Cornelia Strong to the Mathematics Majors (1948)

Courtesy of Nina Ann Barnes Mustian (Class of 1948)

To the Mathematics Majors
Devotees of signs and symbols,
Functions, integrals and limits;
Conversant with modes and medians,
Averages and deviations;
Learned in the lore of Euclid,
Secants, tangents and projections;
Taking all space for their province
Even unto n dimensions —
To the Mathematics Majors
From an older fellow-student
Comes a greeting warm and hearty.
May their knowledge keep on growing
As in geometric series;
May the circle of their interests
Ever widen; may their problems,
Seen in infinite perspective,
Find solutions; may the blessed
Paradox of gain through giving
Find afresh its verification
In their long and happy lives.

Cornelia Strong, 1877-1955
Professor of Mathematics & Astronomy,
Woman’s College of the
University of North Carolina

Memories of Cornelia Strong, June 1995

Barbara Mangum Bowland, Class of 1951

What wonderful memories crowd my mind as I recall precious Dr. Strong! I was one of the fortunate girls entering college in the fall of 1947 to find out that she was to be my faculty advisor. I was planning on majoring in sociology so I did not include math in my preferred subjects! Much to my dismay, Dr. Strong assumed everyone loved math as she did, so signed me up for her class — the only class to have a lab! Wonderful! She told us if we maintained a B in her class we did not have to come to lab. The first six weeks I did — so I didn’t (come to lab that is). In my mail the next day was a summons to her office. Courtesy would demand I still get her permission to skip lab. I learned the hard way. My roommate laughed and laughed at our “labs” only to laugh on the other side of her mouth when exam time came along and much of it was made out by — Dr. Strong! Her students did well!

At this point in time Dr. Strong had already written 3 textbooks that were outdated! A brilliant woman and a dear friend!

By the end of my sophomore year Dr. Strong knew me well and advised against my sociology major in favor of Primary Education — the best move of my life thus far. How I have loved teaching!

Dr. Strong’s name lent itself to much mirth for so frail a little lady! When deep snows covered the campus many of the professors called off class — but not Dr. Strong. She was always there!

As you can see by the letter enclosed, we stayed in touch and remained true friends until she joined “her beloved Daisy.” The heel for my wedding slipper that she made and sent was blue satin with a real four leaf clover pressed on it covered with net. The verse enclosed “A bride must have something old — and something new — and a four leaf clover in the heel of her shoe.”

My life was guided well and enhanced in many ways by the gracious lady. How I thank God that I was lucky enough to be one of “her girls.”

Ms. Bowland enclosed the following letter she received from Prof. Strong:
The Stronghold
109 Adams Street
Greensboro, N.C.
July 11, 1951

Love and good wishes, dear Barbara Mangum, as you enter on your new life. May it be ever richer in happiness than you can now dream, and may each of you help the other to wider sympathies and to richer service.

My sister Daisy used to make little four-leaf clover heels for brides, and I have finished — crudely, I know, for I am not an artist as she was — one that she had started and I am sending it to you to wear on the happy day. You knew — or did you? — that my sister left me this Spring and I have been not only in sorrow and loneliness but under the doctor’s care with a crippling and painful case of arthritis ever since Daisy went.

Please congratulate the groom-to-be. I am sure I do not have to tell him what a fortunate man he is!

Your old friend,

C. Strong

Let me know where you are going to live. I want to keep in touch with you if I may. C.S.

Memories of Cornelia Strong, September 1995

Sarah Hamilton Matheson, Class of 1924
I had one math course under her teaching. She was not strong in stature but very strong in character and disposition. An excellent teacher. So polite and sensitive to all students. Soft spoken and quiet in demeanor — a true lady. I remember one day she accidentally struck the waste basket and stopped and spoke to the waste basket saying, “Excuse it please, it was an accident.” We students loved this woman — rather small in stature but strong in outstanding qualities of character, integrity and goodness. I have always been glad that I had Miss Strong as a teacher.

From: A Good Beginning: The First Four Decades of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Elizabeth Ann Bowles, 1967.
A word often used by former students to describe Miss Strong was “brilliant.” A native of South Carolina and the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, she received her early education at the Agnes Scott Institute.

In 1903 she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell, where she was elected to membership in Sigma Xi. Professor John Henry Tanner was so impressed by her work that he later requested that she be given a leave of absence to return to Cornell to help him write a high school algebra book. Her quest for knowledge carried her to universities across the country, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, California, Colorado, and Wisconsin, and in 1931 she received her Master of Arts degree from the University of Michigan. From 1905 to 1948 she was a member of the mathematics faculty at the Normal in Greensboro and one of the most valued members of the entire faculty. One of the achievements of which she was most proud was the introduction of astronomy to the curriculum in 1931.

From 1913 to 1937 Miss Strong was chairman of the Committee on Advanced Standing, a truly difficult task which concerned the many alumnae who returned to earn standard degrees after the college had been accredited. It was the task of her committee to evaluate the academic records of these students to determine how much work would be necessary to meet degree requirements. She also served on the Loan Committee, the Curriculum Committee, and the Consolidated University Administrative Council.

As a teacher, she was known for her “thoroughness, her insistence upon accuracy, her infinite patience. Her…students…came to understand and to apply logic in their reasoning…and (at least some of them) experienced…the rare moments in their lives when the wonder and beauty of the mathematical universe flashed upon their sight.”

Miss Cornelia Strong Retires After Forty-Three Years

By Jane Summerell
The Alumnae News, August 1948

After forty-three years of intelligent and devoted service Miss Cornelia Strong is retiring from the mathematics department of Woman’s College. When she began her work in 1905, it is doubtful whether anyone, even Dr. McIver with his ability to recognize worth in an individual, could have foreseen how significant was the coming of this resolute and brilliant young woman to our campus.

By background and by training hers was the stuff of which great teachers are made. She was born in South Carolina in the turbulent days when the state was being delivered from “carpet-bagger” rule, and she grew up in a family of ministers and teachers who had always put excellence of mind and spirit above material considerations. Her first college training was at the Agnes Scott Institute, which was really what would now be called a junior college, but which she says with pride, “had steadily refused to assume the name until it measured up to the thing named.” Then after two years of teaching she went to Cornell University, where she studied for three years, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1903. It took great courage for her to go to a northern co-educational university: but, to quote her own words: “Cornell was better than any of us dared hope. It was so beautiful and so friendly! Perhaps it had not been a great university long enough to outgrow the manners of a small college. Anyway it had a warm welcome for a shy southerner wearing a homemade suit and with no evening dress except a long-sleeved lavender lawn.” There she found her studies a joy — not only her major, mathematics (she even took physics in the engineering school in order to get as much mathematics as possible), but also comparative government, which early stimulated her interest in things political, and English literature, in which she distinguished herself by winning the Barnes Shakespeare prize. In her senior year she was elected to Sigma Xi, the national scientific honor society. With Professor John Henry Tanner of the mathematics department she enjoyed a particularly close relationship. He early discovered in her the kind of student whom he was wont to encourage by lending money without interest. “To those of us who borrowed,” she says, “he was not only banker but ‘guide, philosopher, and friend.’” He and his lovely wife welcomed Miss Strong into their home, and made her virtually one of the family circle. After she came to the Woman’s College (then the State Normal College), she was granted leave for a year to help Professor Tanner write a high school algebra.

Throughout her teaching years Miss Strong continued to study in the summers at various universities: Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, California, Colorado, and Wisconsin. In 1931 she received her M.A. degree in mathematics and astronomy from the University of Michigan.

It was apparent, therefore, that Miss Strong’s naturally acute and imaginative mind had been thoroughly furnished unto every good work expected of a teacher. Her students readily perceived this excellence in her: they felt the stimulus of her wide range of knowledge, the compelling quality of her thorough methods; they respected her passionate insistence upon accuracy; they responded to her infinite patience; and, above all, they came to understand and to apply logic in their reasoning. This habit of mind, so vigorously emphasized and upheld with such enthusiasm when the going was hard, strengthened the mental and moral fiber of hundreds of students. It also made possible those rare moments in their lives when the wonder and the beauty of the mathematical universe flashed upon their sight. Later when Miss Strong introduced courses in astronomy and had a telescope installed, which she manipulated with amazing dexterity, she brought to her classes enlarged concepts of space, of intricate design, and of titanic power. Last year one of the important events at the College was her scholarly lecture, “The Telescope: A Chapter in Modern Science.”

But there was another side to Miss Strong’s interest, the delightfully personal one. She had a deep and sympathetic concern for her students, and they can tell of some friendly act, some clear advice in a moment of perplexity, some sharing of joy, some flash of humor that played upon a period of dreary routine. Her notes of congratulation or appreciation or comfort, often accompanied by flowers or a significant gift, are among her students treasured possessions. For many years she taught a voluntary Bible class in the Young Women’s Christian Association. These many expressions of her helpfulness the members of the faculty shared with the students. In the mathematics department she regarded herself singularly blest in the administrative heads: they, in turn, loved her for her unfailing consideration and relied heavily upon her sound judgement. And there are few people at the college who have not at one time or another felt the beauty and strength of her kindness. Nosegays of lovely flowers, grown she is always quick to say by her sister Miss Daisy, continually appear in the offices and homes of new-comers and old friends alike in the college community.

Aside from her teaching and her happy personal associations Miss Strong has served on many important college committees. From 1913 to 1927 she was chairman of the Committee on Advanced Standing. This work in the 1920s was especially useful in helping old graduates to make their degrees standard. Since 1937 she has been chairman of the Loan Committee. In 1936 she was chairman of the committee which discovered and recommended Mr. Lyle as librarian. For seventeen years she has served on the Mendenhall Scholarship Committee. At certain periods she has served on the Curriculum Committee, and for a term of four years she was one of the representatives of this college on the Consolidated University Administrative Council.

Though Miss Strong has retired from active duties, happily she has not withdrawn from our midst. Her home near the campus, in which her mother and sister shared with her a concern for the best interests of the college, and in which Miss Daisy still lives, will continue to be the focal point for alumnae and faculty who need inspiration and advice and courage. And to the campus itself Miss Strong will often be recalled to lend the judgement which the college for so many years has formed the habit of seeking from her. Fortunate are we to have still available the integrity, the insight, and the love which are the measure of her stature.

Memories of Cornelia Strong, June 1995

Dorothy Yarbrough Zimmerman, Class of 1935
Cornelia Strong, an unforgettable individual, who in her astronomy class of six students in 1934 gave us the foundation for interests that continued to grow in the years after. Sleeping on a hilltop in Girl Scout Camp had more meaning when I was able to weave the mythology into viewing Cygnus, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Orion and their first magnitude stars for the young Scouts. Later while attending Boston University, as I walked around Boston Commons a bit lonely from feeling so far from home, my familiar constellations overhead reminded me that I was not completely in strange surroundings.

Visions come to mind now of the frail but dynamic body of Miss Strong, ever clad in her characteristic shoe top length skirts and plain black lace shoes, meeting us on campus at 4 a.m., lugging and setting up the telescope in order that we might feel the thrill of observing Saturn’s rings, Jupiters moons and craters on our own moon.

Her character was epitomized in her admonition to us when we wrote our term papers for using ideas in our papers without giving credit to sources. In order to free us from being “penalized for plagiarism” she returned our papers for adding foot notes giving credit to sources of information, teaching a lesson which I did not forget.

Miss Strong was a truly remarkable person, memories of whom are not dimmed by the years. Her small frame, large expressive eyes and hair in a que at the back of her head gave her a unique, but all knowing look.

Miss Cornelia Strong: A Tribute

Magnhilde Gullander, Albert Keister, and Helen Barton
Read before the Faculty Council and filed with the Faculty Council minutes, November 1955. The Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina.

On June 3, 1955, as the college was entering upon its commencement season and many alumnae were returning for their various reunions, Miss Cornelia Strong, a beloved teacher and devoted friend of the Woman’s College for fifty years passed quietly away. Although she had been retired for seven years, she had maintained an active interest in the college’s affairs and its activities.

Miss Strong was a native of South Carolina and the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. She received her early education at the Agnes Scott Institute, not a standard four-year college at that time. After two years of teaching she entered Cornell University and in 1903 received her Bachelor of Arts degree and was elected to membership in Sigma Xi, the national honorary society for distinction in science. It took real courage for this shy southern girl to go so far away from home to the northland and to a coeducational institution; yet she always referred to her years there as very happy ones. Her excellent mind and her pure delight in learning soon won her a reputation as a real student. Two lasting friendships with distinguished mathematicians developed during these days at Cornell: one with Professor John Henry Tanner and the other with Professor Louis Karpinski, later of the Mathematics Department of the University of Michigan. Several years after she had left Cornell, she returned to assist Professor Tanner in writing a high school algebra text. Two years after her graduation from Cornell she came to the Woman’s College, then the State Normal School, and she remained an active member of its teaching staff for forty-three years.

Miss Strong was a student all of her life. She attended summer schools at many universities: Cornell, Michigan, California, Colorado and Wisconsin. It was from the University of Michigan in 1931 that she received her Master of Arts degree in Mathematics and Astronomy. Immediately thereafter she introduced courses in Astronomy at the college. But her interests extended beyond the subjects she taught and she often took courses in literature, poetry, government and sociology. She held memberships in a number of professional societies: the Mathematical Association of America, the North Carolina Educational Association, the North Carolina Academy of Science and the Astronomy Club of Greensboro. She was a loyal and active member of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant.

Miss Strong was a unique personality of rare refinement and distinction. She was a timid, self-effacing and gentle lady; yet she had an inner strength in her quiet but unswerving devotion to the right in all things small and great. On any moral issue she was open-minded, but firm and steadfast when her mind was made up. When she spoke her mind she did so with kindness and magnanimity, never creating enmity in the minds of those to whom she spoke. She never asserted herself but she could rise to the occasion quietly and effectively. She stood absolutely on her own, asking a favor of no one, but she was most gracious and most appreciative of those things others did for her. Always sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, she never failed in her helpfulness to her friends, nor in her consideration and generosity to all with whom she came in contact. Nothing that might give pleasure or help to another was too much trouble for her. Coupled with this warm sympathy was another characteristic which delighted her friends. They will long remember the light touches and the twinkle in her eye with which she revealed her sense of humor of a “Barriesque” and almost impish quality.

Miss Strong’s keen intellect and her ability to analyze a situation clearly, logically and without prejudice made her a most valuable member of the college faculty. Her associates were constantly impressed by the sharpness of her mind, her ability to discriminate and her clarity of expression. She was a member of many important committees, often serving as the chairman. From 1913 to 1937 she was chairman of the Committee on Advanced Standing. This was a difficult task; for during this period many alumnae were trying to standardize their degrees, and it required good judgement, patience, and tact to maintain the standards of the college and at the same time preserve happy relations with these older alumnae. From 1937 until her retirement in 1948 she was chairman of the Student Loan Committee. At one time she represented the Woman’s College on the Administrative Council of the Consolidated University.
In the college community Miss Strong will be remembered largely for her many kindnesses: notes of congratulations, of appreciation, of sympathy; a small bouquet left on a desk; Christmas packages to many of the faculty and their children; and in the summer a small basket of fresh vegetables from her sister’s garden. One of the last times she walked up McIver Street, just before entering the hospital for what proved to be her last illness, she was carrying some Easter remembrances to the children of one of the professors.

As a teacher, Miss Strong will be remembered by hundreds of alumnae who studied in her classes as a woman of profound knowledge and infinite patience, with concern and kindly interest always in the individual student. To quote from an article in the Alumnae News, August, 1948, written by a former student of hers at the time of her retirement:

Her students felt the stimulus of her wide range of knowledge, the compelling quality of her thorough methods; they respected her passionate insistence upon accuracy; they responded to her infinite patience; they came to understand and even falteringly to apply logic in their reasoning…and (at least some of them) experienced…the rare moments in their lives when the wonder and beauty of the mathematical universe flashed upon their sight.

To those in the Mathematics Department who worked intimately with her for so many years, she was the perfect colleague. Her cooperation was spontaneous even when she might feel hesitant about entering upon a new undertaking. The whole department gathered strength from her intellectual integrity and found delight in her keen sense of humor. The newer members of the department soon felt the warmth of her personality and learned to love and respect her. During the seven years after her retirement her advice was sought on many occasions and her judgement was always sound. She was an integral part of the department to the last.

In the hearts of her many students and friends, in the Mathematics Department and in the entire college community, Miss Strong will live for many years to come, an inspiring and gracious influence.

Retired WC Instructor Dies at 78

4 June 1955
Miss Cornelia Strong, 78, for 43 years a member of the Woman’s College faculty until her retirement in 1948, died at 10:30 p.m. yesterday in Wesley Long Hospital.

Miss Strong, who lived at 109 Adams St., had been a hospital patient for six weeks.

Miss Strong joined the WC faculty in 1905. She taught mathematics and astronomy, the latter course one she introduced in the college. She maintained professional membership in local and national groups in those two fields.

During her career, she earned bachelor’s degrees at Agnes Scott College and Cornell University and a master’s degree at the University of Michigan. She did graduate work at the Universities of Wisconsin, California, Colorado and Harvard.

She was a former teacher in Chicora College (now Queens College) in Charlotte.

Miss Strong was a member of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant where she taught a Bible class for a number of years. She also taught a Bible class at the YWCA and at Woman’s College.

Dr. Joseph M. Garrison, pastor of her church, will conduct the funeral at 3 p.m. Sunday at Forbis & Murray Chapel.

The body will be cremated and the remains taken to Walhalla, S.C., Miss Strong’s native home.

Her only survivors are two cousins in South Carolina.

Genealogy of Professor Cornelia Strong (1877-1955)

This is all the information that has thus far been discovered on the ancestry of Professor Cornelia Strong, for whom Strong College is named. It is in the standard genealogical format called an “Ahnentafel” or “ancestor table”: Prof. Strong is #1, her father and mother are #2 and #3, her grandparents are #4-7, and so on. The father of person N is always 2N, and the mother of person N is always 2N+1. Information for the third through fifth generations has been taken from and has not been confirmed.

Special thanks are due to Prof. Robert J. O’Hara for conducting the research and to Sarah Cox, CSC ’03, for gathering the original information on Cornelia Strong’s father, Hugh Strong, that made it possible to begin this genealogy. This page is included in the GENDEX genealogical index. Other Strong genealogical resources on the web include the home of the Strong Family Association and the Strong GenForum bulletin board.

First Generation

1. Cornelia STRONG, born 1877, South Carolina; died 1955, Greensboro, North Carolina (Wesley Long Hospital); buried Walhalla, South Carolina. Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

Second Generation

2. Rev. Hugh STRONG, born 7 Nov 1833 (or 1834), Chester Co., South Carolina; died 29 Mar 1885, Walhalla, South Carolina; married Cornelia Harris Gregg 6 Jun 1867, Sumter Co., South Carolina. Presbyterian minister; graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.A. 1860, M.A. 1864).

3. Cornelia Harris GREGG

Third Generation

4. James STRONG, born about 1789; buried Chester Co., South Carolina (Hopewell Cemetery).

5. Jane BLAIN, born 1793; buried Chester Co., South Carolina (Hopewell Cemetery).

Fourth Generation

10. James BLAIN, born about 1759, Antrim, Ireland; died 1 Nov 1832; buried Chester Co., South Carolina (Hopewell Cemetery).

11. Margaret McQUISTON, born about 1762, Antrim, Ireland; died 26 Nov 1834; buried Chester Co., South Carolina (Hopewell Cemetery).

Fifth Generation

22. James McQUISTON, born about 1732, Antrim, Ireland; died about 1799; buried Chester Co., South Carolina.