October 08, 2009
Dr. Gene Spears to lecture on his book Managing Hard Times: How Five College Survived the Great Depression

Has the 2009 Great Recession pinched you? Do you feel uncertain about how to approach the difficulties you face? Looking to the past can provide both clues to survival and hope for the future. Dr. Gene Spears has done just that to see how small colleges can prosper in these difficult times. This Lees-McRae College professor will present a program, Managing Hard Times: How Five Colleges Survived the Great Depression, on Wednesday, November 4 at the college.

Spears has recently published a book with that title. He has based his work on extensive research into the history of five colleges and universities in North Carolina: Lees-McRae, Wake Forest, Davidson, Louisburg College and Campbell University. Spending hours immersed in the archives of these institutions, he amassed reams of material that documented both the hard times and the creative ways these private colleges responded to the many challenges.

"I started looking into how Lees-McRae College survived the Depression when I was dean of the college and the property bubble was just starting to pop. I was intrigued by the information I ran across from that time period," says Spears, who has served in faculty and administrative positions at the college. "I decided to visit other schools and found four reasonably close by in North Carolina that had survived the depression and had good archives. As I worked over the material, it became clear that there were several distinct strategies the colleges used to get through the Great Depression."

Strategies such as delaying capital spending, expanding the customer base, innovating and diversifying, and becoming self-sufficient, as well as others, helped ensure the survival of the institutions that Spears studied. His talk will give specific examples of these strategies that allowed these schools not just to survive, but to thrive during a period when many others closed their doors.

"Some of these strategies can be used by businesses other than colleges," said Dr. Michael Joslin, Director of the Stephenson Center for Appalachia at Lees-McRae College. "Dr. Spears' lecture should be both entertaining and enlightening, as well as helpful for all of us as we struggle to progress during these economic hard times."

Spears' talk will be presented on Wednesday, November 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the Stafford Room of the Carson Library on the Lees-McRae campus. As part of the Stephenson Center for Appalachia lecture series, the program is free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend. For information call Meghan Wright, at 898-8729.

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