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DeWitt Wallace’s Ambition   the postwar period saw not just an influx of new GI Bill students into the educational system but also an extraordinary transformation of higher education . The role of education in the new “superpower” nation was in flux. Education questions were on the front burner, debated in localities across the nation. Liberal arts colleges, for instance, were called on to add education curricula to their offerings. Macalester, in response, entered negotiations to merge with the long-standingexperimentalkindergartenfoundedinMinneapolisbyeducation innovator Stella Louise Wood. In 1949, Miss Wood’s School relocated to the Macalester campus, becoming the college’s elementary education department.1 Other changes were also occurring as the nation reassessed the role of higher educationwithinthenewinternationalcontext.MostsignificantforMacalester was DeWitt Wallace’s increasing interest in the educational goals of the college andwillingnesstofinanciallysupportnewinitiatives.Throughthisbenevolence, Wallace, in the next several years, would sometimes lead, sometimes push the institution in new, even unexpected, directions. A New Era of Beneficence Theeffectsof DeWittandLilaWallace’sbeneficenceonthecollegewereapparent as early as 1939. A portion of the Wallaces’ large 1938 donation to the college fundedscholarshipsfornewstudents,andthosenewscholarshipstudentswere making a difference—at least in terms of the institution’s numbers. In 1940, CharlesTurckreportedtoDeWittWallacethataUniversityof Minnesotastudy of all freshmen in the state showed that those who entered Macalester in 1939 had “a higher ranking in their high-school classes than the freshmen entering  | nature & revelation anyothercollegeinthestate.”AccordingtoTurck,Macalesterstudents’rankings were10pointshigherthantheuniversity’sand2.7pointshigherthanCarleton’s, a remarkable accomplishment given that only two years earlier, Macalester was 8.3pointsbehindCarleton.2 TurckattributedthechangetoWallace’sscholarship funds, which, he explained, “allowed us to find worthy students among many familiesof moderatecircumstanceswhobutforthescholarshipgrantcouldnot have come to Macalester College.”3 Wallace’scontributionsweresubstantial.Hisdonationof fivehundredthousand dollars to the capital campaign of 1938, of which one hundred thousand dollars had been given up front, was being paid in yearly installments of fifty thousand dollars that were to continue until 1947. Furthermore, Wallace was contributing ten thousand dollars per year for pensions for emeritus faculty, along with other grants ranging from five thousand to twenty thousand dollars for specific purposes.4 Wallace was a donor with agendas. Though he never completed a college degree, he was deeply interested in education. Wallace believed that Macalester could and should become the premier private college in the upper Midwest, and he was both willing and eager to put his time and money toward making it so. During this period, he became a public booster for the college, using his influence on the East Coast and in the Twin Cities to encourage others to financially support Macalester as well. Over the next several years, much of this money went toward buildings. In 1942, the college erected a new library, which would later be renamed WeyerhaeuserHall ,foratotalcostof $122,000.Fiftythousanddollarsof thissumcame from the Wallaces’ Byram Foundation and twenty-five thousand dollars each from board members R. M. Weyerhaeuser and F. R. Bigelow. Seven years later, BigelowHall,anewwomen’sdormnamedafteritsprincipaldonor,wasopened. TrusteeDavidWintonandhisfamilydonatedfundsforthenewWintonHealth Services building, completed in 1951, and the next year, the new Student Union buildingwascompleted.Concernaboutthephysicalcharacterof thecampusalso resulted in a wave of landscaping, driveway paving, and tree and shrub planting in the mid-1940s, a project funded by Weyerhaeuser and Lila Wallace.5 DeWitt Wallace’s primary agenda was to make Macalester into a nationally recognizedinstitutionandaleaderamongcollegesintheMidwest.Hechallenged Turck to “make it one of the conspicuously outstanding small colleges in the country.”6 Together, they kept a close eye on publicity attached to the college. Mention of Macalester in the New York Times occurred twice in the early 1940s DeWitt Wallace’s Ambition |  and did not go unnoticed. Wallace and Turck congratulated each other on the college’s growing reputation outside the state.7 Soon there was other evidence of advancement to report. Admission requirements were being tightened, and the college “regularly turned down applicants who are not in the upper half of theirhighschoolgraduatingclass.”Overfivehundredapplicantswererejectedin fall1946.Thenew“selectiveadmissions”process,inTurck’sview,washelpingto establish the reputation of Macalester. In addition to admitting better-prepared students, the college was also attracting better-trained teachers. He noted that the University of Minnesota sent “its best young graduates with advanced degrees to teach here (if we want them), and I have seen letters from heads of the University departments telling their graduates to choose Macalester as a place to teach, if they can get contracts from us.”8 Nevertheless, establishing a national reputation required breaking into the eastern lines of communication, and Turck feared that Macalester lagged behind not only Carleton, which was miles ahead in developing a national reputation, but also Lawrence and Beloit collegesinWisconsin.Nottobedismayed,however...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816673346
Related ISBN
9780816656264
MARC Record
OCLC
648711615
Pages
424
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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