Monday, August 02, 2010

Counting the minutes

"Sept. 27, 1939. Dean Fitzpatrick called the general assembly of all faculty members and instructors to order in the college library at 8:20 p.m." Thus begins a bound volume of manuscript and typescript minutes, by-laws, and other critically important documents detailing the history of the OHSU School of Dentistry, uncovered last Friday in the school's vault and now available in the Historical Collections & Archives.

The ruled pages, held between the standard stationery covers (half-bound red with black sides), are jammed with handwritten notes and the whole is fat with tipped-in documents and correspondence (291 of the 300 pages are filled). The last item is a memorial resolution, passed by the faculty on October 13, 1947, extending sympathy to the family of Henry G. Stoffel, DMD, on the occasion of his death on August 24, 1947. Even a cursory glance back into the volume reveals Stoffel's signature on numerous pages; he was secretary of the faculty from April 1941 until his death. Stoffel had succeeded Horace Miller, DMD, whose round cursive writing stands in sharp contrast to Stoffel's slanted style.

In this set of faculty minutes, consideration of students' work appears in plan English, unlike the minutes of the Willamette University Medical Department. One student, for example, was to be cautioned for "an over sympathetic attitude" (Nov. 18, 1940)--one wonders whether he was using up too much anesthetic from the school stores.

On May 22nd, 1941, the faculty heard a letter from "J.E. Purcell, dean of the school of dentistry at St. Louis University" pointing out "the large number of [military] selectee rejections due to dental defects" and suggesting "that dental practitioners and educators work out a more intimate system of meetings and conferences in an effort to overcome such dental neglect." I hope they didn't plan to meet in Hawaii in December.

The minutes of the Jan. 19, 1942, meeting include a report from school librarian Phyllis A. Rossi. Phyllis was conducting one of the first library surveys, asking each faculty member to indicate their area of specialty and other major interests. In a contrast to today's Zoomerang instant results, Phyllis asked only that they "place this information on a slip of paper and either put it in the Librarian's box, Number 16, or bring it to the Library."

On Feb. 15, 1943, the students got a little pat on the back when "the student affairs committee reported that 'The Datter,' annual publication of the student body, recently released, was the best of recent years from the standpoint of organization, pictorial value, and editorial writing."

Not until June 28, 1943, do we read that "President Miller reported upon a recent Navy & Army meeting held in San Francisco. President Miller indicated the nature of the anticipated association of the Armed Forces and our school." At the Sept. 20 meeting, Miller introduced Major Lawrence Patterson, commandant of the Army Specialized Training Unit #3933 and Lt. George Bliss of the V-12 program, but the minutes are disappointingly silent on their proposed activities. They may not have gotten far off the ground: on Feb. 21, 1944, the faculty heard an announcement indicating a general curtailment of the Army Specialized Program.

And on Aug. 20, 1945, without fanfare, the minutes begin "A meeting of the teaching staff of the University of Oregon Dental School was held"--thus marking the transition from private school to public school within the Oregon State System of Higher Education. Ernest Starr goes on record "express[ing] gratitude to the entire staff for the cooperation he has enjoyed as acting dean."

And there's more good stuff in there--I could go on for [more] pages. I'm hoping we find a second volume, picking up on Stoffel's excellent record-keeping after his demise. If not, at least we have this eight-year window into the inner workings of the school to share with researchers for years to come.

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