No one had seen them for 25 years, all the items placed in the East Tennessee State University 75th anniversary time capsule, until Tuesday when it was opened.
Contained within were black and white pictures of various campus scenes, a piece of microfiche with the names of all 9,988 students who attended ETSU in fall 1986, a yearbook from the time, a 75th anniversary T-shirt, campus publications, letters from the then president of the school, the alumni association, the student government association and sheet music commissioned for the school’s homecoming and a few other items. Everything will be on display in the ETSU library.
Also among the items was a letter written to anyone present for the opening of the time capsule written by the late Frank B. Williams, a professor of history at ETSU. Fred Sauceman, special executive to the president for university relations, read Williams’ words, which were recorded using a typewriter.
“The (75th anniversary) committee seems to think I am qualified to impart words of wisdom because of my thirty years on campus and my four-year study of the first seventy-five years of ETSU as a normal school, a teachers college, a state college, and a multi-purpose regional university,” part of Williams’ message read. “In 2011, some professors will accuse their students of coming to college more poorly prepared than any generation before them. Take heart! Be of good cheer! The professors’ professors said the same thing. I said that about my students. My professors said that about my generation — and so on, back through the centuries. Christ, claimed by some people to be the greatest teacher of all time, said the same about his disciples. The more ‘things’ change the more they remain the same.”
The time capsule was opened in a 3 p.m. ceremony at the school’s Amphitheatre, where it had been encased inside a brick column since Oct. 2, 1986, the day ETSU turned 75.
Kevin Jones graduated from ETSU in 1986. He remembered coming across the 75th anniversary time capsule ceremony while walking across campus to class. He attended the opening event Tuesday after seeing it previewed in the newspaper.
“I was curious,” Jones said of why he attended Tuesday’s opening. “And I was curious if anybody from 25 years ago showed up.”
Jones said time capsules offered a way to learn about the past.
“It’s interesting, because you can’t ever forget your past, so you can plan for the future,” he said of why time capsules are necessary.
The opening ceremony began with a few comments from university officials and a musical performance by the ETSU Bluegrass Band. That was followed by the removal of the metal time capsule container from the Amphitheatre column. Bricks in the column where the capsule sat had actually been removed prior, as had the contents of the box, which had been welded shut. Many of the items were already placed in glass tables for everyone to view. Only a few of the items were left in the capsule.
Tim Dills, who works at ETSU and who was a member of ETSU’s President’s Pride as a student, and Paul Lynch, a current member of President’s Pride, carried the time capsule to a table set up at the Amphitheatre stage, where the remaining contents were removed.
President Paul E. Stanton Jr. said he was glad to be present for the opening of the time capsule, which he had heard about for years.
“The continuity of seeing the old and planning the new is a very special part of any university,” Stanton told the crowd. “Universities are unique in studying the past but also unique in studying and planning for the future.”
The university plans to replace the 75th time capsule with a centennial time capsule on Oct. 10, the day ETSU will celebrate 100 years. ETSU officially turns 100 Oct. 2.
The centennial capsule will include letters written by people who attended Tuesday’s event. Note cards were provided at the opening ceremony for people to write messages to those who will open the centennial capsule in 2061.
Kelsey Stubbs, a sophomore majoring in music education and minoring in Spanish, wrote one of the letters.
“I really love ETSU,” Stubbs said. “I know it’s only my second year, and I wanted to thank the university as a whole and this is the easiest way I’ve seen so far to just show my appreciation.”
Most of the letter she wrote for inclusion in the centennial time capsule detailed her activities at ETSU, but some of it thanked the school for all the opportunities it has given her.
“I will always be grateful for the time I’ve spent here, even so far,” Stubbs said. “It’s brought me amazing friends, opened my eyes. I’m part of the Honors College and I appreciated everything they’ve done for me, and I appreciate the music department.”
The centennial time capsule will be sealed in the same brick column on Oct. 10.