Off the Hill

(Editor's Note: This is the first in an ongoing series of articles showing how Southwestern College faculty are making an impact in a world without boundaries.)

Wilder Connections Are Music to SC Ears

The relationship between Southwestern College and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra isn't new.

Even before Michael Wilder joined the music faculty in 1978, SC professors had played with this elite group of musicians: Ross Williams honed his violin artistry there for decades while educating generations of Southwestern music majors.

Perhaps never before has this relationship had more synergy, though, than during the 23 years since Michael and Joyce Anne Wilder simultaneously joined the Southwestern College faculty and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Now professor of music and chair of the performing arts division, Michael plays second clarinet in the symphony; an adjunct faculty member at Southwestern, Joyce Anne is a flutist.

While this professional combination has been ideal for the Wilders (feeding both their academic and artistic sides), the ultimate beneficiaries of their dual careers have been Southwestern College students and music-lovers in the community.

Because of his connections with the symphony, Michael has been able to build on a practice of now-retired music professor Jim Strand, bringing world-caliber musicians to the campus in conjunction with their symphony appearances. As a result, SC students have had the opportunity to hear and interact with such artists as Igor Kipnis (the world's foremost harpsichordist), Michala Petri (arguably the best living recorder player), and Jennifer Koh (an extraordinary 24-year-old violinist).

And the artists don't simply fly in to town and on and off stage. Campus settings are provided that are informal, often a morning 'Coffee Concert' or classroom experience.

"What these artists do in Wichita is wonderful, but here they are able to talk to the audience, perform, and get to know our students personally," Wilder explains. He works carefully with management of the symphony to invite musicians who are personable and articulate, and the result has been extraordinary connections between the musicians and the academic community.

Violinist Corey Cerovscek, who was pursuing doctorates in both music and mathematics by age 14, accepted Michael's invitation to participate in a Southwestern faculty enrichment session in 1998. Cerovscek was so intrigued by former mathematics professor Reza Sarhangi and the college's integrative studies work that he became an annual participant in the Bridges Conference celebrating the link between mathematics and the arts.

The artists almost always are willing to add the Southwestern appearance to their full weeks at a fraction of their usual appearance fees; Michael estimates that the college pays about 10 percent of the normal cost to piggyback onto the symphony appearance.

As a result, admission at the coffee concerts and Winfield recitals is free.

"We don't want there to be any barriers at the door to everyone having the opportunity to hear and meet and interact with these artists," Wilder emphasizes. "We want to do everything we can to encourage and strengthen music anywhere in the area."

1962: The First Lady of the World Visits SC

By Jerry L. Wallace

Suffice it to say that if all the people of the world cherished the same goals and practiced the same brotherhood and love of fellow man [as does Eleanor Roosevelt], there would be no need for the ministry: the millennium would be here.
--"Bouquets and Brickbats," Southwestern Collegian, April 13, 1962

On a bright spring day in 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt-one the most prominent and influential women of the XXth Century-visited Southwestern College. No one was more pleased than Dr. C. Orville Strohl, president of Southwestern College (1954-72), for it was his policy to seek out and bring onto the Builders' campus leaders in all fields of American life. It was not enough, however, for students to see these movers and shakers of our world only at a distance on the stage of Richardson Auditorium. Dr. Strohl wanted students also to have personal contact with them and watch them interact with faculty, students, and townfolks as they moved about their campus. In this regard, the visit of this exceptional woman to the SC campus was perhaps his greatest success, and one that he still recalls with pleasure and satisfaction to this day.

At the time of her visit, Eleanor Roosevelt was a 77-year old widow. Her health was weakening. In early 1960, she had been diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Determined to carry on, she ignored, as best she could, the illness that came and went. The spring of 1962 found her still fully engaged in public life, including writing her daily newspaper column, "My Day." There was no slowdown, physically or mentally, as was noted frequently during her stay at Southwestern. Yet there were signs, according to her biographer, Joseph P. Lash, that by early 1962, she sensed that Death's call was not far off. When not traveling, she resided at her comfortable home, Val-Kill, at Hyde Park, New York, surrounded by friends and family members.

It had been 17 years since the death of her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States (1933-45), who had led the nation through the dark days of the Great Depression and then on to victory in World War II. For 12 years, she had been an exceptionally active and often controversial First Lady: F.D.R.'s eyes and ears.his good angel.beloved by many, hated by some. Never in our history had there been such a First Lady. All Americans knew her.

But Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was much more than the wife and widow of a former president. She was a remarkable lady in her own right, having overcome personal misfortunes and difficulties to become a noted writer, speaker, political and social activist, and supporter of humanitarian causes. The post-War years found her working on behalf of the United Nations, first as a U.S. delegate (1945-51), heading its United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Commission on Human Rights, and then as a vigorous supporter of its work through the American Association for the United Nations. She became identified with that institution and its good works. By 1962, as one can sense during her Southwestern visit, most Americans no longer perceived Mrs. Roosevelt as an embattled New Dealer. Instead, looking beyond past political battles and her social and political ideas (which were not always popular), the public saw her primarily as a women of good will, warm-hearted, kind, with a deep sympathy for the underprivileged of all nations. Eleanor Roosevelt had become one of the most respected and admired women in the world. Upon her had been bestowed the title of "The First Lady of the World."

What brought Eleanor Roosevelt to Southwestern's campus on Friday, May 4, 1962? She had accepted an invitation extended by the "Friends of Finley Committee" (a Cowley County-based political group), Wes Syler, chairman, to participate in the opening of the campaign of the Reverend S. Ben Finley, of Conway Springs, for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Why this show of support for Rev. Finley, a popular minister and powerful speaker, but a political neophyte, lacking a politician's temperament, who would soon bow out of the primary campaign?

Rev. Finley, while pastor of the Tisdale Methodist Church (1952-59), located east of Winfield, had started a program in May 1954 called the "Little United Nations." The Cowley County chapter of UNESCO, of which Rev. Finley was chairman, sponsored it. (Setting on the UNESCO Board was Murrel K. Synder ['29], an associate professor of sociology and soon to be Southwestern's registrar; he also chaired its education committee.) Giving it an important boost, the Little UN had obtained the blessing of President Dwight David Eisenhower and the active support of the U.S. State Department. It also fitted in well with the Methodist Church's nationwide effort, "A Crusade for World Order," undertaken in the month of February 1954 (and repeated again in 1955), aimed in part at developing knowledge of and support for the UN.

The Little UN brought together Heartlanders and foreigners living in the area, along with representatives of the State Department, UN, and foreign governments (mostly consuls stationed in Kansas City), to discuss world issues. Rev. Finley, who shared many of Mrs. Roosevelt's ideas, described the purpose of the Little UN as "[b]ringing the world to the grassroots of Kansas so that we might understand all nations and our own domestic needs." Meetings were held in Winfield and Arkansas City, with a traditional closing dinner at the Tisdale Methodist Church. Participants included area civic groups and Southwestern faculty and students, along with students from other local colleges and schools. The program was quite successful and received national publicity. Unexpectedly, in May 1959, Rev. Finley disbanded the Little UN at the conclusion of its sixth annual meeting. There were problems, but the deciding factor, according to him, was the failure of local sponsors (all but two) to support his proposal to have Eleanor Roosevelt as speaker at the 1960 meeting. It was not long after this that Rev. Finley left his charge at Tisdale for one in Conway Springs.

The Little UN had attracted Mrs. Roosevelt's attention, expressing as it did her ideals while building support for the UN in America's Heartland with its isolationist past. Over time, she became acquainted with Rev. Finley and his work. She undoubtedly welcomed the opportunity offered by the Friends of Finley Committee's invitation to express her respect and admiration for this outstanding man, this like-minded spirit.

Dr. Strohl and Southwestern's trustees were pleased for the college to participate in the visit. Dr. Strohl was acquainted with Mrs. Roosevelt from his days in Iowa with the Commission on Christian Education, when she spoke to groups he sponsored. Dr. Strolh also knew Rev. Finley, and admired and approved his work with the Little UN. Moreover, Rev. Finley had attended Southwestern for a year in the mid-1920s, while his son, Dennis R. Finley, had graduated from the college in 1958. Dr. Strohl recognized that Mrs. Roosevelt's visit offered an excellent opportunity for students to hear and met one of the outstanding figures of the century. The college itself, of course, would benefit from favorable publicity and gain prestige.

While the initiative for the visit was political, the visit itself, given Mrs. Roosevelt's prominence and standing as a world figure, took on a broader and nonpartisan aspect. Indeed, given both her and Rev. Finley's focus throughout the visit on the United Nation, the affair can be characterized as an effort on that organization's behalf, rather than the Finley candidacy. Individuals, present at the time, with whom I have spoken, often tend to forget the political nature of the visit. Mrs. Roosevelt did, of course, speak kind words about the candidate, who accompanied her throughout the day, along with a bevy of Democratic Party officials, but she addressed in a nonpartisan manner (as the press noted) students and the public on the pressing issues of the day. While clearly a political affair, it is difficult to think of it as such.

As for the times, Mrs. Roosevelt's visit took place during the Cold War, long before the "Evil Empire" was swept into the dustbin of history. Hanging over the world was the threat of nuclear war and mankind's annihilation. On the very day of her visit, as Mrs. Roosevelt lunched with the Southwestern faculty, the United States set off, as part of its test program, a middle-sized nuclear device in the atmosphere near Christmas Island in the Pacific. John F. Kennedy had moved into the second year of his presidency. The Peace Corps had been launched; Judith Charlton ('60) and Janice McKelvy ('62) would soon answer the call for volunteers and in September depart for Ethiopia and the Philippines, respectively. At the time of her visit, President Kennedy was attacking Big Steel's price increases. Before the end of the month would come "Blue Monday," the so-called "housewives' panic" on Wall Street, which sent the Dow-Jones Average into its sharpest drop since 1929. The Congress was then debating legislation that would lead to the establishment of global network of space satellite, which, it was predicted, would "revolutionize world communications." Later that year, just before Halloween, the Cuban Missile Crisis developed, with our nation and the U.S.S.R. moving to the brink, some say, of nuclear war. It was truly, using W. H. Auden's perceptive phrase, "The Age of Anxiety."

What follows is a chronological account of Eleanor Roosevelt's activities during her visit to Southwestern.

Arrival: Mrs. Roosevelt's plane touched down at the Wichita municipal airport at 9:30 p.m., on Thursday, May 3, 1962. A large and enthusiastic crowd greeted her. Among the welcoming party were Mayor S. Andrew Swoyer of Winfield; officials from Cowley, Sumner, and Sedgwick Counties, and a host of Democratic Party officials. Escorted by Mrs. Eugene (Betty) Graham, Cowley County Democratic Party chairman and her official hostess, Mrs. Roosevelt motored to Winfield, where she spent the night at the Sonner Motel. She was not the first Roosevelt to visit Winfield; her uncle, Theodore, had done so earlier in the century. As Mrs. Roosevelt had no Secret Service protection, local police officers were detailed to provide for safety. During her stay on campus, three officers always were present.

Friday, May 4: This was to be a full and busy day for Mrs. Roosevelt. It began with breakfast with Mrs. Graham and women officials of the Kansas Democratic Party, including Mrs. Georgia Neese Gray, former treasurer of the United States and national committeewomen, and Mrs. Marie Vickers, state vice-chairman.

Address to Students: A little before 11 a.m., Mrs. Roosevelt's car drove up the drive (which then existed) to the front of Christy. There, wearing a lavender dress and a black beret, with eyeglasses with hearing aid, she was welcomed to the campus by Dr. Strohl and members of the student council. The party then proceeded into Richardson Auditorium, where she spoke to an assembly of 800, composed of college and area high school students. As she entered, all present rose and greeted the great lady with "thunderous applause." Jim Glenn ('62), student council president, escorted her; they were followed by Rev. Finley and members of the student council. Merwin E. Mitchell ('62) extended the welcome and Shirley Roberts ('63) presented her with a gardenia corsage. Mrs. Roosevelt, introduced by Rev. Finley, gave a 30-minute talk titled "Youth Takes a Look at the World." The Courier described the scene:

Talking in the relaxed manner of one who does not require note cards, but speaks from the mind and heart, Mrs. Roosevelt gave the assembled youth of this community a look at their nation in relationship to the rest of the world.

She stressed the importance of knowledge of the languages, problems, customs, and habits of other countries. In this regard, Mrs. Roosevelt spoke of her high hopes for the Peace Corps, especially a better understanding of other peoples that the volunteers would bring back home. She pointed out that as the world grows smaller and is tied more closely together, many problems within the U.S. cannot remain domestic; as an example, she cited the food surplus problem. To the students, she expressed a hope that "you will be given the courage to study and look without fear at the problems of the world." An informal question-and-answer period followed her talk, ending at noon. She departed the auditorium as she entered it, to a standing ovation.

To insure that students had close contact with Mrs. Roosevelt, Dr. Strohl had placed the student council in charge of this event; the three chief participants had previously taken part in the Washington Semester program. The May 18, 1962, issue of the Collegian had this to say of their performance:

Jim Glenn [president of the student council] has won many honors in his four years at Southwestern, but perhaps he is deserving of no higher accolades than those due him and the student council for the fine manner in which they handled the appearance on our campus of the first lady of the world, Eleanor Roosevelt. The gracious courtesy and the fine hospitality accorded this wonderful lady reflect credit to our council and to our student body.

Private Luncheon: At 12:30, at the Student Center, Mrs. Roosevelt lunched with a group of professors and Democratic Party leaders from over the state. There were no empty seats in the tri-dining room that noontime. Judith A. Huffman ('62), accompanied by Jo Anne Bockhaus ('64), sang two vocal solos, "Romance" and "Love Is Where You Find It." During the meal, Mrs. Roosevelt talked informally on a number of topics:

I tell young people that instead of just security they should really try to live life to the maximum-to do something for the world to the best of their ability. They should feel that their country and the world has profited some from their efforts..

We should make sure that young people understand the difference between the communist and democratic forms of government [state focus vs. people focus].

Communists have confidence that they can win the struggle for world domination. It will be a long struggle, and it is up to us whether we win or loose. Each individual must carry his share.

Following the luncheon, Mrs. Roosevelt rested.

Press Conference: After an hour delay, from 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. Mrs. Roosevelt held a press conference in the Pounds Lounge, which was arranged by Glenn Newkirk, assistant professor of journalism and director of Southwestern's news bureau. It was well attended by the media from Winfield and nearby communities, as well as by college and high school journalism students. Although Mrs. Roosevelt had some trouble with her hearing aid, she was not disturbed and answered all questions quickly and spontaneously. Topics included problems of youth, Peace Corps, food for peace, training for diplomatic service, threat of atomic war, reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the position of women in the field of political science. In response to a question about the youth of the country "becoming demoralized and going off on such tangents as 'the twist' [former President Eisenhower had just criticized the dance]," she expressed confidence that they would met crises and challenges as had all those who had gone before.. She also noted that youth faced so many more and such different problems than in the past and that youth could not turn to their elders for guidance because their elders themselves lacked answers.. She did not believe there would be nuclear war because the U.S.S.R. realized the strength of U.S. retaliatory power. She urged Americans not live in fear of it: "Who knows what will happen tomorrow, so why live in fear?"

Barbecue: That evening, at 6:00, Mrs. Roosevelt was the guest of honor at the "Finley for Senate" barbecue at Southwestern's Sonner Stadium. She made a dramatic appearance in a white convertible driven onto the field. This affair-a combined barbecue and speech-officially opened Rev. Finley's campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Tickets were $10 for couples and $2.50 for students, with the proceeds going to the campaign. The supper consisted of barbecued beef and ham, French bread, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, and coffee, catered by Bob-Inn. For the benefit of Catholics, Bishop Mark Carroll of Wichita had issued a special dispensation permitting them to partake of meat on this occasion. Mrs. Roosevelt declined an offer to have her plate filled for her, insisting on "going through the line just like everyone else." The Courier reported "She chatted throughout the meal with those at her table and afterwards graciously met many of the people attending the dinner." The girls of Intermediate Scouts Troop 107 helped serve at the meal to 1,000 attendees. Later, these young ladies had their photograph taken with the great lady herself.

Speech at Stewart Field House: Following the barbecue, at 7:30 p.m., Mrs. Roosevelt, wearing a pink crepe dress with lace bodice, spoke in Stewart Field House. Howard Elrod served as moderator for the program. Mrs. Kenneth Shively furnished organ music for the event. The Rev. C. P. Criss gave the invocation. Rev. Finley spoke briefly on the importance of working towards better world understanding and the purpose of the Little UN. Mrs. Georgia Neese Gray then introduced Mrs. Roosevelt, whose topic was "Does America Face World Leadership?". She began by reviewing how the U.S., at the end of World War II, had been thrust "automatically" into world leadership, "without wanting or preparing for [it]." Discussing U.S. effort to save neutral countries from Communism, she observed that "sometimes we Americans are too anxious to be liked when it is often more important to be respected." Noting that many Americans felt there was no future for the world, which was reflected in a "what's the use" attitude, Mrs. Roosevelt made her primary point. She told of how during World War II a doctor in desperate circumstances had responded to her questions of how he carried on: "As long as one lives," he said, "one must live to the best of one's ability or one dies." Mrs. Roosevelt then observed, "A nation who lives by this will lead in the world and will perhaps save the world."

At the end of the talk, in a 20-minute question-and-answer period, Mrs. Roosevelt responded to a variety of questions, "quickly and profoundly." Some examples: She backed President Kennedy fully in his action to roll back Big Steel's price hikes; "he had no choice" but to act.. As for the John Birch Society, "They claim they are anti-Communist," she said, "but their objectives are identical. ".Because of her war-like stand, Red China could not be admitted to the UN.." Concerning medical care for the aged, against which the AMA was waging a bitter fight, "Of course I approve of it."

Then, it was over: The end of a perfect day-a sad time, a time for dear friends to part. Mrs. Roosevelt retired to the Sonner Motel.

Departure: The following morning, Saturday, May 5, Mrs. Roosevelt was escorted to the Wichita airport; from there she continued on to her next engagement.

Closing Words: On May 18, 1962, Dr. Strohl wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt: "It was a real privilege and joy to have had you on our campus.. As you may have noticed., we are emphasizing world affairs. You could detect the interest of the students, and that they were proud, indeed, to be in charge of the assembly." Mrs. Roosevelt responded: "This is just to express my gratitude for your letter.and your kindness during my recent visit to your campus. I was happy to be at Southwestern College and note the students' interest in world affairs."

Final Notes:
As mentioned earlier, Mrs. Roosevelt suffered from aplastic anemia. During her stay, according to press reports, she appeared vigorous and alert and undertook a full and rigorous schedule. In mid-July 1962, her health began to decline precipitously. Death came for her on November 7, 1962, six months after her visit to Southwestern, following a recurrence of the tuberculosis she had acquired in 1919. The world mourned her passing. With John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman looking on, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was put to rest next to her husband in the rose garden at their Hyde Park estate.

Around the time of Mrs. Roosevelt's visit to the Southwestern campus, the World Affairs Committee of the student council, based on a survey of students, recommended the revival of the Little UN, which had ended in 1959, under the sponsorship of the college. With Dr. Strohl's full support, a Little UN Steering Committee was established to plan the affair; it consisted of Mary Wentz ('63), chairman, Janice M. Tucker ('64), Linda Nonken ('64), Gary Phillippi ('63), George "Bill" W. Minturn, Jr. ('63), and Darrell K. Huddleston ('64). Their efforts were successful. The first Southwestern Little UN, composed of 36 delegations, met April 5, 1963. Mr. Andre Bovay, an official of the United Nations, and Thomas Noone, information officer of the World Bank, were the principal speakers. Thereafter, with a name change from "Little UN" to "Model UN," annual sessions were held into the 1970s.

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Jerry Wallace came to Southwestern as its historian-archivist in September 1999. Since then, he has been working to develop its archives and record its history. The Spring 2000 issue of the Southwesterner contained his article on the Richardson Hall fire. Below is his account of Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to the college in May 1962. The article discusses not only individual events, but also provides background to them. It is based on information taken from the pages of The Winfield Daily Courier, supplemented by other sources, including interviews with participants.