Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Homer Oscar Sluss Named Head of WRA, 1917

Senior year WRA graduation
photo in 1891
No stranger to Western Reserve Academy, Homer O. Sluss had come to our campus from Louisville in Stark County to complete his undergraduate education, and graduated with the class of 1891. He went on to Western Reserve University in Cleveland where he earned a bachelor’s degree, played football for three years, was on the editorial board for student publications, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and served as class president for his senior year. He then returned to Hudson as a member of the small faculty of Western Reserve Academy, then in its “hardscrabble” days. Sluss was a teacher of Latin and Greek, was coach for both baseball and football, and was a dorm master. As one of the WRA publications stated, “In the classroom, on the athletic field, and in the prayer room the influence and enthusiasm of Mr. Sluss have been equally felt”. In Lucien Price’s classic booklet, Hardscrabble Hellas, Sluss is the “heroic schoolmaster” who made those years golden despite the shopworn condition of the campus and its buildings.

The WRA football team of fall, 1895, when Mr. Sluss was coach and manager.
When the school closed in the summer of 1903, Mr. Sluss found his services were sought by Governor Dummer Academy in Massachusetts, reputedly the oldest boarding school in the country. He taught German and the classics at this school for a year, then returned to Ohio where he taught in Cincinnati. Eventually he became Superintendent of Schools for Covington, Kentucky, with authority over three high schools. When his old alma mater reopened in 1916, he was contacted about returning to Hudson, but remained in Covington until the crisis over a Principal at WRA persuaded him to take the position. He arrived in Hudson in the spring of 1917 and served as Head of the school until he was dismissed in 1924.

Homer O. Sluss as
Principal of WRA in 1917
Homer O. Sluss was just as popular among the students and faculty as he had been when he was a teacher some years ago. Even the yearbook, The Academic, was dedicated to him in 1924 citing his “understanding, justice, and cheerfulness”. But these were difficult years of transition, and the Board of Trustees decided they were looking for a leader with fresh ideas when they told Mr. Sluss that he was to be replaced by Ralph E. Boothby. Sluss was a married man with two young children when he found himself without a job in the late spring of 1924. James W. Ellsworth, the school’s great benefactor, was reluctant to see Sluss leave, and made sure that the Board provided him with a year’s salary and an opportunity to earn a master’s degree at Columbia University. After completing his degree, Mr. Sluss took a teaching job in Cincinnati where he had met his wife, Rose, but died suddenly in 1928 at the age of 57. The WRA trustees eventually extended a scholarship to the son of Homer O. Sluss, William Blackstone Sluss, who graduated with the class of 1934 and began college at Haverford. While he may not be ranked among the most effective Heads of Western Reserve Academy, Homer Oscar Sluss attained an air of immortality through Lucien Price’s little book, Hardscrabble Hellas, where he will always be the Olympian intellect and athlete and the “hero schoolmaster” to many WRA alumni.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Chinese student at Western Reserve Academy

As Hudson, Ohio, is such a small town with far-reaching arms, so to is Western Reserve Academy. Family visitors to WRA are always pleased to hear historical information surrounding our beautiful school. Recently, this was realized again, as a prospective student and his family were quite appreciative of our historical story surrounding WRA's first Chinese student.

Tien Wei Yang at the time of his graduation from WRA, June 1941
We welcomed Tien Wei Yang (1921-2012) to Western Reserve Academy in 1938, who had come from Tientsin, China, to escape the Japanese invasion which had destroyed his school. Both of Tien Wei's parents had been educated in Indiana, but they did not know about this school. They sent Tien Wei to a friend in western Pennsylvania who knew about our school and made arrangements for young Tien Wei to attend. He was warmly welcomed to our campus, and even though a bout with tubercolosis put him back one class because of his illness (he was treated at a special hospital, then returned to campus), Tien Wei graduated with the Class of 1941. At WRA he was a top scholar, an outstanding soccer player, and a winner of the Bicknell Prize as a senior. He went on to Oberlin College where he completed a degree in biology.

Biology teacher Tien Wei Yang with student Jim Kaufman '62, taken in the classroom in 1959
Tien Wei Yang eventually earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of Arizona and spent a long and successful career as a teacher and research scientist. He returned to Western Reserve Academy in 1952 as a teacher of biology and soccer coach, and was here for 14 years, leaving in 1966 to teach in Arizona. He was a winning coach in soccer and continued a great interest in the WRA soccer teams for the rest of his life. In 1991, in time for his 50th class reunion, he was awarded The Waring Prize, a top award for an alumnus of our school. He came back to address the student body at that time. Tien Wei Yang died at age 90 in 2012.
Tien Wei Yang as part of the 1939 wrestling team at WRA. He is fourth from left in the back row.
Tien Wei Wang at Western Reserve Academy in June, 1991, after being award The Waring Prize