Research Log #4: Dr. Combs

This week, I will focus my blog on the files for Dr. Combs, the president of the school during the 1930’s. Dr. Combs was an extremely influential figure to the history of our school. He created many of the things that we see today. I looked over the reports that he composed for the Virginia State Board of Education each quarter (at this time, the school year was separated into quarters not two semesters). These reports contain many important details about the school, like the budget and plans for the campus. Many of the items in the reports would not be extremely important for this project but they do contain important information about the amount of students and what the school expected of the students. Even though the budget information is not vital to understanding what was happening in the classroom, it is important to understand in the big picture because of the Depression that was occurring in these years. It must have been a topic in the classroom. The school also seemed to have received many budget cuts through out these years.

In 1930, the reports state that there are 458 students and Dr. Combs comments on the fact that the student-teacher ratio is low. Most of the teachers lived on campus because of the lack of funds for their salaries which would have been very low. In this specific report, Combs comments on some of the great changes he wished to see: changing the school from a teacher’s school to a liberal arts college. He writes about how many of the students don’t actually want to teach and that the board needs to start offering other courses outside of the “professional courses.”(1) He states “it is certainly not to the advantage of the students who do not expect to teach and have no interest in that field to require them to do practice teaching and thereby deprive them of the opportunity of pursuing work along the line of their major interest or profession.”(2) For the classroom understanding, we can see that the idea of what the students were expected to learn.

Each year, the enrollment number goes up as does Dr. Comb’s expectations of the students. The grading scale toughened a number of times through out this decade as stated in the reports. Included in these reports is a quick write-up of the student body’s health report. Through out the decade, the students seem to have been in great health, with a few cases of measles reported. It shows that the school was very much involved in both student and faculty life which must have affected them daily.

With these reports, there were also a number of files of proposed changes for the school that Dr. Combs produced. He believed that the teacher’s college was not enough for these students and that a liberal arts college was the best. He believed that the teaching college’s curriculum was already growing to become like that of a liberal arts school. He also writes that he believes that an upper level institution needs to be a four-year program and not just two years. Something that I found very interesting about this report by Dr Combs is that he believed that men and women should be in school together (which seems very progressive for the time). He stated three reasons for this: that men should also be teaching at all levels, that men would help raise the enrollment thus increasing the school’s funds, and lastly for social reason because men and women have to deal with each other in most every other situation. He also believes that these students who are planning to become teachers need to have a liberal arts education because the requirements for teachers need to be stricter in general. He was created a school were the students had to work hard because he wanted them to be successful in their work and life.

I have included in this blog scans from a proposed curriculum for a liberal arts college from 1935. There would be a number of general requirements that every student had to complete. They would then chose a major and also two minors from an approved list. These scans are examples of classes and schedules for the proposed English major.

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