Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1944

It’s 1944 in our Look Back series, which is a significant year for Stephens. This is the year the aviation flight program began and the year the annual student designer fashion show started. The latter is celebrating its 70th anniversary this weekend with three showings of The Collections.

Neither is given much attention in the 1944 Stephensophia, however. 

We are told the aviation department has been expanded to include flight training, ground school training and drafting for use in aviation manufacturing plants, and that the program is sponsored by an advisory board composed of the chief executives of the major airlines to assure girls that the courses are providing real value.

History has proven the courses were, indeed, of value. One student, a Francis Jenkins—who in 1944 represented the Ideal of Service—would go on to be Francis Jenkins Holter, would go on to be employed as an aeronautical engineer by North American Aviation in California and later an engineer at Bendix Aerospace in Ann Arbor where she was the project engineer of the Apollo lunar rover and a principle engineer on the Apollo lunar module for the moon landing program.

Way to serve, Francis.

Among other notable 1944 graduates is Jean Clinton, president of the Civic Association.

It’s fitting we recognize her this week, as she would go on to be Jean Clinton Roeschlaub, a former Stephens trustee and president of the AAB. 

This weekend at Celebrate Stephens Reunion Weekend, the Jean Clinton Roeschlaub ’44 Alumnae Service Award will be presented to another outstanding alumna.

We’re told Jean, or “Clint” as she’s referred to, “has given constant and devoted work. She is never too busy to be friendly. Her genial ‘hello’ and her amiable and contagious smile are known to everyone on campus.”

The 1944 Stephensophia is dedicated to the “Stephens of today and to the Stephens of tomorrow; to the world of the present and to the world of the future. Aided by expert craftsmen and guided by our Ten Ideals, we have drawn our personal blueprints of the future. In doing so, we hope we have contributed to those larger blueprints…the design for the Stephens of the future and for the new order of the world of tomorrow. As Stephens women, we look forward with courage and optimism.”

The war  has influenced clubs and classes at Stephens this year. We’re told the foreign language division is growing and that the study of “foreign language is perhaps more important today than at anytime in our history. Now that we realize that our world is really a community of nations, either in war or in peace, we are living closer to our neighbors in other continents.”

Guests visiting campus this year included Hilda Yen, a leading Chinese American diplomat and aviator.

War has changed the way Social Studies is taught, as well. Program head Dr. John A. Decker says: “In the past we have been especially concerned with the national, state and local problems which young college-trained women had to face as alert members of their home communities. Today horizons have expanded. The social problems of American life can no longer be separated from the problems of the international community. In harmony with the needs of a new era, the Social Studies Division has been forced to enlarge its aims. Our goal today is to train Stephens women for citizenship in the new world community.”

A new Army Anchor Brats club is formed for daughters of military fathers, an organization that began at the University of Texas. The German Club strives to promote a better understanding of the German culture with post-war reconstruction in mind, and the senior class is selling war stamps and hosting “singing suppers” to contribute to the War Peace Organization’s efforts.

Perhaps the best summary of 1944 at Stephens is found in a message from W.W. Charters, who is back from his work in Washington, D.C. He writes from a letter written by a Canadian flight sergeant who crashed to his death in action a year earlier. 

The letter says: “If there is any message which the coming generation should have from mine, let it be the message from us who have fought and died to make future generations of human beings possible. Let the message be this: ‘We have cleared the site and laid the foundation. You build.’”

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