Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1937

It’s 1937 and Stephens is celebrating the 25th anniversary of President James Madison Wood’s tenure on campus. The Stephensophia is dedicated to him this year and dedicates several pages to his life, career and impact on Stephens.

The yearbook’s foreward explains that Stephens is a student-centered college—built around the individual girl and molded to her changing needs. “The Stephens student is free to question and experiment in the classroom, to gain poise, purpose and responsibility in her extra-curricular participations; to develop the possibilities of her personality in the fullest degree.”

We’re told Wood was born on an Ozark farm in southern Missouri and went to State Teachers College at Warrensburg. He served as principal and superintendent in several Missouri towns before completing college at the University of Missouri and graduate work at Columbia University in New York City. 

Then, of course, he came to Stephens in 1912.

We love this description of him because, frankly, it reminds us of our current president, Dianne Lynch:

“Visitors wonder at the temerity of a college president who places on his office door the sign ‘Please Do Not Knock” and at the unbelievable vitality of that man who all day long welcomes with an unhurried air and friendly smile the throngs of students who stop in—to discuss college problems, their own personal difficulties or more often merely to say a word of greeting or just to talk.”

There’s a special letter in the book from Hugh Stephens on behalf of the Board of Curators praising the transformation that has happened on Wood’s watch.

Unfortunately, the 1937 Stephensophia also includes an In Memoriam for Wood’s wife, Lela Raney Wood, who died in 1936. It says: “An exponent of those virtues of mind and spirit which evidence intelligence and refinement, unassuming and gentle in her every action, she expressed in living the ideal of true womanhood and leaves to us the remembrance and influence of that example.”

The Pan-hellenic Council this year under Betty Stewart is holding clinics where students can get advice on arranging and decorating their dorm rooms. There’s a room decorating contest, as well.

“Smartly Speaking” is a new publication advising new students on Stephens “modes and manners.”

Speaking of publications, it’s a good time to note that Stephens at this time is the only junior college to have a chapter of Chi Delta Phi, a national honorary literary society. The group holds weekly meetings and publishes the “Standard,” the school’s literary journal. This week (our time), members of the current English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, are in Savannah reading original works and accepting an award for our current literary journal, Harbinger.

Dance has a formal group this year. Members qualify through presenting original dance compositions. The group performs recitals and for Vespers services.

We’re told the Art Club designs posters for campus advertising, much like our graphic design students do today.

The Stephensophia also reports that the only all-women broadcast in the world is coming from the Basement Studio Players at KFRU on the Stephens campus.

Instead of a school calendar or diary, the yearbook ends with a series of letters home. In October, a student writes about being homesick, but, of course, by October, she’s getting familiar with school. By December, she reminds family and friends to pick her up at the train and warns them to “be prepared for a changed woman.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1936

It’s 1936 and H. Bentley Glass is on the science faculty at Stephens.
H. Bentley Glass

For those who don’t know, Glass would go on to be a well-known scientist who was also known for his outspoken criticism of nuclear radiation and advocacy of civil rights. He would go on to Johns Hopkins University and then the State University of New York. The New York Times, reporting on his death in 2005, praised him for having carved out “a reputation as one of the nation’s top geneticists.”

But this is decades before his famous theories or work writing biology textbooks. This year, the Stephensophia yearbook simply describes him as being an authority on fruit flies. (You can read more about his career—and his time at Stephens—here).

Albert Christ-Janer
Glass isn’t the only faculty member at Stephens this year who would go on to fame in their respective fields. In the art department, Albert Christ-Janer is described as one of the “justly famous Yale men” on campus. Christ-Janer would go on to become an avid printmaker who also taught at Pratt Institute Art School and the University of Georgia, which today gives an award for creative arts in his honor.

In theatre, we’re told a summer theatre program has begun (today, the Summer Theatre Institute and Okoboji Summer Theatre are hallmarks of the Theatre program). Frank McMullan was one of the faculty organizers. McMullan went on to join the Yale drama faculty and eventually became head of the directing department. His lecture notes, production files and manuscripts are part of the Yale University Library archives today.

And John Crighton is new to the Social Studies faculty this year. Crighton, of course, would go down in Stephens history by recording it. He wrote" Stephens: A Story of Educational Innovation" in 1970, a book that has become really an authoritative source for all things Stephens.

The 1936 Stephensophia is dedicated to “my wrist watch” with staff declaring that it has “been the metronome of college joys and sorrows, ticking slowly, solemnly in long afternoon classes…”

This year the campus saw the largest number of students, prompting President James Madison Wood to reaffirm Stephens’ commitment to individualized attention. In his message, he declares that no matter how many students come to Stephens, every student will have “full claim to the services of the faculty in meeting her individual needs.”

He writes: “Mary Smith will continue to be Mary Smith and not just another junior or senior. To adopt any other policy would be to violate the fundamental principle upon which the educational program of the College rests.”

Stephens this year is represented in 42 states by 13 secretaries of admission—all men.

The administrative council—a student organization that is a sort of Supreme Court on campus—is trying out a new theory this year, we’re told. Rather than focusing its attention on punishment of girls who break the rules, the yearbook says the council is looking for the “causes prompting their misconduct.” The council wants to give purpose to her schooling and “diminish her desire to go against the grain.” Members conclude that few girls intentionally break rules, so they simply need to foster better understanding to eliminate misconduct.

The Senior Class this year is emphasizing the Honor Code, as well (makes you wonder what sorts of mischief our 1936 alumnae were up to). The class assures readers that the code “does not employ spies” (whew) nor are fellow students going to report bad behavior to college officials. Instead, the Honor Code means doing the right thing for one’s own satisfaction and out of loyalty to classmates.

Designing a garment.
The Junior Class uses its page to focus on praising the advisory system at Stephens, which we’re told is “perfected here to a degree not often reached by other schools.” Advisers aren’t just helping students navigate coursework, they also help her through social and personal issues. “The Stephens tradition of personal interest in its students could hardly be maintained with the enlarged enrollment except for its smoothly working advisory system,” the yearbook says.

There’s a new personal grooming department at Stephens this year, which aims to improve the appearance of a Stephens girl. As outdated as this might seem, it includes fashion design, which is, of course, an extremely popular program at Stephens and viable career today.

Stephens students this year “adopted” orphans in a neighboring institution at Christmastime and brought them toys and “doo-dads.” In addition to warm clothes and other necessities, the yearbook tells us that gift baskets for families also included some less essential gifts.

Collecting gifts at Christmastime

Rhythm is still embedded in athletics but has begun offering tap and social dancing classes—the precursor, of course, to our dance program.

Stephens clubs also hosted some well-known guests this year. The Book Club brought in Upton Close, who was at this time an author and radio commentator (he became a more polarizing commentator in the 1940s), and James Middleton Murry, a prolific writer who, for a short time, started and ran a magazine with D. H. Lawrence. The athletics club this year also brought Mary K. Browne, the first American female professional tennis player, to campus.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1935

Carl Sandburg
It’s 1935 and poet and historian Carl Sandburg has visited Stephens College.

Sandburg was already pretty famous at this time—he had several collections of poetry published in the 10s and 20s, but at this time he was particularly interested in the history of Abraham Lincoln.

The Stephensophia yearbook tells us Phi Theta Kappa, the national honorary scholastic society of the Junior Colleges of America, co-sponsored his lecture and that he is pictured as being “in a quizzical mood” but that’s about it. 

Even though the yearbook didn’t give him much real estate, we know his visit had a profound impact on at least one student, though. Junior Annette Tucker’s “love of poetry deepened by meeting him” – she was so inspired by his visit, her family mentioned it in her 1994 obituary.

Famed German dancer and choreographer Harold Kreutzberg also visited this year and was well received, according to the yearbook.

Stephens women gather around famous German dancer Harald Kreutzberg
The theme of this year’s Stephensophia is a Chinese heroine, a theme carried out throughout the book. It’s not an “idle fable,” the yearbook staff explains, but rather “it is the very core of the Stephensophia for it is parallel to many Stephens girls who, like Su-zi (get it?) have their own individual records of experiences in school.”

In the introduction to the yearbook, we’re told Su-zi’s father decides she has a capacity for higher learning. “I wish you to go to college where women learn to climb the Tower Whence They Pluck the Stars,” he tells her.

The yearbook is dedicated to that father, to all Stephens fathers “our honorable dads who willingly pay our bills, overlook our scholastic shortcomings and fullheartedly appreciate our occasional accomplishments.”

Joy Schultz
You’ll recall Stephens at this point just celebrated her 100th anniversary and much of last year’s Stephensophia was dedicated to the notion of the next century. In his message, President James Madison Wood continues this theme: “Thus far the cooperative support of students, alumnae, patrons, faculty and friends seems to open a bright vista in the future.” He goes on to say the frontiers have shifted to intellectual, spiritual and social achievement.

This year’s Four Fold Girl is Joy Schultz, known for her high scholastic standing, real literary achievements, sincere art and music appreciation and her contributions to Archways, a book of narrative prose compiled by Stephens women.

Louise Dudley remains head of the Humanities department, which aims to surround students with art to “create in everyone an interest in and open mindedness toward all forms of art.” This year, she is Stephens’ representative in the pages of “Who’s Who in America.”

Paul Weaver has become leader of the Burrall Class and is known for being straightforward and earnest in his discussions.

In the Skills and Techniques division, James H. Dougherty is instructor in elementary education. He is also supervisor of Columbia Public Schools.

In addition to chemistry, psychology and zoology, the Sciences department also includes home economics, where women are trained to set up “really scientific modern homes.”

Fencing has been added to the sports roster this year, and we’re told it will soon be one of the most popular forms of physical education on campus. A special fencing coach from MU has been brought in to assist.

Stephens at this time doesn’t have a formal dance department, but its precursor, it appears, is an annual “rhythm recital” embedded in the athletics program.

In the Social Sciences, we’re told Dr. Henry A. Bowman, a professor of sociology, has been “experimenting” with a course in marriage.

Spoiler: This will ultimately become Bowman’s legacy. He went on to become the author of “Marriage for Moderns,” a textbook that had several accompanying videos, including this one called “This Charming Couple” filmed on the Stephens and MU campuses in 1950. You can see the MU columns at the beginning of the film, and the wedding takes place in Historic Senior Hall. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1934

The women of Stephens College in 1934 understood their place in history—while the 1933 Stephensophia celebrated the first century of Stephens, this year, the yearbook celebrates the next century.

The book opens by declaring: “Because we of Stephens College are this year beginning a new century, because we wish to make it a century of classic loveliness—the dignity and beauty of these pages reflect a dream for the future.”

The 1934 Stephensophia is dedicated to “our generation” and to “modern youth,” a theme that’s reflected in drawings throughout the book.

And President James Madison Wood in his message says the next century “depends upon the continuation of that type of courage, loyalty and foresight which characterized the pioneer citizens of the New West a century ago.”

(It seems like years from now, but we’ll have completed that next century in just 19 years when the College turns 200 in 2033.)

This year’s Four Fold Girl is Adeline Clarke (pictured) who is the first in Stephens’ history to be both Junior Class president and president of the Civic Association. We’re told she “represents to the fullest the balanced perfection of the ideal Stephens girl. Her high scholastic standing, her literary achievements, her democratic friendliness and her real campus service are tangible proof that she is genuinely a Four Fold Girl.”

This is the first time we read about an advisory system at Stephens that allows faculty to become personal advisers. They're charged with helping students not only navigate coursework but also with “keeping in touch with her personal relationships” and social activities.

Sciences at Stephens this year mostly center “around the nature of the universe and of living things.” Each course, we’re told, “has possibilities of making the world meaningful and interesting.” Star-gazing groups as a hobby “may seem startling, but many Stephens girls have found emulation of Dr. Van Buskirk’s scientific observation of the constellations most fascinating.”

Louise Drake is assisting with a hygiene class. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because she was the student who founded Stephens Life in the 1920s.

In Humanities, Miss Eleanor Dunlap is teaching a special class in news writing for juniors “with journalistic ambitions.” Remember, it’s 1934 and there aren’t many women in journalism right now.

The Cosmopolitan Committee, sponsored by Nellie Lee Holt, is new this year and aims to “further interest in foreign countries through learning of their customs and modes of living.”

The group sponsors guest speakers who are authorities on foreign countries and this year hosted Maurice Hindus, a famous Russian American writer, Curtis Bok, grandson of Edward Bok, the Dutch born American editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who was editor of the Ladies' Home Journal, and Ataloa, a Native American dancer and singer.

The Skills and Techniques division “is concerned with the development of special abilities needful in the performance of tasks in school or out.” 

We’re told it’s the aim of a Dr. Claude Kantner, instructor of speech, “to make Stephens girls talk only in pleasing, soft, well modulated tones by correcting speech defects in his voice clinic.”

While the senior class touts that it’s the first to graduate from Stephens during her second century of existence, this year’s junior class has the distinction of being the largest entering class in the history of Stephens.