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... documenting the history of the University of Delaware

The University of Delaware: A History – Forward


It is important to note at the outset that the contents of this book are the responsibility of the author alone. The genesis of the work lay elsewhere; in the fall of 1978 he was asked to undertake writing a history that could be published in connection with celebration of the 150th anniversary of the college charter, enacted by the legislature in 1833, and of the college opening, which occurred in May 1834. Only one specific suggestion was made regarding the book–an expressed hope that it would cover events to the 1970s–and no further suggestions have been made whatever.

Without an injunction to bring the story to the present the author would have been tempted to stop at a date about forty years back. He remembers the rejoinder he heard when he praised a recent history of a neighboring college. "Well," responded a veteran member of its faculty, "it’s a good enough history, as a faculty wife said, up to the time we came here."

It was relatively easy to analyze and judge the course of affairs at Delaware before the author was intimately connected with them. He came as a student in 1932; he returned as an instructor in 1942; but it was not until he became assistant to the arts and science dean in 1949 and especially after he began a seventeen-year term as a department chairman in 1952 that he felt close to the center of responsibility. While the knowledge thus acquired provided special insight, it also became a source of concern as to whether he could deal fairly with all parties on issues where he once had strong feelings. He knows that his judgment was sometimes faulty and his vision limited–by the needs of his own department, for example. In an attempt to be fair he is generally less analytical, less judgmental of recent events than of those in the more remote past. The last few decades also pose a formidable problem for the historian because the documentation is overwhelming but its mass and its nature often obscure the most important decisions and the reasons for them.

Yet to have concluded the narrative at the time of the Second World War or shortly afterwards (as Merle Curti and Vernon Carstensen concluded their history of the University of Wisconsin in 1925, though publishing their book in 1949) would have presented a misleading view of the University of Delaware, a view so limited that the university people know today would be hardly recognizable. For example, the University of Delaware in one recent year, 1978, granted considerably more degrees than in all its first hundred years.

To treat the recent period properly would have required more time than was available if this book was to appear before the close of the sesquicentennial celebration. It is hoped that the sketch of recent developments presented here gives the reader a sense of what the university has come to be and furnishes guidance to a future historian who will study this period as assiduously as this author and his predecessors– Lyman P. Powell, Edward N. Vallandigham, George H. Ryden, and William D. Lewis–have studied the scantier records of earlier periods.

This book could hardly have been written without the dedicated help of the university archivist, John M. Clayton, Jr., and the members of his staff, particularly Jean Crary and Sharon Dillman. John Clayton found most of the illustrations, and both he and Carol E. Hoffecker did the author the kindness of reading the text in typescript. Christine Smith Powell, as research assistant, played an important role in the writing of this book, working with intelligence and with an enthusiasm that led her far beyond her normal duty in searching out elusive details and in saving the author steps and time.

Elbert Chance has made a number of valuable suggestions and both he and his associates in the Alumni Office have been patient in answering questions. So many members of the staff of the Morris Library have been helpful that the author does not dare try to single out individuals among them, and the same comment applies to the staff of the Historical Society of Delaware. He appreciates the care Betty Sherman took with the typing, the assistance given by Mae Whitney and her associates in duplicating both the manuscript and the typescript, the meticulous editing of the copy by Elizabeth B. Reynolds, and particularly the concern Mary Hempel gave to many details of publication, including painstaking work with the galley proofs. Monroe Givens, Jr. is responsible for the styling of this volume. Joanne Passmore has been especially helpful with details of the history of agricultural developments.

The cooperation of President E. Arthur Trabant and of University Secretary G. Arno Loessner and their restraint from any kind of interference–even from pressing the author to finish when he overran his original deadline–is deeply appreciated. The initiative for this work came from them, and from Richard L. Bushman, then chairman of the history department. The opinions expressed in the book, however, are in no way their responsibility.

At every stage in the writing of this volume, as in all of his previous books, the author has enjoyed the encouragement of his wife, who has eased his task in innumerable ways.

John A. Munroe
Newark, Delaware
October 1983