ON THE G.I. BILL
On June 22, 1944, the federal Congress enacted Public Law No. 346, and on that day the Miami president's office mailed the monthly Service Bulletin to three thousand men and women scattered from Italy to Australia. Public Law 346 would bring some of them back to Miami, along with hundreds of other veterans who had never heard of the old slant walk, Thobe's Fountain or the Tallawanda. "The Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944" made available a college education to any person under twenty-six who had served in the military or naval forces after September 16, 1940, and whose education had been interrupted by that service. It was popularly called the "G.I. Bill of Rights." The law provided tuition, fees, books, and subsistence of $50 a month for a single student, $75 for one with dependents.
Not till the fall of 1946 did the full tide of G.I. students reach Miami. But during the summer of 1945 the awesome atomic devastation obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese government surrendered. In September, with the numbed world at peace, 2200 civilian students enrolled at Miami, 1700 of them women. The 500 civilian men students were outnumbered by 750 men in uniform in the Navy programs.
The year 1945 brought many changes as a college geared to war training shifted its aim and energies to the more traditional pursuits. The first faculty men returned from leave for military and governmental service, while some of their colleagues set off for foreign assignments. Professors L. P. Irvin and H. C. Christofferson assumed responsible posts in the Allied Military Government in Germany. Professors McNiff and Jones were sent to Europe as educational specialists in the U.S. Army educational program. Soon Professor Brietenbucher would become director of the American university program in the storied old halls of Heidelberg.
With the lifting of gasoline rationing and travel restrictions, an enthusiastic crowd of alumni came to Oxford on a crisp week-end in October. They followed the Miami marching band (reorganized after a two-year interval) to a crackling bonfire on Cook Field. They saw a Homecoming parade and a Miami-Ohio football game. At Withrow Court they gathered for a football dance with music by the traditional Campus Owls.
Late in 1945 millions of men were being separated from the armed forces, and the colleges got ready for veterans. On an eight-acre plot south of the McGuffey playground appeared the first house-trailers and prefabricated dwellings of "Veterans' Village." The first thirty couples moved into the village on the first of April. A special group of courses was arranged for these and other veterans just discharged from military service; one hundred fifty men earned six hours' credit between April and the end of the term in June.
Along with the veteran students at the beginning of April, 1946, a new president arrived at Miami. On April 4th at a Benton Hall assembly Vice-President Morris introduced to the student body Miami's fifteenth president, Ernest H. Hahne. With a warm smile and a brisk, engaging manner, President Hahne took charge of the changing college. At the June Commencement Vice-President Morris was surprised with an honorary degree, to the delight of all his colleagues. Then, after forty years of varied service to Miami, he retired and went on a fishing trip.
President Hahne, who had been a popular and prominent member of the faculty at Northwestern University, was an economist with an additional law degree, an authority on public finance. He foresaw growth for Miami and had no misgivings about it. He knew and upheld the methods of the large universities--big lecture classes, a strong alumni organization, and efficient university administration. He soon enlarged the library budget, strengthened the department of architecture, and encouraged the growth of the Graduate School. To the faculty he emphasized the importance of research and publication. He helped to plan a more vigorous alumni organization and he sought alumni counsel as to the kind of institution the changing Miami University should become. For change was more evident than tradition in the post-war college.
In September 1946 the full tide of G.I. enrollment came. The campus was thronged with young men just forgetting the routine of camp and base and shipboard. On the library steps under the thinning persimmon tree they lounged in the autumn sun, talking about Midway Island and Saipan, Pearl Harbor and Sorrento, Omaha Beach and the Rhine bridgeheads, Port Moresby and Okinawa. In the college enrollment of forty-one hundred there were two thousand veterans.
Hundreds of them were bivouacked in rows of double-deck bunks in Withrow Court--like the Army all over again--until Thanksgiving when they moved into a veterans' community on the south campus. Rows of barracks from Camp Knox and Camp Breckinridge were quickly named "Miami Lodges" before some more derisive name developed. The lodges housed single men, who took their meals at a central cafeteria. Across Oak Street were the longer rows of Veterans' Village, one hundred ninety-six prefabricated duplex dwellings brought from the big Willow Run aircraft plant outside Detroit. All spring and summer W. P. Roudebush and Foster Cole of the business office and Professors Albaugh, Albert and Erickson had been at work creating Miami's first facilities for married students. On July 22, 1946, the 195th family moved in, and "Vetville" was fully occupied. (An office used the 196th unit.)
The married veterans took up Operation Textbook with cheerful industry, working their math problems and writing themes while their wives washed dishes and put the baby to bed. The dwelling units were cramped and crowded, drafty in cold weather and stifling when the summer sun beat down. But it was a happy, orderly, self-governed community. Some G.I. wives went to classes with their husbands. Others enrolled in non-credit courses in sewing, cooking, home nursing, interior decoration, first aid and consumer guidance.
Fifty years earlier, most Miami students came from the southwestern counties of Ohio and had never been away from their native region. Now Miami freshmen were writing themes about North Africa and the Solomon Islands, about villages in New Guinea, hill towns in Italy and jungle camps in the Phillipines. The Bookwalter prize in composition was given for an eye-witness account of the bomb est at Bikini atoll. Greer-Hepburn prizes were awarded for stories of American airmen over Italy and soldiers in Japan. Experience from the far side of the world came to college on the G.I. Bill.
In the summer of 1947, among military veterans returning to the faculty and the student body, came John E. Dolibois, '42, home from an army assignment as interpreter at the Nuremberg trials. In Ogden Hall he moved into the newly-created office of executive secretary of the Alumni Association. At the same time Mrs. H. J. S. Mann was expanding the quarterly Alumni Newsletter into a handsome, lively, six-times-a-year publication, The Miami Alumnus. At the end of the summer Mrs. Mann and Secretary Dolibois met with two alumni, Paul McNamara, '29, and Charles Ray Wilson, '26, to discuss an alumni study of a Long-Range Program for Miami. They believed that the alumni generally were more concerned with the future of the college than with its past.
What followed was a careful, thorough, deliberate discussion of Miami policies. Sub-committees under the direction of Edward M. Brown, '31, Richard J. Young, '28, Dwight E. Minnich, '10, Thomas McNeil, '30, and J. Oliver Amos, '31, considered five areas of policy--Admission and Scholarships, Student Life, Faculty and Curricula, Intercollegiate Athletics, and Public Relations.
The general report of this committee was published in 1949. It recognized the facts of change (there were five thousands students on a once-rustic campus), but it noted that "the size and relative isolation of Oxford, its dignity, charm and lack of distracting interests have helped Miami preserve its character." It placed the greatest value on the quality of instruction in the University and the close personal relationships between faculty and students. Miami, thought the committee, should not grow beyond five thousand and it hoped that with this formidable number the college could retain its past friendliness, simplicity and commonly shared spirit. The report quoted the words of former President Hughes at the inauguration of President Hahne: "I am arguing that Miami's greatest future will grow from high distinction in superior teaching and in care for the individual student." Here were the old deep memories of Miami, going back to President Bishop who addressed the first student body as "My young friends." But there were five thousand students to cope with in 1947.
The pressure had shifted from military training to the colleges, and makeshift buildings were moved from camps to campuses. To Miami, on recommendation from the United States Office of Education, the Federal Works Agency assigned nine buildings from Wright Field and Camp Perry. They were moved to Oxford late in 1946, and fortunately the Miami grounds were spacious enough to absorb them without conspicuous clutter. One became the Redskin Reservation, a temporary Student Union shouldered against Herron Hall; it was a dim but popular resort with a constant stream of students taking coffee breaks at all hours of the day. Two of the structures were thrown together, with a connecting wing, for a temporary architecture building. Another building on lower Spring Street housed the Audio-Visual Service. One was set up east of Gaskill Hall for aeronautics and radio laboratories. One, settled in the woods near Fisher Hall, was used for a Naval rifle range. A quonset hut behind Withrow Court became an arena for wrestling, tumbling and remedial physical education. "Number Nine" on Maple Avenue became a temporary Fine Arts building. The most conspicuous was a faculty office building beside Irvin Hall; it was made conspicuous so that it would the sooner be disposed of.
But it is hard to give up any building in a growing college, and the "temporary" barracks-type F.O.B. now enters its second decade as an academic building. The structure which housed the Audio-Visual Service was really temporary, because it occupied the site chosen for the University Center. The building was pulled down in 1954 so that construction of the Center could begin, and the busy Audio-Visual Service moved to further temporary quarters in two of the abandoned lodges near the spreading women's campus.
On winter mornings in 1948 freshmen from the east campus tramped past a chaos in the frosty woods. On the site of the vanished MacKaye studio a crane was lifting structural steel and men unloaded brick and stone beside glowing salamanders. There was a thin snow in the air when some two hundred students and faculty gathered for the laying of the cornerstone of Upham Hall, Dean Alderman presiding. President Hahne recalled that since the first Miami cornerstone was laid in the forest, the Ohio wilderness had been transformed into the fourth most populous state in the Union. C. Vivian Anderson, president of the Board of Trustees, compared the men of Old Miami with the G.I. students of the present; both were heirs and defenders of a free society. Architecture Charles F. Cellarius, looking from the unfinished Upham archway to the old halls above and the snowy woods below noted that the new building would stand between the past and the future. West was the past, the old original college campus; East would be the campus to come, with buildings bordering the ancient uncut forest. Under the arch of Upham Hall the past of Miami would look through to the future.
A year later the departments of English, philosophy, mathematics, and air science moved in, while construction began on the building's north wing which would provide classrooms and offices, laboratories and museums for the biological sciences. An attractive feature of Upham Hall was the Alfred H. Upham Memorial Room, directly above the central archway. A comfortable and dignified meeting room, the gift of alumni, it was warmed with many shelves of books and with a portrait of A. H. Upham presented by Mrs. Upham and her daughter. The portrait showed the president reserved and reflective in academic dress, but with a gleam of humor lighting the eyes under their curiously folded lids. Among the books was a shelf of Oxford titles, including Miss Olive Flower's History of Oxford College and a copy of a new edition of President Upham's Old Miami. There were reminders of the past in this room where faculty, trustee, and alumni committees planned for the future.
Meanwhile another building ceremony had taken place on the east campus. On November 17, 1948, John B. Whitlock of the Board of Trustees presented to President Hahne the newly-completed Whitelaw Reid Hall. The speaker was Whitelaw Reid, editor of the New York Herald Tribune and grandson of the alumnus for whom the hall was named. Two days later the building was the subject of an editorial in the Herald Tribune.
An alumnus who was devoted to the past and ambitious for the University's future was Joseph M. Bachelor, '11, who had returned to his college to teach English after twenty years of editorial work in New York. A bachelor who made Miami the center of his affections, he spent seven years as head-resident at Fisher Hall, and from that tumult he moved to the quiet of a farm cottage two miles across the Tallawanda. From his garden terrace on summer evenings he watched the sun set over the wide wooded valley and the spires of Oxford. There he spent the last years of his life, studying, editing, entertaining his friends at formidable supper parties around the fireplace on winter nights or on the terrace in the summer dusk. Illness forced his resignation from teaching in 1946. A year later, on a gray December morning, alone in his reading chair, with unfinished work on his lapboard and a fire glowing on the hearth, he was stricken with a heart attack. He died the following day in a Hamilton hospital.
With a love of the Oxford countryside and with royalties from anthologies and textbooks, he had bought successive tracts of land, much of it in woods and pasture, along Harker's Run. He left that valley land, four hundred acres, to Miami University as a Wild Life Preserve. The gift was dedicated on Alumni Day in 1951, as a part of the 40th anniversary of J. M. Bachelor's class. It was an overcast mild day, with birdsong from the fence rows and a summer wind rippling the meadow grass. Professor Hefner of the zoology department and Edward M. Brown, '31, spoke of this spacious gift of land and of the man who had left it.
President Hahne had taken office with zest and enthusiasm, but illness shadowed his Miami years. He grew drawn and worn, but he kept up with the work in his office, and at public events his old smile flashed out. By 1949 there were three annual Commencements, in February, June and August, and the president was always busy. He established a fully organized Graduate School--replacing the division which had been in operation since 1928--offering work for the Master's degree in science, education, business administration and fine arts, as well as in the social sciences and humanities. He helped to plan a celebration for the twenty-fifth year of the School of Business Administration. An economist himself, he was concerned about the standard of teaching in that division and he took pride in the record of its twenty-five classes of graduates--a record freshly reviewed in a directory edited by two of that number, Professors C. R. Niswonger, '29, and J. S. Seibert, '32. At the same time the School of Education was observing its fiftieth anniversary, and Homecoming visitors had three new buildings to visit: the John Shaw Billings Natatorium, Frances Gibson Richard Hall on the women's campus, and the new wing of the Alumni Library. Illness kept President Hahne from presiding at these dedications. Late in November, 1952, while the campus was quiet with the Thanksgiving holiday, he died.
Miami has been both lucky and unlucky in its executives. It was the University's good fortune that a good vice-president was on hand at President Hahne's death. After thirty years as a Miami undergraduate, member of the chemistry department, assistant dean of Liberal Arts, and vice-president, C. W. Kreger knew the strength and the weakness, the capacities and resources of Miami. As a freshman on a September midnight in 1915, running across the dark campus from sophomore pursuers, he collided with a man who introduced himself: "I'm R. M. Hughes. Who are you?" Thirty-eight years later he was acting-president of a restless, growing university.
In 1952 the 5000th student to enroll, just before Registrar W. C. Smyser made his October report, was Bundid Chuangsuvanich from Thailand. Students from fifteen foreign countries were on the campus. For eight weeks Miami was host to a group of foreign teachers observing American institutions. The post-war nations were curious about each other and eager for exchange of ideas and practices. The college horizons had never been so broad. In the following summer Professor George Grosscup took a party of fifty travelers on the first European tour of "Miami University Abroad," a season of travel and study which could be used for college credit. After that trial run, Miami University Abroad became a regular part of the University's summer program. University lecturers and counsellors on the tour have been Professors Snider, Altstetter, McNiff and Montgomery.
In 1953 the exodus from the lodges began and nearly four hundred freshmen streamed into two new residence halls on the east campus. Collins and McBride halls recalled two doughty men who had defended Miami when its opponents called it a college "in the gloom of the Beechwoods" which could never fulfill the hopes of its founders. Now their names were part of a university that had surpassed their boldest expectations.