The University of Delaware: A History – Chapter 10
Chapter 10: The Postwar University: Reorganization and Reorientation
The University of Delaware in the postwar era was a different institution from the university of prewar days. It became far larger, for one thing, in number of students and in the extent of its campus; it became, fortunately, in view of its greater size and responsibilities, a much wealthier institution than it had been; and it was now coeducational.
Coeducation had been adopted by the university as an emergency measure during the war. But before the war was over, university authorities adopted coeducation as a permanent measure. It was the death of President Hullihen in April 1944 that led to this sudden change, for, though probably inevitable, coeducation would hardly have been adopted when it was had not Wilbur Owen Sypherd suddenly been catapulted into the presidency.
The nonchurchgoing son of a Methodist minister, Sypherd, at the time of Hullihen’s death, was head of the largest department in the university (English) and also the senior professor on the faculty. He had earned a reputation as a good teacher of courses on Chaucer, Browning, and the English Bible, as well as through a course entitled "English for Engineers," for which he had written a text that went through a number of different editions, each of them usually adding another collaborator.1 He had played a seminal role in the renascence of Delaware College in 1914, had supported the establishment of the Women’s College, had been very active in alumni affairs, in the development of the library and of student dramatics, and in the intellectual life of the campus generally. Despite administrative responsibilities, he had retained his own interests in research and writing, publishing an abridgement of the Bible "for younger readers" through Alfred A. Knopf in 1944 and preparing a study of the Biblical story of Jephthah and his daughter, which the university published in 1948.2 At the same time he directed, efficiently if somewhat pedantically, the work of a department that both by its organization and its personnel won deserved respect in both colleges. Cyrus L. Day, Ned B. Allen, C. Robert Kase, Augustus H. Able, and Arthur R. Dunlap, his principal colleagues in the early 1940s, all appointed by him, were, in diverse ways, scholars that the university could be proud of.
Until the board of trustees in June 1945 extended to women the regulation of Delaware College requiring all men to take a course in the history and government of Delaware, the department of English was the only one on campus that taught every student. Since it was involved with both colleges and with every school, English was to that degree more of a university department than any other and Sypherd was an administrator with greater exposure to all divisions of the university (notably excepting the agricultural experiment station and the agricultural extension service) than any other except President Hullihen and Charles Grubb, the business administrator. Sypherd even played an important role in the development of graduate study as chairman of the relevant faculty committee.
Twenty-four years earlier, when Mitchell resigned, Sypherd, then forty-three, was considered the most likely faculty candidate for the presidency. According to Edward Vallandigham, a member of an alumni committee on the presidency, Sypherd did nothing to promote his own candidacy, and Vallandigham, though respecting Sypherd and "his thorough rectitude," did not support him. In fact, in a letter to Hullihen that has already been quoted, Vallandigham explained that he had felt obliged to speak frankly to Sypherd. "I told him," Vallandigham wrote, "that I felt that his sympathies were not sufficiently popular (i.e. democratic) to justify me in advocating his election."
In other words, to Vallandigham, Sypherd was aristocratic–or even autocratic–in spirit. And as he had seemed in 1920, so his actions suggested he still was in 1944. Sixty-seven when he succeeded to Hullihen’s position and without desire to be more than an interim president, Sypherd did not hesitate to use the power of an "acting" executive to enact reforms that he felt were overdue.
Immediately upon Hullihen’s death on April 14 his duties were assumed by Dean Robert L. Spencer of the School of Engineering, who had become the acting dean of Delaware College after George Dutton’s death. Spencer was not in good health and either for that or some other reason the executive committee of the trustees, meeting on May 1, passed him by and appointed Sypherd acting president, with a salary of $8,000–though without housing, since this bachelor professor already had a home of his own in Newark. Such was Sypherd’s reputation with the trustees that they were quite content to have him in charge and would have been willing to settle on him as Hullihen’s successor, understanding, of course, that because of his age, his administration could not be a long one.
But Sypherd insisted that he must only be regarded as an acting president until a younger man could be chosen to take over the position. While that search went forward, however, Sypherd was too much of an activist to stay his hand. Though the records do not make this clear, it was probably Sypherd who persuaded the board of trustees at their meeting on June 24, 1944, the first since he had become acting president, to set up an ad hoc committee to study the salary scale of the teaching staff.3
As senior professor and especially as chairman of the largest department, Sypherd was probably peculiarly aware of inadequacies in the salary scale. But this new committee, which consisted of J. Pilling Wright, as chairman, J. Pearce Cann, secretary-treasurer of the board, and Sypherd, did not confine itself to its stated purpose. Perhaps encouraged by discussion of the proper rank and title of a replacement for the professor of education, William Wilkinson, who was retiring, the committee proceeded to recommend a thoroughgoing reorganization of the administrative structure of the university, including provision for a dean of a School of Education to replace Wilkinson.
The idea of reorganization was not new. The Survey Commission of 1937 had recommended a School of Education with a dean. In 1941 a faculty committee under Carl Rees was studying organization, and to it Sypherd suggested, with unknown effect, that a subcommittee should consider how effectively the existing organization of the university promoted its educational objectives.4 In August 1943 Hullihen inaugurated a discussion of postwar problems of the university, as he reported to the trustees in December 1943. At this meeting the board appointed a presidential search committee under Rodney Sharp’s chairmanship to prepare for the vacancy expected in 1945, when Hullihen, who would then be seventy, would retire.
Very likely it was these events, rather than Hullihen’s unexpected death, that led Sypherd to think about the administrative reorganization of the university. On May 10, 1944, Rodney Sharp referred to some "ideas of revamping our University set-up" that Sypherd had sent to Judge Morris, president of the board of trustees, "some months ago."5 This must mean that Sypherd was formulating plans for reorganization before Hullihen’s death on April 14–probably in anticipation of Hullihen’s scheduled retirement in 1945.
Sypherd, Morris, and Sharp were acquaintances of many years’ standing, and of the three Sypherd was the senior. Sypherd, a ’96 graduate, and Morris, of the ’98 class, had been in college together–and it was a very small college–for two years. Sharp’s college years, 1896-1900, had largely overlapped those of Morris, who had stayed for an extra year of postgraduate study. In the reorganization effected in the summer of 1944 Sharp played no important role; he remained the loyal alumnus, supporting university authorities. In response to Winifred Robinson, who had written him a friendly letter about the importance of choosing a good successor to William Wilkinson, he wrote, referring to university affairs in general, "with Dr. Sypherd in charge we are not apt to go wrong."6 His chief university interests in the summer of 1944 were the search for a new president, the upkeep of Mitchell Hall (toward which he contributed an additional $40,000 to the endowment), and the care of the campus, particularly of the elms (for which purpose he and Henry Francis du Pont consulted with Marian Coffin and an authority from the Yale School of Forestry).7
Sypherd had ruled his small principality of the department of English for over three decades and his status as merely an acting president did not deter him one moment from pressing forward with his plans for reform, and the vehicle he used for this purpose was the committee to study the salary scale. The problem of a proper salary scale was one Hullihen had addressed in his annual reports as recently as 1940 and 1942. The existing scale, Hullihen said in 1940, was "so low as to make it difficult to secure or to hold the most promising teachers," and, as he declared in the latter report, "the reputation and prestige of the University… depends almost entirely upon the quality and efficiency of its staff."
As a member of that staff, charged for thirty-eight years with the responsibility of finding and retaining good teachers and scholars in the field of English literature, Sypherd was wholly in agreement with Hullihen’s plea for higher salaries. Once in the driver’s seat, he set out to do something about it through the committee that Judge Morris had appointed. He had known its other members, Pilling Wright and Pearce Cann, almost as long as he had known Morris and Sharp, and probably much better. Wright, Cann, and Sypherd were all Newark residents, all members of the local country club, and accustomed to seeing each other socially very frequently. The committee was a little Newark cabal, as Morris may have meant it to be, and it seems likely that the other members would have followed Sypherd’s lead on the subjects the committee dealt with.
The salary scale that they worked out raised no known controversy, although Allan Colburn commented, when the committee report was submitted to department heads, that it was still too low and wisely urged that "greater efforts should be made to attract strong teachers."8 As a forty-three-year-old chemical engineer, he recognized better than a sixty-seven-year-old professor of English what money was needed to attract top talent to the university. The new scale, though improving salaries for all ranks, was still quite modest, with minimums as follows:
|Rank||New scale||Old scale|
|Heads of departments of at least three members||4,500|
Projected salaries for the chief administrators ranged from $4,000 and living quarters for the dean of women to $12,000 and a house for a new president–both appointments yet to be made.9
But this was the least controversial part of the committee’s work. It also adopted a plan for a revolutionary reorganization of the university that was probably at least close to the plan Sypherd had submitted to Morris early in the spring. It abolished the coordinate structure of two colleges that had existed since the founding of the Women’s College in 1914. The Women’s College would be practically obliterated, and so would Delaware College. Most of the Women’s College courses would become part of the offering of a School of Arts and Science under a dean with academic authority over both men and women who would also have the title of dean of the university. The School of Education was also to have a dean and to rank with the other three academic schools, arts and science, agriculture, and engineering. There would be a division of home economics (unless it was joined to the School of Agriculture, with which it shared some responsibilities for extension work), a division of graduate study, and, when the need arose, a division of commerce and business. The committee structure of the board would be changed, and in the change the advisory committee on the Women’s College would be eliminated. A dean of women and a dean of men would assume some of the former duties of the dean of the Women’s College and the dean of Delaware College–duties as student counselors and in regard to housing and health, for instance. The two colleges would remain only as "general welfare units," mainly housing units.10
One slight alteration appeared in these plans before the executive committee received them on August 7: another division–of health, physical education, and athletics–was added. By this change Sypherd felt he could justify the high salary that R.R.M. Carpenter, chairman of the trustees’ committee on physical education and athletics, was suggesting for Bill Murray, the football coach, who would become head of this division.11 After all, this was a field that did not belong especially to any one of the academic schools. Emphasis on physical conditioning of young people that arose out of the war and deficiencies discovered as young men entered the armed forces encouraged special status for a physical education program.
After the executive committee heard the salary scale committee’s report on August 7, Judge Morris called a special meeting of the board for August 20. In the meantime, Sypherd was asked to submit the report, confidentially, to the deans and department chairmen, as well as to alumni and alumnae officials. On receiving it, Dean Golder was understandably upset. "There appears to be no forward-looking educational philosophy behind the plan," she wrote, adding that it was a plan for a large university of 3,000 to 10,000 students and did not consider "the peculiar problems of this university." In particular, it failed to make any place for the different needs of men and women. "It seems a wasteful destruction of a good tradition," Dean Golder argued, "to abolish what has been an effective college for the education of women…and leave nothing in its place."12
The contrasting responses Sypherd received from men and women of the faculty are interesting and display a degree of jealousy that had existed between the two colleges. The great majority of the men approved of the plan; some of them had been annoyed by the supervision exercised over their courses by Dean Winifred Robinson and Marjory Golder, successively. The women faculty were generally aghast at the idea of the destruction of their college, which they considered superior in morale, traditions, and standards to Delaware College.
Some friends and alumnae of the Women’s College were also dismayed. Dean Golder called on Emalea Warner, now ninety-one, who pleaded with Dr. Charles M.A. Stine, chairman of the advisory committee on the Women’s College, to prevent or at least delay adoption of "this radical change [which] undervalues the standards of the Women’s College and virtually wipes it off the calendar….To be put on the shelf in this way does not seem logical nor just"; it seemed especially shocking that this proposal had not been brought before Stine’s committee.13
Most of the women responding urged against hasty action. Mary C. Dennison, ’19, a former president of the Alumnae Association, made the sage observation that the reorganization plan provided no place of important academic standing for a woman. Though seeing many forward steps in the plan, "I do feel," she wrote, "that the importance of women in this whole scheme has been given second place."14
On August 26 the board of trustees discussed the new proposals at length. The letters just quoted and others were read, and President Sypherd spoke on the advantages of the plan and answered inquiries about it. Finally, the board postponed action for three weeks. In the meantime, they asked the committee that had originated the proposal to give it further consideration, particularly with view to possible modifications, and, in order to be sure that a woman’s opinions would be heard, they added Madalin James to the committee. Meanwhile, they accepted one part of the recommendation by authorizing an immediate search for a dean of the School of Education.
Before submitting the proposal once again to the deans and department chairmen, the committee on the salary scale made one adjustment in its reorganization plan: it elevated the status of home economics from a division to a school, with a dean at its head. Thus the committee presumably answered objections that no woman would be in an academic position of importance.
Most of the responses were predictable, the men cheering for the new plan, occasionally with a minor qualm or qualification, the women viewing it with varying degrees of alarm. Harriet Baily discussed the plan with Sypherd and respected his arguments but regretted seeing the identity of the Women’s College disappear because she felt a small organization "has great potentialities for personal student-faculty contact and for individual treatment of students,…which I think the Women’s College has successfully achieved." Amy Rextrew could not see one advantage for women in the new setup; her objection that the proposed reorganization included no women in an administrative role may have reached the committee in time to encourage its decision to create a deanship in home economics (to be filled by her). Quaesita Drake declared that the university would lose more than it gained by the reorganization, which would mean abandonment of a successful educational experiment and an aping of large midwestern universities. Jeannette Graustein was particularly appalled at the thought of coeducational classes for freshmen and sophomores in which masculine aggressiveness and self-assertion would reduce the opportunity the faculty previously had of breaking down the mental sluggishness of the immature and inexperienced women who came to the university. Beatrice Hartshorn, graduate of a coeducational institution, was sure that men’s needs would take precedence over women’s in an organization where every school and division (she did not allow for home economics) would have a man at its head.
Dean Golder sent Sypherd and Madalin James a list of queries, including the critical question of whether the acting president should have absolute authority in effecting the reorganization or whether there would be democratic control of the process by the faculty.15
The more numerous male department heads generally responded with enthusiasm for the new plan. William Wilkinson was glad to see the education program freed from the control previously exercised over it by the academic council of the Women’s College. Albert Eastman’s only concern was that he not be placed under someone else as a result of the merger–probably he referred to Quaesita Drake. Women chemistry majors had frequently been invited to take advanced courses at Delaware College since the new laboratory had opened, he claimed, but the Women’s College authorities had intervened, restricting the women to courses at the Women’s College.
Henry Clay Reed offered a divergent view. From twenty years’ experience he thought the Women’s College had maintained higher standards than Delaware College "in the admission of students, the supervision of their work, and elimination of the unfit." He would not hesitate to send a daughter to the Women’s College, he wrote, but "would think twice" before enrolling a son in the School of Arts and Science of Delaware College. "The higher scholastic morale of the Women’s College is hardly an accident," but resulted "from conscious purpose," and he feared, like most of the Women’s College faculty, that a merger of the two colleges would result in "a levelling down of the whole to the standards of Delaware College in Arts and Science, rather than a levelling up to the standards of the Women’s College."
He agreed with the women faculty that there were special problems in women’s education; many men, he argued, look on women as inferior, decry "the feminine point of view, and want to run things their own way." Reed did not pull his punches, as the following comment, which seems directed at the bachelor acting president, indicates: "This is especially true of men without matrimonial or parental experience." (The frankness of Reed’s remarks indicates the security an associate professor of long tenure could feel at Delaware by 1944.) If the dean of the Women’s College was deprived of a leadership role by the reorganization, Reed felt that half a dozen women should be added to the faculty as full professors and a woman should be appointed as dean of education (where most of the students were women). On the other hand, he diametrically opposed the views of Jeannette Graustein to the effect that men and women must be kept in separate classes for the first two years; the history department felt classes should be combined at all levels as circumstances required, and he reported some feeling that mixed classes were desirable in themselves.16
A startling fact about the reorganization is the speed with which it was carried out. The committee on the salary scale that spawned the proposal was appointed at the trustees’ meeting on June 24, 1944. Final action on a reorganization plan that the trustees had probably had no thought of in June (reorganization was not mentioned in the title of the committee) was taken on September 16. The fact that this action was entirely taken in the summer does not mean it was as much in the absence of the faculty as would have been true in other years, for the accelerated wartime schedule kept the university open for much of the year. Some of the women, like Jeannette Graustein, did get away for brief vacations, but more of the men were absent on war duties.
Allan Colburn’s response to the reorganization plan, which he liked, was interesting. He wanted full discussion of it on campus to precede any changes. "I urge," he wrote, "that all possible attention be given to retaining any of the valuable academic methods worked out under the old plan which can still be applied under the new framework."17
Despite Colburn’s advice, little time was allowed for discussion of the plan. Letters to the committee were invited, and that was all. The Women’s College committee chaired by Dr. Stine took no action so far as is known. Quaesita Drake assembled a meeting of faculty to discuss the reorganization plan, but no official faculty action on it was ever called for. Without permitting any further time for discussion, the committee on the salary scale completed its report on September 11 and presented it to the board of trustees five days later.
Disregarding a protest by a large group of alumnae against hasty action and their request that at least one expert on higher education from another college should be consulted, the board of trustees took definitive action when they met on September 16. The new salary scale and the reorganization plan were adopted all but unanimously, the only negative vote being cast by Judge Richard S. Rodney, a close friend and former partner of Judge Morris. Rodney’s objections are not known, but Madalin James, who voted for the plan, was allowed to enter a statement in the record. As an alumna (and actually nominated for membership on the board by the Alumnae Association), Mrs. James had undoubtedly been pressed by many of the women opposing reorganization to represent their views, even though she had earlier declared her support of the reorganization plan "in general." Her recorded statement noted that though "the general feeling expressed in letters to the board favors the plan," a desire did exist that academic authority be given to the dean of women. In the committee, to which she had been added in August, she had requested that the dean of women, the dean of men, and the university registrar should form an academic unit to have charge of admissions and records and serve as a liaison body between students, parents, and faculty. She thought such a body would permit the maintenance of the desirable features in the traditions of the two colleges, but she was overruled in the committee, which felt this was a detail that had to be worked out administratively. She was left unable to do more than urge the retention of "as many of the desirable practices and policies of the Women’s College as are directly applicable to the education of women, as distinguished from men."18
The care for these practices and policies, however, was now left in the hands of men who might or might not have a very sensitive regard for them.
There remained a period of almost two years in which Sypherd led the university from a wartime to a peacetime footing, while putting the reorganization plan into effect and filling the administrative posts that were vacated by deaths and retirements or created by the new plan. New by-laws had to be adopted to fit the new administrative structure. To replace the old advisory committee on the Women’s College two new committees were set up–a trustee committee on arts and science, education, and home economics, to take care of academic matters for women and men both, and an advisory committee on the education of women, to consist of six members, two of them alumnae, chaired by the dean of women. The latter committee was not a committee of trustees but was, as the title indicates, advisory to the trustees. Not part of Sypherd’s original plan, it was set up in response to a demand by alumnae that women have some voice in the education of women. Another new committee, on engineering, was created at Dean Spencer’s request, as a parallel structure to the committee on agriculture.19
The first of the new administrative officers to be appointed was the dean of men, a position assigned on an "acting" basis to J. Fenton Daugherty, professor of physics, a popular teacher at Delaware since 1929. This appointment, announced in September 1944, was probably rushed because of the lack of a permanent dean of arts and science, even though there were less than a hundred civilian men in college. Before his death, George Dutton, by virtue of his responsibilities as dean and registrar of Delaware College, as well as dean of arts and science, had been fulfilling the functions of a dean of men. Dean Spencer, who had become acting dean of arts and science, had no time for the other tasks, few as the undergraduate males were. In fact, Spencer became ill in 1944, necessitating his replacement by Howard Preston, as acting dean of engineering, and by Thomas A. Baker, professor of animal husbandry, as acting dean of arts and science.
The first of the permanent new deans to be appointed was Amy Rextrew, as dean of the School of Home Economics. This was not a great change, for Miss Rextrew had already been head of the department of home economics since 1927, and the school was not much different from the department, except that it had more autonomy, no longer being subject to an outside dean, as when it was in the domain of Dean Golder.
By this appointment Sypherd attempted to answer criticism that women would not be represented at high administrative levels after the reorganization. Two other appointments may have given further assurance that such would not be the case: Jeannette Graustein, head of the Women’s College biology department, was named acting head of a unified university department and Gertrude Sturges, Women’s College registrar, was named registrar of the whole university. No object stood in the way of Miss Sturges’s appointment because the registrar of Delaware College had been Dean Dutton, now deceased. The retirement in 1942 of Professor Clinton O. Houghton, chairman of the Delaware College biology department for over three decades, had cleared the way for the Graustein appointment.
Neither of these appointments proved permanent. Miss Sturges, possibly because of illness, did not fill the new position to which she had been named, and Charles W. Bush, ’03, who had been serving as director of personnel records and as editor of the University News, moved into the vacated place in December 1945. Jeannette Graustein continued as chairman of the merged biology department for just three years, until 1947, when a further merger led to appointment of a new chairman.
The first administrators from outside the university to fit places created by the reorganization were approved at the trustees’ meeting in June 1945. They were W. Earl Armstrong, as the first dean of the School of Education, and Gwendolyn S. Crawford, as the first dean of women. Coming to Delaware at the age of forty-six, Armstrong had impressive credentials. After a varied career, largely administrative, in public schools, he had taken his doctorate in education at Stanford in 1938. For the next five years he was field coordinator for the commission on teacher education of the American Council on Education, probably gathering material on the job for a book entitled The College and Teacher Education, which the council published in 1944. For two years immediately prior to coming to Delaware he was dean of the college at Ohio Wesleyan University.
The youth of the new dean of women, who was only twenty-six, was a token of the fact that while in one sense she was a successor to Winifred Robinson and Marjory Golder, who had both come to Delaware in middle age, her position was a much less responsible one than theirs had been. Whereas they had administrative responsibilities that were second only to those of the university president, Gwendolyn Crawford came to Delaware as a personnel officer. That her salary, $3,000 plus room and board, contrasted with Dean Armstrong’s, which was $7,500, was not strange in view of the difference in their age and experience. A Ph.D. in economics from Virginia, Miss Crawford had served briefly as student adviser on extracurricular life at her undergraduate college, Wilson, before she came to Delaware.
It was felt on campus that Acting President Sypherd was eager to be rid of Dean Golder, who had, not surprisingly, led the opposition to his obliteration of the Women’s College. Although she had been given tenure in her post in 1941, this was little help to her when the position she held was abolished. Sypherd is said to have made it clear to her that she would not be considered for the lesser post of dean of women, and when the Women’s College closed in 1945 she was dismissed with payment of $4,000, a year’s salary. The house that had been bought for her residence at the corner of South College Avenue and Park Place was turned over to Dean Armstrong; later it became the home management training center, and in 1979 it was named the Amy Rextrew House. Mrs. Golder, meanwhile, had moved to Ohio, where she became a dean at the College of Wooster.
After interviewing several outside candidates for the deanship of arts and science, Sypherd decided to appoint a member of the faculty, Francis H. Squire, to this position. Squire, an English historian from Yale and a very successful teacher, had become chairman of the department of history after George Ryden’s death in 1941. He was in the navy when his appointment as acting dean was announced, in June 1945, but he was released to return to the Delaware campus in the fall. He was also given the title of dean of the university, but this position never meant as much as Sypherd, in theory, intended it to mean. As dean of the largest school in the university, however, Squire presided ably over the joining of Women’s College and Delaware College courses, curricula, and faculties, and continued to give intelligent and humane leadership to his school until he died suddenly, while on leave in London, in 1956.
Another major appointment was made in 1945 when William A. Mosher was brought from the Hercules Powder Company to succeed Albert Eastman, who was retiring as chairman of the department of chemistry. Eastman had been wholly absorbed in teaching and administration, as had Quaesita Drake, head of the Women’s College chemistry department, and it was deemed important to bring in a chairman with research interests so that the chemistry department could complement the research being done on campus in chemical engineering.
As early as the fall of 1944 the department of chemical engineering employed a research staff of twenty-one persons on work that was supported by grants of $65,000 a year. At a time when much of the academic life of the campus was reduced to the level of the introductory courses offered to the army reserves (some of whom remained until the spring of 1946), the basement of Brown Laboratory, where chemical engineering was quartered, was a hive of activity; at teatime every afternoon people from many departments would stop by to share in the life of what was then the most active research unit–possibly excepting the agricultural experiment station–on the campus.
In October 1944 Colburn applied for approval of a doctoral program in chemical engineering, arguing that it would not only be of benefit to his department but to the university as a whole.20 Sypherd took this suggestion up with the board of trustees, which decided, in June 1945, that it preferred to defer any decision until the postwar staffing then going on was more nearly completed. But the board expressed its sympathy with Colburn’s proposal and gave encouragement that its approval was only a matter of time. A year later, in June 1946, the board again postponed action, presumably to await the arrival of a new president, but in the first meeting after the beginning of the new administration, in December 1946, the board approved doctoral programs not only in chemical engineering, but also in chemistry, where Mosher had now had a year to plan for this development.
Among other appointments made while Sypherd was still president was that of David L. Arm, previously head of the mechanical engineering department at Iowa State University, to be dean of engineering in succession to the late Dean Spencer, who had also been a mechanical engineer. It is interesting that Pierre S. du Pont supported the application of an alumnus, Robert L. Sumwalt, ’18, for this position. Sumwalt, then dean of the School of Engineering at the University of South Carolina, may have withdrawn his name; as an evidence of its pride in his achievements Delaware awarded him an honorary Sc.D. in 1946.21
Arm’s appointment all but completed the administrative staffing of the postwar university. Of the five academic deans–Arm, Armstrong, Rextrew, Schuster, and Squire–only one had taken office in prewar times (Schuster in 1939), although Squire and Rextrew had also been on the faculty before the war. All of the new appointments were made by Sypherd, not just because he was an activist, but also because it was necessary to get the institution in shape, particularly in view of the reorganization, for its transformation to peacetime activities.
The one major appointment that remained, that of the president, was completed in March 1946 with the choice of William Samuel Carlson, a forty-year-old native of Michigan who had received the doctorate in geology at Ann Arbor in 1937. Before completing his studies, he participated in two Greenland expeditions that were the basis of an autobiographical work, Greenland Lies North, which he published in 1940. His knowledge of the Arctic was also utilized by the army air force, with which he served from 1941 to 1945. Before and after the war he was on the staff of the University of Minnesota; he went to Minnesota as a member of the faculty in the College of Education (he had briefly been a high school principal), but when he accepted appointment at Delaware he was serving as dean of admissions and records.
Like Hullihen, when he came to Delaware, Carlson’s interest in higher education was primarily in administration, and though he did not remain at Delaware long, he did stay in university administration for the rest of his academic career. He represented something new in the long list of presidents of this institution: he was the first president from the Midwest and, by reason of his Minnesota experience, the first president representing the state university tradition that was especially dominant in higher education in that part of the country.
Since Delaware had become a land-grant college in 1870 its presidents had been either from the Middle States, like Purnell, Raub, Harter, and Sypherd, or from the South, like Caldwell, Mitchell, and Hullihen. It was not entirely accidental that a new president was found in the Midwest. Colburn, who led the faculty committee cooperating with the trustees in the search, was from Wisconsin and had taken his doctorate at the state university there. Ambitious for Delaware, Colburn, like Sypherd, saw the new coeducational organization as paralleling that of western universities and hoped for a similar growth in size and in usefulness to the state. Twenty years earlier, President Mitchell had also been under the influence of the Wisconsin idea of service to the state, but he had remained, in manner and philosophy, a southern humanist.
On February 21, 1946, when the board of trustees formally elected Carlson to the presidency, which he was to assume on July 1, they insisted on removing the term acting from Sypherd’s title. For the balance of his term this very active president had the full prestige of the title that had eluded him in 1920, though he had not actively sought it then or now. And since after his term ended, on June 30, there would be only one year left before he reached the mandatory retirement age of seventy, the trustees decreed that for that final year Sypherd would have the title of university professor, subject to no department and receiving a salary of $10,000, second only to the new president’s.
Besides his achievement of a reorganization so drastic that in reestablishing coeducation it destroyed the Women’s College and his service in staffing at least the main administrative positions of the postwar university, Sypherd in his two-year term as president had other accomplishments. He had, for example, established a department of drama and speech, thus assuring attention to two fields for which he had long been pleading. C. Robert Kase was detached from English to become chairman of the new department and a search was instituted for a speech specialist. He had also bolstered the department of music by adding a specialist in music education, Bernita Short (later Mrs. Jack Gerster), in 1945 and an instrumental musician, J. Robert King, in 1946.
Sypherd’s term as president saw the conclusion of many war programs, such as the accelerated schedule allowing graduation after three years, the Army Specialized Reserve Training Program (concluded April 21, 1946, after a total of 1,622 trainees, including soldiers on active duty, had attended the university), and the War Production Training programs (conducted in Delaware high schools and industries and directed, finally, by Raymond W. Heim), which ended December 31, 1945, after five years. To meet new problems of returning veterans the university established, with state money, a Veterans Administration Guidance Center in Wilmington under the direction of Henry Weitz. Another adjustment to the times saw Colonel Donald M. Ashbridge, who had charge of military units on campus from 1940 to 1945, return to his post as head of the Business Guidance and Placement Bureau, which he had started before the war. Under Dean Armstrong’s direction a two-term summer school was conducted in 1946, an innovation continued for years not only for the convenience of students whose academic programs had been disarranged by the war but also in order that veterans supported by the GI Bill could continue to receive subsistence allowances, since the law did not permit them a break of over thirty days in their school attendance.
Harter Hall, Old College, the Training House (Mechanical Hall), and the two campus fraternity houses had been used for military housing during the war. There were problems in refitting these buildings after the war, particularly as the enrollment of civilian students began to mount. The former Flower Hospital, a brick building on the southeast corner of Delaware and South College avenues, was used to house civilian men, while Harter Hall was turned over to women in 1945-46 and even the Knoll was used to house veterans in the spring of this year. Arrangements were begun to bring some old barracks to the campus to solve the housing crisis; these buildings, erected on the east side of the campus, were christened Eaton [sic], Hanover, and Windsor Halls by the students assigned to them, and the group was called King’s Row.
The civilian enrollment, which had been only 376 in 1944-45, began to rise in the following fall, when there were 478 students, including GI veterans, at the beginning of the term. Another 36 veterans were allowed to enter at midterm in November, but the number suddenly increased in the spring term, when about 350 more veterans enrolled. In this same year the amalgamation of the two colleges occurred; the Women’s College and Delaware College ceased to exist at the beginning of July 1945. Although Judge Morris, in a preliminary report of the trustees’ executive committee, in August 1944, had declared that "the general policy of segregation of men students and women in the Freshman and Sophomore years will be maintained in so far as the nature of the work and the size of classes justify," coeducation, already largely in effect as a war measure, was rapidly spread through the university, physical education classes being a notable exception. A milestone in the progress of coeducation was the graduation of Frances Cummins (Megson) in 1946 with a B.E.E. degree, the first woman to take a degree in engineering at Delaware.
When the Review was revived in November 1944 after a brief hiatus since May 1943, a woman, Julia Dutton, was the first of her sex to be its editor. In the spring of 1945 elections were held as usual for a Women’s College student council, of which Jane Platt was chosen president, but in the next school year a constitution was written under the aegis of Deans Daugherty and Crawford for a new unified student council, of which it turned out, as the faculty of the Women’s College might have predicted, a man was customarily chosen president, with only two exceptions in the next thirty-five years.22 Despite being in the minority in these postwar years, women did, however, frequently play a leading role in student publications. In 1949 women were the editors-in-chief of both the Blue Hen (Margaret Humphreys) and the Review (Ann Furth).
Although housing was badly needed after the war for the influx of veterans, often with families, and for necessary additions to the faculty, the first new buildings to be started came as a result of special gifts, though a new women’s dorm would have been started quickly had not the legislature turned down a capital construction bill for state institutions. H. Fletcher Brown had made a specific bequest to take care of the chemical engineering annex to the chemistry laboratory, and the office of the late Charles Z. Klauder was ordered to prepare plans. R.R.M. Carpenter made an additional large ($92,000) gift for an extension to the Carpenter Field House that was built on plans drawn by E. William Martin. Walter S. Carpenter, Jr., brother of the donor of the field house, gave the university money for a new infirmary, called Laurel Hall (after the home town of Mrs. Carpenter), that was also designed by Martin; it replaced the old Flower Hospital, which had been privately operated by Mrs. Mary Ford. Warren C. Newton, ’16, of Bridgeville, a successful farmer and businessman, made the first of a number of gifts for the improvement of facilities on the experimental farm. Newton, who had been elected to the board of trustees in 1921, became vice-president of the board in 1944, succeeding James Dutton, father of Dean George Dutton, who resigned after his son’s death.
In the spring of 1946, the university gave some consideration to the possibility of opening a branch in Wilmington. The Wilmington superintendent of schools, William H. Lemmel, had set up a "committee to study the college educational needs of returning veterans," which reported there was great need for a junior college in Wilmington that could give college credit through either the university or some other institution. The local YMCA was said to be ready to begin some program, possibly working with a college.
Lemmel told Sypherd that lack of accessibility was the reason such a small percentage of Delaware high school graduates attended college–compared to the number in other states. "It is not enough to set up a campus institution," he wrote; the modern state university has an obligation to extend its services to meet educational needs in all parts of the state. Probably one thousand students would attend a junior college in Wilmington, he thought, if one were set up.
Sypherd appointed Raymond Heim chairman of a faculty committee to consider the possibility of establishing a branch in Wilmington, possibly at the Pierre S. du Pont High School. At least two meetings were held between university and Wilmington public school personnel, the second on May 22, 1946, in Judge Morris’s office, before the project came to a sharp halt. Lack of funds apparently caused the proposal to be abandoned.23
Still, to Sypherd’s mind, the need of making courses available through the state remained important. When listing key posts needing to be filled on the faculty in his 1945 report to the board, his second item, following immediately after appointment of an assistant professor of speech, was the need of a "Director of Extension and Adult Education."
The Sypherd administration saw two other developments, one the last chapter in a once-glorious achievement, the other a continuation of progress in a new emphasis within the university. The former was a decision to resume sponsorship of the Junior Year Abroad in 1946-47. The group was to be sent not to Paris, which was still suffering from the effects of war and enemy occupation, but to Geneva, in neutral Switzerland, where French could still be the language of the group and where a prewar program had been conducted. One condition was attached to the trustees’ approval–that the program be resumed at no cost to the university–a condition that suggests some lack of enthusiasm for what had been a favorite program of Walter Hullihen, as well as a very successful one.
While the trustees were willing to renew the university’s one-time succes d’estime only if at no cost, they showed more enthusiasm for another development that Walter Hullihen had sought to foster: they set up a research fund in 1945. Though this fund was only $5,000, it indicated a willingness to encourage research that was a harbinger of things to come in the future, when the number of faculty members and the amount of funds available would both increase. Not one cent of these funds went to support research in agriculture or in chemical engineering, the two most active fields of research on the Delaware campus, for they generated their own funds from outside the university. Of twelve faculty members receiving direct research support from this fund (very small support in some cases), three were in English, two in biology, and one each in chemistry, electrical engineering, history, mathematics, modern languages, physics, and political science. A very modest sum was also allocated for the purchase of microfilm to be stored in the library.
A small matter it might seem, where the largest single grant was for only $900, especially when contrasted with the federal government’s support of research at the agricultural experiment station or with private contracts to support distillation research (over $47,000) and combustion research (over $44,000), both in chemical engineering and in this same year, or even the $15,000 granted by Harry G. Haskell, a retired Du Pont executive, to support research on cattle mastitis and brucillosis. But the $5,000 grant of 1945-46 was a commitment of the postwar university. Like the work in chemical engineering and the Haskell research support, it was a portent of things to come.
The postwar university to which William Samuel Carlson came in the summer of 1946 was not only different from the prewar university in being thoroughly coeducational, it also had more money available for general purposes than ever before. The alumni development fund, directed by John N. McDowell, ’31, began making a small contribution to the university’s income, but far more important was income from the trust fund established by the will of H. Fletcher Brown. This trust fund amounted to one million dollars, a sum far larger than the existing endowment. An additional $500,000 could be used as the trustees chose, though a portion of it was pledged to the chemical engineering annex. Furthermore, another sizable addition to the endowment was promised upon the death of Brown’s widow, for then, after some specific bequests were paid, the balance of the Brown estate was to be added to the university endowment.
There were many problems to be faced in the postwar years, but no previous presidents of the university or of its predecessor, Delaware College, had enjoyed the resources that were now available. Perhaps Samuel Mitchell had been in the most nearly similar position, for soon after he assumed the presidency in 1914 Pierre du Pont had begun contributing the more than one million dollars in gifts that he made to Delaware in the next six years. Du Pont’s philanthropy and the founding of the Women’s College had permitted the renascence of what had been a very small institution with few facilities or resources except the contributions of the federal government. Hullihen had inherited the fruits of this renascence, and his administration saw occasional additional large gifts for buildings but his aspirations were always hampered by lack of a satisfactory annual income for salaries, for new departments, for research, for scholarships, and even for upkeep. Now, at last, thanks to Brown’s thoughtfulness, a sizable income was annually available in uncommitted funds from the new endowment. For example, in 1957-58, the income from the Brown endowment was ten times that from all of the university’s other endowment funds.
And yet it was not enough. The great problem that the university faced immediately after the war was a sudden increase in enrollment that swamped its facilities. An institution that had never previously enrolled 1,000 students suddenly found itself in 1946-47 with 1,817 undergraduates, approximately twice its largest previous total (939 in 1939-40). Of this number, 1,142, or sixty-three percent, were veterans, and although the number of veterans had reached its peak and begun to decline slightly, there were still about 1,000 of them enrolled in the fall of 1949, when the number of civilians had so increased that the total of undergraduates amounted to 2,203.
From this peak the enrollment fell off slightly to 1,722 in 1951-52. However, thereafter, the numbers began to climb slowly but fairly steadily as a prosperous society increasingly sought opportunities in higher education for its young men, and now also for its young women.
The first postwar generation of students was older and, to a degree, more serious than the prewar student body. Some of the veterans were not properly prepared for college study and came only because it seemed the thing to do when the government, through the GI Bill, subsidized their further education. But most of the veterans, especially those who had previously been in college, did better than before the war; the "C" student of prewar days, now older and more serious, generally became a "B" student if he returned to college after the war. College social life–and possibly extracurricular intellectual life–suffered a bit from the fact that many veterans, some of them married and parents, kept aloof from it. They were young men in a hurry to get a degree and find a lucrative position in the peacetime world.
Along with the influx of veterans in undergraduate courses, there came an increased graduate enrollment, again largely of veterans, aided by the GI Bill. The 203 graduate students enrolled in 1945-46 rose to 583 in 1949-50 and continued rising to 921 in 1952-53 before a slight decline in this figure occurred. Graduation exercises in June 1948 were made memorable by the awarding of the first earned doctorate in the university’s history to James Westwater in chemical engineering. Four more Ph.D.’s, two in chemical engineering and two in chemistry, were awarded at convocation, in September 1948.24
Fortunately for the university, the state legislature proved sympathetic to the needs of Delawareans in higher education. The Carlson administration successfully pleaded that the federal government, through the GI Bill, covered only about sixty percent of a veteran’s education. Responding to the pressure of increased numbers of students, the legislature raised the annual appropriation in 1947 from $360,892 to $623,500. It also provided a lump sum of $75,000 as a special allotment for accrued repairs, as well as a $200 annual cost-of-living increase for everyone on the university payroll for as much as a month, this being the first increase in wages in thirty months.
Further aid came from private sources, including a notable addition to research funds. Besides federal and state grants to the agricultural experiment station, $172,402 came to the university for research in 1947-48 and $283,823 in 1948-49. Chemical engineering attracted the most research support from private sources, but agriculture also received private grants (for example, a five-year grant of $25,000 from the Koppers Company for a study of fungicides by the plant pathology department), and other science and technology departments received smaller grants.
The importance of research was recognized by promotion of Allan Colburn in 1947 to a new position, assistant to the president and adviser on research, with a salary of $10,000, second only to President Carlson’s salary, which was raised to $15,000 in the same year. His new role allowed Colburn’s enthusiasm as a promoter to flow over the bounds of his old department, of which Robert Pigford, another very able recruit from the Du Pont Company, now became chairman. As an instance of the new encouragement offered for research in all parts of the university, special funds were set up for faculty travel on scholarly work and for publication of a series of scholarly books by faculty members.
In 1948 Colburn announced the availability of summer faculty research fellowships, grants allowing faculty, particularly those in fields where research help was difficult to find, to spend the summer in research. Seven grants were awarded in 1948 and nine in 1949, when they included physics, biology, geography, literature, history, political science, and philosophy among the fields studied. Without these grants, the recipients, at least in some cases, would have found it necessary to teach in summer school to eke out their salaries. There was no competition for these grants from faculty in such fields as chemical engineering and agriculture, where summer research was expected and supported by available funds.
In encouraging another notable development in the research interests of the university, Allan Colburn should share credit with several men from outside the university faculty. One was Charles M.A. Stine, director of research of the Du Pont Company. It is said that after being added to the board of trustees of the university in 1937 Stine inquired concerning the research being conducted on campus and found that it was largely in agriculture. Thereafter he encouraged his old associate in industry, Harry Haskell, who had a notable herd of cattle, as did Stine, to support research on cattle diseases by Charles C. Palmer and James C. Kakavas, who were then in the School of Agriculture but later transferred to the School of Arts and Science.
In 1942 Haskell, Stine, and a few friends, including Willis F. Harrington, ’02, who made several gifts to the university, incorporated as the Haskell Research Associates, apparently in the hope of taking advantage of any profits that might be made on patents, such as one based on Kakavas’s discovery of a cure for bovine mastitis. In 1949 the group was transformed into the Haskell Research Foundation with the intention of broadening its interests to the study of diseases in plants, animals, and man. Stine became president of the foundation, and others who played an influential part included C. Lalor Burdick, who was director of a private foundation aiding the work of young biologists, and Thomas E. Brittingham, Jr., an investment counselor whose wise management of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation had significantly increased the value of its endowment.
Stine was president of the foundation from 1949 to 1954, when he died and was succeeded by Brittingham. Meanwhile, Allan Colburn had become foundation secretary and Harry Haskell, Jr., who was elected to Congress in 1956, had become treasurer. The original gifts from the elder Haskell were more than doubled by investments directed by Brittingham, who left the foundation a legacy of $800,000 at his death in 1960. The Haskell and Brittingham gifts and others, including those of George Weymouth and Lammot du Pont Copeland, supported many projects. In 1955 the title of the organization had been changed, with the approval of the Haskell family, to the University of Delaware Research Foundation.
Concentrating its resources on relatively small grants to young faculty members and for the support of new and promising fields of investigation, the foundation has been helpful to the university in the recruitment of young scholars and has frequently given initial assistance to projects that were able later to secure other and larger aid. Among projects originally aided by the Haskell Research Foundation or the UDRF were those that led to the foundation of the College of Marine Studies, the Institute of Energy Conversion, the Center for Composite Materials, and the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology.25
The growth of the university in the immediate postwar years severely taxed its facilities, but shortages of materials, exacerbated by the Korean War, in a world that was reconstructing itself, made it difficult to supply the buildings needed on campus for housing, for classes, and for study. Not only was there a shortage of buildings on campus, it was hard to find housing in town for the new faculty now needed. Except for a housing development called George Read Village for workers in war industries, few new houses or apartments were built in Newark during the war or even in the immediate post- war years. This problem obviously made recruiting of faculty difficult.
For student needs various properties were turned into temporary dormitories; besides the three buildings known as King’s Row, three temporary two-story structures were erected in 1946 near Evans Hall and Brown Laboratory for classroom, laboratory, and office use. As fund campaign chairman for the Alumni Association, Sypherd led a drive for funds for a student union building, a social center he had proposed years earlier. Later alumni fund campaigns, employing Edgar P. Reese, ’29, as director, sought to raise money for a new stadium in Newark.
Both facilities were needed. The lounge in Old College and the commuters’ room at the Women’s College had served the old coordinate colleges; the larger coeducational university needed more adequate quarters. The Student Government Association’s "Scrounge," a coffee shop in the basement of Memorial Hall, demonstrated the need by its popularity.
Football games were moved from Frazer Field to the Wilmington Ball Park because of limited seating and parking facilities in Newark. University authorities, however, were displeased with this arrangement. What advantage might be gained by rallying public sentiment in the state, and especially alumni sentiment, to the university through interest in athletics was being weakened when the major athletic events, in terms of public appeal, were played miles away from the campus in a setting built for professional sports. But the hope of bringing football home to the campus was delayed until 1952, when temporary steel bleachers, the first step toward the eventual precast concrete seating, were erected on the university farm. The Student Center was even slower in appearing; it was finally opened on Academy Street in 1958. (The name of this building became the John A. Perkins Student Center by action of the trustees in December 1984.)
The State of Delaware contributed to the eventual solution of some of the space problems on campus by appropriating $1,250,000 in 1949 for construction of a new agricultural building. The opportunity to release Wolf Hall for the needs of biological sciences was welcomed, as was the idea of reuniting some of the agricultural units, especially the agricultural extension service, which had been occupying various temporary quarters. However, there was a question as to where the new building should be located. If erected on or adjacent to the main campus, agricultural faculty, staff, and students would remain close to the other university facilities, including library, laboratories, and classrooms. Not the least advantage would be a continued identification with the university as a whole and greater opportunity for developing intrauniversity relations. But such a location would mean a continued separation from the experimental farm, which, with its various buildings, constituted a major laboratory for teaching and research.
The eventual decision was to construct the new agricultural building near the northern end of the farm, a long walk from campus classes but one that proper scheduling might ease. At the risk of isolation from other departments, all of the agricultural units quartered in Newark could be united here, where there was also room for future expansion.
Rodney Sharp, who gave $25,000 to the campaign for a student center, helped enlarge and improve the neighborhood of the old campus by giving the university money to purchase the College Inn, at the northwest corner of Main Street and College Avenue. When refurbished and adapted for use as an office building, this attractive structure, renamed Raub Hall, became headquarters for the Placement Bureau and also, less permanently, for the academic extension division.
Such gifts were not Rodney Sharp’s last contributions to enlargement of the Delaware campus, but they pale into insignificance when compared with a little-heralded assignment he made to the university on June 3, 1950. Almost twenty years earlier he and his wife had made out trust agreements to each other, providing that at the death of either one the income from certain stocks should go to the survivor for his or her lifetime, and thereafter to their children.26 After the death of his wife, which occurred in December 1946, Sharp decided that instead of taking the income himself he would assign it for his lifetime to the University of Delaware, with a part going to several other agencies he was accustomed to helping, including the Red Cross and a local hospital. The executive committee of the trustees approved the assignment on June 5, and the full board ratified it at its meeting on December 9, stipulating that the income should be added to the perpetual endowment of the university.
A friendly trial in court was necessary to assure the trustee, the Security Trust Company, that it might proceed as Sharp wished in disposing of the trust’s income. No one then could have imagined what a princely endowment it turned out to be, though it is possible that Judge Morris, the shrewd president of the board, foresaw the possibilities that lay ahead. The trust brought the university more money than was expected for two reasons: the stocks held in the trust increased in value, as did the dividends they paid, and Sharp lived longer than expected–he was seventy in 1950 and he lived to be eighty-eight.
The income to the university from the Sharp Trust between 1950 and 1968 amounted to almost $32,590,000. Furthermore, the Sharp endowment, invested, grew to over $58,000,000 by the time of Sharp’s death. Some income had been diverted to other uses, to scholarships, to salaries, and to dormitory construction. And Sharp continued to make other gifts, independent of the trust income. When a new engineering building named for Pierre du Pont was constructed it had a plainer facade facing the central mall than Sharp thought fitting, both in view of du Pont’s personal significance in history and in comparison with the more attractive appearance of other nearby buildings. In 1960-61 Sharp undertook a personal canvass of du Pont’s near relatives for money to improve the building’s appearance and contributed $6,450 himself to this purpose. In 1965-66 he gave the university $375,000 for the purchase of real estate in Newark, and in 1966-67 he contributed another $200,000 for the purchase and refitting of the First Presbyterian Church, situated next to university property on West Main Street.
Thus this loyal alumnus whose intercession with Pierre du Pont had led to the renascence of Delaware College in 1914-20, who had personally watched over the growth and beauty of the campus, and who had–by his gift of Mitchell Hall and funds for concerts and lectures–provided for the cultural enrichment of generations of students, became in the long run its greatest benefactor. He was not only the university’s Maecenas, for his care of its artistic life, but he was to Delaware what Eastman was to Rochester and Rockefeller to Chicago.
In 1962 the university established a number of H. Rodney Sharp professorships to note his contribution to its growth. Two structures on campus, a dormitory and a building housing the department of physics, were named for him. But the most apt memorial to Rodney Sharp is the beauty of the central campus, which was largely created and cultivated by his loving care.
As it grew in number of students and in wealth from the Brown bequest, increased state appropriations, and income from student fees, the postwar university was able to add programs of instruction as well as of research. Besides the new department of dramatic arts and speech, three other departments in the School of Arts and Science that had been established just before or during the war began to come into their own. Political science, which had been separated from history in 1942, gained stability as a department after the war under the leadership of Felix Oppenheim and Paul Dolan. Sociology and psychology, split slightly earlier from philosophy, were led by Frederick B. Parker and Halsey MacPhee, respectively, in the postwar years. Meanwhile philosophy gained popularity under two gifted teachers, Lewis Beck, who had come to Delaware before the war upon Ezra Crooks’s retirement, and Bernard Phillips, who succeeded Beck.
But while some departments were dividing, previously separate departments were being combined under the title of biological sciences. First, the two biology departments in Delaware College and the Women’s College were combined in 1945 under the chairmanship of Jeannette Graustein. This was the only unit in the newly coeducational university to have a woman at the helm, except for the School of Home Economics under Dean Rextrew, and the art department, chaired by Harriet Baily.
But soon there was another merger. There was then in the School of Arts and Science a department of bacteriology, physiology, and hygiene. Its chairman was Charles C. Palmer, a veterinarian, and the other major member was James C. Kakavas, a bacteriologist. Both had been members of the department of animal industry in the School of Agriculture, where they had gained Harry Haskell’s support for their studies of cattle diseases before the two men were transferred to the School of Arts and Science. In the fall of 1947, on the recommendation of President Carlson, the trustees authorized combination of these two departments, bacteriology and biology, into one department of biological sciences under the chairmanship of Kakavas, effective January 1, 1948.
The combination made good sense, but some members of the faculty were disturbed by it because by-laws adopted on July 1, 1947, provided that the faculty should have an opportunity to consider and make recommendations concerning all changes in organization before the board was asked to act and yet there had been no such consultation in this case. Carlson asked the faculty to revise their 1947 charter to permit a representative group like the advisory council to act for them in such matters. He could discuss matters that were largely personal with a small group, he explained, whereas he did not feel he should air them before the entire faculty. The advisory council of eight elected faculty members had been approved by the trustees in June 1941; it met with the president, and when joined by the deans and directors of divisions it formed a committee to discuss affairs between faculty meetings, but it had no final authority. To Carlson’s chagrin, the faculty refused to diminish their prerogatives by empowering any group to act for them–until 1970, that is, when a faculty senate was created with full powers. (In Carlson’s time the faculty was not yet so large that it felt unable to deal with its responsibilities en masse.) Since the question of creating a new and larger biology department by merger with bacteriology aroused little, if any, opposition in itself, the issue passed without further notice.
Not only were new departments set up after the war, but also new programs. One of these that proved popular and permanent was a program in medical technology set up in the new department of biological sciences with the cooperation of Elvyn G. Scott, chief medical technologist at the Delaware Hospital in Wilmington. But the most important changes considered in the programs of the university were those emanating from the deliberations of a committee on educational theory and practice, chaired by Professor Cyrus L. Day.
The Day committee, as it was called, met intermittently for thirty months before completing its report in March 1949. Discussions about possible curriculum revision had been held in prewar years, with Hullihen’s encouragement. What the Day committee recommended should be viewed in context with the general education programs adopted at Harvard and Columbia, as well as at many other universities. The intent of the committee was to improve the program offered to students in all schools of the university so as to produce, as far as possible, a well-rounded graduate, conscious of the major intellectual elements in his heritage, and able to communicate with others clearly and correctly in both writing and speech.
To achieve this end the committee made a number of specific proposals, among them a provision for individual instruction through flexible course requirements, small seminars, comprehensive examinations, and the awarding of credit by examination. It also recommended a "house plan" of campus living–with thought, apparently, of developments at Yale and Harvard–in the hope that residence units might help develop an atmosphere conducive to learning; commuters, the committee thought, could be assigned to different houses for social and intellectual purposes.
The heart of the Day committee’s proposal was its outline of a general education program, a core of six courses to be adopted in all schools for all undergraduates. The recommended sequence consisted of two courses in the freshman year (the physical sciences and western civilization), two in the sophomore year (the biological sciences and the study of literature), one in the junior year (the history of ideas), and one in the senior year (great issues and problems).
The proposal was well-received in general, but almost every faculty member had some caveat. Each department became concerned about getting its share in the new program; each had a vested interest to protect. Classicists, for instance, found themselves with little place in the program’s projected courses in western civilization (largely modern history) or literature. Psychologists worried about their proper share in the biology course. Some chemists and physicists were skeptical of the depth of a physical science course–would it not be more shallow than a high school course in either of these subjects? Others thought Asian culture would be neglected. And in the vocational schools (agriculture, engineering, education, home economics) the faculties were torn between the desire to provide for general education and the requirements for specialized training.27
In the end the faculty killed the proposal by adopting it "in principle." The western civilization course was already being offered and continued as a requirement in the School of Arts and Science and in several other curricula. A year course in physical sciences was introduced but had to compete with year courses in more specific subjects, like chemistry, which filled the existing requirement for work in a laboratory science equally well while giving anyone with thought of a science major a more thorough basis for specialized work.
For years after 1949 the Day committee report was cited, usually favorably, in faculty discussions and lip service was paid to its principles, but the chances of its adoption became increasingly faint. One element in the report that was adopted was the recommendation that there should be a subfreshman noncredit course in English and that a faculty committee on oral and written English be established to which any instructor could report a student he thought in need of additional instruction in use of the language. The aim was to make clear to students that continued proficiency in English was required, not merely a passing grade in a freshman course.
While considering curriculum revision and new programs in teaching and research, the postwar university closed the door on its most famous and most distinctive educational experiment of the prewar years, the Junior Year Abroad. What Sypherd had thought of this program is not clear, but he was a friend of Edwin C. Byam (modern languages chairman and chief supporter of the plan on campus) and he was at least sufficiently supportive to see the first postwar group, composed of forty-one students, sent to Geneva in 1946. But inasmuch as the trustees had insisted that the program should cost the university nothing, a sponsor or underwriter had to be found who would agree to meet any possible deficiency. In the early years of the program it had been Pierre du Pont who was looked to in any emergency, but he had gradually withdrawn his support from this plan, probably as part of his feeling that other people should be encouraged to support worthwhile activities. In 1946 Judge Morris stepped into the breach and became the plan’s guarantor.
However, William Carlson, the new president, had some concerns about the plan. He came to Delaware to bring the spirit of the midwestern state university, in which service to the people of the state was a central theme. Did this plan serve the state, he wondered. Was it of sufficient value, not to such grand concepts as international understanding or the production of a generation of businessmen with foreign experience (Kirkbride’s original concept, which endeared the program to Herbert Hoover), but to the State of Delaware, to justify the effort and the possible cost to a friend of the university? These questions seemed all the more pertinent since no Delawarean–not even a University of Delaware student from another state–was in the group that went abroad in 1946 (except the director, David M. Dougherty, ’25), or in the group that followed it to Geneva in 1947.
Reporting on the program in 1947, Professor Byam declared that its high cost–a minimum of $2,375–was prohibitive for University of Delaware students. He lamented the lack of a scholarship of $1,000, which would have permitted a Delaware undergraduate to join the group, and he also noted the handicap of operating the program without any subsidy. He hoped that with the moral support of the trustees Delaware would be able to retain leadership in a program that had brought national and even international recognition to the university as well as made a significant contribution to international understanding.28
However, in March 1947, the trustees had authorized Carlson to visit Europe and study the future of the plan, appropriating $1,500 for this purpose. The report that Carlson wrote after his trip (made in July 1947) was lengthy, thoughtful, and condemnatory.29 Geneva, he wrote, was too cosmopolitan to provide the desired immersion into a foreign culture. The private homes in which students of the Delaware group lived were supposed to provide an opportunity for the daily, domestic use of the French language, but the Genevans were so eager to learn English that the success of this facet of the program was threatened. The University of Geneva had no better offerings in French literature, the subject of most interest to members of this group, than could be found in an American university. Geneva was an excellent place for the study of political science and international relations, and these were the subjects that should be stressed in brochures if the program were continued.
Nowhere in Carlson’s report was there much recognition of the original concept of the Delaware plan–that groups of college undergraduates would be established in a number of countries abroad, including England. He had, however, inquired carefully into the possibility of moving the operation from Geneva to Paris. But Paris, he found, was overcrowded and undersupplied with even the necessities of life. Families could not be found to take Americans into homes that were lacking in space, fuel, and food. The Smith College group (the one other group founded at that time on the Delaware plan) was returning to Paris with enthusiasm, but would be quartered in Reid Hall, a dormitory. To Carlson’s mind, life in a dormitory of affluent Americans in the midst of a suffering French population was not to be recommended.
He noted also much anti-American and even Communist sentiment in France, and into his report he inserted one sentence sure to quench any enthusiasm among the Delaware trustees for continuation of the program: "I should hesitate to sponsor a group of students who are at an impressionable age and might be infected by the Communist virus."
Given Carlson’s attitude, it is not strange that the trustees voted in December 1947 to suspend the Foreign Study Plan when the group then in Geneva completed its academic year. It is a bit strange, however, that the faculty also supported Carlson when he presented his recommendations at a faculty meeting. There was a vigorous opposition, led by E.C. Byam, but much of the faculty was new after the war and, new or veteran, sympathetic with Carlson’s plea to put service to the state and its youth first. The Achilles’ heel of the program, which Byam and other defenders of it could not hide, was the failure of any Delaware students to enroll in either of the two postwar groups. In the original group, in 1923, all of the students were from Delaware (though one transferred in order to be in the group); in the last group, in 1947-48, there were no Delawareans.
That Hullihen’s favorite program was abandoned by Carlson did not mean merely a difference in attitude between a southern gentleman and a midwestern populist, a difference between Wilsonian internationalism and LaFollette isolationism, for though emphasizing the Wisconsin idea of state service Carlson was not, so far as is known, a supporter of LaFollette or an isolationist; indeed he had himself studied abroad at a foreign university (in Denmark) as a young man. But to Carlson it seemed incongruous that a state university should throw its resources, or potential resources, into an expensive program popular with an affluent clientele from other states. What was proper for Smith or for Sweet Briar (which took over the Delaware program) was not proper for Delaware.
This was not, of course, the end of foreign study for Delaware students. Once the decision was made to sponsor no group abroad in 1948, a faculty committee was established under Professor Vincent Parker (physics) to consider what role the university should take in relation to foreign study; this committee, Carlson reported to the trustees (as though there had been second thoughts concerning their action), would "give some thought to the feasibility of re-establishing a group abroad."
After studying the subject, however, the Parker committee sustained the discontinuance of the Junior Year Abroad. A new standing committee was formed, with Herbert Dorn, a distinguished refugee German economist of wide international experience, especially in the service of the Cuban government, as chairman. Subcommittees studied possible student exchanges on various continents. "We believe," the Dorn committee declared, "that this University ought to facilitate the foreign study of any University of Delaware student anywhere in any type of program that will be of marked benefit to him."30
These were brave words but the enthusiasm that had sent eight juniors to Paris in 1923 when Delaware College had only 300 students was dead, and so was the program that had appealed to college students all over the United States. It seems a shame that no one successfully recruited a few Delaware students for the program in the postwar period. Inasmuch as scholarships worth a thousand dollars were offered to Delaware students in both the Munich and Paris groups in the pit of the Depression, a sincere belief in the value of the program should have been enough to raise the needed money in 1947, even granting that by the summer of that year two of the most generous donors of scholarships to France, Fletcher Brown and Pilling Wright, were both dead.
The program was of value to all Delaware students, though only a few went abroad under its auspices, because of the respect it brought to their alma mater in college and university circles. Universities serve their students by winning respect for their programs. No action of the University of Delaware between 1920 and 1950 won it more respect in university circles than the Junior Year Abroad. Unfortunately, it was abandoned just a few years before the student body increased in size and in affluence to the point where it should have been relatively easy to recruit students for this program.
Though European travel became less difficult to undertake in the era of jet planes, the planned inculcation into a foreign culture that the Junior Year Abroad provided was lacking in the case of most students going abroad. To paraphrase one of the Delaware participants in the program, the experience of living in a French family, "the broadening of your point of view, and the realization that there are a great many very reasonable, very nice people living and doing different things [from] the way you do them" transcended in value what was learned in lectures or books or tours or even knowledge of the language; "the one year that I spent in France was far more important…than all the other three college years put together."31
Gradually, as years passed, the university worked out new programs of study abroad. The most popular of these involved an individual professor, or a team of two or more professors, sponsoring a group of students on a study trip of anywhere from five weeks to a semester. Professor Albert Dunn, for example, of the School of Business and Economics, led several groups to Geneva to study international economic relations. The most popular programs in the 1970s were semesters in England and in Vienna, conducted by different members of the faculty each year.
But the purpose was usually different from that total immersion in a foreign culture that the Junior Year Abroad sought to provide. Its success can be measured by the careers of its graduates and by their testimony. Though most of the students came from other colleges, a significant number in the early years came from Delaware and found that the program opened the way to a career that brought satisfaction, and that might never otherwise have been available to them.
"It was certainly the keystone which held up my career," testified a member of the first group to go abroad, a Seaford mail carrier’s son who became president of the major chemical company in Canada: "I think it’s a tragedy that the University of Delaware let the thing drop. It was the great experiment in education…of this century."32
Within the state the postwar university sought in various ways to serve the people. An important method of serving a broad public was to offer classes at night in Newark and in various other Delaware communities, especially Wilmington, in a program usually referred to as academic extension. Anyone could register to take a course in this program, whether or not he was admissible to degree programs at the university. The result was classes of widely varying ability; a history class in extension might, for instance, include a recent high school graduate who hoped by his performance to convince the university that he should be admitted despite deficiencies in his previous work–and in the same class there might be a Ph.D. engineer with the Du Pont Company who was taking the class purely for his own pleasure and edification. The instructors were usually members of the university faculty who chose to take on an extra class at night to augment their salaries, though a few instructors were qualified persons from the community not otherwise connected with the university. All of the instructors were appointed on recommendation of department chairmen at the university, who were responsible for the work done in these classes.
Some such extracurricular work had been conducted by the Delaware faculty for decades, at first in the form of public lectures. In his 1926 report Walter Hullihen urged the development of an academic extension as vigorous as the agricultural extension programs supported by Smith-Lever Act funds after 1914. No funds were available for such a program, however, and only a few extension courses, mainly in Wilmington, were offered annually until the Second World War.
The program, which had to be self-supporting, was supervised by Professor Wilkinson of the department of education, and then, after his retirement, by Dean W. Earl Armstrong. New funding became available after 1945, however, when both the Du Pont and Hercules companies made contributions to encourage the offering of courses that their employees might take. The resultant growth of the extension program encouraged the university to relieve the dean of the School of Education of this responsibility. Accordingly, in 1947, Paul M. Hodgson, ’27, a former teacher who had been acting state director of vocational education during the war, was brought to the campus as director of academic extension.
In interviewing Hodgson about the job, President Carlson impressed on him the aim of making the whole state the campus of the university–as, indeed, President Mitchell had said thirty years earlier. Hodgson was made directly responsible to Carlson but was quartered with the School of Education, since he was also to be half-time professor of agricultural education, supported for that portion of his time by funds from the State Department of Vocational Education. The director of this department, Raymond Heim, had been brought to Delaware for the purpose by Pierre du Pont, and until 1947 he had combined the state position with a professorship of vocational agriculture at the university, where he had been Hodgson’s teacher.33
With the aid of the private funding, fees for extension courses were reduced to $5.00 per credit hour (from a range of $6.50 to $10 before the war), a move successfully calculated to increase their popularity. From under 500 students in the fall of 1945, the extension enrollment swelled to over 600 in 1946, and gradually rose thereafter to 1,500 (a figure that may include both terms) in 1951. In the latter year responsibility for academic extension was assigned to the dean of the graduate school, Carl J. Rees, who brought Gordon Godbey to Delaware as his associate director of this program. In 1955 Godbey became the first full-time director of what became known as university extension in that year, the new name being adopted because not all of the programs offered in extension carried academic credit.
Meanwhile, the expansion of this program had crossed the state boundaries, as in-service courses were offered for the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pennsylvania and for the U.S. Army at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. In 1950 the trustees approved the granting of certificates for the completion through extension courses of half of the requirements in programs leading to a degree.34
Other examples of the outreach of the university in the postwar years include the reading clinic, established in the School of Education in 1949 under the direction of Russell G. Stauffer and through the encouragement of William Penrose, who succeeded Earl Armstrong as dean of this school in 1949 when Armstrong moved to Washington to take charge of teacher preparation in the U.S. Office of Education. While Armstrong was still at Delaware he had secured a $50,000 grant from the Delaware School Auxiliary–thanks to the generosity of Pierre du Pont–for a two-year plan to improve the quality of teaching in Delaware schools in a variety of ways–by scholarships for students preparing to teach, by grants for summer study and fellowships for a term or year to established teachers, and by employment of new faculty and of educational consultants by the university.
Besides the double summer sessions that became customary, other features of the renewed interest in serving the state included tours of the state arranged under auspices of the music, art, and drama departments. The Veterans Administration Guidance Center opened by the university in Wilmington in 1946 changed its name to the Psychological Services Center as it shifted emphasis away from veterans to the assistance of other university students or would-be students.35
However, the most important development in the extension of the services of the university to the people of Delaware occurred in 1948 and 1950 when by two actions admission to the university was opened to blacks–the one class of Delawareans hitherto excluded. Black students had been barred from the university throughout its history. In the early years of the academy and the college this had hardly been by any conscious decision. Educational facilities for black people in Delaware were so poor through most of the nineteenth century that the issue of admission of blacks is not known to have been raised up to the time of the Second Morrill Act in 1890. By that act the state had been coerced into establishing a college for Negroes in order to share in federal funding.
Traditionally, the state had done little for the education of blacks. It had remained nominally a slave state until 1865, although only a small minority of Delaware blacks were still slaves in the midnineteenth century. Though some voluntary societies aided blacks to get schooling, the state took no responsibility for the education of blacks until 1881. When Delaware State College opened in 1892, it had to furnish high school education because no high school was then open to blacks outside of Wilmington. Separate schools for blacks and for whites were provided by law. No statute specifically forbade the entrance of blacks into Delaware College, and no instance is known of a black applying for admission there, but exclusion of blacks was understood to be the rule and therefore one-fifth of the funds available under the Second Morrill Act (roughly the proportion of blacks in the population) was allocated to the new state college.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing through the first half of the twentieth century, Howard High School, in Wilmington, attained a good local reputation as a school for blacks. Some of its graduates entered excellent northern colleges and made good records, but no case is known of any applications to the University of Delaware. If any students did apply they were probably turned away.
Until 1948, that is. In this year, or late in 1947, a delegation from the Wilmington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called on university authorities to press the admission of a black youth, Benjamin C. Whitten. As a result of this application and a recent Supreme Court decision, a special meeting of the executive committee of the board was convened on January 27. The members of this committee thought the matter should be laid before the full board, which was called to a special meeting on January 31.
The recent Supreme Court decision referred to was in the case of Ada Lois Sipuel v. the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. It did not challenge the legality of segregated colleges, but declared that if a program existed for white students–for example, a law school–then such a program must be made available to qualified black students. On the basis of this decision the trustees adopted a resolution, proposed by Robert H. Richards, to the effect that any qualified black resident of Delaware should be admitted "to pursue a course of study of his choosing leading to a certain degree for which a course of study leading to the same degree is not furnished in any educational institution provided by this State within this State for the education of bona fide colored residents."
A preamble noted that the Delaware legislature had established separate schools on the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels for white and "colored" residents and thereby, in the opinion of the board, established a public policy that they should not depart from unless required to do so by paramount authority–as in this case they were. Programs in agriculture, arts and science, education, and home economics existed at Delaware State College. Therefore admission to these schools at the university remained closed to black students. But the School of Engineering, the summer school, academic extension, and graduate studies (not a school until 1949-50) were now open to all Delawareans.36
On campus during the regular school year the new policy had little effect. Not many young blacks were eager or prepared to become engineers. Since the university then adopted a policy of not noting the race or color of anyone applying in these fields, it cannot be said who was the first black student at the university. (Benjamin C. Whitten apparently did not enter the university.) The real difference on campus was in the summer session, where numbers of black students came, many of them school teachers, some in pursuit of advanced degrees.
But such restricted admission was not the rule for long. In the 1949-50 school year more than thirty students at Delaware State College, unhappy with "the quality and quantity of their instruction and rebellious against the administration of the unaccredited college" (to quote Louis L. Redding, a Wilmington lawyer), applied for admission to undergraduate programs at the university. When their applications were refused because of their race, eight of them authorized Redding, a graduate of Howard High School, Brown University, and Harvard Law School, to write to Judge Morris on their behalf. These students were not applying for admission to engineering or other curricula that had been opened to blacks; they argued that they should be admitted because Delaware State College was not offering an education equal to that available at the University of Delaware and that they were, therefore, being denied equal protection of the law as promised in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.37
At a special meeting on February 18, 1950, the board of trustees denied Redding’s petition on behalf of these eight students, as well as two more, who had also been denied admission, declaring that they did not come within the scope of the resolution adopted January 31, 1948–that is, they were not applying for admission to programs not offered at Delaware State College. Redding promptly brought suit against the university, its trustees, and the members of its committee on admissions. Supported by Jack Greenberg, noted attorney for the national NAACP, he argued that Delaware State College was vastly inferior to the university in almost all ways in which comparisons could be made. The defense argument was made by Attorney General Albert W. James and his deputy, William H. Bennethum, who seemed at once to be defending the university as a state agency and yet denying that it was a state institution. They also claimed that the evidence failed to prove that the state college was not equal to the university.
The argument was in the Chancery Court, by Delaware custom for cases involving grievances not covered by the law, and the presiding judge was the vice-chancellor, Collins J. Seitz, ’37, since Chancellor William Watson Harrington, ’95, a trustee of the university, was one of the defendants. On August 9, 1950, Seitz found for the plaintiffs in what he determined to be a class action suit. Seitz disagreed with defense arguments that the university was not an organ of the state and therefore not controlled by the Fourteenth Amendment; "beyond any reasonable doubt," he wrote, "under common law tests the State of Delaware has created a state agency at the University," to which it appropriated funds, gave the right of eminent domain and exercised some control over the board of trustees by ex officio and gubernatorial appointments and by the right of the state senate to confirm even those of the trustees (twenty out of thirty-two) who were elected by the board. If this question of state agency should be considered at all close, he concluded that the university and its trustees were "representatives of the State of Delaware to an extent and in a sense sufficient to apply to them the great restraints required by the Constitution."
He did not feel entitled, Seitz wrote, to conclude that segregation alone violated the Constitution but concentrated his attention on "the constitutional requirement that segregated facilities must be equal." Accompanied by counsel, he had visited the state college and the university and concluded that "the physical facilities at the College are vastly inferior to those at the University. An examination of the curricula and courses offered, of the faculties (their credentials, salaries, teaching loads, tenure), and of the libraries led to the same conclusion, as did the fact that the State College had been denied renewal of accreditation by the Middle States Association." Because "the College is woefully inferior" in so many respects, Seitz summarized his findings, it is clear that "the State of Delaware is not providing these plaintiffs and others similarly situated with educational opportunities at the College which are equal to those provided at the University." According to Louis Redding, this was "the first [favorable] decision of a segregation case on the undergraduate college level."38
The board of trustees accepted the decision in good grace, probably happy that Seitz did not award the plaintiffs the $5,000 apiece asked for in their complaint. Judge Morris sent a copy of Seitz’s opinion to Acting President Colburn on August 14, 1950, informing him, "The law of this State, with respect to the matters therein discussed, is as stated in that opinion," and adding, "You will, of course, see to it that the law, as stated in the opinion, is observed by the University both to the letter and in its spirit." No one knowing Colburn could doubt that he was personally very happy to comply with this directive.39
A news release, issued very shortly (August 17), stated that plans were being made at once to admit "colored students" (the term that was then in use) to any school of the university–though the release also noted that the ruling applied only to residents of Delaware. A final end was put to this contention when the trustees voted, on December 9, 1950, "that no appeal be taken from the judgment and decree of the Vice Chancellor with respect to the admission of negro residents of this state as students in the University."
All prejudice did not, of course, disappear immediately. In early years black students were not permitted to room with white students even if the latter requested it. Although it is not possible to name the first black students authoritatively, it seems likely that the first to receive degrees were two public school teachers, Mrs. Cor Berry Saunders, of Newark, and Mrs. Kathryn Young Hazeur, of Wilmington, who received master’s degrees in September 1951. In the following year three black students (one of them a member of the small band of plaintiffs in the 1950 suit) received baccalaureate degrees.40 Two more of the plaintiffs were later graduated from the university, and an additional two enrolled for some courses, one of them as a graduate student.
No black was added to the full-time faculty until 1965, when Hilda Davis became a member of the department of English. Professor Davis, who had a doctorate from Chicago, had taught at Shaw, Talladega, and Brooklyn College before she came to the State of Delaware to join the staff of Dr. Mesrop A. Tarumianz, the able director of mental health care. Another mark of the progress of blacks at the University of Delaware occurred in 1970, when Jay Saunders Redding, a native of Wilmington and professor at Cornell, who was a brother of Louis Redding, received the degree of Litt.D. for his distinguished contributions to literature as teacher and especially as author–the first black to receive an honorary degree at the University of Delaware.
William Carlson’s resignation from the presidency took the university community by surprise in the fall of 1949. It was known that he had been approached about other positions; in an apparent attempt to hold him the trustees had increased his salary to $18,000, effective July 1, 1949. He turned down the job subsequently accepted–the presidency of the University of Vermont and Vermont Agricultural College–when it was first offered, but the Vermonters persisted and he eventually agreed to leave Delaware.
One factor in Carlson’s leaving may have been Mrs. Carlson’s health. She suffered from sinus problems and thought the climate of Delaware might have been at fault. The only other unhappiness they were known to have had at Delaware was in regard to housing. On their arrival in Newark, Carlson, his wife, and their young daughter had been forced to live in the old Home Management house, once used as a president’s house by Samuel Chiles Mitchell, because the Knoll needed many repairs. (Sypherd had not lived there as president because he had a house of his own.) When the Carlsons finally did move into the Knoll, they were very unhappy with the old house, particularly because they found it drafty. Consequently the trustees bought a new president’s home, a recently built house at 102 Bent Lane.
Perhaps Carlson was hurt by the failure of the faculty to adopt the Day report, or possibly he was disturbed by their failure to give executive power to an academic council, to a small representative body with which he could work closely. It is also possible that Carlson, a plain but not unsophisticated midwesterner dedicated to public education, did not feel altogether at home in the somewhat aristocratic milieu of Wilmington "society," where the university president was expected to play a part and where he would look for support. But most likely the main explanation, may be the full and sufficient explanation for Carlson’s resignation, is that he was young and ambitious and although Vermont had few advantages over Delaware (on the contrary, its financial resources were smaller), it did have a medical school, which posed a new sort of challenge to an administrator. If this move was intended as a possible stepping stone to a larger responsibility, it was successful, because in a few years he was called to the presidency of the New York state university system.
At Delaware Carlson, in his brief term of less than four years, had been both successful and popular. He worked well with most of the faculty and had succeeded in getting enlarged appropriations from the state legislature to meet the burgeoning enrollment, $623,500 for each year in the 1947-49 biennium, a seventy-two percent increase over the $360,892 appropriated for 1946-47. In April 1947 all full-time employees of over one month’s service received a $200 annual cost-of-living raise from state funds outside the regular appropriation.
Another action of the state legislature in 1947 had notably improved the university retirement system. The contributory pension plan established in 1935 had applied only to members of the administration and the teaching staff. In 1945 a state pension bill provided for all salaried university employees paid from state funds who were not eligible for the university pension plan; this action took care of most of the maintenance and office staff, but not those paid by the hour (even if working full-time) on the staff of the experiment station, of the agricultural extension service, or of research projects supported by private or federal funds. In 1947, however, the state pension plan was broadened so as to include all university employees, whatever the source of their funds, as long as they were on the payroll for at least fifteen years at the time of their retirement. Employees of the university obviously had reason to be pleased.41
The trustees, who had raised Carlson’s salary both in 1947 and in 1949, expressed their understanding of his taking a new position that "has the lure of giving to him new problems to solve and new fields to conquer" and their appreciation that the university’s national standing had been improved and its services extended until "the campus is now truly the State."42 But the most impressive compliment the trustees paid Carlson was their action in looking for a new president from the same mold.
Two committees were appointed by Judge Morris in December 1949 to cooperate in the search for a new president. One was a committee of three trustees, Mrs. James, Dr. Stine, and Harland Carpenter, Wilmington librarian, as chairman. The second was a faculty advisory committee of four, chaired by Carl J. Rees, a member of the department of mathematics from 1920 who had been its chairman since Harter’s resignation and, more recently, director of graduate studies. After the committees considered more than one hundred persons recommended for the vacant presidency, the trustees dispatched Carl Rees (raised in title to dean of the graduate school in February 1950) and Warren C. Newton, ’16, their vice-president, to the Midwest, the territory where Carlson had been found, to visit the University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and similar institutions in a search for Carlson’s successor. This is not the area that had been searched most vigorously when a president was sought in 1920, or in 1914, or in earlier years.43
Since Carlson’s resignation, accepted by the board in December 1949, was effective April 1, 1950, it was necessary to appoint an acting president, and for this appointment the choice fell on Allan Colburn, who had in 1947 become assistant to the president as well as director of research. His brief administration is notable for at least two developments. The first was a provision for improved housing. Impressed by Colburn with the need to take some measure to provide for the increased enrollment–up to 2,200 undergraduates, plus 300 full-time graduate students–and the additional faculty needed to teach them, the trustees appointed E. William Martin, ’16, as architect for a new women’s dorm to be built beside New Castle Hall and empowered Colburn to seek loans from the federal government for four more dormitories. For faculty housing the trustees gave some thought to constructing houses or an apartment, but in order not to compete with private enterprise they settled for a mortgage plan, authorizing the Wilmington Trust Company to use a certain portion of endowment funds for three percent mortgages to faculty members whose applications were approved by the president and a committee of trustees. This program proved helpful to large numbers of faculty members over the years to follow. (The interest rate rose gradually but was kept below the market rate.)
Another development that Colburn played an important role in initiating was work in marine biology. The spark responsible was an editorial in a Wilmington newspaper lamenting the decline of the oyster industry in Delaware Bay. Any farmer could get help for even a minor problem with his crops by calling on the county agent or specialists on the staff of the agricultural extension service, who might in turn consult researchers at the experiment station and the School of Agriculture. But a multimillion-dollar seafood business was dying and had no similar authorities to call upon.
When Acting President Colburn read this editorial he was provoked to do something about it. He phoned the paper and arranged a conference with the author of the editorial, Anthony Higgins, a native Delawarean who was devoted to the rural scene. Colburn also phoned James Kakavas, chairman of biological sciences, and brought him into the consultation. At least one other man from outside the university was called in before Colburn decided it was time to begin rectifying the situation by adding a marine biologist to the university staff.
After some inquiries, Colburn, Kakavas, and George M. Worrilow, who was director of the agricultural extension service and of the experiment station, drove to Solomon’s Island, Maryland, to talk to the head of the Chesapeake Bay Laboratories there. Having Worrilow along indicates that the concept of service to the state, as suggested in Higgins’s editorial, was in Colburn’s mind. The head of the Maryland laboratories recommended that they hire a man on his staff whom he saw as his eventual replacement but thought could profit from being at Delaware for a time. The person in question, L. Eugene Cronin, was immediately hired by Delaware as an associate professor of biology.
To support this new endeavor Colburn appealed to Governor Elbert N. Carvel, Jr., who was quick to grasp its potential value. He had, he told Colburn, $15,000 in a discretionary fund that he was willing to see used for this purpose. The Haskell Research Fund helped support early research, and the Delaware Shellfish Commission, headed by M. Haswell Pierce, was also cooperative. By the next summer, 1951, Cronin was able to set up a small marine biological laboratory in Lewes in the ceramics room in the basement of what was then the high school. Here with two assistants he began a two-year navy-supported study of the zooplankton of the Delaware estuary.
In 1952 Franklin C. Daiber was added to the marine biology staff and the Bayside Laboratory at Lewes was established in a two-room building, once a restaurant, out Pilottown Road on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. It remained there until 1956, when the M. Haswell Pierce Building, a laboratory that included some dormitories for students, was erected on a point of land north of Lewes called Beach Plum Island. This point was on the northeast side of Roosevelt Inlet and was the end of a neck of land between the Broadkill River and the Delaware Bay–really not an island, but approachable only by boat. By this time Cronin had returned to Maryland, and Carl Shuster, who came from Rutgers, had taken over direction of the program.
The same summer that saw the origins of the faculty home mortgage plan and the marine biology program marked a milestone in the progress of coeducation at Delaware, for at graduation exercises the first woman, Ethel Anderson, was awarded a Ph.D. Among the undergraduates taking degrees that year was a young man from Wilmington named Daniel Nathans, who received a B.S. degree "with honors in course and distinction in Chemistry." Twenty-eight years later Nathans, by then an M.D. and a professor of microbiology at the Johns Hopkins University, was awarded a Nobel Prize in medicine, the only person from the State of Delaware ever to receive a Nobel award.
When Nathans returned to Newark in 1979 to receive an honorary degree at commencement he singled out six of his former professors to praise, three for their inspiration in his scientific studies–Arnold Clark (biology), Quaesita Drake (chemistry), and Elizabeth Dyer (chemistry)–and three for broadening his interests in other fields–Anna J. DeArmond (English), Felix Oppenheim (political science), and Bernard Phillips (philosophy). It seems worth noting that three of the six professors whom Nathans thus commended had been members of the Women’s College faculty. Because history normally gives especial attention to the movers and shakers of this world, the excuse of this unusual commendation provides an opportunity to remember that there were those on the faculty, for whom these six can stand as symbols, who served the institution nobly in a quiet way.
On October 7, 1950, a special meeting of the board of trustees was held to select a new president. As a result of the midwestern tour made by Warren Newton and Carl Rees, two men had been invited to Delaware for further interviews. The preferred one, John Alanson Perkins, of the University of Michigan, had been invited to return with his wife on September 17, when a reception was held in Old College to allow the trustees, the full-time faculty, and representative graduates to meet the Perkinses. The majority were very favorably impressed; the extent of the knowledge that both John and Margaret Perkins had acquired of the university and of individual faculty astounded some of the people who met them.
When Harland Carpenter, chairman of the search committee, nominated Perkins for the presidency at the board meeting on October 17, a standing vote, after full discussion, showed unanimous approval. Judge Morris excused himself from the meeting to telephone the president-elect, who immediately accepted the position on the terms offered: a salary of $14,000; an entertainment fund of $2,250; and a newly acquired presidential residence, Belmont Hall, along with the provision of heat, furnishing of the first floor (for entertaining), one house servant, and care of the grounds. Belmont Hall, once the home of Mayor Eben Frazer, had been acquired after the Carlsons left. Colburn, as acting president, had, like Sypherd, continued to live in his own home. The house bought for the Carlsons’ use at 102 Bent Lane was thought unsatisfactory for a president, so the trustees exchanged it for the larger and older Belmont Hall, on Main Street, plus a payment of $18,000.
In accepting the presidency, John Perkins promised to be on the scene on November 1, little more than three weeks from the date of his appointment. When Allan Colburn stepped aside on that date, he would take on a new title, the trustees decided; he would become the first provost in the history of the university and at a salary of $13,500, only slightly less than he was paid as president. What his duties would be were not specified; they would be determined later, when the new president would be present. But the trustees clearly wanted to express their respect for Colburn. A number of them had wanted to do more–to offer Colburn the permanent presidency as they had done in the case of the last acting president, Dr. Sypherd. The title of provost and the salary that went with it were a compromise with this faction as well as recognition that Allan Colburn, as Judge Morris said in praising his record at Delaware, had "probably contributed more than any other member of the present staff to the national reputation of the University."44