Big Name Entertainment Update

Archives and Special Collections extends its gratitude to those who responded to the Big Name Entertainment exhibit. We appreciate the stories alumni shared, photographs, and some of you even donated materials! We appreciate that since there are more ways to support the archives than just monetarily. We are always seeking ways to capture the student’s campus experience and donating memorabilia is one of those ways.

Alumni sent us stories of their least favorite concerts and performers, but also their favorite performances. One alum shared his Weird Al Yankovic show photographs from September of 1985, hailing it “one of his favorites” and photographs of the Beatles tribute band, 1964 the Tribute, which was a popular, recurring concert at Tech through the 1980s and 1990s. 1964 the Tribute played for crowds of over 35,000, wore replicas of Beatles outfits, and even imitated the performance styles of the original Beatles. They still perform today.

Photograph of Lynyrd Skynyrd flier.

A few people shared their memories of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who played Tennessee Tech on April 18, 1974 with the Pure Prairie League and Timberline. We could not locate photographs of this event, but it was advertised in The Oracle and there is a picture of an event flier. The drummer from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Artemis Pyle, or as he was less commonly known, Thomas Delmer Pyle (born July 15, 1948) attended Tennessee Technological University in 1966 and allegedly received his nickname “Artemis” while at Tech. Artemis Pile was a survivor of a tragic October 1977 plane crash that killed the lead and back-up singer of the band and wounded many others, including Artemis.

One alum told of seeing the Allman Brothers in May 13, 1971. The Allman Brothers’ 1971 album, “At the Filmore East,” was the band’s first commercial success. The band opened for Canned Heat, whose popularity was diminishing by 1971. The alum attending told of a full gym with fans from all over. Buses and vehicles were all over campus providing large groups transport to the show. The Allman Brothers, after performing for over two hours or as the alum described, “enough time for a baby birth in one of the bathrooms,” finally stepped off the stage for Canned Heat. This prompted many to leave for the night.

Caravan of Stars program cover, 1965.

Lastly, some viewers donated memorabilia to the collection. Ron Rami sent us concert tickets for Alabama, the Commodores, and the Statler Brothers with Reba McEntire. Rami also shared many of his stories with the Archives about his time as Director of University Programming and gave us the trophy the University awarded him for the sell-out Alabama concert. Sandra S. Elliot sent us a remarkable program from the Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars,” signed by the performers! Sandra attended the concert at Tech and later saw the performers going out to eat on Broad Street. Acting quickly, Sandra got the stars of the show to autograph her program, including the autograph of Tom Jones! As a result of this haste, the signatures are randomly dispersed through the book. The full program can be seen here:

Signed Tom Jones program, 1966.

If you have not already seen the exhibit, it is at the Varsity Theatre (social distancing and masks required) or online at:

You can listen to the performers as you explore the online exhibit using this Spotify playlist:

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Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center Events Digital Exhibit

By Hannah O’Daniel McCallon

The Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year! Tennessee Tech University students, faculty, and staff founded the Black Cultural Center in 1989 to provide Black students a space to socialize, be supported, and learn about African American and African culture. The Center formally opened in August 1990.

The Tennessee Tech Archives is partnering with the Black Cultural Center to curate a series of three digital exhibits on the Center’s history and the history of African Americans at Tennessee Tech. The first exhibit in the series covers events held by the Center from 1990 to 2019. The exhibit features over 55 photographs, flyers, programs, invitations, clippings, and other documents that show the range of the Center’s programs. Topics include programs that supported Tennessee Tech students, educational events on the culture and history of people of color, prominent African Americans who spoke on campus, and alumni events. The exhibit is best viewed on devices with large screens, such as laptops and desktop computers. This exhibit is available on September 14 and can be viewed here:

Caption: Black and white photograph of eleven attendees at an event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr in the Black Cultural Center on January 14, 1993. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

Most of the materials in the exhibit are from the newly processed records of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The records document the founding of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center in 1989 and efforts by the university to support the personal, cultural, social, and academic growth of students from underrepresented ethnic populations. The records also include flyers and photographs of predominantly Black student organizations on campus. The finding aid for the records is available here:

Caption: A scrapbook on the Black Cultural Center created in about 1999. Source: Office of Multicultural Affairs records

The Archives is using materials from multiple collections to research and curate the remaining two exhibits on the history of the Black Cultural Center and the Black experience at Tennessee Tech. We would love to feature the experiences of Black alumni and employees through oral histories, photographs, diaries, letters, or other documents. If you are interested in sharing your story about the Black Cultural Center, or your story of being a student or employee of color on campus, please contact the Archives at!

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Big Name Entertainment: The Exhibit, 1960s-1980s

Alumni and community regularly contact archives regarding the many big-name groups that performed at Tech in the past. Some inquire for nostalgia purposes but others inquire because of a concert’s historical significance. We assisted patrons as far as England and Australia with our big-name entertainment archives. As a result of this interest, we thought an exhibit featuring some of this big-name entertainment at the Varsity Theater would be a great idea.

Mailgram confirming Elvis performance courtesy of Ron Rami.

We worried the exhibit may only feature photographs of famous people on stages; however, I found that Tennessee Tech not only had big-name entertainment, it also had great stories surrounding these events, some that we have yet to unearth.

The exhibit features photographs of famous people on stages; however, it also includes some great stories and historical documents that add depth to the pictures. For instance, did you know Elvis’s last scheduled concert was at Tech? Or that a major record label signed Garth Brooks after playing Tech? More importantly, how did Tennessee Tech book these big-name acts??? Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Jefferson Starship, and The Temptations to name a few. The exhibit answers these questions and more.   

We wanted a traditional exhibit opening. We even prepared a big-name entertainment playlist which you can listen to here (*Spotify required):

Former Tennessee Tech student Dottie West returns for a performance.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this is not happening. So how can you view the exhibit? There are two ways: in person with social distancing and a mask at the Varsity Theatre or online at: . We are living in strange times, but we are also excited to try a new online exhibit software. We hope that it makes the exhibit accessible to more people.

We would like to thank alumni including Phil Wheeler, former University Program Committee Director Ron Rami, and many others for telling me their stories. Individuals helped add a more personal touch.

If you have a story about seeing a band at Tennessee Tech that we did not include and you would like for us to add it to the exhibit, you can submit it to make certain that your email includes a permission for us to publish and store your story for the exhibit and future researchers to use.

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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.

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