Archivist’s Book Chronicles CSU History in Photos

COLUMBUS, Ga. – A new book, Enriching Lives: A Pictorial History of Columbus State University, is now available through the CSU Bookstore.

The 128-page, $29.95 book chronicling the transformation of a small two-year college into a thriving 7,600-student regional university, arrives just as CSU hosts its biggest 50th anniversary event yet, an Open House-Homecoming on April 4-5.

The book’s author, CSU Archivist Reagan Grimsley, will sign copies of the book from 9:30-11:15 a.m. Saturday at the Thomas Y. Whitley Clock Tower and also before and after an 11:30 a.m. panel discussion on CSU history that he’s moderating in the Davidson Student Center auditorium.

The CSU Bookstore, just downstairs, will be the only outlet selling the book initially, and buyers may also buy the book with a credit card through the store’s secure Web site, http://www.columbus.bkstr.com.

“This pictorial history is an important document in the story of the development of Columbus and this region,” CSU President Frank Brown said. “The written word is rivaled only by the instant stories told by pictures of events as they unfold. Lives have been changed, communities transformed and generations enriched by this college. It’s a living story of yesterday, today and, most importantly, tomorrow.”

Grimsley, an assistant professor in addition to directing CSU’s Archives, said he was encouraged by Brown’s support of the project, as well as that of Libraries Dean Callie McGinnis, chair of CSU’s 50th Anniversary Committee, who first proposed the book. Publication by Donning Co. Publishers of Virginia Beach, Va., was underwritten by the CSU Foundation.

As the title implies, the book is packed with more than 180 color and black-and-white photos. But there’s also analysis that only a historian can offer. “As time has passed, we can evaluate some events a little better,” Grimsley said. “In looking at the school’s early years, you’ve got to remember life was a lot simpler back when we had 500 students versus (the current enrollment of about 7,600).”

The book describes CSU’s history chronologically, each of its four chapters focusing on a different era:

• Events leading up to the founding of Columbus College in 1958 and its first five years at the former Shannon Hosiery Mill on Talbotton Road.
• From 1963 -1979, starting with the college’s move to what’s now the main campus and wrapping up with the retirement of founding President Thomas Y. Whitley.
• The 1980s, which Grimsley calls a “volatile period of history,” when Columbus College experienced enrollment declines, budget cuts and a president who clashed with faculty before resigning. One bright spot was the college’s first, successful capital campaign.
• The 1990s to the present, focusing first on the successful bid to achieve university status and wrapping up with development of CSU’s RiverPark campus in recent years.

Beyond history-shaping events, Grimsley touched on some lighter moments, including sunny days in March 1974 when a few Columbus College students shed clothes and joined college counterparts across the nation in “streaking.”

“I probably had the most fun with the streakers,” Grimsley said.

One common thread that Grimsley witnessed from the college’s early years to the present was its commitment to the community, and the community’s commitment to CSU.

“Early on, the idea was to build a middle class – to make it possible for someone who was blue collar to become white collar,” Grimsley said. “We educated a lot of people who wouldn’t have had opportunities otherwise. It’s been a good mutual relationship.”