Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Several WRA Alumni with careers in the Foreign Service

It was enjoyable talking with Ambassador Holsey G. Handyside '45 when he paid a recent visit to WRA Archives. Holsey has the longest record of service among WRA alumni who have been with the State Department as foreign service officers. Holsey went to Amherst, spent a year at the University of Grenoble, then earned a master's degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton before joining the State Department as an Arabic language specialist. His postings included Cairo, Beirut, Baghdad in the early 1960's, Tripoli in Libya, and then in the 1970's he became Ambassador to Mauritania in western Africa.

Always a loyal WRA alumnus, Holsey was a cheerleader during his years as a student, was a member of the Rally Band where he played flute and piccolo, and graduated with honors. He later served on the Board of Visitors, and in 1977 was awarded the Waring Prize, WRA's highest honor. He established a Chamber Music Fund in 1973. This past June he was awarded the WRA Alumni Association Award. Holsey still lives in his family home in the center of Bedford, and maintains a residence in Washington, D. C.

Another WRA alumnus, H. Earle Russell, Jr. '41, whose father had been in the Foreign Service, became a junior diplomat after World War II when he and his young wife were posted to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the reign of Haile Selassie. They were in Tunisia in the 1950's when they were profiled in a feature article in the Saturday Evening Post titled, "We Like the Foreign Service Life", written by Earle Russell's wife, Beatrice Ann. In 1971 Russell, his wife, 14-year old son, and a friend of his son's set out from Rabat, Morocco to cross the Sahara Desert by car on their way to Dakar, Senegal where Russell was to take up his new post. They lost their way, the car broke down, and Earle Russell died of sunstroke trying to repair their car in 105-degree heat. His wife, son, and friend survived and were rescued, and Beatrice Ann Russell continued to work for the State Department for many years.

Other alumni who have had careers or partial careers in the Foreign Service include Philip C. Narten '41 who was posted to Liberia and France; James B. Freeman '42 who served in Paraguay, Germany, France and Indonesia; Thomas E. Street '34 who was an agriculture attache in India, Switzerland, and France; William E. Camp '48, a Korean War veteran, who served in Norway; John Seabury Ford '63 whose posts included Germany and Moscow; James M. Lynch '70, who was in Rwanda, Senegal, and at the consulate in Vancouver, B.C. Still serving abroad are James Hugh Geoghan '63 who was recently posted to Cairo and Baghdad, and Ryan D. Wirtz '99, last seen at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, who hosted a visit from WRA's Ralf Borrmann and a student group a few years ago.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WRA's interesting links with schools and sugar in Hawaii

It was nice hearing from Candace Lee in the Archives at the Kamehameha School in Honolulu who asked us to participate in an archives survey. In addition, I sent her a message noting that WRA had sent one of our faculty members to Hawaii in 1930 who later became Principal of the Kamehameha Schools. Dr. Homer F. Barnes, who had come to WRA in 1926 to become head of our English Department, served in Hawaii as Head of the Boys School for four years, then as Principal of the entire school from 1934 to 1944. Our records show that he kept in touch with friends here in Hudson, returned for visits in 1935 and 1937, and was even here at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor when he left his wife and daughters in Hudson in order to return home to deal with the war crisis. Archivist Lee asked if I knew of any other links between WRA and Hawaii.

One of our graduates from the class of 1888, George H. Fairchild, gave up the idea of going to college and instead went to the Hawaiian Islands later that year and took a position with the Makee Sugar Company. He had become President and General Manager of the company by 1895 and continued in that role until 1912. Meantime, he married Elisabeth Cummins Kamakee, whose grandfather had been one of the founders of the sugar industry in Hawaii, and they became the parents of three children. Fairchild was elected to the Hawaii Territorial Senate in 1898 and served until 1902. When the Territorial government removed the duty from sugar in 1912, Fairchild decided to go to the Philippine Islands where he felt the future of the sugar industry would be greater. He founded Welch-Fairchild, Ltd. in Manila, the Mindoro Sugar Company, and the San Carlos Milling Company. In 1920, with the help of Manuel Quezon who was later President of the Philippines, Fairchild bought the Manila Times and became its publisher. By the early 1930's he was recognized as one of the most influential American businessmen in the Philippines. Fairchild served as a delegate to the Pan-Pacific Union held in Hawaii in 1925. He was still receiving copies of the Reserve Record just prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Back in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 at the time of the attack by the Empire of Japan, one of the forts at Pearl Harbor was Fort Weaver, named in honor of Major Gen. Erasmus M. Weaver, who had served as Chief of the Coast Artillery for several years. After graduation from West Point, Lt. Weaver spent three years in Hudson as an instructor in Military Science and drill master on our campus from 1877 to 1880. General Weaver spent many years as a resident of Honolulu, and his house was on Weaver Lane, just across the way from the Hawaiian State Capitol. He died in 1920 at the age of 66. There are currently 7 or 8 WRA graduates living in Hawaii.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

WRA alumnus traveled in Revolutionary Russia, 1917-1918

Early in 1917 World War I came to an end in Russia when that country withdrew in the face of Revolution at home. Czar Nicholas II abdicated, and for a short time Russia experimented with democracy. In March, 1917, a month before the U.S. entered the War, President Woodrow Wilson sent a committee of inquiry into Revolutionary Russia on a fact-finding mission. They recommended that several groups of observers and/or military be sent to monitor the situation. The first such party to go into Russia was a YMCA group that included Rev. John Logan Findlay, an 1897 graduate of WRA and an ordained Congregational minister. They arrived in St. Petersburg about the time that Alexander Kerensky became head of the Provisional Government, and apparently traveled along the front and deep into Siberia.

At some point the party met Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second oldest daughter of Nicholas II,
probably at Tsarkoe Selo, the palace the Romanov family occupied following the abdication which was about 15 miles outside St. Petersburg. Findlay later recalled that "her case was pitiful, for she had no conception of the seriousness of her country's predicament. She believed her father would be restored to the throne." Findlay claimed he was given some "gold cups, silver dishes, jewel-studded bowls, opera glasses" and other artifacts which he brought back home. The YMCA party continued their journey until after Lenin came to power, and early in 1918 they were forced to flee across Siberia in a desperate journey that took 34 days, and then continued by ship to Japan. Upon his return to the U.S., Findlay, along with Sir George Adam Smith of Aberdeen University who had shared his ordeal, went on a speaking tour throughout the South and West. Eventually, Findlay returned to Hudson as Pastor of the First Congregational Church from 1926 to 1930, and his son, Myron, graduated from WRA in 1931.

John Logan Findlay subsequently went on to another pastorate in Taunton, Massachusetts, later retiring to Hyannis on Cape Cod where he died in 1959. An unusual photo of him in the Reserve Record in 1930 shows him wearing a Soviet uniform in five poses done with the aid of mirrors. What became of the artifacts he reportedly had been given by the Romanovs remains a mystery. Grand Duchess Tatiana was murdered by the Bolsheviks along with the other members of the Romanov family in July,1918. In recent years, their remains were interred at a cathedral in St. Petersburg and they have all been acclaimed as saints and martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kitzmiller and Roundy were founders of the Hudson chapter, LWV

Because the Hudson chapter of the League of Women Voters is celebrating its 7oth anniversary in December, they asked me to help research some of the charter members of the group founded in 1938. One look at the names told me that most of the women were associated with WRA either as staff, faculty wives, or as the mothers of WRA students. Helen Haldy Kitzmiller, who for many years was a Special Assistant to the Headmaster, came to Hudson in 1925 when her husband, Harrison, came to teach French and German at WRA. Both continued with the school for the next 30 years.

Helen Kitzmiller was a force for good in the community, and it is not a surprise that she would be the founding member of the LWV chapter. She had already helped the school recover some of its traditions by tracing down alumni and former faculty, and she had written a booklet published in 1926 at the time of the WRA centennial. In the 1930's she was responsible for the Garden Shows held at Cutler Hall and was involved with the founding of the Hudson Garden Club in 1933. When she launched the LWV chapter, she called on her colleagues here at the school and they responded readily. During World War II, Mrs. Kitz (as she was fondly called), was the one who initiated the people-to-people effort for the relief of Wester Soubourg, Holland, a town that had suffered when the dams were leveled by Allied bombers, and from which town the bell in our Chapel had been cast in 1611. Her determination to help our Dutch friends became a town-wide project, and after the War ended, there were still Wester Soubourg Days in Hudson to benefit the town. Eventually, she was invited to Holland to receive formal thanks from the town and its Mayor, and in 1955 she and her husband went there for the celebration. They continued their European trip by going to Germany, and then to Spain where Mrs. Kitz died unexpectedly in Barcelona in February, 1956. The Hudson Times commented that "Hudson has lost one her most devoted daughters." Mrs. Kitzmiller left a legacy to the LWV to support educational opportunities for its members, and that fund is still active today.

Elinor N. Roundy came to Hudson with her husband, Paul, in 1932, when he joined the WRA faculty as a teacher of History and English. A Vassar graduate, Elinor initially was another of the faculty wives living on campus, and in that capacity she became an early member of the Hudson Chapter LWV. But in 1949 she became the first woman faculty member since WRA had become an all-boys school in 1926. For the next 20 years, Elinor Roundy would more than hold her own among an all-male faculty. She was an outstanding English teacher and remembered fondly by many of her former students. She was recalled as "intelligent, thorough, and elegant, and intimidating." Elinor N. Roundy was also known for her wit, her beautiful parties, her sophistication and her laugh. She was also a great supporter of WRA's sports teams, always attended athletic events, and was even awarded a letter "R" for her intense loyalty. The Roundys retired to Bellows Falls, Vermont in 1970, and Elinor lived until 1987. The following year the school announced the creation of the Paul and Elinor Roundy Chair in History and Literature, funded by their grateful students.

Monday, November 10, 2008

WRA and Armistice Day, November 11, 1918

Ninety years ago this week, the world felt a sense of relief and euphoria as World War I came to an end with the signing of the Armistice. In the year and a half since the U.S. had entered the War, WRA students were required to attend military drill every morning on the campus in the area where the John D. Ong Library stands today. Mathematics master James S. Levering was the drill master. No weapons were available, but students wore khaki uniforms. On the day of the Armistice Headmaster Homer O. Sluss invited the community to a service of thanksgiving held at the WRA Chapel.

Several WRA students had dropped out in order to enlist, and other alumni also enlisted in the war effort. Thomas L. Robinson of the class of 1896 was nearly 40 when he was commisioned a Major in the Army with service as a Red Cross commissioner in France. He went with the Occupation forces into Germany in 1919 and later was decorated by both Italy and Belgium for outstanding war service.

Well into the 1930's WRA observed Armistice Day with a special Chapel service that usually featured a veteran of the "Great War". In 1930 WRA English master Melvin H. Black, who was at the front on the day the armistice was declared, told how "the Germans and Allies mingled and shared their scanty provisions after 11:00 on that memorable day". Black, who reported that he actually enjoyed his service with the AEF, said that he learned how to cook as the result of being a mess sergeant in the army. Another faculty member who had vivid memories of the War was chemistry master Russell H. Cleminshaw, who taught at WRA from 1934 to 1960. He was a 1st Lieutenant of Field Artillery and served in the Meuse-Argonne campaign, and later was with the Army of Occupation at Coblenz, Germany. His officer training courses included topography, map making, and the care and training of horses in the field. World War I was the last conflict where horses still played a crucial role with the cavalry. Once the "war to end all wars" was over, military training on campus disappeared, but the memory of the Armistice was solemnly observed every year until the outbreak of World War II.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Seymours and the Wrights

A recent inquiry about the connection between the Seymours of Hudson and the Seymour family of Yale University has prompted this posting. The short reply is that they are one and the same. Nathan Perkins Seymour (1813-1891), an 1834 graduate of Yale, came to Hudson in 1840 as Professor of Greek and Latin and taught at the old college until 1870 when he became professor emeritus and continued teaching the classics and English literature until 1891 when he went to New Haven to join his son and died shortly after. He is probably best remembered today as the builder of the beautiful house on Prospect Street that became our guest house in 1998, and as the namesake for Seymour Hall. His son, Thomas Day Seymour (1848-1907), born in Hudson, attended the old preparatory school, graduated from Western Reserve College in 1870 and taught classics at the college from 1872 to 1880. He then went to New Haven where he was Hillhouse Professor of Greek at Yale until his death. He was the author of several books dealing with Homer and Pindar and the Homeric Age.

Thomas Seymour's son, Charles Seymour, followed in the scholarly ways of his father and grandfather and became a professor of history of Yale, and in 1937 was selected to be President of Yale University where he served until 1950. While he was still serving as University Provost, Charles Seymour came to Hudson in 1934 as part of Western Reserve Academy's Founders Day celebration. He had a chance to visit the house that his grandfather had built and where his own father had been born and spent the years of his youth and early manhood. In the mid-1950's Charles Seymour Jr., son of the Yale President, also made a pilgrimage to Hudson to visit his family's Ohio homestead. He would have learned that in the 19th century, the old college had a reputation as "the Yale of the West".

Another contact we've had with Groton School in Massachusetts revealed that Paul W. Wright (1905-1993) beloved teacher and Headmaster at Groton for more than 40 years, and who spent another 12 years of his "retirement" teaching at the Belmont Hill School, was the son of J. Aubrey Wright (1858-1937), a graduate of Western Reserve College in Hudson who taught at the Academy from 1883 to 1889 before returning to his hometown of Bellevue where he married the sister of WRA's Harlan N. Wood, another Bellevue native. So Paul W. Wright, the revered former Headmaster at Groton, was in fact a nephew of our own beloved Dean, Mr. Wood.

Ellsworth Letter Book Returns to WRA

This summer when Planned Giving Director Jack McKee was visiting Bill Horner '39 at his home in Maine, he was offered a large volume of business letters written by school benefactor James W. Ellsworth during the 1880's. The volume itself is comprised of several hundred carbon type copies of letters and notes to family members, companies, and business associates. It has been added to the Ellsworth Collection in WRA Archives, but the story of its return is fascinating.

It seems that when Bill Horner was at WRA, most students were required to
spend part of one day a week working at Evamere Farm directly across Aurora Street from where Hudson Street intersects. This was the location of Ellsworth's farm of several hundred acres that he left to the school upon his death in 1925. The school operated a "farm program" through the 1940's, and finally sold off the acreage between 1951 and 1959. One spring day in 1936 Bill Horner and some of his classmates were at liberty in one of the barns when they discovered a bin full of old business volumes. Bill decided to take one home, and for over 70 years he kept this souvenir from Evamere Farm. He finally decided to "own up" to what he had snitched from the barn, and return it to WRA. He had inscribed on its cover the date he found it: April 12, 1936.

Someday a researcher may want to carefully look at each of the 300 or more letters in this book in order to gain some understanding of how Ellsworth built his business empire when he was still
in his 30's. One window into that world of the Gilded Age is a series of letters regarding a business initiative in Wakeeney, Kansas in the western part of that state. I have subsequently learned that this was when Wakeeney, the "queen city of the High Plains" was just opening up to settlement and the building of the railroad, and by 1879 Ellsworth's younger brother, Frank, had gone there to be an agent for their Chicago-based coal business. For some reason, their father, Edgar Birge Ellsworth, who had lived all his life in Hudson, decided to go out to Kansas to visit his son in 1883 and died there. His body was shipped back to Hudson for burial. All this from a long-lost volume of letters that had been discarded in a barn all those years ago. We are pleased that Bill Horner has donated this priceless piece of our history.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hudson's John Brown Hero of New Opera in Kansas City

A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting composer Kirke Mechem of San Francisco who was visiting Hudson with his wife in order to experience the town where John Brown grew up. Mechem had spent nearly 20 years writing an opera based on the life of the Abolitionist leader who led the Raid on Harpers Ferry. I had the opportunity to show him "John Brown's Hudson" which included a stop at Old Tannery Farm and the house where Brown and his wife, Dianthe, lived with their young sons in the early 1820's. The opera was ready for production, but it took several more years to reach the stage.

Earlier this month "John Brown" had its premiere at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and opened to triumphal reviews, the libretto already being hailed as "a new American classic". A close friend who grew up in Hudson and now lives in Kansas City went to the opera and met composer Mechem and had him autograph a poster for me. Subsequently, Mechem sent a message saying he had enjoyed meeting my friend and recalling his visit to Hudson. He is confident this opera will be staged in other cities, perhaps in Cincinnati in the near future.

I also shared this news with WRA music department leaders Midge Karam and Ed Wiles who were acquainted with the composer's works, and Midge told me that the choir had sung one of his compositions a few years ago. Perhaps they'll be able to adapt one of the choral numbers from the new opera. "John Brown, Hero" was a headline story in the Kansas City Star, and so the story of this legendary figure from Hudson's history marches on. John Brown's father was a founding trustee of the old Western Reserve College, and both of his parents are buried at the Chapel Street Cemetery adjacent to the campus of Western Reserve Academy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Arthur Hopkins, Class of 1900, Became Noted Broadway Producer

When Arthur Hopkins and several of his brothers came to WRA in the late 19th century, there was very little in the way of theater productions at our school. The closest we came to drama was declamation contests, and for music, choir or mandolin club. No plays or musicals were staged at WRA during this era. Yet, Arthur Hopkins, class of 1900, became one of the most celebrated and successful producers in the history of the Broadway stage.

Hopkins started his career as a newspaper reporter in Minneapolis and Cleveland, then became a booking agent for circus acts at Luna Park in Cleveland and other amusement parks in the New York area. In 1913 he produced "Poor Little Rich Girl", a Broadway hit, and the first of his more than 80 productions over the next 35 years. He had the distinction of being the first to produce a play by Eugene O'Neill on Broadway, bringing "The Hairy Ape" from Provincetown, and later O'Neill's "Anna Christie". He was the first to showcase the almost unknown Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen's plays in New York, producing "A Doll's House", "The Wild Duck", and the controversial "Hedda Gabler". Hopkins also worked as a director with some of the best known stage actors of the time including John and Lionel Barrymore, Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and others. In the 1930's he produced and directed plays by such celebrated dramatists as Maxwell Anderson and Robert Sherwood, and in 1946 he produced "The Magnificent Yankee", a hit play based on the life of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Arthur Hopkins was an unassuming man who played a large role in the history of the American stage. When he died in 1950 the New York Times stated "the American theatre has lost one of its greatest figures." Hopkins was the author of an autobiography and a book of essays on the theater based on a series of lectures he had given at Fordham University in 1947. His brother, William R. Hopkins, Cleveland City Manager, was probably better known in Ohio. He is the subject of one of my earlier entries.

Top German Diplomat was Student at WRA

In mid-May I had the privilege of hosting the Rotary Group Study Exchange from Germany who are here in northeast Ohio for a period of four weeks. These five young professionals and their group leader hail from Hannover and Saxony-Anhalt and represent six different cities from that part of Germany. At the same time, a Rotary study group from Ohio is visiting their home area. Faculty member Ralf Borrmann helped take them around campus and answered their many inquiries about life at WRA. One question that was posed had to do with how long WRA has had German students coming to our campus for a year or more of study.

We believe that the program goes back to the 1960's or earlier, and it was interesting to recall that Christoph Heusgen, who has made a name for himself as a top German diplomat at the European Union in Brussels, is now Chancellor Angela Merkl's top foreign policy advisor. Two
years ago when Dr. Borrmann took a student group to Germany, he was able to contact Heusgen who arranged for a special tour in Berlin. While at WRA in 1971-72, Heusgen participated in track and soccer and played violin in the school orchestra. He continued his studies at St. Gall in Switzerland and returned to the U.S. to earn a master's in economics at Georgia Southern University on a Rotary International scholarship. His importance to the European political scene cannot be overstated. Perhaps WRA can persuade him to return to give an assembly on international relations.