Thursday, April 03, 2008

Deans Past and Really Past

We received from University News & Publications this week a very large box containing all the news and image files for the past presidents and deans, back to the first president (Lewis Bluemle) and including all deans of the "modern era" (Terkla, Van Hassel and Turner from Dentistry; Kendall, Benson, Bloom, Cassel from Medicine; Lindeman and Potempa from Nursing).

I'm eager to see what the files hold, having noticed already folders labeled "speeches" and having peeked at the photos of Terkla (such a sharp dresser, that man). In these materials, researchers will be able to track high-level changes in mission, outlook, and initiatives from the consolidation of the schools into a university in 1974. And, now that we've pulled some of the older dean's office records from the Subject Files (per yesterday's post), we'll also be able to compare and contrast the deans of yesteryear with the deans of just-a-little-while-ago.

To get that project jumpstarted, I felt compelled to leaf through one of the Subject File folders marked "Dean's Correspondence, 1911-1925." A characteristic mix of the lofty and the prosaic: letters from Assistant Dean Dillehunt to Dean Mackenzie voicing concerns about the impending merger with Willamette University Medical Department (1913); petition from the associated students of UOMS to the Dean seeking support for their recognition as an official Students' Army Training Corps group (1917); letter from the Dean to Abraham Flexner explaining the funding constraints for the medical school (1925); and a memo from the City of Portland's Chief Electrical Inspector, E.F. Dunlap, explaining to a Dr. W.H. Norton that the medical school building at 23rd and Lovejoy "is in a very hazardous condition," with "lighting cords that are now tied in knots or twisted around pipes, etc." and declaring that "wiring must be done at once" to "make same safe"--dated 1914. Ironic, therefore, that the place burned to the ground in 1919, presumably after these improvements had been made.

Ah, heavy hangs the head that wears the crown. Through primary source materials such as these, we can show that most deans were no jeremiahs: most of their headaches were far from imagined.

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