December 11, 2000
Moon over Oxford
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
When Joe Moon strolls across the Oxford College campus, people notice. He cant walk more than 30 feet without someone waving to greet him. Hi, Dean Moon! Good morning, Mr. Moon. Hows it going, Joe?
Like a politician weaving his way through supporters, Moon acknowledges
every greeting with a nod, a wave or a point. And he responds to each
student by name.
On a campus as small as this, Moon said, after reaching the
relative anonymity of an automobile, you get to know most of the
Moon, a native of Hamilton, Ga., which is north of Columbus, has never
had full-time employment outside Emory. After graduating from Furman University
with a bachelors and the University of Georgia with his masters
degree, Moon took a campus life job in Atlanta, one with the archaic title
of assistant dean for men. That was 1978.
In 1988, looking for a new and broader challenge, he accepted the position
of associate dean of campus life at Oxford. Its a move he hasnt
regretted for a second.
I entered this profession because I enjoy this age group,
Moon said. College students, particularly undergraduates, grow so
dramatically during this time of their lives. Its clear to me that
students co-curricular experiences add immeasurably to the core
educational mission of the institution.
Much more so than most colleges, Oxford activities usually are not simply
for faculty or students. The line is much fuzzier.
For instance, Moon sings in the Oxford Chorale, which features faculty,
staff and student participants; competes in intramural sports; and makes
cameo appearances with Oxfords guitar and mandolin society.
And that vibrant type of community is what he thrives on.
Student affairs work doesnt have an ending bell, Moon
said. Attending and participating in campus events are not only
a routine part of what we do, but it demonstrates our commitment to them
Moon often makes his after-hour duties into a family activity. Recently,
his older daughter Lauren, 15, read Shakespeares play Julius
Caesar for her sophomore English class (Moon is also father to 13-year-old
Hannah. His wife Cindy, also a Furman grad, is a flight attendant for
Delta.). He then took Lauren and a few of her friends Oxford to see Caesar
performed by a college theater group.
Since 1996, Moons time has been even tighter. It was then he returned
to UGA part time to pursue his doctorate in education. This summer, after
more than a year-and-a-half of research and writing, Moon completed his
dissertationa history of Oxford Collegeand earned his degree.
Im told it reads like a story, Moon said. There
are some distinct periods in Oxfords institutional lifethe
decade where Oxford was an accredited, four-year junior college, for examplethat
could be looked at separately, but also foreshadow Oxfords transition
to the next period. I particularly enjoyed discovering how Oxfords
unique institutional culture was shaped by events both internal and external.
Indeed, Moons dissertation, From Estrange-ment to Reconciliation:
A Biography of Oxford College of Emory University, tracks Oxfords
history from 1919, when Emory moved west to Atlanta, to 1976, the point
where Oxford, institutionally, evolved into what it is today.
The 148-page work (pretty reasonable for a dissertation) is separated
into six chapters and follows Oxfords course along three themes:
the colleges relationship with central Emory campus in Atlanta,
the relative influence of the Methodist church and the evolving organization
of Oxfords curriculum and academic structure.
One inspiration for Moons subject matter came from a class he took
on institutional culture. He learned that many colleges, particularly
smaller ones, have distinct identities. I couldnt help but
think, Gosh, Oxford just fits this distinctive cultural model.
As a newcomer in 1988, I was struck with the passion and devotion most
Oxford alumni have for the place. What caused this?, Moon said.
After the dissertation was accepted, the main feeling for me was
deep relief, he said. I thought I was going to feel excited.
That came, but more slowly. Ive attended 23 Emory commencement ceremonies,
but it was really nice to be a student for a change and actually have
the hood placed on me.
Upon being told someone is interested in reading his dissertation, Moon
visibly brightens. Its not from arroganceits just the
excitement of knowing someone, anyone, might be interested in work that
he slaved over for more than a year.
Most dissertations and theses are read only by major professors, unlucky
spouses and only the most enterprising of graduate students. Usually,
they simply gather dust on some dark library shelf.
Moon joyously passes his out.
I bought several copies; I presented Ginger Cain the first one,
Moon said. Cain is University archivist, and Moon spent many days and
nights keeping her and her staff company in Special Collections during
his research. I donated one to the Oxford library, gave my dissertation
advisor one, and I kept a couple under my arm in case anybody wanted to
see or read it, he laughed.
His boss is certainly happy with the final result.
Joe has given a wonderful gift to Oxford College and all those
interested in the history of this institution, said Oxford Dean
Dana Greene. This is a story about determination and dedication,
evoking a deep appreciation for all those who over the years worked to
save this special place.
Since receiving his doctorate in education this past July, Moon has happily
set the project aside for while. He can envision a future, though, in
which he turns his work into a book. Emorys previous histories have
focused on the main campus, and this would be an opportunity to focus
Im really confident, if a book like that existed, a lot of
people would want to read it, Moon said.
Youd hear a story about how someone put a cow in a Seney Hall classroom, and as the story got passed around that cow would get bigger and higher in Seney, all the way to the ball tower and then the steeple, he laughed. Telling a good cow story is part of Oxfords heritage.