Research Log # 3: Faculty Files

This past week I have focused my research on the files of a number of faculty members teaching at the school in the 1930s. These files are extremely interesting and contain so many things from these people’s careers. What I have found is that a good amount of the faculty during this decade are the namesakes of buildings on campus. Thus, I have focused my research on those particular people because they were so important to the school. Before I give some examples of who was teaching here at Mary Washington, I would like to make some general observations. Most professors here, including women, had their masters and even their Ph.D. There were not too many professor in each subject like we have today and from seeing course cards, professors would teach a good amount of classes. I went through the course catalogues to find names of professors and found some interesting departments including hygiene, home nursing, and home economics. There seemed to be only one or two professors in these departments. It is also important to note that in the summer sessions men were allowed to take classes with the women through out the decade.

I looked at the file for Dr. Roy Sheldon Cook, the chair of the science department, who taught for many years here. His files included hand written notes between him and President Combs. These letters spanned from being about someone replacing him for a week to pay raises and thank you notes for flower and fruit baskets. His contract was also included stating that he started teaching in 1925, the same year he received his doctorate from the University of Virginia. The contract states that he had to serve on committees on campus and he was given $15.00 for board per month. His salary was $3560 per year (which he taught in the winter and summer). There are many letters from the President letting Dr. Cook know that he had received pay raises, something that started in last years of the decade and into the 40s, perhaps an example of the economy growing out of the Great Depression. His employee form stated the normal information and then some interesting things that would seem unnecessary to know about employees today, which include his height and weight, who his family was, and his military service. I learned from this file in particular, and doctors notes also included, that Dr. Cook had lost one of his eyes and it plagued him for a good amount of his life. The letters between President Combs and Dr. Cook show that the two men had a great relationship and had enormous respect for each other.

I also looked at the file for Nina Bushnell, who served as the Dean of Women from 1921-1950. Her job was to oversee everything that was happening to the women at the school from weekend plans, room assignments, to what furniture went into each buildings. I also learned a good deal about Mrs. Bushnell’s personalities because there were many complaint letters to the President from many parents. It seems that she was a hard women but had much respect from the staff and achieved a great amount in her years working for the College. This was quite the entertaining file.

Next I will be looking at the enormous amount of information and files on President Combs. He was one of the most important executive figures to go through this school and shaped much of what we see today, included the name change to Mary Washington College. He served as President through out the entire decade.

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