From Our Collections: William Flinn Rogers Papers

This fall, we are providing a student enrolled in the History Department’s public history course with the opportunity to work in the Archives and gain experience with archival outreach. Sierra Maxwell, who is a new Graduate Assistant in the Archives and enrolled in the course, will be sharing her thoughts on working in the Archives and some of the items she comes across in a series of blog posts.

Here is Sierra’s introductory post:

Hello all archival enthusiasts and otherwise interested patrons! My name is Sierra Maxwell and I am currently a Graduate Assistant in the Archives of Appalachia. I hold a Bachelor’s in History from West Virginia Wesleyan College and am enrolled in ETSU’s Masters in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Archival Studies (wow, that’s a mouthful)! I am excited for my new adventures here at the Archive, and the opportunity to share with ya’ll what’s going on here on the 4th floor of the Sherrod Library! I will be posting on the Archives’ blog about the collections we are processing, interesting finds we come across, and new and exciting news from the archival community.

For the past two weeks, I have been processing the collection of William Flinn Rogers, whose namesake Rogers-Stout Hall still stands on campus. He was a history professor at ETSU from 1925-1968, and the chair of the department for almost his entire tenure. On the surface, the collection seemed to contain merely academic records, such as student papers and tests. However, upon deeper inspection I found some very interesting and sometimes even comical items. Last month, in the most appropriate timing for Columbus Day, I found a mock newspaper from December 1492 detailing Columbus’ now famous trip across the Atlantic to the New World.


The most comical item I have found thus far is an apparent acceptance letter sent from one Roberto Diaz to the ETSU Registrar’s Office.


What first caught my eye were the obvious misspellings (when writing a letter informing a college of your intent to attend, you should probably proofread!) The letter informed the Registrar’s Office that Mr. Diaz had decided to enter ETSU, and requested that his brother stay with him on campus to help with homework (wouldn’t that be nice to have!). This request may seem absurd, but pales in comparison to his last demand – that he be able to bring with him his pet alligator (to be kept in the school’s pool)! It is unknown whether this letter is legitimate, or a prank pulled by faculty or students. It is marked with the Registrar’s Office official “RECEIVED” stamp dated May 23, 1961, which would lead one to believe that it was in fact legitimate. I can only imagine what the Registrar’s face must have been when s/he read this letter! The reason that Rogers had the letter in his belongings is also unknown; maybe he was the alleged “Ricardo Diaz” playing a prank on the Office, or possibly the letter was so infamous that copies were given to various faculty. For whatever the reason, I am glad that Rogers held on to this comical piece for our enjoyment nearly 55 years later!


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