Chapter 4. Stability and Transition: 1934-1954
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33 Chapter 4 Stability and Transition 1934-1954 Abitterly cold wind swept across Mount Hope Cemetery as the body of James McLaren White was laid to rest February 8, 1933. Admirers, including U of I president Harry Chase and his predecessor, David Kinley, turned out on a bright, zero-degree day to pay respect to the longtime campus supervising architect. Two of the men carrying White’s casket to the grave would help guide the course of university development for decades: Charles Stewart Havens and Ernest L. Stouffer. White’s unexpected death stunned his staff. He seemingly had recovered from surgery and was about to return to work when influenza struck him down. “Prof. White’s death just at the time when we had concluded that his long trials were over and that it was but a matter of a few days until he would be with us again has left the men in his organization bewildered,” said Stouffer, the assistant supervising architect. Thirty-seven years old in 1933, Ernie Stouffer had been an architect in Streator, Illinois, before he joined the U of I staff near the end of Kinley’s big building program. He had a hand in the designs of the President’s House, the Woman’s (Freer) Gymnasium, and the Chemistry Annex. He seemed the logical choice to succeed White. But the Great Depression guaranteed there would be no money for buildings and therefore little need for architectural design. Instead, the time called for someone to keep the university’s vast physical plant running, humming, and clicking along, someone hardheaded, hardworking, and hard driving. In stepped Charles Stewart Havens. Only twenty-eight years old in 1933, the handsome, wavy-haired Havens was mature for his age. He had worked in the supervising architect ’s office since he was in high school and had vaulted up through the ranks, rising from a messenger to chief clerk. As chief clerk, Havens was in charge of “room assignments and schedules, the issuing of keys, the handling of the public in the front office, and the relaying to the proper parties of all sorts of requests which come in over the telephone.” White came to rely on Havens and once even assigned the young man to take his place at a meeting with President Chase. “Mr. Havens is quite thoroly [sic] familiar with all of our operations,” White assured Chase. 34 —— Chapter 4 —— Logical or not, Arthur Cutts Willard (1934-1946), the U of I’s new president (following a single year when Arthur Hill Daniels was acting president), wanted new buildings and in particular a new student center. Even legendary Illinois football coach Bob Zuppke had endorsed Willard’s 1934 election. “He’s all right,” Zup said. “He came here the same year I did.” That year was 1913, and in the intervening period Willard, a native of Washington, D.C., had served as head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, acting dean of the College of Engineering, and director of the Engineering Experiment Station. In the 1920s Willard, a heating engineer, gained international recognition for his work on the ventilation system of New York City’s Holland Tunnel. Fifty-five years old in 1934, the tall, sad-faced Willard had a reputation as a hard worker and the best-dressed man on campus. He recognized his limitations and wisely delegated his authority, including to secretaries who wrote many of his letters. “I don’t think Mr. Willard ever dictated a letter in his life,” said Betsy Ross, Willard’s niece, who acted as official hostess in the President’s House. “He said his secretaries could write a better letter than he could. That’s what they were trained for.” Willard also encouraged dissent among his subordinates ; Havens became one of the few persons willing to openly engage Willard in argument. The president’s management style attracted some criticism. Later on, a consultant’s report would characterize the university under Willard as lacking “driving administrative leadership.” Times were tough when Willard took office in 1934. Enrollment was in decline and there was no end to this trend in sight; the university budget stood at only $8 million —the smallest since 1921. No help could be expected from Springfield: the Democratic administration of Governor Henry Horner was paying out $3 million per month in relief to unemployed citizens. Enter the federal government. A little more than a week after White’s death, the board of trustees named Havens as acting superintendent...