Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WRA Alumnus Related to Noted Library Director

Recently I had occasion to share with my colleagues at the John D. Ong Library that I had grown up in the Cleveland Public Library system, worked at a branch, later at Main Library, and returned there to become a department head in the 1960's. During all this time CPL's book collections were arranged by a modified Dewey system devised by the noted Librarian William Howard Brett (1846-1918), who was Director of the Cleveland Public Library from 1884 to 1918. Indeed Mr. Brett was a great administrator and innovator. He pioneered the author-title-subject catalog in the 1880's, opened library shelves to free access, started a system of neighborhood branches, and organized the Main Library into subject departments. He was the founding Dean of the CWRU Library School and a President of the American Library Association. He is considered one of the great names in U.S. library history.

Our associate in WRA Archives, Lynna Piekutowski, alerted me that one of our alums, Peter Lewis Brett, class of 1945, might be a descendant of Mr. Brett. On further inspection, we learned that he was the grandson of the great library pioneer, and his own father was also named William Howard Brett. Since Peter Brett is listed as the class agent for '45, I gave him a call and we had quite a conversation about the legacy of his distinguished grandfather. Peter Brett was proud of the fact that his grandfather had served in the Civil War, entering as a drummer, and that he later attended Western Reserve College in Hudson for one year, 1870-71. But all four of Mr. Brett's sons were college graduates (West Point, VMI, Dartmouth, and CWRU) and all went on to noted careers. Three served in World War I, one later becoming a 3-star general in the Army Air Force.

Peter confirmed his own happy years at WRA where he was captain of the football team in the fall of '44, played baseball and served on the school council and in the "R" Club. He has great memories of the WRA masters of that time, especially Rusty Cleminshaw (pictured to the right), Scotch McGill, Chan Jones, Ray Mickel and others. He has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for years and soon will move into a new condominium in Reston, Va. He mentioned that his older brother had done much work on genealogy and had recently presented some family materials to the Cleveland Public Library. Both Peter and his brother, William Howard Brett III, continue to be proud of the achievements of their grandfather. An excellent book about Mr. Brett is Open Shelves and Open Minds by C. H. Cramer (1972).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Autos on Campus Help Tell the WRA Story

A few years ago while looking through photos to put on the yearly WRA calendar, I saw many student and faculty photos with cars in the foreground or background, and I thought that it might make an interesting theme for the calendar. Others were not much taken with the idea, so I just filed it away. But having recently written an article where I used a photo of Headmaster Harlan N. Wood taken in 1929 at the spring relay race, the idea surfaced again. That photo shows Mr. Wood and a couple of runners in front of a pace car that could be a Packard or a Pierce-Arrow. It led me to chase down a few more photos of cars on campus.

I'm fairly certain that this photo of Howard R. Thompson, WRA Class of 1918, is the first one we have of a car on campus. Howard is seated on the hood of his car which sports an Ohio license plate for 1916, the year the school reopened. Howard lived in Aurora, so he must have needed his car to get to school. Another large car can be seen behind his.

A favorite classic photo shows seven students from the Classes of '34
and '35 pictured with five cars and two motorcycles. The photo was taken in June 1934 and the two men seated on the ground in front of one of the cars are Louis A. Tepper, the faculty member who ran the machine shop, and Headmaster Joel B. Hayden. A similar photo taken 34 years later in 1968 shows a group of six faculty-owned VW bugs with their owners.

Other faculty members were often identified with their well-traveled autos, including Mr. Shirley Culver's bulbous 1950 Mercury, Mark Worthen's 1948 Jeep Station Wagon with the wooden panel doors, and of course our own Headmaster Skip Flanagan's "HOO WAA" MG sports convertible which ended up as the centerpiece for a couple of senior putzes. But that would be yet another story we'll explore at a later time.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Howard Hayes, Athletic Equipment Manager, Recalled

Word was recently received that Howard Hayes, who served as athletic equipment manager for WRA for 23 years, passed away at the age of 82. Howard (as he was fondly known to the student body) came to the school in 1961 and once described his job as "maintenance of the athletic equipment, inventory, seeing the dry cleaning is done, maintenance in the gym and pool, and helping Mr. Helwig" (Athletic Director George L. Helwig, 1959-1974).

But Howard Hayes was so well liked by the students that in the fall of 1968 when WRA was facing a crucial game against long-time rival Cranbrook, he was asked to be part of a student rally held in Ellsworth Hall. The Friday night rally was a takeoff on the popular musical Camelot and featured a joust where the WRA knight defeated the Cranbrook challenger. As the "stricken" Cranbrook jouster lay on the floor begging for a towel to soothe his wounds, Howard emerged from the depths of a dark corner and cried out, "No towels today!" As the crowd of WRA fans rose up cheering, they hoisted Howard upon their shoulders as a photo in the Reserve Record attests. One cheerleader commented that "it had to be the greatest single moment in Reserve rally history."

Howard continued to serve the school until his retirement in 1983. His own interests included golf, bowling, and being an avid reader of detective novels. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren. One of his admirers (in the late '60's) noted "that without Howard the whole athletic system would come to a grinding halt." We salute the memory of Howard Hayes and his long service to Western Reserve Academy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sputnik was Secondary News at WRA in 1957

Fifty years ago this month, Sputnik, the first space satellite launched by the Soviet Union, was the top news story and eventually had repercussions in the field of American education. Here at WRA, although the Reserve Record boasted that we were not "cloistered away from the hurly-burly of current affairs," the Russian space achievement was not uppermost in campus concerns because October 1957 was also the month that the Asian flu struck the campus.

It hit Reserve particularly hard as a boarding school. Headmaster John W. Hallowell declared the Academy ready to fight the virus, and while he had not wanted to close the school, eventually classes were suspended for a few days. On Thursday, October 13, 1957, 130 students were ill, which was about half the school. The Reserve Record responded by publishing a satirical issue that carried the serious headline: FLU HITS!

By the following Wednesday, the school had nearly "returned to full strength" with only 26 reported ill and all classes meeting as normal. So the great debate about the message of Sputnik was reduced to a reference about "Russia's latest technical achievements" in a chapel talk, some offhand remarks about "going into orbit," and a cartoon in the Reserve Record (pictured here). In their class legacy statement in the Hardscrabble,
the senior class made no mention of Sputnik or the changes it might bring: "We will leave no legacy except the fact that we were here and enjoyed it." The upgrade to the science curriculum would occur later and seems to have been influenced more by the emphasis on advanced placement tests rather than the outcry over Sputnik.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tiffany Postage Stamp Recalls Friendship with Ellsworth

This summer the U.S. Postal Service issued a first class stamp honoring the noted artist of the early 20th century, Louis Comfort Tiffany. The new postage stamp features a stained glass window, not unlike the magnificent windows in the Wade Chapel at Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery, where Tiffany's splendid work can be experienced.

WRA benefactor James W. Ellsworth (1849-1925), was himself a noted collector and connoisseur, and his wide circle of artist friends included Louis Comfort Tiffany who published a limited edition volume in 1914, called The Art of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Only 492 copies of this beautiful book were printed, and one of them (copy 91) was acquired by Mr. Ellsworth. On the fly-leaf of the book is inscribed: "To James W. Ellsworth, Esquire, with the best wishes of Louis C. Tiffany, June, 1916." This book is housed in the Archives and will be featured as part of a Treasures of Western Reserve Academy walking tour on Sunday, October 21, 2007.

Pictured above: An image of the Tiffany stamp and a portrait of "Tiffany among the Flowers" painted by the Spanish artist Sorolla in 1911 which appears in The Art of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany is portrayed at his summer home on Long Island, surrounded by masses of his favorite flowers and in the company of his dog.

Greek School Had Its Origin with 1863 WRA Alumnus

It was a pleasure meeting Nancy Birk of Kent, my first visitor of the new academic year. She is the retired university archivist of Kent State University, now serving as archivist at the American Farm School in Salonika, Greece. She had wondered whether WRA Archives had anything about the Rev. John Henry House, the missionary/educator who founded the American Farm School in 1904. Our records held several clippings and articles including some from a 1935 Reserve Record where he was saluted at 90 as the school's oldest living graduate.

John Henry House '63, born in 1845 and raised in Painesville, came to our campus in 1862 as a student in the Preparatory School (now WRA). He excelled as a baseball player and Latin scholar. Rev. House went on to the old college, graduated in 1868, and was ordained a few years later. He spent most of his career as a missionary and teacher working in what are now Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece.

Settling in Salonika in 1894 while it was still part of Turkey, he founded the Agricultural and Industrial Institute, a secondary school with a large farming component, and served as its principal and president. The campus was largely modeled on WRA's campus and remains today a private, independent school with a board of American trustees.

Rev. House was awarded the Golden Cross of the Saviour, Greece's highest honor for his contributions to education and agriculture. One article hailed him as "an Olympian farmer," appropriate since his school is only a few miles from the place where Philip of Macedon engaged Aristotle to be the teacher of his son, Alexander the Great.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Limerick and Two Verses in Honor of Paul Roundy

In the spring of 1957 the Reserve Record published a series of limericks celebrating and poking fun at the faculty. Here's the one about a WRA history teacher who spent many years as the college guidance director:
A middle-aged man with ambitions
Searches yearly for college positions;
A veritable hound he
(His surname is Roundy)
Gains not one but fifty admissions.

Paul C. Roundy (1905-1976), a Vermont native, earned his B.A. at Amherst in 1926, then went to Oxford University where he received a certificate in theology. He taught math at Carlton College in Minnesota and at a college in South Dakota before coming to Ohio, where he joined the WRA faculty in 1932. By attending classes for several summers, he earned a master's in education at Harvard in 1937 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Roundy was director of studies and strongly influenced the WRA curriculum while teaching history and serving as chair of the guidance committee. For many years he coached soccer and several of his teams were league champions. He was known as a champion of high standards and as an original and effective teacher. His wife, Elinor Roundy, also was on the faculty as a member of the English department from 1949 until 1970, when both Roundys retired to their home in Vermont. At the time of his retirement, Paul Roundy was the subject of verses written in tribute to his career and influence.

Kind sir, how many years, how many boys
You gently guided now have gone their separate ways!
Our memory still counts you in its joys
And how, with stirring grace, you read Macaulay's Lays.

You taught us human dignity, that it survives
In times which seem so reckless, lacking plan;
By carrying the fire from noble lives
You gave us Homer's gift: a sense of man.
George Birnbaum '66

Since 1982 WRA has had a Paul and Elinor Roundy Chair in History and Literature which is presently held by history department chair James Bunting. The Paul C. Roundy Scholarship Fund was established in 2000.

Noted Artist of Haciendas Schooled at WRA

It recently came to our attention that a noted artist who spent many years documenting haciendas in Mexico began his schooling at WRA in the 1920s. Paul Alexander Bartlett was born in Missouri in 1909, was a WRA boarder from Indiana, but did not graduate with the Class of 1928. He earned a degree at Oberlin and continued his studies in art at the University of Arizona, the University of Guadalajara, and the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City.

Bartlett lived in Mexico from about 1940 until the 1970s during which time he traveled extensively throughout the country visiting hundreds of haciendas, photographing them, and doing pen-and-ink drawings of the buildings, their chapels, furniture, statuary, farm implements and barns. This effort was Bartlett's life work, culminating in the publication of The Haciendas of Mexico: an artist's record (1990) with a foreward by James Michener. Bartlett also wrote two novels, Adios mi Mexico, and When the Owl Cries (1960). The latter novel is set during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Bartlett taught art at various colleges, and for several years was editor of publications at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His papers and drawings are now in the special collections at the University of Houston and at the University of Texas at Austin (in the Benson Latin American Collection). Bartlett died in 1990 at the age of 81.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Emily Dickinson's Grandfather at Western Reserve College

Poet Emily Dickinson's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, spent the last two years of his life as treasurer at Western Reserve College in Hudson. Born in 1775, Dickinson was later described as "the embodiment of those qualities and virtues that gave to New England strength and character." He graduated from Dartmouth in 1795, studied law, married and became the father of nine children, served a term in the Massachusetts Senate, and in 1813 built an imposing brick house in Amherst, called the Homestead (pictured here), where Emily was later born and spent part of her childhood.

Samuel was one of the founders of Amherst College and a member of its first board of trustees. In fact, the college became such an important element in his life that it depleted his resources. He was forced to sell his family home in 1833 and seek employment at the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. In August of 1836 he came to Hudson to become treasurer of the college and "superintendent of the financial concerns and the workshops." His salary was set at $500 a year. Shortly thereafter, he suffered "depression of spirit" combined with failing health which led to his sudden death in 1838 at the age of 62. One account reported that he died "disillusioned, neglected, and forgotten." Historian Fred Waite noted that Dickinson died "leaving his accounts in a sorry mess." His body was returned to Amherst for burial. His oldest son, Edward Dickinson (Emily's father) was able to repurchase "the old Homestead" in 1855.

It is interesting to note that while Emily's life could be summed up as "born in Amherst, lived in Amherst, died in Amherst," her grandfather traveled widely and lived elsewhere in search of the financial security which eluded him. Unlike his famous granddaughter, Samuel Fowler Dickinson was not a reclusive type.

NOTE: The Emily Dickinson commemorative postage stamp was issued in 1971.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Remembering J. Fred Waring

The first recipient of the Waring Prize, WRA's highest alumni award, was selected 35 years ago when Richard H. Bliss '38, a teacher and headmaster, was honored by the school. Since the Waring Prize committee usually meets in the spring and makes its announcement in June, alumni and friends might like to know more about the award's namesake.

J. Frederick Waring was born in Savannah in 1902, the third of three sons of a real estate broker. He attended "a couple of appalling little private schools" before being sent north to attend Governor Dummer Academy in Massachusetts. He followed other family members to Yale, majored in English, graduated in 1923, then attended Cambridge for advanced study. He remained in England to teach for a year at a "public" school, then returned home in 1926 to teach at the Salisbury School. Later, Waring earned a master's in history at the University of Wisconsin, then taught at a girls school in New Hope, Penn., until 1935 when he joined the WRA faculty.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Waring was a demanding and inspiring teacher of both English and
history. His humor was whimsical and erudite - often baffling for younger students. He was a stickler for accuracy and pushed critical thinking. Headmaster John W. Hallowell cited him for his "enthusiasm, his own love of what is good, his standards of taste and excellence." On campus J. Fred Waring was known for his "literary drawl," his pipes and his tweeds, and his extraordinary insight and desire to help students in need.

During World War II he served for a couple years with the American Field Service as an ambulance driver in North Africa and Syria and later taught for a year at the American University in Beirut. In 1953 he married WRA librarian, Julianna Fitch, who shared his love for books, art, history, and historic architecture.

In his later years Waring worked to organize materials related to the school's history and wrote two volumes: James W. Ellsworth and the Refounding of WRA (1961), and The Growing Years: WRA under Wood, Boothby, and Hayden (1972). He and Julianna retired to Savannah in 1967 where they lived in his ancestral home and were active in civic life. He was serving as president of the Georgia Historical Society at the time of his death in 1972. The Waring Prize was established that same year in his honor.

A few years ago I had a chance to visit Waring's grave at the historic Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. His headstone reads, "His love of the past was equaled by his concern for the present and his faith in the future." Julianna Fitch Waring passed away in 1986.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Waring Manuscript Seeks Publisher

One of the great projects of J. Fred Waring's life was the research and writing of a regimental history of the Confederate unit in which his grandfather, Joseph Frederick Waring (1832-1876) was a colonel. This would be the Georgia Hussars, originally organized as a militia unit in Savannah in 1736. In 1861 the Georgia company joined with others from Mississippi and Alabama to form the "Jeff Davis Cavalry Legion."

Over a period of more than 30 years, Waring spent many of his summers working on his book. His intention was to compile a complete war record of this one Confederate regiment by locating the letters of its soldiers, and then letting excerpts from the letters themselves tell the story. It is a method that Ken Burns would use to great effect in his PBS documentary, The Civil War. It required an immense amount of field work. In a 1963 interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, Waring expressed concern about completing the project but stated that the book was nearing completion. However, it never reached publication.

Fred and Julianna Waring retired to Savannah in 1967. When Waring
died in 1972, he left his notes, transcripts, muster rolls, and manuscript to the Georgia Historical Society. In the fall of 2003, I had a chance to examine Waring's manuscript and notes and to discuss with the Georgia Historical Society Press the possibility of publishing his book. They expressed interest in the matter, but then no more came of this contact.

Waring's manuscript is complete and covers the Jeff Davis Legion's involvement in numerous campaigns including the Seven Days (1862), Brandy Station (1863), Gettysburg (1863), Bentonville (1865) and the surrender in April, 1865. There are five boxes of research notes organized by individual soldiers, components, and military actions, as well as handwritten transcripts of letters, biographical sketches and a number of photos.

Moving the manuscript to publication would be the perfect project for a dedicated historian. Anyone interested?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

WRA's Hopkins is Namesake for Cleveland Airport

Many WRA alumni, students and friends may be unaware that Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was founded by and named in honor of William R. Hopkins, WRA Class of 1892. Hopkins and four of his brothers were WRA graduates, and all five went on to distinguished careers. William R. Hopkins gained an unusual level of recognition as the result of his high-profile political career.

Born in 1869 to parents of Welsh descent, Will Hopkins was the sixth of ten children. Eight of the Hopkins brothers, including Will, worked in Cleveland steel mills before pursuing higher education. Hopkins was already 20
before he enrolled at WRA. Following graduation, he went on to earn both a bachelor's and a law degree from Western Reserve University (now CWRU), and while still in law school was elected to Cleveland City Council. Will and his entrepreneur brother, Ben, teamed up to build a short line railway that linked industries in the Cleveland Flats area. Will continued to be active in politics, and in 1924 he was named city manager when Cleveland was the sixth largest city in the U.S.

During his seven years as manager, Hopkins saw the completion of the Terminal Tower complex and construction of the Municipal Stadium and the Convention Center on the Mall. He persuaded council to buy 700 acres off Brookpark Road for a state-of-the-art Cleveland Municipal Airport, replacing a small airstrip on Woodland Avenue. The new facility helped guarantee that the city would remain on the airmail route between New York and Chicago. By the end of the 1920s, it had proven to be one of the city's finest assets. The airport attracted the national air games and brought in flying celebrities like Amelia Earhart and Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who helped promote the airport as a hub and a destination.

Although Hopkins lost his job in 1930 when the city returned to the mayor/council form of government, he continued as a member of council and was an important player in the civic life of Cleveland. Eventually, the city named the airport he had nurtured: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Recently, the airport added a large portrait of Hopkins that incoming passengers pass on the main concourse. It is something of a belated tribute to the man whose foresight made this airport a reality. Hopkins has an imposing monument at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland which can be located on a visit to this large and magnificent cemetery where many of Cleveland's most important people are buried. Your reporter easily found the Hopkins tomb on a recent visit.

NOTE: William R. Hopkins served as a member of the WRA Board of Trustees from 1925 until his death in 1961 at age 91.

Historic Loomis Letters from London, Paris

When Elias Loomis came to Hudson as a professor at the old Western Reserve College, he had been recruited with the promise that the college would send him to Europe to study observatories so he could plan one for our campus. It is believed that Loomis was the first Hudson resident to travel abroad.

Late in 1836 he sailed for Europe and spent about a year between England and France, during which time he sent home 34 "Letters from Europe" which were published in the Observer, a newspaper edited on our campus. These are fascinating letters that afford a glimpse into life in London and Paris some 170 years ago.

Transatlantic steam service had just begun when Loo
mis left aboard a 1200 ton vessel that steamed to England by way of Newfoundland. He marvelled at the ship's record speed of about 12.5 miles per hour. In London in the spring of 1837, Loomis was on hand when King William IV died and was succeeded by his 18-year old niece, Queen Victoria. It was also the year that construction began on the Houses of Parliament, but Loomis was more interested in the challenges posed by the building of the first tunnel under the Thames River.

The tunnel had been started 10 years earlier and had advanced 400 feet under the river.
In his letter dated May 11, 1837, Loomis reports that "they have lately recommenced and have advanced to upwards of 650 feet in length, about half of the contemplated length of the tunnel." He then describes what he observed of the "quite ingenious" method of construction. The tunnel would be wide enough for carriages to pass one another without a problem.

Other letters deal with his visits to Oxford and Cambridge where he noted that student living conditions seemed luxurious compared to those in Hudson. As a mathematics teacher, Loomis was surprised that so little attention was paid to math at Oxford, while Cambridge was strong in both math and science and also possessed an observatory that had opened in 1824. Its design probably had a strong influence on the observatory built here in Hudson upon Loomis's return.

In France Loomis traveled on a coach called a diligence that could carry 20 passengers "divided into classes" depending on the fare. Several letters deal with his visit to the Tuilleries Gardens, the palace at Versailles and the newly erected Madeleine. He had some harsh comments for the desecration of buildings in order to erase or restore the fleur-de-lis emblems of the Bourbon monarchs. He also was aware that France was something of a police state with informers lurking everywhere - even in this era of the "citizen king" Louis Philippe.

Professor Loomis's expenses for his year in Europe came to $1086 which probably caused some consternation for the cash-poor Western Reserve College. Loomis Observatory opened in September of 1838 and still contains the original telescopes that were purchased in London at a cost of $1750. Photo images of Loomis's original letters from abroad are available for viewing on microfilm at the Hudson Public Library.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ellsworth Brings Landscape Architect Olmstead to Chicago World's Fair

Some of you will have read Erik Larson's national bestseller, The Devil in the White City (2003), and are aware of the key role James W. Ellsworth played in convincing Frederick Law Olmstead to serve as landscape architect for the 1893 world's fair. Known as the World's Columbian Exposition, the fair was hosted in Chicago and construction of the exposition site focused the talents of America's most notable architects of the day, including Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Burnham was the exposition's principal director, and Ellsworth, a friend of Burnham's, was on the exposition's board of directors.

It was in that capacity as a board member that Ellsworth approached Olmstead and lobbied the famous landscape designer to join the effort to make the World's Columbian Exposition a spectacular achievement designed to showcase America's architectural and engineering prowess. According to Larson's account of Ellsworth's July 1890 meeting with Olmstead, "Ellsworth assured Olmstead that by agreeing to help, he would be joining his name to one of the greatest artistic undertakings of the century." For more on Ellsworth's involvement in the 1893 exposition, see pages 48-52 of The Devil in the White City.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WRA Alum Wins Oscar for Sunset Boulevard

It's fairly well known that WRA has a number of alumni who are active either on Broadway or in Hollywood as actors, producers, writers, or directors. But not many know that Donald M. "Mac" Marshman '41 actually won an Oscar in 1951 for the screenplay for Sunset Boulevard, one of the most celebrated movies in American film history.

Ten years earlier at WRA, Marshman won accolades
for Mixed Company, a musical comedy he had both written and directed. It was later said that Mac took more curtain calls than any of the players themselves. He went on to Yale where he wrote a column for the Yale News. He graduated in 1944 and joined Life magazine where he worked in several departments before being named movies editor. After two years at that post, he went on to other assignments, then moved over to Time magazine where he continued to review films.

In 1948 Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett invited Marshman to Hollywood. He left
Time and joined the writing team as a full collaborator. The three men devoted a year to writing the story and screenplay for Sunset Boulevard featuring Gloria Swanson and William Holden in the lead roles. At the Academy Awards ceremony in March 1951, all three writers took home a gold statuette when Sunset Boulevard won for best screenplay. Marshman worked on several other films for both Paramount and RKO Pictures.

The talented writer eventually returned east to be closer to both New York City and Yale University. He and his wife, Ann, became parents to four children. Marshman now lives in retirement in Darien, Connecticut.

A couple of years ago, a screenwriters' group put Sunset Boulevard near the top of the list of the 100 best American films. During February the Cleveland Institute of Art's Cinematheque will host a series of "Screen Gems" in its film classics program. The picture selected to kick off that series is the one that WRA's D. M. Marshman helped to write. "Tell Mr. De Mille that I'm ready for my close-up," says Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) at the end of this unforgettable film. It's reassuring to know that this screen classic still ranks up there with the very best.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Photo for a Family Album

As the result of a browser discovering this blog, I can share some details about the lives of the Berry brothers. A granddaughter of Sylvester Wiley Berry found this site and contacted me about her grandfather and his older brother. I was able to confirm that in the 1880s both attended Western Reserve Academy and then Adelbert College of Western Reserve University (Cleveland).

The older brother, John Faris Berry, was born in 1866 in West Liberty, West Virginia. He graduated from WRA in 1884 and went on after college to a distinguished career as a classics teacher, an ordained minister serving churches in Michigan and Ohio, and a registrar for the School of Dentistry at WRU. John Faris Berry responded to alumni surveys in 1906 and again in 19
33. With his 1933 survey, he included this note: "I little realized how much Western Reserve Academy was doing for me. As I grow older I wonder still more if I realize or appreciate how great is the debt that I can never repay to Western Reserve Academy and its teachers." Newton B. Hobart was the school's headmaster when both brothers were students.

Berry retired to Arizona where he died in 1951 and was returned to Hudson for burial at Markillie Cemetery.

Sylvester Wiley Berry, the younger of the two, was born in 1868 and graduated with the WRA class of 1889 as one of just 16 seniors -- 13 men and three women. He earned his degree from Adelbert College in 1893, then went to New York City where he had a career as a teacher and a camp director. In 1926 he was still teaching at the Irving School in New York, but two years later he died at the age of 60.

Archivist's Note: In 1885, WRA began requiring students to have a senior photo, so I have a good photo of Sylvester Berry taken in 1889. Since his descendant had no picture of her grandfather as a young man, I was pleased to be able to send her the one shown here to share with family members.

Thanks for the inquiry!

Dana A. Schmidt '33: WWII War Correspondent

The news coverage of R. W. "Johnny" Apple '52 following his death in late 2006 reminded me that an earlier alumnus, Dana Adams Schmidt '33, garnered similar laurels in the world of journalism, but retired from the field and was little noted when he passed away in 1994. The fact that Schmidt covered the Middle East from posts in Jerusalem and Beirut and wrote books about that region may be enough reason to revisit his career.

Dana Schmidt spent nearly 10 years of his boyhood in schools across Europe. When he came
to WRA, it was reported that "he speaks like a furrinner." Schmidt was on the soccer and track teams while at WRA and wrote for the Reserve Record when LaRue Piercy was the faculty moderator. He was Record editor his senior year.

Schmidt went on to Pomona College in California where he was a feature editor and wrote a daily news column for the campus paper. Following graduation, he worked briefly as a reporter in Los Angeles before entering Columbia University for a master's in journalism.

In June of 1938, Schmidt was awarded the Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship which allowed him to go to Germany as an intern for United Press International. He was still in Berlin a year later when Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. He wrote WRA to say that he had a "terrific beat" with UPI and was living in a Berlin apartment with two attaches from the American Embassy.

As fighting increased, Schmidt was relayed to safer locations in Europe including Istanbul and Cairo, but he continued to report some of the war's leading stories. In 1943, he left UPI to join the New York Times.

After the Normandy invasion in 1944, Schmidt was covering the activities of the Free Fr
ench. He wrote: "This correspondent reached the capital of collaborationist France (Vichy) through the assistance of the French underground--the first American reporter here." His story grabbed headlines in the Akron Beacon Journal and other papers worldwide.

When WWII ended, Schmidt was posted to Paris, Frankfurt, Athens, Vienna, Prague, and later in the Middle East in Cairo, Beirut and Jerusalem. One of his most adventurous journeys was to Kurdistan in northern Iraq where he covered the Kurdish rebels. To get there, he borrowed a mule and secretly entered forbidden territory. His report on this regional conflict helped him win the Overseas Press Club's George Polk Award in 1963 and was published as Journey Among Brave Men (1964). Later, while covering a civil war in Yemen, Schmidt broke his neck in a Jeep collision and had to be airlifted out. He continued sending dispatches from a Beirut hospital. Some of this is in his book, Yemen: the Unknown War (1968). His final book was called Armageddon in the Middle East (1974).

Schmidt's last foreign assignment was to Beirut where he was in 1972 when he decided to leave the New York Times to join the Christian Science Monitor and do freelance writing. During the early 1970s, Schmidt's son, Dana Adams Schmidt, Jr. briefly attended WRA. Schmidt had retired from journalism and was living in Bethesda, Md. when he died at age 78 in 1994. His books are in the Ong Library's Alumni Authors Collection.