• U.S.

Education: Goodbye, Messrs. Chips

4 minute read

Each year, U.S. colleges & universities must say goodbye to many a famed and favorite teacher. Among 1950’s retirements:

Wellesley’s Ola Elizabeth Winslow, 55, Pulitzer Prizewinning biographer (Jonathan Edwards), authority on American literature, who could never walk across the campus without a pocketful of seeds for the birds, catnip for the cats, and a troop of neighbors’ children following, Pied Piper fashion, behind. Up at 5, she was a prodigious and painstaking worker, gently persuaded a whole generation of students to take after her.

Tulane University’s Psychologist Harry ( “Uncle Harry”) Miles Johnson, 65, a rumpled and violent lecturer who would roar long and loud at his own bewildering jokes (“What’s the matter, sir? Don’t you get the point, sir?”), hated to have women in his class (“Damn it all, Mrs. Brown, I wish you weren’t here”), liked to announce his quizzes by pulling up his tie like a hangman’s noose (“Well, I’m going hang you on Thursday. . . Any questions? ). An incorrigible mangler of names, Uncle Harry once bedeviled a student named Diket with a bewildering succession of near misses: Mr. Siket, Mr Liket, Mr. Ticket, Mr. Rickets, Mr. Fikit, Mr. Spiket, Mr. Icket.

North Carolina’s Dr. William de Berniere MacNider, 69, one of the world’s top authorities on diseases of the kidneys and the effects of age and injury on cell tissue. A professor of pharmacology for 45 years, gentle, genial Dr. MacNider also served off & on as village doctor in the town of Chapel Hill, spent his time between calls and classes puttering about his garden reading philosophy, or suddenly popping up on neighbors’ doorsteps with a bouquet in his hands.

The University of Southern California’s Owen Cochran Coy, 66, hulking (6 ft. 5 in., 200 lbs.), indefatigable chronicler of early California history (The Great Trek, Gold Days). Lumbering about his classroom or sitting in his cluttered study. Professor Coy taught and talked history with the air of a reminiscent prospector. Over the years he traveled thousands of miles along pioneer trails, tabulated the names of more than 57,000 old California settlements, came to know as much about Grizzly Gulch, Whiskey Slide, Swellhead Diggings, Loafers’ Flat and Lousy Level as any man alive.

Harvard’s Arthur Stanley Pease, 68, a shy, spindly classicist who gave up the presidency of Amherst College in 1932 because he missed teaching, was happiest between semesters wandering about the New England countryside, noting the shrubs and flowers (his Vascular Flora of Coös County, New Hampshire was a minor classic). His plan after he stopped teaching Latin: “Study Latin.”

Washington University’s Roland Greene Usher, 70, grey-thatched historian, whose Pan-Germanism, published in 1913, first won the scorn, then the praise, of critics for predicting a major European war stirred up by German ambition. Because of a lame leg, Dr. Usher seldom stood up in class, spiced his lectures with swooping gestures, fiendish grins and grimaces. For his students he once compiled an “irreducible minimum” of modern European history—a list of some 20 dates, 20 events and 20 characters. Once students knew these, said he, they could relax and enjoy “the sweep and romance of great conflicts, great achievements and great people.”

The University of Washington’s Mrs. Elizabeth Sterling Soule, 65, “the mother of nursing” in the Pacific Northwest. A trim, silver-haired woman who likes cooking, cats, dahlias and baseball, she went to the university to fill in for three months, stayed on for 30 years. In that time she was responsible for founding the university’s Nursing School, set up the first integrated nursing course in any state university, graduated more than 2,000 nurses, on the big wall map in her study faithfully kept pinpoint track of those serving in foreign lands.

Princeton’s Harold Herman Bender, 68, chairman of the department of Oriental languages and literature until 1944. An etymologist with a taste for bizarre plaid shirts and criminology (he served as an expert during the trial of Kidnaper Bruno Hauptmann), he lived in near seclusion, teaching his classes at home behind a wall of Gothic, Gaelic, Celtic, Lithuanian, German and Sanskrit dictionaries. For the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary he wrote the derivations of 550,000 words, spent three years tracking down the origins of “jazz” alone. For his monumental Lithuanian Etymological Index, he was made a Lithuanian Grand Duke.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com