In honor of Belmont’s 125th anniversary, the university debuted its first two segments of “Stories of Belmont” Wednesday morning at a convo hosted by StoryCorps Production Consultant Eve Claxton.
StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recording personal stories and interviews for preservation. By removing cameras from the equation and giving subjects control over the topic and privacy of the conversation recorded, StoryCorps creates a comfortable space and time to leave records of lives for the inspiration of generations.
“Stories can really move us, move us to do so many things. They can inspire us, but they don’t always have to move us emotionally. In my case, a story moved me to a different country,” Claxton said.
The organization has gathered almost 60,000 45-minute recordings since its first soundproof booth opened in 2003. Recordings collected by the organization are stored for posterity in the Library of Congress– what Claxton considers “the ultimate hard drive.”
StoryCorps’s partnership with Belmont began in the spring of 2015. The 125th Anniversary Planning Committee developed a list of stories around campus that needed to be told and the people who should tell them, said John Carney, senior director of university marketing and public relations.
Among those chosen were Belmont-Ward alumnas Laddie Neil, 87, and Mary Niederhauser, 85, who were the focus of the first installment of the Belmont Stories series. The two women shared their experiences on life all-female college in the 1940s.
Together, they reminisced about the college’s delicious sweet rolls, adventures sneaking off campus and the strictness of the rules the school’s residents had to follow when it came to social life.
“Dating was an experience. If you can imagine this: in 1948, you had to get written permission to date,” Niederhauser said.
To this day, the women maintain a pride for their alma mater; it was a pride that carried over into the second episode of Belmont Stories, featuring current students Zach Middleton and Mikaela Clark.
In their segment, Middleton and Clark discussed the importance of learning the stories of other students those of the people who have contributed to the Belmont community in the past.
“There are people that have been part of the story of Belmont for decades that have bled into what it has now become. Like they’ve created the foundation for this, and someday we’ll be somebody’s legacy,” Clark said.
Although StoryCorp recorded only 17 stories during the organization’s time on campus, students are invited to help edit the recordings or to submit their own at belmont125.com, Carney said.
For those who’d prefer to listen, “Stories of Belmont” is available for download in podcast form on iTunes and Stitcher or can be heard online at belmont125.com.