Bricks help to reinforce Caruthers Hall’s local impact

Susan Purnell, right, sits with former teacher Ruth Bennett, as the two women review photos of Caruthers Hall and the students who attended. A “demonstration school” from 1955-1969, hundreds of students from the Salisbury community walked through its doors.

Susan Purnell, right, sits with former teacher Ruth Bennett, as the two women review photos of Caruthers Hall and the students who attended. A “demonstration school” from 1955-1969, hundreds of students from the Salisbury community walked through its doors.

Caruthers Hall was a landmark on Salisbury University’s campus for nearly 60 years, but many Wicomico residents might not know it was the site of a local elementary school.

A “demonstration school” from 1955-1969, hundreds of students from the Salisbury community walked through its doors, greeted by Principal Pauline Riall and teachers including the likes of Ruth Bennett.

Both worked at the school the entire time it was open in Caruthers.

“This is a time ago,” said Susan Purnell, examining photos of Caruthers Hall and the students who attended the campus elementary school it once housed.

“A long time ago,” added Ruth Bennett, who taught Purnell in kindergarten and second grade at the school in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Together, looking at old images, Bennett and Purnell identified locations of the cafeteria, auditorium and library, as well as classrooms for each grade.

They remembered maypole celebrations and named attendees of the building’s cornerstone ceremony, including then-Gov. Theodore McKeldin, Maryland state Sen. Mary Nock, College President J.D. Blackwell and Riall.

“Because we were part of the college, we got to participate in a lot of things that the college did,” said Purnell, recalling plays in Holloway Hall and professors who came over to teach music and even Russian.

Bennett said the student teachers provided individual attention to the students.

“It made you feel special; the whole school made you feel really special,” Purnell added. “I can say, by far, that we were more prepared for junior high than anybody else in the county. It was like having a private school education in a public school.”

After demonstration schools closed, the building mainly served SU’s Education Department until the Teacher Education and Technology Center opened in 2008. Then it became home to the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business until Perdue Hall was completed in 2011. Caruthers also housed Delmarva Public Radio studios over the years.

Bricks from the dismantled Caruthers Hall are being sold as part of a fund-raising campaign.

Bricks from the dismantled Caruthers Hall are being sold as part of a fund-raising campaign.

The facility was named for Dr. “T.J.” Caruthers, one of SU’s founding faculty members and the grandfather of author Tom Horton, who today teaches in SU’s Environmental Studies Department. For over three decades, Caruthers taught mathematics and psychology, supervised rural practice teaching, played cello in the orchestra, and temporarily led both the school and the college itself.

For community members, like Bennett and Purnell, who have special memories of Caruthers Hall and the campus school, a limited number of bricks from the building are available through the University’s Alumni Office and its website.

Each brick has a commemorative plaque that reads: “Salisbury State Teachers College Demonstration School to Salisbury University Caruthers Hall, 1955-2013, the foundation on which educational excellence was built.”

Bricks are $25 if picked up at SU’s Alumni House or $31 if mailed. To purchase, visit http://alumni.salisbury.edu/CaruthersBrick. For more information contact the Alumni Office at 410-543-6042.

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