The University of Delaware: A History – Chapter 9
Chapter 9: Prosperity, Depression, and War
Working within the limitations placed upon her when the Women’s College was organized in 1914, Dean Winifred Robinson for the next twenty-four years held tight rein on an institution that reflected her vision of what a coordinate college should be. It was, wrote a faculty member who came to the college in 1935, “a genuine community….Students and faculty saw each other everyday: we lived together, worked together, and often played together. I went on picnics with students; I took groups of them to the theatre….And don’t imagine that I was unique, or even rare.”1
The Women’s College received no gifts so large as those Pierre du Pont or Rodney Sharp made to Delaware College. It was the ward of the state legislature, which provided the major share of the cost of all its permanent buildings as a delayed recognition of the need to educate Delaware’s daughters. It was befriended in many ways by groups like the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Wesleyan Female College Alumnae Association, as well as by private donors. There were contributions of books, furniture, and scholarships. One friend (Florence Bayard Hilles) gave Forum, the international relations club, a table at monthly luncheon meetings of the Foreign Policy Association of Philadelphia in the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Special gifts often aided particular departments: in 1934, for example, a $5,000 legacy from Mrs. Samuel Bancroft, Jr., was applied to the needs of the music department; Amy du Pont for a number of years supplemented the salary of the home economics faculty.
In the 1920s the Women’s College and Delaware College both shared in the generosity of Pierre du Pont, who provided a night at the theater, renting the Playhouse Theatre in Wilmington when what might be regarded as a worthwhile play (Shaw’s Saint Joan, for instance) was being performed, and also providing a private train to transport the students. “My plan is to limit the choice to standard plays, such as Shakespearean revivals,” the benefactor told Hullihen, requesting assurance that “these theatrical trips meet with your entire approval. Apparently the performances are enjoyed, but if they interfere with college work or are inappropriate in any way, I shall do nothing more in the matter.”2
The largest private gift to the Women’s College was the $50,000 that Pierre du Pont contributed to the construction of Kent Hall through the Delaware School Auxiliary, which was also the conduit through which he provided three supposedly temporary buildings to ameliorate the housing crisis on the campus. After these gifts, the largest private benefaction to the Women’s College was the wall that Rodney Sharp donated and which was gradually working around three sides of the campus. But Sharp was, of course, thinking of the university as a whole in this gift as in various gifts he made to the planting that was being carried out under Marian Coffin’s direction. “No Man’s Land,” the area between the Memorial Library and the WCD buildings, was gradually converted into a beautiful area of grass, shrubs, and walks, with trees at the side, a fit northern entrance to what Dean Robinson intended to be “a personal and friendly college with no disorganizing societies or affections”–by which she undoubtedly meant sororities–where “the student [was] a personal friend of those in charge of her welfare.”3
To a new instructor coming from study at Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania Dean Robinson emphasized that the young women at WCD were generally from unsophisticated backgrounds, often representing the first generation in the family to go to college, and therefore teachers coming here from more worldly intellectual environments should be careful not to be shocking. The student, said the dean, was entering not just the professor’s class, but the professor’s world.4
The unity that existed among these students was enhanced by the fact that they came from similar backgrounds. The 279 women in college in September 1931 were overwhelmingly (86 percent) from middle-class Protestant homes. Only 23 women (8 percent) were Jewish; only 15 (5 percent) were Catholic. In contrast, forty-five percent of the total were Methodist and almost nineteen percent Presbyterian. About three-fourths of the students were Delaware residents, and though no dependable statistics exist for the religious composition of the state’s population, it is clear that Catholics were very notably underrepresented at the Women’s College.5 This condition was probably in large part due to the fact that many of the Catholic families in Delaware were of recent immigrant origin, especially the Italians and Poles, and were more likely to scrape up the money to send a son to college than a daughter. (While Catholic colleges in the Philadelphia area may have drawn off some students, there were also Protestant denominational colleges in Pennsylvania that drew some Delaware students.)
The existence of a substantial number of commuters somewhat dampened the community spirit of the Women’s College, but sincere efforts were made to make them feel and act as part of the college body. Alphabetical seating, followed in many classes, helped them make acquaintances among classmates. A commuters’ lounge in Robinson Hall (and for a time in one of the temporary dorms) gave them a headquarters on campus. Some commuters had lived on campus for part of their four-year course; some became active in extracurricular activities, such as dramatics. The percentage of commuters probably did not rise above forty percent in the 1920s, but in the heart of the Depression over fifty percent of the women commuted.6
Of course, most of the commuting students had friends from high school among the resident students. Most of the commuters came from Wilmington and its environs. Of the 321 women in college in 1926-27, almost twenty-eight percent (89) were from Wilmington; the 155 women from New Castle County, including Wilmington, made up forty-five percent of the total enrollment. Most of the commuters came from this group, though some students commuted from neighboring parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The enrollment at the Women’s College in 1926-27 was the largest during Dean Robinson’s twenty-four-year administration. It had then reached 321, and thereafter an effort was made to hold it near a maximum of 310 inasmuch as no additional dormitory space was made available. The Women’s College enrollment fell off to 276 in 1935-36, the low mark for this period. Usually there was a larger percentage of women than of men who were from out of state–for instance, nearly twenty percent of the women in 1926-27 and less than sixteen percent of the men; twenty-two percent of the women in 1932-33 and fourteen percent of the men; and the same percentages of both women and men in 1937-38. It is not clear whether the higher percentage of out-of-state students at the Women’s College was because of its attractiveness or because it purposely admitted a larger percentage of out-of-state students in order to fill its dormitories and its laboratories, as in home economics; perhaps both explanations have some validity. It is likely that there would have been more out-of-state students except for a 1932 regulation limiting their enrollment to twenty percent of the total.7
An attitude of mutual respect seems to have prevailed between Dean Robinson and President Hullihen, who was seven years her junior. She pressed her point of view strongly at times–as in 1923, just after the death of Dean Laurence Smith, when she wrote Hullihen, “When you nominate a dean for Delaware College, I should greatly appreciate it if you would make the recommendation that in the absence of the President of the University, the Dean of the Women’s College should be regarded as the President of the Women’s College.”8 Her suggestion was apparently ignored, but in actuality she did fill the role of a vice-president for her college.
In the life of the Women’s College, student associations flourished. The student government, with its judicial system, played an important role, especially in supporting the honor system, which worked very well on the Women’s College campus and remained in effect until coordinate education was abandoned. An elected social committee played an important role, scheduling dances–including some held in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont–and other functions. Departmental clubs, like Le Cercle Francais, flourished or were stagnant according to the quality of student and faculty leadership and enthusiasm. An “Industrial Group” in the late 1920s grew out of Dean Robinson’s idea of sharing experiences with working women.
Freshman Week grew into a useful orientation period occupying several days at both colleges. Some modest hazing was permitted, with freshmen wearing mildly ridiculous marks of their status-such as a baby rattle or teething ring on a chain; such distinctive devices served the positive function of helping members of the new class to become acquainted. The YWCA, which conducted a Sunday afternoon vesper service, initiated a “big sister” program, having each junior take responsibility for helping one or more freshmen become at home on the campus. Chapel was held daily until 1925 and weekly thereafter.9
The student paper, the Women’s College Reporter, gave way in 1922 to a literary magazine, the Blue Kettle, which published its last issue in the form of a paper in 1923 or 1924. In the fall of 1923 the student bodies of the two colleges voted to join in supporting the Review, the Delaware College paper, and accordingly women took positions on its staff in 1924. However, just as when collaboration on the Review had been tried previously in 1915-17, it did not last. Dean Robinson explained later that the objectives of the men and women editors were too different for successful cooperation; apparently the men’s overwhelming interest in athletics was not shared at the Women’s College. The Review continued as an all-male newspaper until after the Second World War, while the women began publishing a literary magazine called Pambo in December 1928, as well as the biennial yearbook.10
Generations of women earned money by writing columns about Women’s College events for various Delaware newspapers, especially the dailies in Wilmington, but also for rural weeklies like the Delaware Ledger in Newark. In the spring of 1929 Dean Robinson was upset by the style and content of the articles a student was sending to the Every Evening; probably her objection was that life at the Women’s College was made to seem too frivolous. Convinced that this columnist “should not be permitted to continue…since she seems to be neither able nor willing to `cramp her style'” and that writing for the press, the best paid work a student could get, should not be allowed to be “a disgrace to the college,” the dean called a meeting of the committee on student publications. She did not shrink from censorship when she thought it was called for.11
Cooperation with Delaware College in dramatics fared better than in publications, though both were encouraged by the English department–which meant Professor Sypherd and his colleagues. Although on several occasions–as, for example, at the time of the Shakespeare pageant in 1916–Delaware College and Women’s College students had appeared together in a play, Dean Robinson apparently frowned on the practice until, in the same year in which cooperation was tried on the Review, C. Louise Jackson, ’24, president of the Dramatics Club, persuaded Dean Robinson that Shaw’s Pygmalion should not be presented without both men and women in the cast. Thereafter dramatics became the major field of collaboration between men and women students at Delaware.
Though E. William Martin, ’16, had once led a Women’s College orchestra, the musical groups of the two colleges remained separate. So did the athletic associations; for example, the Delaware College cheerleaders were all men. Intramural competition was encouraged but intercollegiate competition was not permitted the women, though there was actually one semiathletic competitive match between Delaware College and the Women’s College. In 1922 Major L. B. Row of the ROTC staff organized a women’s rifle club that practiced in the basement of Robinson Hall, and in the following year they lost a match to the Delaware College rifle team by the narrow score of 428 to 422. (There was also a rifle match between the Women’s College and Drexel.) In rifle matches the two teams did not meet each other, but merely exchanged results of shooting at targets at about the same time. It is said that when Major Row was transferred and his successor expected the women to clean and care for their weapons, interest rapidly diminished–but possibly a question of personality was involved.12
In the years 1923 and 1924 when cooperation between the two colleges was undertaken in publications and dramatics, with different degrees of success, other steps occurred that made the two colleges one university in more than name. The board of trustees voted, rather narrowly (12-9), in June 1923 to hold joint commencements hereafter. In 1923, as heretofore, the Delaware College commencement ceremonies were held under the lindens in the morning, and the Women’s College ceremonies, with a different speaker, in the afternoon in Red Men’s Grove. A feature of the day was the appearance of the President of the United States, Warren Harding. Motoring through northern Delaware, he stopped for ten minutes in front of Warner Hall to greet the assembled guests before the commencement procession began.13
In 1924, the year when the first joint commencement was held–in the Armory, to accommodate the crowd–women were also for the first time elected to membership in the land-grant college honor society, Phi Kappa Phi–after agitation for eligibility by the class of 1923. Late in the same year the board of trustees passed a resolution declaring women eligible for membership in their group. Still, no women were appointed or elected to it until 1928. Then at last, fourteen years after the opening of the Women’s College, the body that had ultimate authority over that college had a woman member for the first time. Fittingly, it was Emalea Warner, a principal founder of the college, who received the honor of being the first woman trustee, by appointment of Governor Robert Robinson–not by election.14
It was apparently Dean Robinson, with the cooperation of Mrs. Everett Johnson and other women, who had secured Mrs. Warner’s appointment, which came in that estimable woman’s 75th year. It is not the novelty of the appointment that attracts interest but the time that it took–the fact that governors and trustees (who elected twenty of their own members) let fourteen years elapse without appointing any woman to the board–and particularly without appointing a woman who had contributed as significantly to the development of the institution as Emalea Warner had.15 (The fact that the trustees had an advisory council on the Women’s College does not mitigate the fact that until 1928 no woman served on the board that had final authority. The further fact that Delaware State College waited much longer before a woman was appointed to its board of trustees only suggests that the problem was not peculiar to the university.)
Contemplation of this astonishing oversight makes clear Everett Johnson’s words in a Newark Post editorial tribute to Dean Robinson on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Women’s College in 1924. “The Women’s College,” he wrote, “was not so welcomed by the authorities as to make her task easy. But by unassuming but persistent maintenance of her idea of a Women’s College, it stands today as originally conceived.”16
Apparently Dean Robinson had no objection to President Hullihen’s insistence that the words “of Delaware” not be used as an ending to the title of the Women’s College. He felt it sounded too much as though this was an independent institution, but despite his feeling the initials “WCD” continued to be in common use. Other suggestions were more likely to stir the dean’s opposition, such as Dr. Sypherd’s proposal of a common social center for the two colleges, the consideration of opening to women the laboratories in a planned new chemistry building, and, greater infamy in her eyes, the outright advocacy of coeducation in an April 1934 Review editorial that followed a resolution favoring coeducation passed by the Delaware College Student Council with only one dissenting vote. To make matters worse, from Dean Robinson’s point of view, the Alumni News praised the Review editorial, while referring to “the mid-victorian ideas of the authorities concerning the segregation of the sexes.”17
An especial disappointment to the dean was the constant postponement of the buildings she thought were badly needed on the Women’s College campus. Gradually the classroom-laboratory building that had been approved by the General Assembly in 1931 but vetoed by the governor lost priority to the concept of an administration-classroom building near the library to be used by both colleges. “I believe strongly in a separate college for women,” declared President Hullihen, but, he added, “the people of Delaware have a right to expect the University administration to utilize facilities as best it can, as in the case of the auditorium and the library, and so with a new classroom building.”18
Dean Robinson also hoped for a music department (there was usually but one teacher of music on the faculty, with provisions for private lessons on campus or in Wilmington) or, still better in her mind, a school of music. The first step in this direction took place in 1937, a year before her retirement, when Anthony Loudis, a concert pianist who was a graduate of Columbia University and the Juilliard School, joined the faculty and began the development of a department of music of which he was chairman for more than three decades. The appointment partly satisfied a request Dean Robinson had made seven years earlier that some men be appointed heads of departments at the Women’s College so that their primary allegiance would be here, though they might also give courses at Delaware College. The separate school of music that Dean Robinson hoped for never did appear. Nor was there to be any more building on the women’s campus in her time, neither of the activities building nor of a model school she hoped for.19
The college that Dean Robinson had shaped from birth had matured into a respected institution of high standards and wholesome spirit. Yet, as the founding dean’s retirement grew near, the future growth of the Women’s College was sacrificed to that of the university as a whole.
While the Women’s College experienced virtually no growth in student numbers after 1926 (only in 1938-40 did its enrollment surpass the 321 students of a decade earlier), Delaware College grew steadily. Most of the growth at Delaware College came from the increasing enrollment of Delaware residents: less than sixteen percent of its total student body was from out of state in 1926-27, and fifteen years later the out-of-state men were still less than nineteen percent of the total. (In the interim years the percentage had generally been below fifteen percent.) At the Women’s College, on the other hand, the number of out-of-state students rose to almost thirty percent of the total in 1941-42, an indication that the twenty percent limit set on out-of-state admissions in 1932 had been rescinded.
|Year||Delaware College||Women’s College|
Lack of dormitory space did not restrict admissions to Delaware College as severely as to the Women’s College, because male students were allowed to live in fraternity houses and approved rooming houses. Still, living conditions at Delaware College in these years were probably not sufficiently attractive, despite the beautiful campus, to draw many students from a distance. There was only one dormitory, Harter Hall, which behind its handsome exterior soon showed signs of the hard treatment students gave it and had none of the amenities, such as a library and commons room, of the Women’s College dorms. After Evans Hall was completed, all engineering instruction, except some in chemical engineering, was concentrated there, and the frame temporary buildings south of Harter Hall, as well as old Mechanical Hall, were vacated. The former were demolished; the latter became a dormitory, known as the Training House, restricted for the most part to students playing on varsity teams. The name Mechanical Hall came to be generally forgotten; even earlier the fact that about half of the building was named Electrical Hall was overlooked.
Other housing for men was provided by the six fraternities. Two, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Nu, had handsome houses on the north campus as previously noted. Two, Kappa Alpha and Theta Chi, were on West Main Street beyond the B & 0 Railroad, known locally as Quality Hill. The two newest fraternities, Phi Kappa Tau and Sigma Tau Phi, moved several times in these years, at least partly because of financial problems. Approximately seventy percent of the male students belonged to fraternities in 1924-25, but this percentage declined after the onset of the deppression.20
Over half of the students at Delaware College were commuters, coming to campus daily, mainly from Wilmington and its environs, but some from greater distances. Trains and buses ran frequently to Newark, but private automobiles were the favorite form of transportation, since student drivers picked passengers up at their homes and charged only twenty-five cents for a round trip. The lounge on the main floor, east wing, of Old College, sheltered commuters between classes. Some commuters joined fraternities and made the chapter houses their headquarters on campus. Others kept their books in lockers that were in the center of the basement of Old College, underneath the Commons. Often they carried their lunches in brown bags and ate them in this locker room.
To try to promote greater cohesion in the student body, authorities encouraged resident students to eat together at the Commons in the central hall of Old College (the old Oratory), and did not permit the fraternities to serve meals. But lack of group spirit at Delaware College remained a serious problem that explains the failure of the honor system here while it flourished at the Women’s College.
Many professors liked the honor system, partly because proctoring examinations was a chore that they were glad to be free of and partly because it involved a kind of watchful supervision that was distasteful. When the honor system was first introduced in Mitchell’s day, it probably worked well because students felt responsible for it and policed themselves. As time passed, the men became increasingly reluctant to report cheating, despite the fact that they signed a statement on each examination book to the effect that they would report any irregularities they saw. But as Hullihen wisely observed, asking students to report any cheating they saw ran counter to an ethical principle they were reared with–the idea that it is not honorable or manly to tell on a companion. In 1933 a group of serious students, unhappy with existing conditions, petitioned for a repeal of the system. A referendum was held, student opinion was shown to be opposed to the system’s continuance at Delaware College, and it was accordingly repealed early in 1934.21
This referendum was one of the few occasions when the student body exhibited an opinion on any issue. Class officers were elected and so were representatives to the student council, but few students bothered to vote. Members of fraternities alone showed much interest in the conduct of student affairs, and consequently they found it easy to dominate elections. On the student council there was one representative of each fraternity per class and one nonfraternity representative, though the nonfraternity men were probably more numerous than all fraternity members put together. However, very few nonfraternity men would bother to vote, allowing the fraternities, which would sometimes form combinations behind a ticket, to control elections. In this manner they could parcel out prestigious positions.
If the fraternities had undue influence on the social life of Delaware College, they were the repositories of school spirit. As Hullihen wrote, “The influence of fraternities upon the manners of young men, through their social functions and also through the conditions they impose in their chapter houses, is a desirable influence upon young men who very often, gathered in groups away from home, revert to primitive barbarism in manners.” “The same deterioration of manners,” he added, “does not occur among young women living together.” Both fraternities and sororities, he admitted, were said to foster a class system, producing a sense of inferiority in those not belonging–but this was more likely to be so with women than with men and was, he thought, “the principal reason…sororities were forbidden” when the Women’s College was established.22
The sophomore class was charged with inculcating college spirit among the freshmen, and it did this by enforcing “rat rules,” which involved the wearing of a distinctive costume, usually a blue and gold cap and a name badge, and by assembling the freshmen at various times for stunts, like a shoe scramble, or for what were called “pep rallies” on the eve of a football game. Resident students were liable to be called out in the middle of the night. A “rat court” imposed special punishments on freshmen said to be insubordinate.
Hazing of freshmen in this manner was apparently comparatively mild in the 1930s, as a result of faculty action to moderate it (and to moderate the hazing of new fraternity members). Intermittently the authorities were goaded to action by parental protests, as when a young man was tied to a fence post four miles out of town and left there all night. Freshman-sophomore strife was sometimes carried on off-campus, with resultant damage to property, as at the Playhouse, in Wilmington, in the winter of 1926-27, or at a burlesque theater in Philadelphia in 1932-33.23
Disciplinary measures could curb hazing, but only a change in student sentiment could abolish it, as Hullihen admitted. A somber note was struck in May 1932 when Howard McDade, a sophomore in the School of Agriculture, died as a result of head injuries suffered in a freshman-sophomore fracas six months earlier. In June 1932, the trustees, acting on the recommendation of the faculty committee on scholarship and discipline, disbanded a sophomore society called the Druids because their officers failed to give assurance that physical violence would be entirely eliminated from their initiation exercises.24
Attendance of all Delaware College students was required at an assembly in Mitchell Hall called College Hour, held approximately biweekly. On some of these occasions faculty members addressed the students, as when Professor Ryden reported on a recent trip to Russia, or President Hullihen introduced them to Howard Scott’s proposals for what he called technocracy; at other times guest speakers or artists appeared. More distinguished speakers, such as the poets Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg, were presented in the evening, when attendance was voluntary and included many from outside the student body. In the twenties these programs were largely sustained by an annual gift from Mrs. H. M. Barksdale. After completion of Mitchell Hall, Rodney Sharp contributed about $1,400 annually for these programs and for organ concerts by Firmin Swinnen.25
The most absorbing extracurricular activities on the Delaware College campus were publications, dramatics, and athletics. The chief publications were the weekly Review and the biennial yearbook, the Blue Hen, although a literary magazine, the Humanist, began irregular publication in March 1932. Except for the period from 1924 to 1928, when women served on the Review, all-male staffs prepared these publications. The Review did normally carry a column of “W.C.D. Notes” written by a student on the lower campus.
In October 1932 the acting editor of the Review, Samuel M. Silver, ’33, was dismissed in an action that probably grew out of an editorial he wrote called “The Rush Is On,” in which he commented unfavorably on fraternities and their recruiting of new members. “Fraternities,” he wrote, “are more of a hindrance than an aid to the harmonious progress of a college.” He felt that “protesting against secret societies is like protesting against war.” Though, in his opinion, upperclassmen wearied of “the mystical ceremonies, the childish secretiveness, and the exorbitant expense of the fraternities,” fraternities were rushing new members in the freshman class with the relentlessness of the gold-seekers of 1849 and with a similar aim.
Of course this editorial annoyed the fraternities, and it probably accounted for the action soon taken by the student council, where fraternity representatives outnumbered nonfraternity men 6 to 1. Silver was in a vulnerable position. In the spring of 1932 Robert Curtin had been elected editor of the Review, but when Curtin did not return to college in the fall Silver, as the elected associate editor, took over responsibility for producing the weekly paper. He and the members of his staff were irritated that the faculty committee on publications delayed a meeting that might have confirmed them in their posts, and after preparing three issues they said they would do nothing more on the paper until this committee clarified their status.
When the faculty committee, chaired by Professor James A. Barkley (history), finally did meet, they could find no copy of the Review constitution to follow in this crisis. Barkley declared that Silver’s staff was dissolved since they had ceased publishing the paper and his committee left the problem of the editorship to the student council. This body elected a new editor, T. Henry Dickerson, a senior who had not been on the Review staff but was said to have some newspaper experience, whereupon Silver and all the reportorial staff but one resigned. The business staff was kept intact because, it was said, they had not stopped working.26
At this very time the trustees were preparing a statement regarding free speech. An alumnus who was a Boy Scout official had written the board in May expressing fears he and his friends held “about radical opinions believed to be prevalent here” and asking for censorship of student and faculty political activity. Because board president Henry B. Thompson had to be away when this letter was to come before the executive committee, he stated his opinion clearly in a letter to President Hullihen, which was entered in the minutes of the next meeting of the trustees:
I see no evidence of a radical or communistic spirit in the Faculty. Even if it did exist, as long as such opinions are not treasonable to our Government, they do very little harm and those who hold such radical views are entitled to them. As far as the student body goes you will always find among their numbers some with half baked views who are generally voluble. Disciplinary methods to curb them would be what they would welcome….Blowing off steam renders the boiler innocuous, and their later experience of life tends to conservatism. I believe in `Academic Freedom.’
The board of trustees did make an inquiry into the matter but were informed by some of the most conservative staff “that there is a conspicuous absence of even liberal opinion, much less radical thought, in the present faculty.” They concluded that “it is contrary to American principles and sound educational practice to try to compel students to hold or reject any type of opinion”; that the method suggested by the alumnus, of forbidding membership in certain organizations (his letter does not survive but apparently he had mentioned the Socialist Party and the League for Industrial Democracy), would be the surest way of increasing interest in them; and “that the Board has such faith in the substantial rightness of the American form of government and in the intelligence of the vast majority of the students and teachers…that it feels no anxiety that unsound opinions will prevail here over sound ones.”27
The opening of Mitchell Hall had been a tremendous spur to the development of dramatics on campus, and so was the appointment of C. Robert Kase to the English department in 1930. Since 1923 the English department had offered a course for only one credit that bore the symbols E51 when given in the fall and E52 in the spring and was described as “Dramatic Expression. Detailed study of dramatic literature by means of production.” The course was taught from 1923 to 1927 by Assistant Professor Ernest Canfield Van Keuren, and it was also listed in the Women’s College catalogue for 1926-27 and thereafter.
The earlier history of dramatics at Delaware is somewhat similar to that of athletics. Both started as student-run activities in the nineteenth century and gradually came under the supervision of the faculty. The literary societies had been the main producers of plays in the nineteenth century. As they became inactive, clubs devoted specifically to drama arose to take their place. In 1902 a Mask and Wig Club was active, producing one musical directed by Professor Clarence Short and another, a satire on Romeo and Juliet, that was written and adapted by three students. The latter show made use of a student glee club and a student orchestra, and both shows were taken on tour through the state.28
The Mask and Wig Club was short-lived and there was little evidence of interest in dramatics through the next decade. This is the period when most of the students were engineers, and perhaps they had less interest or less time for the production of plays than the classical students of an earlier time. Dramatics revived when the institution did, in the Mitchell era. The great Shakespeare pageant of 1916, already referred to, was directed by Professor Sypherd and combined town and gown–including both colleges–and was to some extent an early coeducational endeavor. At the Women’s College a Dramatics Club was formed, and at Delaware College a Footlights Club was organized. In 1919 and 1920 they combined to produce Electra and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both outdoors on the terrace in front of Wolf Hall. Professor John Robert Moore, of the English department, directed these plays. The two groups gave other plays, generally separately, until 1923, when Dean Robinson allowed the Dramatics Club to recruit men from Delaware College to take parts in Pygmalion. Thereafter men and women frequently, but not always, participated together, whether the sponsor was the Women’s College Dramatics Club or the Delaware College Footlights Club. An all-male minstrel show produced by the Footlights Club without faculty supervision in 1926 aroused criticism for its vulgarity when taken on tour downstate; as a result English department supervision became the rule.29
In 1925 the Puppets Club was organized at the Women’s College as an elite outgrowth of the Dramatics Club, and later a Greek letter dramatics honor society was formed at Delaware College. The Puppets and the Footlights clubs limited their membership, presumably to those most active in dramatics. Besides these two clubs, plays were being produced by the E51 and E52 classes of Professors Van Keuren and William Erwart Matthews, who took over E51-52 after Van Keuren left in 1927. An instructor in English at the Women’s College, Nora Bean Keely, frequently directed plays too, though she did not teach the Play Production course. The most notable faculty play supervisor in this decade, Ellsworth P. Conkle, a graduate of the University of Nebraska and author of Crick Bottom Plays: Five Mid-Western Sketches, took over the Play Production course from Matthews in 1928 and was at Delaware to help in the planning and the dedication of Mitchell Hall. Why the earlier directors left is not clear, but Conkle resigned in 1930 because he had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for study in Europe. It was the first Guggenheim awarded a Delaware professor, and Conkle justified receiving the award by making a reputation as a playwright and professor of drama at the University of Texas, where he spent his later career.30
As Conkle’s successor, Robert Kase brought stability to a program that had been changing directors almost as often as athletics. Except for a leave of absence from 1943 to 1945 for army service, he taught at Delaware for thirty-six years. Though he had taken a doctorate in English at New York University with a dissertation on a conventional Chaucerian subject, his passion was for the theater and, notably seconded by his wife, Elizabeth, he developed a very active theater program at Delaware that was under the auspices of the English department until 1945, when he became chairman of a separate department of dramatic arts and speech.
Previously the Wolf Hall auditorium, the terrace before Wolf Hall, and occasionally, for Women’s College productions, Red Men’s Grove had been the settings for Delaware plays. From its completion in 1930 Mitchell Hall became the center for dramatics and Professor Kase was soon given, at the instance of Rodney Sharp, control over all productions there. He soon set up a production staff of students to make scenery, collect needed costumes, and handle lighting and makeup. The acquisition of scenery discarded by William Gillette’s company after a supposedly final performance of Sherlock Holmes in Wilmington in 1931 was of great assistance to the staging of plays in Mitchell Hall.31
In the fall of 1931 a new producing group was formed called the E52 Players. The title came from the Play Production course but the group, which was coeducational, was not limited to students in that class. A point system (the Footlights and Puppets apparently had once used a similar system) rewarded participation and qualified students for membership in this group. From 1931 to 1937 the E52 Players gave two full-length plays a year, while the Puppets and the Footlights gave one each. Many one-act plays were produced too, including those produced for interclass and interfraternity competitions. Occasional musicals required cooperation from the music department and, for help with dances, from the Women’s College physical education department. In time, exchanges of one-act plays were worked out with other colleges and tours of Delaware towns were resumed, as in the 1920s.
Under Kase’s inspiration, Mitchell Hall became a theater center not just for the university but for a wide area, stretching into Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as throughout Delaware. A University Dramatic Center established in the fall of 1937 organized a Delaware Dramatics Association, sponsored an annual conference and play festival, loaned texts of plays, and published bulletins. Few units of the university, notably excepting agriculture and the academic extension classes, reached so far beyond the campus in service to the state.32
Just as Professor Kase brought stability to the theater program of the University, so the appointment of William D. Murray in 1940 brought stability to the program of athletics. The athletic program had begun in the nineteenth century as a student-directed activity, but from nearly the beginning the students had received assistance and encouragement from alumni. Gradually the students surrendered control over athletics to the faculty and administration, but the special interests of the alumni in the sports program, particularly in relation to football, was never altogether eliminated. Alumni insistence on a winning record had been the chief factor in the dismissal of one coach and athletic director after another in the 1920s, and the same situation continued through the 1930s, with no coach of football, the major sport, lasting more than three years.
It seemed possible that a solution might have been found for the prevailing instability in the athletic program when, in 1931, alumni pressure persuaded the legislature to establish a chair of physical education at the university with an annual appropriation of $4,500 in its support, plus a one-time grant of $2,000 for equipment. Alumni pressure probably also dictated the choice to fill this chair of Dr. Charles M. Wharton, of Dover, a Democratic politician who had once been an outstanding football player at the University of Pennsylvania.33
At first Hullihen was delighted with Dr. Wharton, who announced that he considered the health of the students of Delaware College to be as much his responsibility as were formal classes of physical education. “Doc Wharton is a `peach,'” Hullihen told an alumnus, “and is certainly doing a magnificent piece of work in building up the morale of athletics and at the same time…a splendid piece of work in his care of the health of the whole student body.” Wharton introduced a new curriculum, allowing men to major in “Health and Physical Education,” as he preferred to call his department, with the aim of becoming high school teachers of the subject.34
In the honeymoon period of the new regime even the football team seemed to be doing well. With Charley Rodgers, recently a star running back at Pennsylvania, as coach (his salary of $4,000 a year being “guaranteed” by alumni), the team compiled a record of five victories, two ties, and only one loss in 1931, with the one loss a very narrow one to the Naval Academy. Two seasons later, however, the record of Rodgers’s team was two victories, two ties, and four losses, and the coach was let go on the grounds that he was not qualified to teach physical education classes. At the same time dissatisfaction with Dr. Wharton’s work became manifest; apparently the complaint was that he did comparatively little work on campus because of his political interests and responsibilities elsewhere. He was also regarded by Hullihen as a source of complaint.
Alumni interested in Delaware athletics, mainly football, felt that their efforts to recruit and retain good athletes at the university were being frustrated by the faculty and administration. They particularly complained about Professor Eastman, who was chairman of the faculty committee on athletics, and when Hullihen defended the faculty committee they turned their anger against him.
Hullihen and the faculty were concerned about the rules adopted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to preserve amateurism in college sports and were disturbed at stories A.G. Wilkinson, the business administrator, and others reported concerning the loose way in which the alumni raised and dispensed funds to support athletes. A Delaware coach, probably Rodgers, was said to have a bad reputation for unethical recruiting. A prominent alumnus (exact identity not clear) who played a major role in helping recruit the 1931 football team is said to have sat on the bench and advised the coach during games. This man, according to Hullihen, wanted a professor dismissed because he spoke sharply to a player. Traditional rivals like Swarthmore, Haverford, Ursinus, and Dickinson dropped Delaware from their schedules.
Hullihen started a competitive scholarship fund with a personal gift of $100, hoping to establish athletic fellowships on a plan similar to that of the Rhodes scholarships to Oxford, but the Middle States Association ruled these illegal. Meanwhile alumni support for athletics began to fail, either because of dissatisfaction with rules imposed by the Delaware administration and faculty or because of the Depression. Hullihen told of one alumnus, not mentioning his name, who bragged of spending $25,000 on Delaware football but then became angry and dropped all support. One alumnus whom he did name was J. George Stewart, a prominent contractor and Republican politician, later congressman and architect of the U.S. Capitol, whose complaints made him a thorn in Hullihen’s side.35
The small band of active alumni who met semiannually at reunion times had no interest in common, Hullihen complained, except intercollegiate athletics, which he thought not surprising in view of their disparate backgrounds as students of engineering, agriculture, languages, and so forth. He hoped to interest them in serving on advisory committees for the various subjects that would visit classes and inspect the library and the laboratories, because in private interviews and in correspondence he found much interest in the intellectual work of the university. And though alumni opinions on athletics made good copy for the newspapers and often were disagreeable to him, Hullihen firmly believed, as he told a correspondent, “that college athletics make a very large contribution in the educational program we set up for the training of young men and young women to prepare them for their life work.” The vigilance that Hullihen and his faculty showed in guarding against the professionalization of Delaware athletics was generally very effective, as the dean of engineering testified when, in answering a questionnaire, he declared that athletics at Delaware did not interfere with class work unduly and that athletes were treated like other students in all respects. Dean Spencer would not have hesitated to speak his mind had he felt otherwise.36
It was a relief to Hullihen when Wharton finally resigned his professorship in 1936. Edward Bardo, an assistant professor and coach of swimming, was named acting chairman and encouraged to reorganize the physical education curriculum. But the football situation, at least as far as victory-hungry alumni were concerned, had not improved. Charley Rodgers’s successor, J. Neil Stahley, who came from Western Maryland, had a fairly good season in 1934 (4 wins, 1 tie, 3 losses) before he left for another position, but under his former assistant, Lyal W. Clark, a Penn State graduate, for three years, and Stephen Grenda, a Columbia graduate, for two years, Delaware experienced successive losing seasons.37
It is not enough to write of intercollegiate athletics at Delaware in these years wholly in relation to football, for in terms of student participation other sports had their appeal. Basketball was handicapped, at least as far as drawing crowds was concerned, by the limited seating capacity even of the enlarged gymnasium, and baseball, though a very pleasant sport to watch in the comfortable and convenient confines of Joe Frazer Field, no longer had the popular following it had known as a college sport at the turn of the century in the days of the imaginary Frank Merriwell. Track and field meets attracted some attention, as did swimming meets in the new pool. A varsity soccer team drew most of its players from small peninsular high schools that did not have football teams. Golf and tennis imposed no burden on the physical education staff. The golf team, originally coached by Professor Sypherd and later by Professor F.C. Houghton, ’25, played its home matches on the Newark Country Club links, and the tennis team, coached by Professor Ralph W. Jones, ’25, played at home on courts just north of Mitchell Hall. The only other intercollegiate sport was fencing, which enjoyed temporary popularity, at least among its participants, in the 1930s. (The rifle team was an adjunct of the military department, and as such was somewhat different from other competitive sports teams.)
Intercollegiate athletics at Delaware received a boost when the legislature passed a $5,000 scholarship bill in April 1939. State Senator George Rhodes, pharmacist and owner of the nearby drugstore that was also the college bookstore, was sponsor of the bill. For years Senator Rhodes, who was childless, had befriended a series of Delaware College students. His bill provided for the award of a minimum of ten scholarships a year at Delaware College, and though it said nothing about being restricted to athletes, this was evidently its intent. The sponsors, according to Hullihen, wanted these scholarships to be awarded like the Cecil Rhodes scholarships, on the basis of character, leadership, “and interest and participation in manly sports, as well as scholastic superiority.” Hullihen was particularly pleased because he thought Delaware College had fewer scholarships or other forms of student aid available than any other college, large or small, that he knew of. To assure that it was used as intended the statute provided that awards would be made by a committee of three appointed by the trustees and consisting of one alumnus, one faculty member, and one member of the Athletic Council. Most but not all of the awards made under this act–amended in 1949 to provide $10,000 a year for twenty scholarships–were given to football players.38
A still more important development in the history of athletics at the University of Delaware occurred in 1940 when three friends of the university, Henry Belin du Pont, R.R.M. Carpenter, Jr. (both nephews of Pierre du Pont), and John J. DeLuca, ’22, an attorney, offered to provide funds to strengthen the coaching and teaching staff of the department of physical education and athletics. Their motivation was, they declared, their interest in the university and in its competitive athletics, in which it represented the State of Delaware. Their offer, guaranteed for at least the next five years, provided for the hiring of a new director of athletics and five assistants, all with faculty status, for continued control of the athletic program through the Faculty Governing Board and the Athletic Council, and for the maintenance of scholastic standards and existing policies regarding student eligibility in athletics. They also proposed discontinuing the program Wharton had instituted to prepare teachers of physical education on the grounds that it cost too much for the numbers involved and that athletic coaches, which they still intended to train, could just as well be teachers of academic subjects. (Except for those students already enrolled in it, the teacher-training program in physical education was abolished briefly, but apparently there was a genuine need, for it was reestablished in a few years.)39 They also suggested adopting the so-called Freshman Rule, barring freshmen from competing in intercollegiate sports in order to allow them a year to establish themselves as students without whatever distraction these sports might be.
Through the interest of R.R.M. Carpenter, Jr., a former Duke University athlete, a very fortunate choice was made for the new “high-caliber” director of athletics. William D. Murray, the man chosen, was a North Carolinian who had been a football star at Duke and had since then distinguished himself as the spectacularly successful coach of athletics at a large Methodist orphanage at Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Coming to Delaware in 1940, he quickly won the confidence of Delaware alumni by reversing the hitherto rather sad fortunes of the Delaware football team. In Murray’s first year the team, which had won one game and lost seven in 1939, started off by losing three games (two by a touchdown) and then winning five straight. In the next year Delaware won seven games, tied one, and lost none. In Murray’s third year, his team was undefeated and untied–the first such record in Delaware football history.40
While other faculty members might not have been pleased had they known that Murray’s salary of $6,000 was considerably higher than that of most other professors, it could have been argued that they were underpaid rather than that he was overpaid. (As early as 1905 the Harvard football coach was paid $7,000, twice the salary Harvard paid full professors.)41 He did generally please faculty opinion by taking an active part in faculty affairs and by not only recruiting athletes who were successful students but by demanding class attendance and satisfactory performance and hiring student tutors for them whenever needed. By refusing to play freshmen Murray made sure that Delaware athletes were able to cope with college studies successfully, at least for the first year, which was usually the hardest. (Heretofore there had been a temptation for coaches–and friendly alumni–to encourage the recruiting of athletes whose scholastic potential was doubtful, on the grounds that they might be able to bolster an athletic team–especially the football team–for one season, at least, before finding college work too hard.)
To many friends of the university it seemed that the success of the new athletic program had more importance than merely being a source of self-gratification for alumni and students. It helped produce a greater sense of pride and cohesiveness within the Delaware College student body, which had, it seems likely, suffered some loss of both qualities as a result of the discouragement of the Depression (when graduates found it hard to get jobs) and as an effect of the large amount of daily commuting (which made participation in campus affairs difficult and weakened the spirit of collegiality that Dean Robinson achieved, by great effort, at the Women’s College).
President Hullihen had particular reason to be pleased with the new regime in physical education and athletics. Its success, particularly its record in football, relieved him from constant alumni complaints that faculty and administration were unresponsive to the interests of graduates and cared little for the reputation of the institution. It also freed him from the fear of underhanded assistance to athletes and of other alumni activities that were anathema to reputable associations of colleges and universities. R.R.M. Carpenter, Sr., father of the chief sponsor of Delaware’s new look in athletics, took a place on the board of trustees in 1940, and soon became chairman of a standing committee on athletics and physical education that also included Dr. Charles M.A. Stine, director of research for the Du Pont Company, and J. Pearce Cann, ’01, an attorney who had been secretary-treasurer of the board, in succession to Charles B. Evans, since 1933. The involvement of men of this caliber meant that Delaware need cut no corners in its athletic program.42
Until this time the ROTC band, in its drab, government-issued uniforms, had provided music at football games, but in 1941 Rodney Sharp helped develop a marching band for these contests by completely outfitting the musicians, as well as a color guard and drum major, in neat new blue-and-white uniforms at a cost of $2,145. Musicians living in the area, like Walter Viohl of Wilmington, had customarily been hired part-time to lead the band; a son of President Mitchell remembered hearing a band leader call out, as they marched back and forth in practice drill on Frazer held, “All right, boys, now let’s play the other piece!” The development of the marching band received a boost after the Second World War when J. Robert King became the first instrumentalist added to the department of music. Under his direction for twenty-seven years, the band became a half-time feature at games.43
The success of the new athletic regime had another important result for the university. Though affiliated with the state from its beginning, this small institution, tucked away in a northern corner of Delaware, had not easily aroused sympathy and support of its needs through all sections and elements in the state. The new athletic program did arouse widespread interest and pride that helped further the close identification of the people of the state with the university, as was also true in many western and southern states–more so than in the old states of the Northeast. This interested and proud identification could be of great importance to the university in the era of growth that lay ahead.
Though the chairman of the search committee that appointed Hullihen declared he was seeking as a new president someone who would be at home with all manner of men, Hullihen in this respect, and perhaps only in this respect, failed to measure up to what Henry Ridgely expected. He was not altogether at ease with students, or with alumni, or even with legislators. A man of dignity and of ideals, he was also a sensitive and suspicious man, and in reference to the associated alumni, at least, there was some basis for his suspicion: it was alumni action, after all, that had precipitated the replacement of Harter by Mitchell. And an investigation of college conditions by the alumni had helped decide Mitchell to return to Richmond.
“I have the fear,” Hullihen wrote in May 1923, “that there are some persons who are busy trying to give the impression that every undertaking of mine is in conflict with the wishes and judgement of the Alumni” In this same month, when Henry B. Thompson thought of turning the presidency of the board over to Rodney Sharp, Hullihen begged him to stay on. “I have more reason than ever,” he wrote, “to believe that there is a strong effort being made in certain quarters to embarrass and discredit my work here.” Sharp, “always active, always loyal, always to be depended upon,” might be in a better position to be helpful, as he himself said, as a member than as president of the board. Thompson agreed to carry on for a year anyway, but told Hullihen he did not know why the latter felt the alumni opposed him.44
Besides their intermittent complaints about the athletic program, the alumni probably also disturbed Hullihen by their reiterated requests for representation on the board of trustees. In 1922 they asked the board to fill alternate vacancies with nominees of their association, and following a year’s consideration the board accepted the proposal, after modifying it. For each alternate vacancy on the board the Alumni Association should submit three names. In transmitting this information to an alumni official, Hullihen claimed that the board would have given the alumni an absolute right of selection except that they felt it would be illegal under the charter; if the alumni would list three candidates in order of preference he thought the board would choose the first.45
After passing up their first chance to nominate a trustee, which came in 1924, the alumni submitted a list of three nominees when a vacancy occurred in 1926. From the list the trustees chose Harold Horsey, ’17, a banker, by a secret ballot; whether his was the first name on the list is not clear. Again in 1927, the alumni were encouraged to make a set of nominations, from which the board picked Alexander J. Taylor, ’93, who had proved himself a loyal friend of the university through his work on the Delaware School Auxiliary. Again in June 1929 an alumni nominee was elected. This time it was Judge Hugh M. Morris, ’98, who had withdrawn his name from consideration in 1927; he was destined in time to become one of the most influential board presidents in Delaware history.46
The final alumnus chosen to the board under this agreement was Judge Richard S. Rodney, ’94, and this time it seems clear that his name was first on a list of three nominees from the Alumni Association. The same meeting (in June 1932) that saw Rodney elected also witnessed abrogation of the agreement to allow alumni to nominate members to every other vacancy–to elected vacancies, of course, for the board had no control over the governor’s appointments.47 Why the agreement was abrogated is not clear. Harold Horsey, Alex Taylor, Judge Morris, and Judge Rodney–the four alumni nominees chosen to the board–seem in retrospect to be the sort of solid, conservative citizens who would fit easily into the board; certainly it does not seem that the alumni nominated men who would be troublemakers on the board or give Hullihen further reason to fear an alumni conspiracy against him.
The alumni were not happy with the abrogation of their agreement. In the following October an alumni committee recommended that the university charter be changed to permit the election of some trustees–even nonresidents of Delaware–by vote of the Alumni Association. Whether the association adopted the resolution or made any effort to get the charter amended in this fashion is not known. No change was made in the charter and no notice of this recommendation appears in the board minutes.
A year later, after the death of Dr. L. Heisler Ball, ’82, a longtime trustee, the alumni asked to be allowed to nominate his replacement. In response the board set up a committee of three that was instructed to “entertain nominations made by the Alumni.” Probably it did, but when it reported to the board in June 1934 it recommended the election of J. Pilling Wright, a Newark businessman who was not an alumnus (though his brother Norris was) but had been a generous donor of fellowships in the Foreign Study Plan. The chairman of the committee making the recommendation was Hugh Morris, who had himself been nominated by alumni to his seat on the board, and another of the committee members was Henry Ridgely, father-in-law of Harold Horsey, the first alumni nominee.48
While it seems possible that there was some distrust of alumni leadership in the early 1930s, it is also possible that alumni members of the board were satisfied with the influence they could wield. When Henry B. Thompson died in 1935, an alumnus, former Congressman William H. Heald, ’83, was elected president of the board, the first graduate of the college ever to occupy this position. And when the elderly Heald died in June 1939, another alumnus, Judge Morris, ’98, was elected to succeed him. Once again in the new regime, in December 1941, alumni requested that they be allowed a nominated representative on the board, but they were refused. Already, the board pointed out, ten of the twenty elected trustees were alumni and three of the eight trustees appointed by the governor.49
The alumnae had a harder struggle to get representatives on the board of trustees. They were, of course, a younger group than the alumni. Since the first Women’s College class was graduated in 1918, this, the oldest group of alumnae were only about 34 years old in 1934 when the Alumnae Association asked the board for permission to nominate a woman for election as a trustee. Perhaps this request had something to do with the board’s action at this time in abrogating the rule under which the alumni nominated candidates to alternate vacancies.50
The interest of alumnae in representation on the board of trustees was quickened in 1935, when at their annual reunion they heard the president of the Vassar College board, who was a Vassar graduate, urge the advantages of such representation. The trustees quickly approved the idea that alumnae be considered eligible for election to the board, but they were slow in taking any further action. A year later, after Henry B. Thompson’s death, Anne Gallaher, ’18, president of the Alumnae Association, circularized the members of the board on the possibility of appointing a woman to the empty seat. Two of the most influential members of the board, William Heald, its president, and Judge Morris, who was to be his successor, were noncommittal, perhaps as befitted their status as lawyers. On the other hand, two other lawyers, J. Pearce Cann, the secretary-treasurer, and Henry Ridgely, were sympathetic, Cann responding that the request was reasonable and proper and Ridgely that appointment of an alumna would be fitting. Emalea Warner wrote Anne Gallaher, “I will do all I can.” But for the moment, the trustees turned the alumnae down; perhaps they already had their next appointee, Robert H. Richards, in mind. However, when the next vacancy occurred, in 1937, they did elect a woman to it who was, technically, a graduate of the Women’s College.51
In making their selection they passed over Madalin Wintrup James, ’25, of Wilmington, the nominee of the Alumnae Association, in favor of Rachel W. Taylor, of Dover, possibly in order to add a Kent Countian to the board. Rachel Taylor had been the highly respected head of the art department at the Women’s College before she went to Dover in 1929 as state director of art in the public schools. Her college work had been taken in the art program of the Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, which then gave a diploma but not a degree. However, she had taken some courses at the Women’s College that permitted her to receive a B.S. degree in 1927; she took a master’s degree at Columbia a year later.52 Technically she was an alumna, but she had never been part of the undergraduate student body of the Women’s College.
Rachel Taylor resigned from the board after two years because she had accepted a position in the teachers’ college at Oneonta, New York, and was too far away to attend meetings conveniently. After a short interval the trustees elected Mrs. James to another vacant seat. They added another woman to their number in 1940, when they elected Mabel Ridgely, of Dover, to succeed her late husband, Henry Ridgely. When Emalea Warner, a gubernatorial appointee, decided to retire from the board in 1942 because of her age (she was almost ninety), the alumnae suggested Marian Tallman Warner, her daughter-in-law, or Lillian Loose Paschall, ’26, as her successor. Governor Walter Bacon cooperated to the extent of appointing a woman who was a graduate, but he made an independent choice, Naomi Pepper Townsend, ’26, of Dagsboro. He was probably motivated, at least in part, by a desire to have Sussex County represented by a woman, as New Castle and Kent already were, by Mrs. James and Mrs. Ridgely.53
Relations between the Alumni Association and the university administration were greatly eased after 1938, when Rodney Sharp agreed to finance an Alumni Office on campus for several years. The appointment of John N. McDowell, ’31, as executive secretary of the Alumni Association, meant that the alumni now had a permanent representative in Newark with time to devote to the organization of alumni activities, including annual meetings, class reunions, and local chapter meetings. By taking over responsibility for the University News, McDowell’s office became the chief medium for disseminating accurate and timely information about campus events and policies. Much of the abrasiveness that had occasionally characterized relations between the alumni and the administration quickly disappeared, and in 1941 McDowell was given the further responsibility, at some additional compensation, of acting as director of public relations for the university.54
The university subvention was particularly timely because Rodney Sharp felt that the $12,000 he gave the Alumni Office over a period of three years was all the aid that should be expected of him; “from now on,” he wrote, “the Alumni Executive Secretary’s office will have to meet its own expenses.” Actually he contributed another $2,700 in 1941, perhaps to make up a deficit, but from then on the Alumni Office was supported by an annual fund campaign. Money from the fund campaign was paid into the business office of the university, as the gifts from Sharp had been, but kept in a separate account solely for the use of the Alumni Association. In 1945, when Professor Sypherd, a former president of the Alumni Association, was acting president of the university, a further, final step was taken and the Alumni Office was merged into the university. Thereafter the university was directly responsible for Alumni Office expenses, and the annual alumni fund campaign was conducted not for the limited needs of the Alumni Association but for the greater needs of the university.55
The Alumnae Association received much less outside help than the Alumni Association. Formed on June 10, 1918, by the first graduating class, the association acquired a devoted, self-sacrificing executive secretary in 1928 in the person of Edith McDougle, ’18, an instructor in mathematics who received only the paltry sum of $50 a year for her extracurricular work. (Incidentally, the surviving women graduates from the coeducational period prior to 1886 considered themselves members of the Alumni Association, not the Alumnae Association, since their connection was with Delaware College, not with the Women’s College.) The alumnae established scholarships and made frequent additional contributions to their college. Dean Robinson would have liked to call on them for aid in publishing brochures or otherwise securing publicity for the Women’s College but an administrative edict forbade any separate ventures of this sort by her college except for a pictorial booklet prepared in 1931 under the direction of Harriet Baily of the art department and Eleanor Lincoln of the English department, and a motion picture that was made in 1935.56
When the Alumni Office took over responsibility for publishing four issues of the University News each year, the Alumnae Association produced two additional issues. After 1936 the alumnae, like the alumni, raised funds by an annual campaign instead of through fixed dues. Not having a Rodney Sharp among their number to call upon, the alumnae appealed to the board of trustees for support of an office on campus. Though the board did not respond, Dr. Charles M. A. Stine, chairman of the advisory committee on the Women’s College from 1940 to 1944, gave some financial assistance. In the main, however, the work of the Alumnae Association was done by its elected officers and by Edith McDougle, who edited the semiannual alumnae issues of the University News–and wrote a large portion of them. Miss McDougle, unhappily, never was reconciled to the absorption of her alumnae duties, and gradually of the Alumnae Association itself, into the subsidized work of the Alumni Office after 1945.57
Long before that time, changes began to appear in the relations of the Women’s College with the university as a whole. The first step might have been a decision of the board of trustees, taken on June 5, 1937, to permit coeducation for graduate students and for those students working for a special degree–a definition that does not now seem altogether clear. Limited graduate work was being done in summer school–by teachers seeking the master’s degree–and here classes had always been coeducational. Coeducation was also the rule in academic extension (night school) classes, though how long this had been true is not known. On campus, however, even this degree of coeducation seemed an entering wedge to disrupt the coordinate Delaware system–and so it probably was.
Possibly it was a last-ditch effort to secure for the Women’s College a position of influence from which to block any further infiltration of coeducation that led Chancellor Charles M. Curtis, who from 1929 to 1938 was chairman of the trustees’ advisory committee on the Women’s College, to propose at this same board meeting, with Emalea Warner seconding his motion, that Dean Robinson be invited to attend all future meetings of the trustees. The argument used to support this proposal was that Dean Robinson’s position differed from that of other deans (who were not to be similarly treated) because of her greater administrative responsibility. The motion was defeated, and its defeat was clearly a setback to the independence of the Women’s College, rather than to Dean Robinson personally, since she was to retire in one more year. He opposed the resolution, Judge Morris explained to Mrs. Warner, because he felt the Women’s College and Delaware College were of equal rank and neither Dean Robinson nor Dean Dutton should be given priority; he saw the university as “an integrated whole and its chief executive…as much president of the Women’s College as of Delaware College.”58
Chancellor Curtis and Mrs. Warner were both elderly in 1937, as was Dean Robinson, who had just a year remaining before her retirement. They were veterans of the time when coeducation was an unpopular idea in Delaware, and, indeed, in much of the East, where the affiliated women’s college was preferred, especially in elite educational circles, to the more populist coeducational college of the Midwest. Dean Robinson would have preferred to emphasize the distinctiveness of her college rather than its integration into the university.
But she was nearing seventy and it was time for her to retire, as she did with grace June 30, 1938, on a pension of $2,000 a year, made possible by Pierre du Pont’s gift. For the rest of her life she spent her winters in Winter Park, Florida, and her summers in Newfane, Vermont, stopping in Delaware briefly twice a year on her seasonal journeys. As her successor, the second dean of the Women’s College, the trustees had chosen Marjory Steuart Golder.59
Mrs. Golder was a native of the city of Washington who did her undergraduate work at Northwestern, took an M.A. at Columbia, and was well on the way to a Ph.D. in English literature at Radcliffe when marriage to another young scholar interrupted her career. Her husband, Harold Golder, became chairman of the English department at the American University, Washington, before his early death led her to resume her career, but in administration rather than in scholarship. She served at American University as registrar, assistant to the dean, and secretary to the faculty before she was invited to Delaware in 1938.60
Mrs. Golder’s coming to Delaware meant an easing of old restrictions, especially on the women faculty. Under Dean Robinson, for example, women faculty were forbidden to smoke in the state of Delaware; after dinner some of them would sometimes take off in a car for Maryland and light cigarettes when they crossed (or thought they might have crossed) the state line. Under Dean Golder smoking restrictions were still severe, but not as severe as they had been. On the whole Dean Golder adhered to the Robinsonian rules and sought to uphold the Robinsonian standards at Delaware. Those rules and standards that had been accepted in part because no others had ever been known at the Women’s College and in part because of the great respect generally felt for Dean Robinson were now more likely to be questioned. The dean was, after all, a newcomer; it was not always appreciated that she had eased some restrictions.
For a year Dean Golder lived in the dean’s apartment in Warner Hall, leaving her two children, who were still young, in Washington with her mother. In 1939, with a gift from Amy du Pont, the university bought a house as her residence at the corner of South College Avenue and Park Place.61 Eventually this replaced the old Mitchell residence as the Home Management house, and it is now called the Amy Rextrew House.
The board of trustees had given their committee on instruction and the advisory committee on the Women’s College full power to choose Dean Robinson’s successor, and at a full board meeting on June 4, 1938, they agreed on an introductory term of three years for Mrs. Golder at a salary of $4,000. At the same time they adopted a statement of policy on the Women’s College, affirming their “conviction that the Women’s College…must continue as a separate college for women, the status under which it was organized,” particularly noting that under this arrangement women received more opportunities to develop qualities of leadership than in coeducational situations. However, they also accepted significant changes in practices at Delaware. They affirmed that the common use of such facilities as the library, auditorium, and laboratories promoted a more wholesome relationship than existed in wholly separate women’s colleges. Dean Robinson would not have agreed. She had accepted joint use of the library and of the auditorium on a pragmatic basis, but she had successfully resisted joint use of laboratories as an entering wedge toward coeducation. Now, however, the statement on laboratories was an insignificant matter compared to one giant step that the trustees took toward coeducation. Hereafter, they agreed, freshman and sophomore classes should remain separate, but upper classes might be taught jointly to men and women when not above a desirable teaching size. And even on the freshman-sophomore level the burgeoning music department under Professor Loudis was permitted to organize a coeducational chorus and orchestra.62
The giant steps toward coeducation taken in 1938, made easier by the retirement of Dean Robinson, were in large measure an outgrowth of a survey of the university, already referred to, conducted by a team of outside investigators in 1937. The survey was a response to criticism of university procedures that originated in some elements of the faculty and student body, spreading from there to the alumni. In part the criticism was precipitated by the Depression and difficulties it created on campus; in part it was a periodic upsurge of complaints that had been developing since the last instance of such dissatisfaction, toward the end of the Mitchell administration.
The complaints seem to have been centered at Delaware College. Despite very restrictive rules the collegial spirit fostered by Dean Robinson preserved peace and good order on the campus of the Women’s College, if not absolute contentment. For that matter, the peace and good order of Delaware College were not disturbed, either. But adoption of new, strict rules on tenure and promotion, plus budget cuts that diminished opportunities for promotion, left some faculty members dissatisfied. A few men who were being dropped under the new tenure rules or refused promotion in rank or advancement toward extended tenure began complaining and finding fault within and without the institution, to other faculty and to students. Personnel actions did not originate with President Hullihen. He accepted the recommendations of department chairmen and deans, but when faculty members became dissatisfied their complaints tended to focus on him.
Another problem at Delaware College was the inadequacy of the faculty advisory system. Each freshman was assigned an adviser, but in the largest college, at least, that of arts and science, he might well be someone the student never had in class and a conference with this adviser could well be largely perfunctory. After a few years students usually found some faculty member on whom they could rely, but since most men were commuters there was nothing like the close relationship between faculty and students that existed at the Women’s College. In fact, if a student showed special interest in talking to a professor other students might call him a “mid-flopper,” an opprobrious term of uncertain origin that suggested a student was attempting to flatter the professor into giving him a good grade, or “polishing the apple,” as another phrase went. Frequent use of these terms suggest an attitude that discouraged any close relationship between students and faculty.
Rumor-mongers and dissatisfied faculty led students to think that the university cared little about good teaching and placed too much emphasis on research. President Hullihen and many department chairmen were indeed trying to encourage faculty scholarship. Men were dropped from the faculty because of failure to progress on a doctorate or give other evidence of scholarship; many others, however, were kept and even promoted mainly on the basis of their teaching and other service to the university. But the 1930s were bad times and men who were let go had a difficult time getting other positions; they were likely to find sympathy if they complained to students.
Despite the fact that a majority of Delaware College students were commuters, there was still a high degree of collegial feeling on the part of the students, both for the institution and for each other. Among commuting students, many felt particularly grateful to the university for the opportunity to continue their education in hard times. One such commuter, Daniel A. Brown, who supported himself by a job at the Du Pont Experimental Station while completing work on two degrees at Delaware, a B.A. in 1935 and an M.A. in 1937, expressed his appreciation by a bequest of $150,000 to his alma mater. Freshman rules, as mentioned previously, helped members of an entering class to know each other, whether campus residents or commuters. So did the small classes; students in specialized curricula like civil engineering would soon become acquainted. Freshmen were required to speak to everyone they passed, and this requirement became a friendly custom that characterized the campus. Dramatics and athletics produced close relationships among participants.
In March and April of 1935 a committee of students appointed by the student council conducted an inquiry into, as the chairman said, “administrative, academic and social conditions” in Delaware College. To some extent the inquiry was motivated by complaints of the inefficiency of the advisory system and by the lack of good student-faculty relations. Some of the students were moved by tales they heard from dissident faculty members. A fairly high rate of failures and conditions in such courses as freshman English Composition intermittently produced grumbling and rumors that sometimes exaggerated the facts. When such complaints had been relayed to the university by an official of the State Department of Public Instruction, Professor Sypherd had silenced them and won agreement on the inadequate preparation of many students by submitting a selection of student papers for inspection.63
The surprising result of the student survey was the degree of dissatisfaction it uncovered among the male undergraduates. Of 260 students answering a questionnaire, 248 agreed that the advisory system was inefficient; 204 believed tales they heard to the effect that intrauniversity politics led to dismissal of many of the best teachers. President Hullihen felt that student dissatisfaction could be explained in part by a general spirit of rebelliousness fomented by the economic depression; he also thought the students circulating the questionnaire pressed their own opinions and got the answers they sought. When the student committee requested opportunity to bring their report to the board of trustees they were given a courteous hearing by its executive committee at the home of the president, Henry B. Thompson.
The four main student complaints were regarding (1) poor and inadequate methods of teaching, (2) a lack of facilities to understand the student, (3) a faulty philosophy as to the function of a state university, and (4) a lack of opportunity for social development. (It is unlikely, incidentally, that any of these complaints would have arisen at the Women’s College, such was the effect of Dean Robinson’s guidance there.) Insofar as these complaints arose from a “commuter problem” Hullihen had little sympathy. Students came to Delaware to get an education, not to be given one, in his opinion, and he considered suggestions for amelioration of some of the disadvantages of commuters “far-fetched and absurd.” But he thought the students’ summary of their report should be released to the press because there was nothing harmful in it. Indeed, though the students had heard some wild tales of intrigue on the campus, they had prepared a report that was moderate in its criticism.64
The immediate consequence of the student survey report was that it stirred up an investigation by the Alumni Association, which appointed a committee in June 1935 to consider the problems raised. This committee interviewed some students, alumni, and other friends of the university and presented a report to the board of trustees in February 1936. Some parts of their report were distinctly ad hominem, calling for the replacement of a dean and a professor. (Hullihen said that the politically influential father of a student had sworn to get certain men dismissed, Hullihen among them, unless his son was allowed to graduate with his class–but the son was forced to spend an extra year in college despite the threat.) Other parts of the report were less personal, calling for an effective personnel service, closer relations with the industries of the state and with the state school system, a reconsideration of admissions requirements permitting some discretionary judgment, an immediate improvement in instruction and in scholastic standing, and a comprehensive survey of the university by a group of outside educators. An interesting detail in this proposal for an improvement in instruction was the suggestion that special strength be established in one or two major departments that would then “draw attention to the University, attract students from outside its natural territory, and provide possible outlets for desirable business and professional connections for…graduates.” In particular the report noted that an opportunity existed in the field of chemical engineering, which, the report predicted, “will represent, in the next generation, the most important place in the engineering field.” But most important of the alumni recommendations was the one to which they gave first place–that a comprehensive survey of the university’s administration, scholastic standing, standards, and so forth, be made by a small committee of outstanding educators.65
In the wake of the student report and in anticipation of the alumni report the trustees and the administration had not been idle. In June 1935 the trustees set up an ad hoc committee of five to consider the complaints and attitudes found in the student survey, and at the same time they approved a budget allocation for a newsletter to be sent to alumni. Responsibility for this publication, which appeared as the University News, was assigned to a Student Records Bureau, established in the fall of 1935 under the direction of Charles W. Bush, ’03, Delaware’s first Rhodes Scholar and longtime headmaster of the Wilmington Friends School. A Business Guidance Bureau, really an employment office, was ordered established on January 1, 1936, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Donald M. Ashbridge, recently retired after commanding the ROTC unit at the university and willing to work for very little salary. The two new offices were partly financed by new federal funds accruing to the university through the Bankhead-Jones Act. The alumni committee then investigating the university criticized these steps as weak and tentative, but they were beginnings. Colonel Ashbridge was assiduous in seeking jobs for Delaware graduates. Responsibility for the University News was soon shifted to the alumni and alumnae secretaries (as already related), but the collection of personnel records became helpful in succeeding years.
The faculty established a new advisory system for freshmen at Delaware College in the fall of 1935 that was a very great improvement on the previous system. Advisers were picked from a man’s major field, if he had chosen one, and when possible were faculty members the students had in class. Freshmen were asked to see their advisers every two weeks and to meet in assembly on alternate Tuesdays. The advisers, supplied with personnel data by the new office, were often able to follow a student’s career through college and establish a friendly, lasting relationship. The faculty also established a student relations committee, intended to blunt the sort of criticism revealed by the student survey. Two members of this committee (Edward Bardo and Leo Blumberg) were chosen by the student council; three members were picked by the faculty, one from each of the three schools of Delaware College.66
The administration, assisted by the Delaware Citizens Association (a successor to the Service Citizens), established some extension courses specifically for the teachers of the public schools, thus answering one criticism raised by those who felt that there was a lack of proper liaison with the school system. But the most important step taken by the trustees in reaction to criticism by the alumni was the decision, urged vigorously by President Hullihen, to secure a comprehensive survey by a team of outside authorities. A gift of about $24,000 from the estate of Melville Gambrill, a Wilmington manufacturer, financed the survey.67
In conformity with the desire of the alumni that the survey not be farmed out to some agency with a permanent staff for this sort of evaluation but be assigned to a hand-picked team of expert educators, the trustees assembled a small group of investigators who looked, on the face of it, like a splendid team–the chief of the U.S. Division of Higher Education in the Office of Education, Frederick J. Kelly, who was a former dean and university president; a current university president, Clement C. Williams (of Lehigh); and an agricultural college dean and experiment station director, Jacob G. Lipman (of Rutgers). But there were certain peculiarities in the composition of the commission that seem not to have been remarked upon.
First, though almost thirty-eight percent of the Delaware undergraduates were women, there were no women on the survey commission. This can be explained by the prevailing blindness on the part of the Delaware trustees to the value of sharing their responsibilities with women; after a new appointment in 1937, there were still only two women on the thirty-two-member board of trustees, and even the chairman of the board’s advisory committee on the Women’s College was a man. A more defensible reason for choosing only men to the survey commission was that it was set up in response to complaints about conditions at Delaware College, not at the Women’s College, though its investigation included both colleges.
Another peculiarity in the formation of this commission was the absence of anyone from an arts and science background, though this was the field of over fifty-five percent of the University of Delaware undergraduates (and of a clear majority even of the men, taken alone). The background of Frederick Kelly, the government official, was in a college of education, that of Lehigh University. President Williams’s background was in civil engineering, and, of course, Dean Lipman’s was in agriculture. It is not strange that the commission devoted an inordinate portion of its report to the schools of engineering and agriculture–seventeen and nine pages respectively–and only six pages to arts and science (but also only four pages to education). Another peculiarity of the investigation is that besides the two student councils the only other students interviewed were the members of two fraternities (Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Nu), chosen by Dean Dutton. There was apparently no attempt to interview commuters or nonfraternity men, though the latter, a majority of the total student body, were represented by only three members of the men’s student council.
Nevertheless, though sometimes the commissioners saw through a glass, dimly, they made many shrewd observations in their report, which was printed in 1938.68 They noted that the University of Delaware, though an old institution, was only recently developing into a state university; they excused some of its failings in service to the state on the grounds of its origin in another tradition. They praised the mixture of public and private control in its board, which gave private donors some assurance that gifts to the university would not be at the mercy of politicians. They noted that though the state was commendably increasing its appropriations to the university, nevertheless these appropriations were the smallest, proportionately, given by any state to a state university, and that Delaware had the smallest percentage of its youth attending college. Strangely, the survey reported, the people of Delaware seemed to have a contrary opinion about the degree of support they gave to higher education.
The commissioners declared that provision of adult education and encouragement of lifelong learning was a function of a state university. So was the provision of graduate courses culminating in a master’s degree, though they saw no point in any attempt to develop doctoral programs, for which they believed the university’s resources were inadequate; yet they agreed that if “through benefactions or otherwise the salary and departmental budgets should be increased by a third, a review of the recommendations…would be warranted.” And they spurned the suggestion of alumni that special efforts should be made to develop a few very strong departments.
A reorganization of undergraduate work into a junior college for freshmen and sophomores and a senior college for upperclass students was one of the more radical recommendations. Admission to the junior college should be easy, but to the senior college it should be more difficult. Perhaps it betrayed the commissioners’ own backgrounds that they did not approve of a foreign language requirement for entrance or for graduation. They favored abandoning segregation by sex in the senior college when classes were small. And they proposed reorganizing the university into six colleges–arts and sciences (for men), arts and sciences (for women), agriculture, engineering, education, and home economics–each with a dean reporting directly to the president–a recommendation that would seriously have diminished the role of the dean of the Women’s College.
As far as the commissioners could discover, teaching and grading standards were satisfactory, and the faculty generally was well-prepared, with a good mix of young instructors and experienced veterans. They found that the faculty showed an interest in student activities, but that the advising system at Delaware College was very poor; appointment of a young personnel officer could help the relations with students, who now had little chance to share in the planning of the social calendar and ought to be offered improved social and recreational facilities. Their answer to the woes of commuters was weak: the university should provide more housing and thereby reduce the number of commuters–as though commuters could afford to live on campus! But in view of the proximity of Wilmington, they saw that the university was bound to suffer some of the problems of an urban institution.
They found no serious disciplinary problems and thought that the general tone of student life was wholesome and that the students were of equal ability with those of other state universities. Though the student survey had suggested that the university was losing ground and that faculty were overly interested in research, these commissioners found the reverse to be true. The university’s reputation was improving, although except in agriculture too little research was being done.
The faculty seemed content; no serious threats to academic freedom existed, and the administration was perceived as willing to stand firmly against any threats that might arise. Salaries, though improving (actually they were only restored in 1937 to pre-1933 levels), were still low, below the median for land-grant colleges in 1930-31. The lack of any provisions for pensions for the staff in agricultural extension and the experiment station was disturbing. On the other hand, student fees and expenses for room and board were extremely low in comparison with other colleges of the area.
As to subject deficiencies, the commissioners noted that men were offered very little opportunity in the fine arts, including music. More business courses were called for, as well as improved facilities for the teaching of physics. The School of Agriculture needed to double the size of its experimental farm and introduce more work in dairy and poultry husbandry, as well as in landscape gardening and ornamental horticulture. The School of Engineering needed to encourage research, add a geologist, introduce work in electronics, and either improve or abolish the program in chemical engineering. However, it was noted that a greater percentage of students studied engineering at Delaware than at most other state universities, and their training seemed satisfactory, as did their placement in good positions.
The major recommendation regarding the teacher-training program was that it be concentrated in a School of Education with a dean reporting to the president. A practice school was suggested, as were closer ties to the public schools. The elementary education program seemed to the investigators to be too narrowly vocational and needing more general cultural content. In home economics the university was declared understaffed and the faculty underpaid. Establishment of a nursery school was recommended.
The investigators paid little attention to the summer school but thought it gave too much credit for only six weeks of work. They gave the library major emphasis, however, noting many defects in its operation. It was understaffed, they said, and its personnel undertrained–only the head librarian and his wife, who was head cataloguer, had attended library school. The book budget was not only inadequate, it was strangely decentralized since departments were assigned money they could use for books or supplies, as they chose. More stacks were needed, and because of dampness and flooding those underground had to be moved. More cooperation was needed with faculty research programs, some provision should be made for the printing of monographs, and service should be offered to state agencies, alumni, businesses, and so forth. A “Friends of the Library” organization was suggested as a means of arousing popular interest and support. Most important, the library needed to be treated as a major department of the university–as it did not seem to be, though its importance as a resource was given oral support.
The commissioners praised President Hullihen for “energetic, wholesome and discerning leadership” and concluded that the university was making genuine progress and deserved confidence, loyalty, and the best endeavors of the people of Delaware.
On the whole, President Hullihen had to be very well pleased with the report of the special commission. It gave him and his administration a vote of confidence, and while it pointed to numerous deficiencies, they were, in general, ones that were already recognized on campus; the report strengthened Hullihen’s hand in searching for the means, mainly financial, to combat these deficiencies.
Many of them, like the need for an addition to the library, had been recognized for years, but the university had been unable to undertake any costly corrective measures because of the Depression, which dried up the sources of both public and private giving. For corrections that were not costly, like improvement of the inadequate advisory system at Delaware College and the mixing of men and women in small advanced courses, measures had been taken before the commission’s report was printed in 1938.
The Depression of the 1930s had put a decided crimp in Walter Hullihen’s plans. The enrollment had been affected, but not seriously, because fees were so small that attendance at college, particularly at the state college, seemed the only alternative open to high school graduates who could not find a job and could not afford to go away to school. (The normal cost to a commuting student at Delaware College was $103.50 a year, plus a contingent deposit and special shop and laboratory fees, as well as minor charges connected with physical education and military training. Out-of-state students paid an additional $150 for tuition; both they and resident students were charged less than $300 for board and room. Fees at the Women’s College were similar. Books were estimated to cost not over $40.) The on-campus enrollment climbed to 792 in 1932-33, then declined as the Depression took its toll, only to rise to 829 in 1936-37, when economic conditions improved temporarily. The enrollment rose again, to 931, in 1938-39 and to 939 in 1939-40, possibly due to an economy stimulated by a European war that the United States had not yet entered. Summer school enrollments had reached a high of 456 in 1933 and then declined until 1938, when 469 students were enrolled, a number not to be surpassed until after the war.
By 1934 even at the Women’s College a majority of students were commuting. Since fewer students than before could afford unnecessary expenditures, some of the fraternities were very hard pressed to keep open: Sigma Tau Phi was forced into temporary quarters and Phi Kappa Tau closed altogether. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration helped students stay in college by providing work. Professor Howard K. Preston, of the School of Engineering, who proved to be a very valuable man for all sorts of projects in addition to his capable teaching of courses in mechanics, was placed in charge of the FERA work and reported a total expenditure of over $6,000 in wages to students in 1934-35. In the next year the National Youth Administration provided similar aid, again supervised by Preston and amounting to almost $11,000 in 1935-36.69
At the beginning of the Depression Hullihen thought that one way the university could be of service to its graduates would be by providing them assistance to stay in school for one additional year, not necessarily to take a master’s degree but to continue learning at a time when it was hard to get a job. However, he was not able to find money to support many students in such a program, and the number taking postgraduate work at Delaware in 1932-33 was only fifteen.70
It was hoped that celebration in 1933-34 of the centenary of the chartering and opening of Newark College would add to the reputation of the university and attract needed gifts. The project was more successful in attaining the first goal than the second. Anticipating the celebration, the university appealed to the General Assembly in 1931 for some modest financial help, but was turned down. Normally they might have hoped for assistance in 1933, but the worsening state of the economy meant that the legislature was cutting budgets, not adding to them.71
For financial reasons the main celebration was put off to May 11- 13, 1934, approximately the hundredth anniversary of the college’s opening. For three days the university put on a grand affair. A distinguished group of scholars and educators read formal papers in Mitchell Hall, and here too a large cast of faculty, students, and townspeople performed in an historical pageant in blank verse written by Frank Stephens, of Arden. Besides acting in the pageant, faculty participated in the celebration in many ways. Robert Kase and his wife directed the pageant, George Ryden gathered historical data for it, Dr. Sypherd was general chairman of the whole affair. Alumni returning for a reunion were invited to visit laboratories and classes, in a program arranged by Carl Rees. At a series of luncheons and dinners over 1,500 people were served. As a souvenir of the event Christopher Ward, of Wilmington, wrote a brief history of the university, and the current issue of Delaware Notes (the eighth series) featured essays on college history, along with the reminiscences of George Morgan, ’75, and George A. Harter. All aspects of the celebration were a success (including, for some students watching the pageant, the collapse of a chair under an unpopular professor), except the gifts that were received, and these were disappointing.
Still they were valued at $11,700, which was a little more than the centenary celebration cost. Among the more notable gifts, J. Brook Jackson, ’09, gave a scholarship, to be renewed annually, for a student from Kent or Sussex County; May Sharp, Rodney Sharp’s sister, gave $700 for entrance gates at the Women’s College; Nathan Miller agreed to furnish the living room in one of the women’s dormitories.72 (These were special gifts for the occasion; the annual gifts being made by Rodney Sharp, who was supporting the College Hour programs and organ concerts, as well as the wall gradually being extended around the campus–these and regular gifts others were making to such programs as the Junior Year Abroad were not included in this total.)
An emergency fund collected a year later, in 1935, saved the day. Almost all of the cost of the centenary was taken from the largest gift to this fund, Pierre du Pont’s contribution of $10,000. Henry F. du Pont gave $6,000, A. Felix du Font $3,000, and other donors contributed to a total of over $50,000.73
Additions to the student loan fund helped the university keep worthy but needy men and women in school. The Bankhead-Jones Act of 1936 brought an additional $16,000 a year of federal funds to the university, which helped it offer courses, without credit, in stenography and shorthand, to improve the employment prospects of students. The same funds also helped with courses in advanced accounting and statistics.74
Hullihen’s favorite program, the Junior Year Abroad, suffered several blows in the Depression, but survived economic hard times only to be stopped by war. The number of students fell–from ninety-two in 1931-32 to thirty-four in 1934-35–and for two years, 1933-35, not one student in the group came from the Delaware campus. With the initiative coming from abroad, a second foreign study program was begun in Munich in 1932, supported, in part, by gifts from H. Fletcher Brown, Henry F. du Pont, and J. Pilling Wright. The planning for this program took place in the Germany of the Weimar Republic, but the rise of Hitler and a blood-purge in Munich caused its discontinuance in 1934. Later Hullihen welcomed overtures from Switzerland with enthusiasm and in 1938 a small group of fourteen students was sent there (along with fifty-two to Paris). In August 1939 a group of forty-two students from twenty-seven colleges reached France only to be sent home as quickly as possible from the evacuation port of Bordeaux because of the outbreak of war.75
Difficulties of the Depression years at the University of Delaware were ameliorated not only with the help of old friends like the du Ponts and Rodney Sharp, but with the assistance of a newly discovered and warm friend to the cause of education, H. Fletcher Brown.
Unlike the other major benefactors of the University of Delaware, Harry Fletcher Brown was not a local man by origin. Born in Natick, Massachusetts, in 1867, Brown took a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at Harvard, where he had begun work on a doctorate in chemistry before he left there suddenly in 1892 to accept appointment as an explosives chemist in the Navy Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. After brilliant success in developing a new powder, he left Newport in 1900 for employment with a private company in Parlin, New Jersey. Here he soon became general superintendent of the powder works, and it was as an administrator that he made his mark with the Du Pont Company, which bought out his previous employer in 1903 and brought Brown to their Wilmington headquarters in 1904. In ten years he had become one of the leading figures in the Du Pont Company as a member of the executive committee, a member of the board of directors, and a vice president.
The next fifteen years were very prosperous ones for the Du Pont Company, as they were for Fletcher Brown and its other officials. At the end of this period he began to relinquish his industrial responsibilities, only to take up new ones in fields, particularly public education, that interested him. For a time he was president of the Delaware Citizens Association, successor to the Service Citizens. From 1930 to 1935 Brown was a member and in 1933 and 1934 president of the State Board of Education. For these and other groups, such as the Delaware Hospital, the YMCA, and the Historical Society of Delaware, Brown was a useful friend and benefactor.76 But his major philanthropy became the University of Delaware, to whose board he was elected in 1929, at the same time as another man who proved to be a generous and influential trustee, Hugh M. Morris.77
Fletcher Brown’s first large gift to the university was a chemical laboratory. As early as 1931 he heard President Hullihen complain of inadequate facilities for chemistry in Wolf Hall, where four professors, three student assistants, and a total enrollment of over 300 men were crowded into quarters designed for two instructors and eighty or ninety students. Brown’s interest was aroused immediately but he wanted to wait until business conditions improved, though Klauder was told to prepare some plans. Four years later, in October 1935, Brown offered $300,000 to build and equip a laboratory on condition that his name not be publicly announced as the donor during his lifetime.78 Hullihen was delighted. “It was a lucky day for me and the University,” he told Brown, “when I first met you and conceived the idea that you might become interested in the University and even accept election to the Board, should a vacancy occur.” In just two years from the date of Brown’s offer the laboratory was completed and dedicated with an impressive ceremony featuring a conference on chemistry and chemical engineering arranged by Dr. Charles M. A. Stine, a trustee, and including The Svedberg, a Nobel laureate from Sweden, and Warren K. Lewis, a native of Delaware who was the distinguished professor of chemical engineering at MIT and regarded by many as the father of the profession.79
On this occasion Hullihen told how his original requests to the chemists that their plans for the new building be “as modest…as efficiency would permit” were transformed by the donor into directions that the building “be planned and equipped to give instruction in accordance with the severest demands of modern scientific knowledge.” Nor was the best equipment enough. Hullihen sought advice from the Du Pont Company and elsewhere on finding a chairman for chemical engineering, so he could separate this department from chemistry and allow it to develop on its own. He was handi- capped by having little money to offer, but again Brown came to the rescue, providing a subvention of $3,500 toward a salary of $5,000 that was offered to a brilliant young Du Pont Company engineer named Allan P. Colburn in the spring of 1938.80
Allan Colburn was not yet thirty-four years old when he was appointed associate professor of chemical engineering (at a salary higher than that of most full professors) in April 1938. A graduate of Marquette and the University of Wisconsin, he had been hired by the Du Pont Company directly out of graduate school and had very quickly begun to gain an international reputation. Unfortunately he was afflicted by lung disease that required an operation and a long convalescence; altogether he spent two years at Saranac Lake, New York. After his release it was thought it might be better for his health for him to work on a college campus rather than back at the Du Pont Experimental Station. Besides, the Du Pont Company wanted to see the chemical engineering program at the university improved; in coming to Delaware Colburn was assured the continued cooperation of his old company, and his reputation and connections soon won him cooperation from several other industries.
At Delaware Colburn was sensationally successful. Even before he arrived on campus the prestige of the new laboratory had bolstered the enrollment in chemical engineering so as to make it the most popular engineering curriculum. Under Colburn that popularity was retained, but the department also began to attract graduate students and grants to support their research. To Hullihen, long an advocate of a graduate program, as well as to Brown, this new development was very encouraging.
As the chemical laboratory neared completion a competition arose on campus concerning the next building to be built. A trustees’ committee to determine this matter heard advocates of three different buildings. President Hullihen argued that an enlargement of the Memorial Library should have priority. Dean Robinson and a committee of the women faculty urged construction of an office-classroom building at the Women’s College, where almost all classes, including science laboratories, were crowded into Robinson Hall. As already related, the General Assembly had approved funds for such a building, but a very tight Depression budget had led the governor to interpose his veto.
A third building was urged by representatives of twenty-six men who taught at both colleges and favored a new office-classroom building serving both colleges from a site next to the library and facing the chemical laboratory. It was difficult, they argued, to teach classes in the liberal arts in buildings (mainly Recitation Hall and Robinson Hall) that were three-quarters of a mile apart; it would be more sensible to teach these courses and have offices in a central location adjacent to the library, where students should be encouraged to spend time between classes.
The committee that heard these proposals could not decide between the latter two, but this indecision seemed unimportant when Fletcher Brown, who was a member of the committee, offered to provide half of the funds for both buildings, or $230,000, if the legislature would provide the other half. Unfortunately, it refused, and while the refusal was being digested a catastrophe occurred.81
On the evening of Monday, July 5, 1937, which was being celebrated as a holiday because July 4 had fallen on a Sunday, a cloudburst struck Newark. Beginning just before dark, the rain poured down for about seven hours. At a nearby racetrack, Delaware Park, crowds were stranded for hours, unable to reach trains or automobiles because of a flooded underpass. Within a ten-mile radius of Cooch’s Bridge, five bridges were washed out. And in Newark the campus below Harter Hall was covered with water, according to contemporary accounts, to a depth of from ten to fifteen inches.
William Ditto Lewis, the librarian since 1930, rushed to the library and found, as he feared, water gushing “through the walls at scores of places” into the basement, where the stacks were located. The library was closed because of the holiday, and for the same reason Lewis’s frantic phone calls failed to bring help for a long time. He set to work then as a one-man salvage squad, carrying books to safety from the lowest shelves while far too much water for the drains to carry away swirled about him. All of the Delawareana collection, comprising a good share of the rarest material, was saved and all of the bound periodicals.
The task seemed herculean, for one-fourth of the library collection was shelved below ground and a good part of it was within inches of the floor, on which the water finally rose a full foot. Eventually help began to arrive: Professor Ezra B. Crooks, chairman of the library committee, whose “greatest contribution,” according to Lewis, “lay in his insistence that nothing in the collection justified killing oneself”; Professor William Wilkinson, of the education department, whose office was in the flooded basement; Horace McKay, the superintendent of grounds; a night watchman; and a janitor.
An exhausted, bedraggled Lewis was persuaded to go home at 3:30 A.M., and when day came McKay and his men borrowed a pump from the local fire company to remove the standing water. Most, but not all, of the books and magazines had been moved from the lower two shelves, principally by Lewis himself. Government documents were left until last and some of them were ruined irreparably. For days books were spread open to dry, both inside the library and outside. About 1,400 volumes were sent to Philadelphia to be dried, cleaned, and rebound, at a cost of over $2,600. Because there was no insurance the bill was paid by a friend of the university who would not allow his name to be used.82
The calamity forced a reconsideration of building priorities. So did the retirement of Dean Robinson. As soon as that staunch defender of the separation of the sexes in college was gone, the trustees declared that the use of common facilities–library, auditorium, laboratories, and presumably classroom buildings–promoted a more wholesome relationship than what existed in wholly separate women’s colleges. The trustees altered the plan for a new building at the Women’s College so that it now was viewed specifically as a home economics and fine arts building, subjects they apparently thought fittingly domiciled on the women’s campus. And the priority standing of this building was significantly lowered. Instead of being in a tie for first priority it was dropped to fourth on a list Hullihen presented to the board in June 1938. Ahead of it was the classroom-office building to face the chemistry lab, the library addition, and a new gymnasium for Delaware College.83
According to the President’s Report, Fletcher Brown had determined to make a gift of the classroom-administration building in 1937, apparently some months after the assembly refused to help, but he postponed the gift because of a sudden serious decline in security prices. Soon after their June 1938 meeting the trustees learned that it might be possible to get federal assistance toward the cost of new buildings from the Public Works Administration, which sought to decrease unemployment by the construction of public buildings. Application was immediately made for assistance with the classroom-administration building and the library addition, with the encouragement of Fletcher Brown, who promised he would match the federal grant. The application was accepted, the PWA offering to pay forty-five percent of the costs. Fletcher Brown raised his offer and agreed to pay fifty-five percent of the cost of the classroom building and at least fifty percent of the library addition.84
In the end, he did more than he promised, and the two building projects were completed by February 1940. The classroom-administration building was named University Hall, because it was used by students of both colleges and housed the president and business manager of the university, as well as the liberal arts departments, such as English, history and political science, foreign languages, mathematics, economics, philosophy, sociology, and psychology, that served both colleges. It also housed the dean of the arts and science school, who was also dean and registrar of Delaware College. Originally there had been talk of moving the office of the dean of the Women’s College to this building, but she, like the registrar of the Women’s College, remained in Robinson. After Walter Hullihen’s death in 1944 University Hall was renamed Hullihen Hall in his honor.85
The original plans for the library prepared by Charles Klauder’s office underwent considerable change after criticism by William Lewis, the librarian, partly on practical grounds, and by H. Rodney Sharp, still chairman of the grounds and buildings committee of the trustees, because he insisted on a building “of a more intimate and Delawarean character” than was provided by Klauder’s first plans. The enlarged building dedicated on February 5, 1940, was far more pleasing aesthetically than the original 1925 building had been. The wings were lengthened and their previously flat roofs raised in an arch, with a double chimney at either end. Removal of interior partitions in the west wing left it, like the east wing, as one large room with a large window at either end. Looking south from the mall through either wing gave the impression of a nave formed by the elm trees along the parallel campus north-south walks and framed and continued by the fenestration of the wings.
The wing extensions increased the seating capacity and open-shelf space, but the major internal change was construction of above-ground stacks in a southward extension from the central hall. Though divided on two levels by a corridor from the central hall to the south entrance, the new stacks were connected on the upper levels. The southern ends of the two wings were joined with the new stacks near the south entrance by two covered arcades. Reconstruction of the basement provided five very useful seminar rooms. The capacity of the enlarged library was reported to be 218,000 volumes, and the cost of the addition was $220,000.86
In a 1937 letter to Fletcher Brown, Klauder, who died before this work was far advanced, testified to his interest and that of his partner, Frank Miles Day, in these buildings. “For many years,” he wrote, “it has been my delight, and it was also the late Mr. Day’s–that in Delaware College we had a splendid opportunity to develop a superior internal campus. This is in part now accomplished by your gift of a Chemistry Laboratory, and I had hoped that a building opposite it upon the west would be forthcoming. These two buildings and the Library would each be separate entities, but if the wings of the Library extending to the north are to be an accomplished fact, and if, further, we could connect the corners of these two wings first with the corridor of the Chemistry Laboratory and later on the other side the west wing of the Library with the corner of a Liberal Arts Building, we should have a fine unified and balanced ending to the Campus, thus completing for all time this portion of the general development plan that has long been contemplated for the University.” University (Hullihen) Hall, the extended Memorial Library, and the Brown Laboratory were linked by brick arches in 1940, as Klauder had desired.87
But Brown’s contributions to the building plans of the university were by no means at an end. After a board meeting one day early in 1940 Brown stood silently looking out the window of the president’s office toward the arch between Brown Laboratory and the Memorial Library. Through it he could view the galvanized iron walls of the heating plant. “You know,” he said to Charles Grubb, the business administrator, “that boiler plant is ugly, isn’t it?” It was ugly, and its unsightliness spoiled the handsome vista. Grubb suggested that money enough for a new coat of paint could be squeezed out of the year’s budget. “Well,” said Brown, “maybe it will be all right to let it stay the way it is for a while.” And then, thoughtfully, he added, “I have quite an investment in this area.”
A few months later, President Hullihen called Grubb to his office to join a discussion he was having with Fletcher Brown about the power plant. Grubb brought along a plan Charles Klauder’s office had drawn up for a combined power plant and maintenance center. When the blueprints were spread out, Brown looked at the date and then smiled at Grubb, “You took me seriously, didn’t you? By the summer of 1940 he had given $190,000 for the new structures, which consisted of a brick building enclosing the boiler plant and a row of service buildings forming an L-shape around the heating plant and at once masking activities there (like ash handling and truck movements) and providing offices, shops, and garages for the maintenance staff–the whole row having a brick facade that harmonized with buildings nearby.88
At the time Hullihen Hall was planned, it was thought that when the administration offices and liberal arts classes were moved from Recitation Hall, this building, and probably the John Watson Evans House too, could be converted into men’s dormitories. But the board finally disapproved this idea in December 1939 on the ground that the conversion would be too expensive for what could only be a temporary makeshift use. Yet need for additional dormitories was acknowledged, and in 1940 Brown offered to help by a gift for a new structure to face Harter Hall. When estimates were secured for the building planned by Klauder’s office the bids were too high and someone suggested putting up the structural work for the whole dorm, to stretch from Main Street to Delaware Avenue, but finishing only a part of it. “No, no,” Brown objected, “No one is to speak of Brown’s Ghost.”
In March 1941 contracts were let for what became Brown Hall, which was more than half the size of the building originally proposed. It contained an apartment for a dormitory director, an office, a handsome common room, game rooms, and a wing of apartments for unmarried faculty or graduate students. Fletcher Brown showed little interest in the building until it was completed, when he examined it thoroughly from top to bottom. When he came to the card room in the basement he felt under one of the tables and exclaimed, “But there is no place for the chips!” His only known comment on this very attractive campus addition reflects the fact that he normally had friends in for a game of poker every Saturday night.89
Brown Hall, like the Heating and Maintenance Center, was completed in 1942. It soon proved very valuable as a center for both informal student gatherings and for guest lectures and other events promoting improved student-faculty relations. But another building need had been emphasized by the Survey Commission report of 1938 and then again by the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development in 1940. The latter body declared that the facilities for the teaching of physics at Delaware were so poor as to imperil accreditation of the programs in engineering.
Physics was taught in 1940 in the small building originally erected in 1888 for the staff of the agricultural experiment station. The largest room was so small as to require courses, such as demonstration lectures and laboratory classes, to be given in many sections, allowing the faculty little time to offer advanced courses that were needed for engineering students of superior ability. A combined physics-biology building was high on Hullihen’s list for additional construction, but the approximately $350,000 it was expected to cost was not in hand, and the Engineering Council would not be put off. On October 31, 1941, they notified the university that its four engineering curricula were being approved for two years only, with the expectation that accreditation would be thereafter refused unless something was done.90
In the spring of 1942 Fletcher Brown had accepted chairmanship of a committee on the needs of the university, and it was this committee that now proposed a program of action. Noting that with a war under way it would be impossible to construct a new physics building even if the money were available, they recommended adopting a plan drawn up by E. William Martin and Ralph Jeffers to adapt Recitation Hall to the needs of the physics department, which could be done for about $16,000. Brown said he would help toward the cost. The state legislature was asked for $8,000; when it refused, Brown, assisted by Rodney Sharp, came to the rescue.91
Since it was vacated by the liberal arts departments and the administration, Recitation Hall had been occupied by the agricultural extension staff, with a therapeutic laboratory of the physical education department in the basement. Now a new lecture room with tiered seats and equipment for demonstrations was built on the first floor and a new laboratory, with some new equipment, was set up in the basement. This adaptation succeeded in allaying the Engineering Council’s criticism.92
In December 1943 Fletcher Brown announced his intention of contributing another building to the university.” Since my strongest interest from the beginning,” he wrote Hullihen, “has been in the chemical engineering activities at the University of Delaware, I intend to make plans to provide the addition to the Chemical Laboratory required for the work outlined by Dr. Colburn. Although this work cannot proceed until after the war, I would like to go ahead with the plans at once.”93
Though this project had to wait, as Brown understood, another major building project was already under way, the combination gymnasium-drill hall that developed into the structure later known as the Carpenter Sports Building. This building was planned in 1941 to provide storage space for military equipment, an indoor drill area for the ROTC unit in inclement weather, and a gymnasium better suited to the student body of 600 men than the old gym built when Delaware College had only 100 students. It was hoped originally to get half of the $200,000 estimated cost from the state and half, because of the intended military use, from the federal government. When it became evident that state money would not be forthcoming immediately, the chairman of the trustees’ committee on health, physical education, and athletics, Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter, who had been a prime mover in the revitalization of the athletic program, agreed to pay half of the costs. The project seemed doomed when federal money, which was to come through the Works Progress Administration, was withheld because these funds were for jobs for the unemployed and it turned out that Delaware in 1942 had too few unemployed workers to be entitled to a share of them. Thereupon Carpenter agreed to provide sufficient money to purchase land next to the athletic field (Rodney Sharp had already furnished funds to buy some of the needed land) and complete half of the planned building, leaving the other half roofed and walled in but unfinished internally. Since the large unfloored area would still provide drill space, it was possible to complete construction of the building in 1942, despite new wartime restrictions on building. The new field house was opened on January 6, 1943, with a basketball game with Rutgers. Constructed for the university by the Delaware School Auxiliary, the new facility proved very useful, housing, besides athletic contests and programs, final examinations (for large classes) and the junior proms, now on the campus for the first time in many years, of both Delaware College and the Women’s College. Carpenter’s gift included funds to repair the old gym and the Training House, and in 1945, when the war had ended, he gave an additional $92,000 to complete this field house, which eventually became wholly a facility for the Division of Health, Physical Education and Athletics.94
The Second World War gradually brought many changes to the campus. The first year of the war, 1942, did not affect the enrollment very much, because the armed services could not immediately make use of all available young men and therefore let them finish the term for which they were registered. But in 1943 voluntary enlistments and the draft caused the numbers at Delaware College to dwindle. From 545 male undergraduates in September 1942 the enrollment declined to 137 in the next year and 104 in 1944-45. As the number of men fell, another step was taken on the path toward coeducation: in June 1942 the trustees agreed that men and women could be combined in any classes that were small, though they solemnly declared that this emergency measure was not to invalidate the principle of keeping freshman and sophomore classes separate. In December 1942 a further step was taken when the trustees agreed that women should be admitted to the School of Engineering.95
Another adjustment made at the same time was the lengthening of the school year, for women as well as men. The fall term in 1942 began on August 31 and ran for 16 weeks, with slightly longer class periods than customary. The second term, of the same length, began in January, permitting commencement to be moved forward from June to April, in keeping with a government request that the colleges turn out students prepared to take their place in the war effort as soon as possible. By means of two summer sessions in 1943, followed by a sixteen-week fall term, it was possible to graduate the class of 1944, mostly women, in December 1943. An August commencement and another in December 1944 took care of the women–and a few men–of the class of 1945.96
The great majority of men on campus in the last two years of the war were in uniform. Just when it seemed that the faculty, already shrunk by departure of men for the armed forces or other war-related activities, might have to be further reduced because of the declining enrollment, the army began sending soldiers to the university for an engineering program that included courses in English, history (the Background of the Modern World), geography, and physical education. The first 80 men arrived on June 14, 1943, and in the next ten months approximately 600 soldiers studied at Delaware, mainly in the basic engineering program but some in an advanced program. These students were of college age and of superior ability; some already had spent time in college. In March 1944, however, they were suddenly withdrawn because of the need for men at the front. In their place came the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program that was comprised of young high school graduates, seventeen years old, who volunteered for this program in which they received free education at government expense until the end of a term next following their eighteenth birthday. These younger students were, not surprisingly, less well-prepared for college work than their predecessors, and the rate of attrition among them was high, with few remaining to complete three twelve-week terms and receive a certificate. Altogether 741 of these reserves were sent to Newark between March 1944 and the spring of 1945.97
Besides courses offered to soldiers and reserves, some members of the university faculty were busy during the war offering noncredit courses on what was first called the Engineering Defense Program but later, after several modifications, became known as the Engineering, Science, and Management War Training Program–this title reflecting the content of the courses, which included mathematics, accounting, chemistry, plant design, motion and time analysis, and safety engineering. When the program began in 1940, Dean Spencer directed it; he was succeeded by Howard Preston in 1942. Starting with twelve courses, the program reached a peak of twenty-three courses in 1942-43, when the total enrollment was 603.
Other war-related projects on campus included research on food spreads (gels) by Professor George L. Baker, of the agricultural chemistry department; work on air-cooled and liquid-cooled engines, directed by Allan Colburn and Edward Schoenborn of the chemical engineering department, who also had a grant from the federal Rubber Reserve Company for research in extractive distillation; and research on the use of rockets, supervised by Professor Thomas D. Mylrea (civil engineering) at a rocket range near Dover in cooperation with the Army Ordnance Department.98
Campus life for the remaining undergraduates was seriously curtailed by the war, though the comings and goings of friends in the service added a new kind of excitement to it. A number of the women students were married before graduation and rushed off to join their husbands at service posts throughout the country. Student publications like the Review were suspended, as were most intercollegiate athletics, and so were dramatics, after Robert Kase joined the army, except for a Christmas entertainment narrated by Dr. Sypherd and a play in the spring of 1945 directed by Jane Hastings Sinclair, ’42. Among a number of war projects carried on by women students, the most successful, according to Dean Golder, writing in the spring of 1944, was one directed by the home economics faculty in which old clothes were cleaned and mended for war relief agencies, while old felt hats were made into children’s slippers, and scraps of cloth into cuddly toys.99
The war years would have been a notable episode in the history of the university in any event, but they became, partly by chance, more than that; they were a major watershed between the small, slowly evolving institution of times past and the rapidly expanding coeducational state university of the near future. The growth that occurred after the war was not a matter of chance, but certain events of 1944 were. For in that year Harry Fletcher Brown, the university’s generous benefactor, died on February 28; the dean of Delaware College, George E. Dutton, died on February 29; and the university president, Walter Hullihen, died on April 14. When to these deaths are added those of the dean of the School of Agriculture, Charles A. McCue, in 1942 (though he had resigned his post because of illness in 1939) and of the dean of the School of Engineering, Robert L. Spencer, in 1945, plus the departure of Dean Marjory S. Golder in 1945, it becomes obvious that the postwar university, at least in terms of leadership, would be strikingly different from the university in prewar years. And the difference was not confined to the leadership.
Charles McCue had been dean of the School of Agriculture since 1920, George Dutton of the School of Arts and Science since 1923, Robert Spencer of the School of Engineering since 1928. Each one of the three had served longer in his position than anyone before him (or after him for at least forty years). And Walter Hullihen had served as president since 1920, the longest term in the history of the college or university. It fell to Professor Sypherd, a man who customarily measured his words carefully, to memorialize the late president in a report to the board of trustees. He spoke of Walter Hullihen as “a man of great personal charm,” a leader in the religious life of his church, one who recognized the perils of the world situation and preached a sound internationalism as fundamental to his country’s prosperity. He went on to call Hullihen “a man of dignity, humaneness, and honor… ever kind, courteous, and fair, [and] for what he believed right…a courageous fighter.”
But besides this praise of Hullihen’s personal traits, Sypherd noted that to Hullihen belonged a great share of the credit for the growth of the university in his time. Sypherd chose to mention “the addition of the many fine buildings to our campus…the strengthening of faculties in teaching and research, the perfecting of the Foreign Study Plan…the establishment of the faculty retirement system…the setting up of special research departments…and…the elevation of the University to a position of significance among institutions of higher learning in the United States.”100
Perhaps the elevation of the university had not quite raised it to such a position of significance as Sypherd’s words implied. But when he reflected on the changes that had occurred since he entered Delaware College in 1892, the transformation (“the elevation”) was immense. And in two respects Hullihen had indeed raised Delaware to a position of significance; or, rather, in one respect, he had made Delaware of significance in the present, and in one respect he had prepared it for a significant role in the future. In the present, Delaware had gained distinction by its Foreign Study Plan, the Junior Year Abroad. In this respect it was of national, even of international significance; it was the foremost university, particularly, in the development of Franco-American relations at the undergraduate level. And Hullihen’s nurturing of the remarkable activity of Allan Colburn in creating an active research department of chemical engineering prepared the way for the attainment in the very near future of a position of international distinction in this field of study.