projects our wonderful people are doing. Many question what archivists can do from home since we are pictured as working with paper-based materials. That is not the case, especially in the age of digital records.

The Archives is currently working with our regular employees, but also a group of volunteers, student assistants, and Volpe Library employees, making the current number of people working on archive projects twelve, when we are not counting our feline assistants who have helped us in many tasks. Individuals are doing a variety of tasks including: assisting with tornado photographs, transcribing historic documents, preserving digital materials, collecting current digital materials on the tornado and COVID-19, and describing historic photograph collections. All of these tasks have two things in common— helping Archives provide better access to historic materials for current and future users and ensuring that these materials will be preserved for current and future users.

Hannah’s at-home assistant Meena keeping the keyboard warm. Hopefully there are no kitten labor laws.

Assistant Archivist Hannah O’Daniel McCallon is working on some projects worth highlighting, notably her projects documenting the March 3 tornado and COVID-19. Hannah began collecting materials online pertaining to the March 3 tornado, including websites, videos, and public social media posts. Online materials are fleeting and not permanent (think about the last time a link did not work). Capturing this information as it happens is important for documenting situations as they occur and maintaining them in their original formats. Immediately following the tornado, Hannah began collecting COVID-19 materials related to the Upper Cumberland and Tennessee Tech University. These materials now also include many of the campus emails sent by the university administration. Like materials on the web, e-mail also needs to be collected. As a result of her work, this experience will be preserved for future research interests, much like how many people are reviewing the Spanish Flu now.

Assistant Penny longing for social distancing to end because the bird outside looks pretty delicious.

Hannah’s second project is a crowd-sourced collection documenting the people of the Upper Cumberland and University’s personal experiences following the tornado and during COVID-19. Individuals can upload digital materials to an online collection or send physical documents that capture their experiences. Materials collected include blogs, journals, photographs, memes, videos, drawings, comics, social media posts, and other unique materials. This collection will assist future researchers in understanding what life was like in 2020. It will also document the unique experience of the Upper Cumberland, which unlike other areas that are experiencing COVID-19 responses, did not transition into it directly after experiencing a horrific tornado. Our situation is unique and so are our community’s people. If you are interested in participating in this project, follow this link:

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Tornado Recovery with Tech Archives

A critical moment in Putnam County history occurred on March 3rd when an EF-4 tornado shocked the region. The tornado killed 19 people, destroyed 100 homes, and damaged countless others in the county. As Middle Tennessee residents inspected their homes in the daylight, many found debris in their yards, some found debris as far away from the tornado as Jefferson City, Celina, and Crawford, Tennessee. People found insulation decorating their trees like a bad Spanish moss and when they looked through their lawns, some found photographs and memories from families miles away.

As Tennessee residents found photographs and personal papers, they wanted to help reunite them with their original owners. Volunteers quickly created Facebook pages like the “Found in the Storm: Putnam County Tornado,” where Facebook users posted their finds and searched for owners. Users tagged potential owners of the materials and shared the posts to their Facebook pages and other groups. Meanwhile, community members were also taking the belongings they found to Soul Craft Coffee, the Cookeville Community Center, and other locations around the county for families to look through and claim as their own.

Early photograph of display wall that gradually expanded to all the halls in the Cookeville Community Center

While many families were able to recover their belongings using the posts in Facebook groups, it was evident that Facebook’s algorithm, the sheer volume of posts and duplication, and not all victims being on Facebook meant that the posts were not reaching everyone they needed to or were causing additional confusion. On March 5th, the staff in the Tennessee Tech Archives began working to build trust and connections with the community to advertise the Archives as a centralized, long-term place that could reunite found photographs and with their owners. The Archives’ goals were to clean and house the personal belongings according to archival best practices, and digitize the photographs and other materials into an easy to browse and search online location to minimize the need for families to look in multiple physical and social media locations until they could be claimed. The Archives’ intent was also to minimize the strain on the affected families, many of whom were already overwhelmed from needing to focus on applying for FEMA aid, working with insurance, and finding new homes rather than tracking down disparate personal belongings. The ideal plan for Tech included working with the numerous drop off locations, picking up the photographs, and bringing them back to Tennessee Tech for cleaning, digitization, storage, and hosting on an online platform. The Archives launched the online platform and got working.

Photograph wall at the Cookeville Community Center

Lots of our early work was volunteering at the Cookeville Community Center. Numerous volunteers, from Tech and not, worked to assist in displaying photographs so their owners could easily browse while the photographs resided at the Center. Volunteers also worked to make sure the photographs were dry, bagged, and ready to be brought to Tennessee Tech in the future. The Archives began working on moving the photographs on March 12 and simultaneously brought in volunteers to assist with photograph processing at Tennessee Tech. What started as something small, maybe 100 photographs, turned into something big. Initially only a few photographs were turned in. As of March 20, there were probably 2500 photographs that need to be reunited with their families. This work has taken a lot of the archives time, but is rewarding and much needed for the community to heal.

Upper Cumberland Grotto volunteers cleaning photographs in the archive.

As of March 20, the Cookeville Community Center is still reuniting photographs and personal papers on site. Tennessee Tech is picking up the photographs as they are turned in. The current database has over 2000 photographs with materials being reunited with their owners daily. Tech realizes the photographs it holds could possibly be from families as far away as Mount Juliet. Part of the recovery effort will be making connections to the west of Putnam County to notify victims of the photograph database. The website showing the photographs is password protected and given to tornado victims or designated family members. This is because the photographs are personal and private. Those wishing for access can contact Tennessee Tech Archives at

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Meet the Assistant Archivist!

The Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections has a new face around! Hannah O’Daniel McCallon started the Assistant Archivist position in February 2020. Her work will include assisting researchers with locating and using what they need in the archives, transferring university records to the archives, and collecting materials that document the history of the Upper Cumberland region.

Hannah is originally from Lebanon, Kentucky. She earned a BA in History with a minor in Anthropology from Murray State University (2014) and a MA in History from the University of Louisville (2017). She will complete a MLIS from Wayne State University in April. Hannah has experience working in archives and special collections at the Pritzker Military History Museum and Library, Northwestern University, Rotary International Archives, Newberry Library, Kentucky Historical Society, Loretto Heritage Center of the Sisters of Loretto, University of Louisville, and Murray State University.

Outside of archives and history, Hannah enjoys being outside, gardening, drawing, painting, photography, scrapbooking, and watching football. She is excited to explore the hiking opportunities and local arts in the Upper Cumberland.

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Charles Faulkner Bryan and Edith Bryan Love Letters

by Megan M. Atkinson

One of my favorite formats in the archives are love letters.  It is a little voyeuristic and the content was obviously personal to the authors, but these letters can often offer insights into past relationships, customs, current events of the time, and of course, romance.  War time love letters offer glimpses of battles or of camp life.  Language reflects etiquette and customs. Even though the letters’ initial intent was private, love letters come to archives and become part of creating a historical narrative of a person or time.    

Tennessee Tech has many love letters, but the largest collection are of Charles Faulkner Bryan and Edith Inez Hillis from the 1930s. Many readers may know of Charles Faulkner Bryan as the namesake of the Bryan Fine Arts Building and the Bryan Symphony Orchestra.  Others may have heard his compositions.   

Charles was an American composer and musician and the director of Tennessee Technological University’s (then Tennessee Polytechnic Institute) Music Department.  Edith taught in the public schools until her retirement from McMinnville in 1976. The letters represent their courtship before they were married in 1935 and after and include two boxes of materials with hundreds of letters!

Valentine Telegram from Charles to Edith, 1935.

When separated, the couple wrote back and forth regularly, sometimes more than once a day and occasionally just sending a telegram with a simple “I Love You.” They referred to each other with endearments such as darling, husband, dearest, precious, and even “Little Piggie,” as Charles lovingly called Edith in some letters or she signed in others.  Letters closed with “always,” “believe me, I am yours,” “I love you, body and soul.”

Letter signed by Edith to Charles.

The letters offer a glimpse into how much the couple’s life revolved around music, with letters often beginning with Edith telling Charles about listening to the radio or telling him how a song reminded her of him. Edith, on January 5, 1934, “When I was listening to the radio, I heard ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ and again there was that dull ache in my heart.”  He often started with his review of a show at the Ryman Auditorium or War Memorial.  

Charles’s life was cut short at the age of 43 when he had a sudden heart-attack.  As the archivist reading the letters, you have the hindsight and already know the end of the story. As the dates become more recent, you have been immersed in the romance and charmed by the sweetness of the relationship so you become pretty emotional because you know the tragic loss that is coming. This does not stop your emotional investment in finishing the letters, and the story, and learning the history of the couple. 

Wedding photograph of Charles and Edith.

The collection description can be found here:

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Building Archive Storage from the Dirt Up

by Megan Atkinson

Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections would like to showcase its new storage facility located on the first floor of the Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library.  The facility’s construction was funded by the Tennessee Tech Foundation, Friends of the Volpe Library, and the Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library Support Endowment.

Tennessee Tech Archives houses over 2,500 cubic feet of materials and is constantly growing, taking in more physical records and their electronic equivalents every week.  Housing archival materials requires more work than just placing materials in boxes on shelves.  Archives require daily maintenance and the correct storage facilities. This includes dusting, cleaning, monitoring for pests, and monitoring for the correct temperature and relative humidity.  Proper storage requires a temperature of 35-65 degrees and relative humidity between 30-50 percent, with little to no fluctuation between seasons.  These temperatures are not conducive to comfortable working conditions and are impossible to obtain with a standard HVAC system.

When I started in December of 2015, I immediately recognized the need for better storage in the current facilities. When monitored, the temperature and humidity fluctuated daily.  This can cause problems such as materials deteriorating at a faster rate, creating the potential for pests, and causing mold to activate.  Fortunately, there was a solution on the horizon.  Volpe Library had what was called “the dirt room,” which was a large space across the hall from archives set aside for future development during the library’s original construction in 1989. The room was not called “the dirt room” as a silly joke; it truly was an unexcavated room containing nothing but dirt.

Picture showing the piles of dirt located in the area prior to excavation.
Workers moving dirt out of the building through a large opening added for the purpose of working in this room.

Completing the project involved removing this dirt, finishing the room, and installing a dedicated HVAC unit for the archives that could maintain the storage conditions required of archive facilities.  The room, completed in December 2019, now boasts its own HVAC and new compact shelving unit which allows for future collection growth.  Tennessee Tech Archives staff and student employees worked diligently throughout the break and are continuing working into the new year getting the new facility up and running for the start of the semester.  Stay tuned for an open house in April for Tech and the community where we will show off our new storage facility and some of the treasures it contains.

The new HVAC system being installed.
The new aisles of compact shelving are in place!
The collections currently on the new compact shelving and being stored in the new facility.

To follow events happening at Tennessee Tech Archives, follow our Facebook page or Tech Times.

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Preserving Holiday Memories from Camera Phones

We are officially in the holiday season, which means dessert, decoration, family, friends, and of course…memories!  But are you taking care of yours properly so you can revisit Christmases past in the future?

In the past, families stored photographs in albums and boxes.  Now, photographs exist digitally on hard drives, phones, and in the cloud.  Most pictures we take are on phone cameras. Are these photographs as safe as the physical photographs we stored in albums and boxes? The answer is “no,” but there is a solution that will help you protect these memories. 

Herald Citizen, December 1965.

For starters, make sure that your phone is saving photographs in two places – both on the phone and through a backup cloud service. This creates two copies in case you misplace your phone after too much eggnog or it falls in the punch bowl. After the holidays, go through the photographs you took.  Take them off your phone, delete unnecessary photographs, describe your photographs, create meaningful file names (for example, YYYY-MM-DD John Doe.jpg), and save the photographs in more than one location.  For instance, save one copy of the photographs on the computer and a second on a portable hard drive or cloud service.  Keep the second copy of your photographs in a different geographic location in case one location suffers a disastrous event such as flooding. Lastly, check on these storage devices and files annually and change your storage media every five years. Unlike the boxes and albums containing photographs of Christmases past, digital media has a short life span.  Letting digital media sit indefinitely is detrimental to your digital photographs and you are in danger of not being able to open them because of storage media malfunctions, outdated software, or lacking the hardware to read the obsolete media (remember floppy disk drives?).

Herald Citizen, December 1971.

This same process should be used with all of your digital memories so that you can ensure future access. 

For more information on preserving digital photographs and memories, check out these instructions by the Library of Congress.

Or for a more detailed lesson in personal digital archiving, see this guide provided by the University of Michigan Library’s Sarah Wingo.

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Story from Tech’s 1963-64 Associated Student Body President Phil Wheeler

Tech Anecdote from 1963-64 Associated Student Body President Phil Wheeler

Note: Occasionally the University Archivist hears a good story from an alumnus that she would like to share.  This story is told by Phil Wheeler and re-written by Archives Assistant Jennifer Dewar.


1964 Associated Student Body Officers Bill Luttrell, Phil Wheeler, Brenda Edgemon, and Roger Easley, 1964 Eagle.



Folk music was incredibly popular in the 1960’s, and the group Peter, Paul and Mary (Blowing in the Wind and Leaving on Jet Plane), top draw in college venues, charged a prohibitive booking fee, making securing an engagement seemingly out of the realm of possibility for Tech.  Moreover, any big-name entertainment campus booking brought a financial risk based upon attendance and whether the gate receipts would cover the cost of the performance.

Instead, for 1963 Homecoming, the Associated Student Body (ASB) booked the Smothers Brothers (Richard and Tom)—an American folk duo popular for their satire bits on variety shows. The booking looked successful, as gate receipts covered the expense and although Tech lost the Homecoming football game, everyone anticipated that spirits would be lifted by the Smothers Brothers’ performance.

The Smothers Brothers started their performance and all initially looked just fine… until the intermission break.  To the astonishment of all, the Smothers Brothers never returned to finish their scheduled appearance. What happened to the Smother Brothers during their brief performance and abrupt departure?  It turned out that they had gone to Judd’s Roadhouse and performed for beers!

Realizing the Smothers Brothers violated their contract by not performing their contracted time, the following Monday, then ASB President, Phil Wheeler, took his concern to Professor Poteet, a Business Law professor.  Poteet confirmed what Wheeler thought and informed him that if the case if this went to trial, Tech would try the civil case in Putnam County, Tennessee.  Armed with this understanding, Wheeler called their agent, Sherman Tankel, the next day.  Wheeler explained that the Smothers Brothers did not meet their contract and that Tech was damaged for having confidence in any future performances.  Tankel explained that “his boys” were not happy with the audience response they received, so they left.  Wheeler responded that the contract did not include audience response, but it did include performance length.

Smothers Brothers, 1964 Eagle.






Tankel offered to make a financial contribution to a charity of Tech’s choosing to which Wheeler replied, “With due respect, it was not a charity that was harmed, but rather the paying audience from our student body.”  Wheeler continued, “Sherman, ‘your boys’ left Tech without fulfilling the contract… if Tech litigated this, they could for up to treble dollars in a civil case here in Putnam County, Tennessee. After some deliberation, Tankel agreed to refund Tech for the undelivered half of the performance. Consequently, Tech was able to afford to book Peter, Paul and Mary for the following winter quarter—a concert reviewed in the February 7, Oracle by Phil Burgess as, “fabulous.”

Peter, Paul and Mary, 1964 Eagle.


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A Trip to the Grand Bahama Islands after Alan Shepard’s Space Voyage

Alan Shepard became the first American in space on May 5, 1961. Although Shepard’s mission was a mere 15 minutes, it held tremendous historical significance. Shepard, seated in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, was launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After travelling approximately 300 miles, Shepard splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean near the Grand Bahama Island (GBI). Soon after landing in the Atlantic, Shepard arrived at the Grand Bahama Island to be examined and interviewed. Reporters flocked to the Grand Bahama Island from all over the world to send information about the extraordinary event back home. Clyde Randolph, a reporter for RCA, was present on the island when Shepard arrived from his mission.

One report, from Lamont, Grand Bahama Island to Project Mercury Periodical Press Pool in Cape Canaveral, Florida stated,

“Sometime early today, weather permitting, America’s first astronaut will drop into the Atlantic 75 to 80 miles northeast of GBI, and the spatial part of Project Mercury’s suborbital launch will be over. The personal data-gathering aspect of the launch, however, will have just begun. The exhaustive medical examination and information gleaning of the astronaut will take place on a desolate strip of sand and pines just 55 miles from the Florida coast and 162 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral. After the astronaut has been fished from the drink and undergone his initial medical checkup on the pickup ship, he’ll be flown to GBI for a 48-hour de-briefing period.”

Don Datisman made a report to the Gary Post-Tribune to NASA Press Pool Cape Canaveral which stated,

“Shepard had a statement of his own for newsmen Saturday. It was his first direct comment to the press since the space exploit. It was not made directly, however, but relayed by Col. John A. However, public information chief for Project Mercury. It was, ‘The only complaint I have is that the flight wasn’t long enough.’”

This scroll is a master copy containing the reports gathered before and after Shepard’s landing; this scroll was once owned by Clyde Randolph and was donated to Tennessee Tech Archives by Mark Dudney. The reports not only describe the events regarding Shepard’s mission, but also the conditions of the GBI in 1961. This scroll provides an interesting look into the history of the GBI. One report mentions that in May 1961, only 8,500 people lived on the GBI. Today, however, approximately 51,000 people inhabit the island.

Several of the reporters described the less-than-ideal circumstances on the island. The reporters who were staying on the island were not very impressed with their surroundings. It is possible that the reporters had never been to an area that had a climate similar to the Bahamas; many of the reports mentioned the unbearable humidity and heat on the Grand Bahama Island.  In the week leading up to Shepard’s arrival, there was a series of small fires all over the island caused by lack of rain. These fires caused much of the island to be covered in smoke; Al Erxleben, a reporter for Florida Times-Union, wrote “‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ could easily have been the island’s theme song.”


The scroll, originally encased in a brass tube, was removed and rehoused. Some rolled archival items are flattened; however, this scroll is being maintained rolled up in a protective bag.  The scroll has great value as an artifact and is a unique addition to Tennessee Tech University Archives.

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