By Janine Perez ’14
As an Adelphi tour guide, it is my job to learn as much as possible about our University to answer even the most obscure questions from families. I’ve given more than 100 campus tours and am rarely stumped. In addition to giving tours, I also write press releases as a student writer in Adelphi’s Office of Public Affairs. So I know a lot about Adelphi.
Or, I thought I did until one day last spring when my manager in the public affairs office asked me to go to the Adelphi University Archives to do research for an assignment. I had no idea that Adelphi even had an archive, let alone where it was. Imagine my embarrassment.
Bemused by my stammering shock, my manager kindly escorted me to Residence Hall A and showed me the sign above a side entrance that prominently reads “Adelphi University Archives.” I felt silly. I must have walked by that sign hundreds of times and never noticed it.
Humbled, I activated the intercom beside the large steel door to gain access to the subterranean trove. Pamela Griffin, the administrative assistant, ushered me in. I was there to find some specific material for an article, but I quickly became fascinated with the mysterious books, papers and objects crammed into drawers and shelves. Professor Eugene Neely and his fellow archives and special collections faculty and staff know a great deal about the scores of materials they curate and are more than willing to share their knowledge with anyone seeking it. After poking around a few times (with the experts’ help, of course) I learned so many odd and entertaining tidbits about Adelphi, I just knew I had to share some of the finds.
One collection that piqued my interest was a group of miniature trading cards, each one approximately 2 inches long—about the length of my index finger. The cards were part of the Murad Cigarettes College Series 51–75 issued in 1914. Originally, there were 150 cards representing athletics at various colleges. Of all the colleges in the country, Adelphi—then a college based in Brooklyn—was one of the ones selected to be featured in the deck. In the archives is a collection of 21 of the cards, including the Adelphi card with a white-clad tennis player and others that showcase Vanderbilt University and the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
Far more shocking than an Adelphi trading card sold with a pack of cigarettes was an item that I never thought I would see on this campus—a football. I knew that Adelphi once had a football team, but a pigskin was the last thing I was expecting to see in the University Archives. This isn’t just any football; it’s a winning one. Literally bursting at the seam from being thrown, kicked and tackled, it is a symbol of Adelphi’s 1948 win against Hofstra University. It’s nice to know that even in ’48 we had a rivalry strong enough to entice us to keep the football even after we got rid of the football team. The third item that caught my eye was positively otherworldly and wholly unexpected. It’s a souvenir-sized model of the 1969 Grumman Lunar Landing Module from Apollo 11. Apparently, these now-rare models are coveted by collectors, and it’s easy to see why. The miniaturized version of that famed spacecraft intrigued me. The reason Adelphi has this is linked to Swirbul Library. Leon Swirbul ’59 (Hon.), the former president and one of the six founders of the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, served on Adelphi’s Board of Trustees for only about two years before he passed away. After his passing in 1960, the Grumman employee contribution council elected to donate funds raised from fellow workers to the new Adelphi library, in Mr. Swirbul’s memory. When the library was completed, Grumman donated this original model to the University.
We have a bevy of surprising and intriguing items in the archives. I can’t wait to discover more of the objects hiding in the shelves beneath Residence Hall A. Make an appointment and take a look for yourself.