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7 Ch. 7 - The Simmons Years - 1936 - 1941 by H. G. Merriam

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The following article is an excerpt from The University of Montana, A History, by H. G. Merriam, published by the University of Montana Press in 1970.

 

The Simmons Years

1936 – 1941

It is with men . . . that a University’s service is built

George Finlay Simmons

                   Upon the death of Dr. Clapp Professor Scheuch again was appointed Acting President of the University. He served from early 1935 to January 1936. The faculty immediately asked him to express to the Board of Education its desire to participate in the selection of a new president. With the consent of the Board he appointed a committee to help locate candidates for the presidency.[1] The committee first canvassed the faculty by an unmarked ballot bearing two questions, first whether it preferred as president a man from the faculty or one from the outside, and secondly, should it seem wise to select a faculty person, had it preferences – one, two, three – among the faculty members. The results were that a man from the outside was overwhelmingly preferred and that no one faculty member received a sizable vote. The committee’s search for an excellent candidate was fruitless, largely because the salary was low (a maximum of $6,000 and a house), and there were no other benefits. Three seemingly promising candidates, however, were brought to the campus who proved to be unacceptable. Meanwhile, the committee, learning that downtown business and professional men and alumni were proposing that Dr. George Finlay Simmons, an Assistant Professor of Zoology with two years of service on the faculty, be selected, authorized Dean Leaphart to write to former employers of Dr. Simmons to learn of his past experience. A half-dozen replies stated in each instance that he had had friction with his superior officers. One letter baldly stated that if the University wanted trouble it should elect G. F. Simmons as president.

            The downtown group approached Mr. Wallace Brennan, a member of the Board of Education, who became a strong supporter of Dr. Simmons for the presidency. The faculty committee steadily opposed the selection but to no avail. [2] It asked permission to present to the Board the reasons for its opposition. At the Board’s December, 1935, meeting Mr. Brennan, contrary, it was said, to an agreement with members of the Board and in the absence of Governor Cooney and two other Board members, put the name of George F. Simmons in nomination. Dean Leaphart, who was present, was given twenty minutes to present the committee’s reasons for opposition. He read the letters the committee had received, all unfavorable, and added that “during the fifteen months that [Dr. Simmons] has been a member of the faculty similar traits have been in evidence.” As counter-evidence the Board had before it not only the recommendations of the downtown Missoula group of business and professional men, but also twenty letters from prominent men, including educators, who had known Dr. Simmons, each asserting that he was eminently qualified for the presidency. The Board voted for Dr. Simmons. The committee considered this action a sharp rebuff. It also, along with several other faculty members, thought the action of the downtown Missoula group undue interference in University affairs and resented it.

            When Dr. Simmons entered upon his duties as President in January, 1936, the faculty began work in “an atmosphere of defeat, distrust, and reluctant acquiescence.”[3] Dr. Simmons admittedly knew of the opposition to his appointment but, as he later stated, had accepted the presidency “as a challenge.” An experienced administrator would not likely have accepted it without frank discussion with dissident faculty members, but Dr. Simmons held no such discussion. Difficulties were certain to develop. Aside from the normal growth and progress of the University during the Simmons years, a dominant matter was the relation between the administration and unsatisfied faculty members.

            Naturally, any university president wishes his administration to succeed and Dr. Simmons was no exception. He was a tall Texan, well built physically, who carried himself with aplomb and possessed a pleasant social manner.[4] His presence and his words, spoken with a certainty that carried credence, recommended him. He was also a good public speaker with a store of stories. On the University faculty he had demonstrated his excellence as a teacher of zoology. As he began his presidency, with both the President and the faculty making a genuine effort to cooperate, it seemed that he might, after all, make a good president, certainly an active one. With some of the dissident faculty he seemed at times to lean over backwards to gain their support. But relief from tension was short: the five Simmons years were deeply disturbed.

            The first bit of trouble Dr. Simmons inherited, namely, censorship that had existed since the August, 1935, meeting of the Board of Education. After listening to a disgruntled History instructor who appeared before it with the assertion of bad moral conditions on the campus and with a reading, out of context, of objectionable passages from Vardis Fisher’s novel Passions Spin the Plot, it passed a ruling that the novel and all books of a similar character should be removed from the shelves of the libraries of all of the units of the University System.[5] The novel had been placed on a leisure-time reading shelf on which the Librarian, Professor Phillip Keeney, from time to time placed books of varied kinds. It had also been offered on a bulletin board of the Department of English at a reduced price if combined with a subscription to Frontier and Midland.[6] The Board’s action was considered intolerable censorship by many members of the faculty, Professor Keeney being in particular loud and persistent in public denunciation of the ruling. A few weeks later when the college year opened and Dr. Simmons was in office he found himself faced by two petitions, one protesting censorship, the other asking the Board of Education to rescind its action. The former was signed by seventy-five professors in several Northwest institutions of higher education and the latter by 380 University faculty and students. The President was asked to present both petitions to the Board, but this he hesitated to do and at a faculty meeting in early March countered by a proposal to set up a campus community committee which would see to it that “proper standards” characterized choice of library books, student publications, dramas, exhibits and so on. A storm of protest arose and lasted until, at a late March meeting, the faculty voted against such a censorship in fact though not in name. The President agreed to ask the Board to change its action and the local petition was withdrawn. He did so and obtained a much milder expression of disapproval: The new statement merely placed responsibility for “good taste” upon all University officers and faculties. He himself, however, did not escape the suspicion of favoring some sort of authoritative control. Instead of dropping the matter he wrote a long reproving letter to Professor Keeney and a similar one to Professor Merriam in which he wrote: “if the two of you set a proper tone for your departments there would not exist at the present time the campus turmoil shown by The Kaimin . . . such turmoil and lack of teaching efficiency cannot be tolerated.”

{It should again be noted here that Dr. Merriam, who went on to write this History, was at the time the Chairman of the English department. The irony of this ranks with the classics. – Don Gilder}

            Before this action by Dr. Simmons, the student dramatic organization, Masquers, had been rehearsing Eugene O’Neill’s play, “Ah Wilderness!” Because the play had a scene with a prostitute, and mindful of the current flurry over censorship, Coach Barnard Hewitt thought it wise to consult with the President about the advisability of presenting the drama to the public. The President read the play and hoped a more acceptable one could be found, but did not censor it – Coach Hewitt withdrew it of his own accord. However, the withdrawal, wrongly understood, caused criticism of Dr. Simmons. The Kaimin was in particular angered by withdrawal of the play.[7]

            About this time an article entitled “Hire Learning in Montana” appeared in The Pacific Weekly, which was strongly critical of the University administration. Dr. Simmons suggested that the chairman of the Department of English had written it (which he had not), or that it issued from the Department (the chairman had no knowledge of the materials before reading them or of their sources), or that they came from the Librarian. At the same time letters and mimeographed materials were sent to newspapers in Montana and to the alumni accusing Dr. Simmons of “using the censorship club.” The President wrongly attributed these materials to the same sources, though the chairman of the Department of English had no knowledge of their origin.[8] Only bad relations could result from such materials and such suspicion.

            An action by twenty-seven out of eighty-four faculty members in early April of 1937 also caused concern to the President and the community. Under the leadership of Professors Keeney and Rowe, they re-established a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, an organization which was affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.[9] The Union was formed admittedly to secure and maintain such rights as it felt the faculty was entitled to, to put teachers in touch with workers, to work for the general welfare of the University.[10] The members agreed among themselves not to strike or to bargain for salaries as a group, and stated so publicly. The Union concerned itself with such matters as a teachers retirement plan, increased appropriations for the University, support of the 1940 campaign for passage of the mill tax and bond issue referendums, legislative provisions for salary, rank, tenure and the right to a full hearing before dismissal from the faculty. It studied educational problems and issued a one-page monthly sheet entitled Montana Teacher. It sent members as representatives to local and State meetings of labor councils, asked members not to cross picket lines, encouraged organization of union chapters in schools of the State and in the units of the University System, solicited the support of Labor for faculty and University needs, sponsored Labor-Farmer conferences on the campus. Professor Michael Mansfield, an active member, kept the membership informed of the qualities and leanings of political candidates for State and local offices. Dr. J. P. Rowe was the temporary chairman. The President did not outwardly object to the formation of the Union, but many people of the community and some faculty members interpreted the move as a socialistic if not communistic move.[11]

            Concern for their positions came to the faculty when, in February, 1937, the Montana Legislature gave the Governor the power of dismissal of certain State officers, including, it was assumed, the faculties of the University units. No faculty member was dismissed then, but at its meeting in April the Board of Education, upon complaints by Dr. Simmons, placed Professor Rowe upon month-to-month tenure. Dr. Rowe throughout his long career on the faculty (since 1900) had always been a stout contender for his opinions and an outspoken critic of administrations. He had disagreed with Dr. Simmons on several matters, notably upon the use of a certain fund for salary increases. The President’s recommendation and the Board’s action were impolitic and obviously punitive, if not illegal, and of course stirred resentment, particularly since Dr. Rowe was chairman of the Budget and Policy committee and had been, at least in some matters, carrying out committee instructions.[12]

            At the same meeting (April 12, 1937) the Board, acting on the recommendation of the President, dismissed Librarian Philip Keeney without a hearing.[13] From late 1935 to that date “the Keeney trouble,” which Dr. Simmons had inherited, had been the cause of much difficulty and controversy. Dr. Simmons, when he became President, continued the year-to-year appointment which Dr. Clapp had used. However, a University regulation printed on the back of faculty contracts stated that after three years of one-year appointments a professor, unless notified that his services were not to be renewed, would be either dismissed or would automatically be on permanent tenure. Professor Keeney, having been in service for five years by the autumn of 1937, assumed that he was on permanent tenure. But President Simmons in 1937 had decided not to renew his contract and on April 7 had so notified him.[14] Professor Keeney appealed to Montana organized labor for help, which he received in full measure.[15] He took his case to District Court, where he received a writ of mandamus restoring him to office with full pay. He was not immediately restored, for the University appealed the case to the Montana Supreme Court, which sustained the order of the District Court. Professor Keeney was then restored to his position.[16] The handling of Professors Keeney and Rowe did not foster confidence in the objectivity of Dr. Simmons in dealing with the faculty.

            Other matters also contributed to unrest on the campus, for instance teaching loads and failure to restore the salary cuts of 1933. Each faculty member, on the average, was caring for 23.2 students compared with 12.1 in public universities in the nation and 6.78 in private institutions of higher education. Salaries were still in 1936-37 16% below the pre-Depression level. The number of students had increased 40%; classes were large. Also, in spite of efforts of Dr. Simmons in the next two years (1936-38) to obtain more money from the State, financial support remained woefully inadequate. For instance, the President asked for an appropriation in 1937 of $820,000 and was given by the Legislature $568,000, which allowed, in his words, nothing for return of salary cuts, for repairs on the physical plant, for increased cost of supplies or capital replacements, or even for maintenance and operation of buildings under construction. What contentment could be expected in administration or in faculty?

            Other difficulties arose. The President, recognizing the ill health and the aging of Professor Stone, placed him on part-time service in July 1936, leaving him Dean of the School of Journalism and appointing Professor R. L. Housman the executive officer. However well intended, the action failed to take human nature into account – it produced a bitter struggle for the next few years between two men who had been close friends. The action distressed the many friends of Dean Stone among the faculty, in the community, and in the State.

            Another misfortune came in 1938. Professor Paul C. Phillips, whom Dr. Simmons had made Vice President of the University, was charged by the brother-in-law of a W.P.A. worker on a project directed by Dr. Phillips with a criminal attack.[17] Dr. Phillips decided to sue the accusers on the grounds of slander. He resigned from the faculty, upon the advice of his attorneys, in order to bring the least possible harm upon the University. The jury which heard the case was hung. At a second trial Dr. Phillips was cleared of the charges and granted damages of one dollar.[18] In December the employee withdrew her charges. Dr. Phillips applied for reinstatement to his professorship in the University in July of the next year, his petition endorsed by nineteen faculty members. Dr. Simmons took the matter to the Board of Education, which suggested that the faculty Service Committee be asked to investigate the case. After a thorough investigation the committee reported that “no one item [of charges or rumors] isolatedly considered and without reference to reputation and value to the University is proven to a degree to justify denial of reinstatement. Whether or not the combination of all ‘Items’ and ‘Topics’ is sufficient to justify denial or granting reinstatement the committee feels is your [the President’s] consideration.” The President studied the report for a week and decided against reinstatement.[19] Naturally, this action, however objective it may have seemed to the President, alienated the friend of Dr. Phillips.

            These unfortunate matters might have arisen in the administration of any university president, though they might have been handled more successfully. Then, as if there were not enough trouble, Dr. Simmons stated to the Board of Education in the early spring of 1939 that difficulties of administration had mounted until now they had “reached a peak.” Meanwhile, a legislative committee and subsequently a Board investigative committee visited the University. The former found the spirit of the students good, the dormitory system commendable, student fees justified. The “supervision” (administration?), it added, had “neared censorship” but had not imposed it. Dissension existed within the faculty (which was commendable) and there was “too much downtown influence.” Representative Ekern proposed to the Legislature that Dr. Simmons be asked to resign, and Representative Moss stated that the Board had made “a serious mistake in appointing Dr. Simmons as President, “but the proposal lost on a voice vote. The Board committee investigated on the campus twice, once in February and again in the summer. Several Professors appeared before it as well as the President and administrative officers. The report principally recommended that Professors E. A. Atkinson, P. O. Keeney, N. J. Lennes, H. G. Merriam, and C. E. F. Mollet (all men with tenure, three of them chairmen of departments and one a school dean and all, with one exception, long-time faculty members) be dismissed. It was adopted by the Board at its September meeting. The five professors were told as of June 1, 1940, to resign by October 15 or face charges. No charges were made beyond such a hazy one as trouble making.[20]

            A storm of protest blew up and for the next four months gathered momentum. A group of Montana Alumni steadily supplied materials protesting the Board’s action, criticizing the administration of Dr. Simmons, illuminating the situation on the University campus, and in general exposing the injustice done to the dismissed professors in The Montana Review, a weekly newspaper published at Columbia Falls. In Montana organized labor protested. Liberal magazines in the East protested. The AAUP sent an investigator to the campus. Governor Ayers announced that a public hearing would be held in Missoula in January of 1940 at which all persons, those opposed to the administration at the University and those favoring it, and neutral persons, might testify. The hearing was held for eleven days, with lawyers on both sides present and active and many people offering testimony.[21] Forty-nine of eighty-four faculty members had signed a petition asking the Board to rescind its action. Forty members had signed one stating that President Simmons had failed as an administrator. As a result of the hearing, the Board at its February meeting rescinded its action demanding the resignation of five faculty members and at the same time exonerated the President. Governor Ayers issued a statement for the Board saying that the charges and complaints against Dr. Simmons had not been established, that the President’s administration had been progressive in “student service and activity, educational standards and curriculum improvement,” that the attitude “of a small group of the faculty [had been] one of suspicion and criticism,” that public criticism of an administrative officer was disloyalty to the University. [Emphasis added/Merriam.] It hoped that a fresh start might be made by those opposed to Dr. Simmons “whereby they may work harmoniously and in cooperation with the President in furthering the progress of the University.” It also ruled, looking at the actions of Mr. Brennan, that no member of the Board of Education should hereafter be a citizen of a town in which a unit of the Greater University was located.

            The new governor, who had come into office in January, 1941, appointed three new members to the Board of Education. At the Board’s spring meeting the members told Dr. Simmons (as he later reported to a Board member), that conditions on the University campus were so bad that only by his resignation could they be bettered. Governor Ford, the President continued in the letter to the Board member, told him in his office that he was to be removed from the presidency, denied him the privilege of appearing before the Board, and gave him only a few hours in which to resign. Dr. Simmons resigned as of September, 1941, and was given a year’s leave of absence on pay as Professor of Zoology, as of 1941-42. At the expiration of the leave in the spring of 1942 Dr. Simmons wrote to his successor, Dr. E. O. Melby: “My leave of absence from my position as Professor of Zoology on the faculty of Montana State University expiring today I am this morning returning to the campus and presenting myself for active duty.” He did not, however, return to that position.[22]

            On the same day that Dr. Simmons resigned, Dean C. W. Leaphart of the Law School was appointed Acting President. He served until September 13, 1941, when Dr. Melby arrived on the campus as the University’s seventh president.

            Examination of the Simmons years reveals substantial accomplishments in the face of personnel and other difficulties; the President and the faculty were both active in the University’s welfare. Dr. Simmons was fortunate in arriving on the campus at a time when the Federal Government was giving grants to universities all over the country and making loans of money for construction of buildings. On the University campus several buildings which had been sorely needed were erected by these means – one for Journalism in 1937 (a school which had spent twenty-five years in inadequate quarters), in 1939 another for Chemistry (which had been operating in Old Science), and the School of Pharmacy (which had been poorly housed also in Old Science). A Fine Arts-Women’s Club building and a women’s dormitory, New Hall, were built.[23] In 1938 an animal and hothouse building was added to New Science Hall, to be used for experimental purposes.

            During the Simmons years able men were added to the faculty, a number of whom are still in service – among them E. W. Briggs in Law, C. F. Hertler in Physical Education, G. P. (Jiggs) Dahlberg, basketball and line coach for football, Naseby Rhinehart, Trainer and Instructor in Physical Education, John Lester in Music, L. G. Browman in Zoology, Mrs. Mary Ferguson was Assistant Dean of Women and J. E. (Burly) Miller, Dean of Men. Speakers of several shades of opinion were brought to the campus, like Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, anthropologist, Harrison Brown, publicist, T. V. Smith, Philosopher, Jeannette Rankin, alumna, and First U. S. Congresswoman, Norman Thomas, Socialist. Many artists visited the campus and performed – among others the Ted Shawn Dancers, Carola Goya, dancer, Albert Spalding, violinist, Arthur Rubenstein, pianist.

            Among other cultural projects on the campus was continued publication of the regional magazine Frontier and Midland. It was giving to the University not only good publicity but had helped to establish its Department of English as a center for creative writing. It was publishing writings by young writers who became nationally known, notably Dorothy M. Johnson, H. L. Davis, Nard Jones, John K. Hutchens, Vardis Fisher, A. B. Guthrie, Jr. among Pacific Northwest writers, and other writers from nearly every State. It was seeking to develop accurate and sound understanding of life in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington. Unfortunately, in 1939 a cut in University support and the editor’s lack of time for needed revision caused cessation of publication.[24]

            The University was sending Rhodes Scholars to Oxford University in England. Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the American Secretary for the Rhodes Trust, wrote to President Simmons: “Certainly the State of Montana has a right to be proud . . . [of its Rhodes Scholars] as to their record at Oxford.”

            In 1935 the Student Union Building had been constructed and dedicated. Dr. Simmons, now President, pleased with the facility, reported to the Board of Education in 1936 that use of it was “yielding almost unbelievable benefits to the general student life.” The building provided quarters for student offices, the student store, a beautiful large lounge, one large dance floor and two smaller ones, and an auditorium-theater seating about 1200 people. The building was used for scores of purposes, even for social welfare studies. Central Board opened it to faculty use.

            In order to improve instruction, which he once said he was brought in as President to do, and at the same time to cut expenses within departments and schools, Dr. Simmons ordered revision of several curricula, which was made. Also, Greek and Latin were separated from the Modern Languages Department and the Bureau of Business Research from the School of Business Administration. For too many years the University had not been offering study in Philosophy; now, in 1937, Philosophy Professor E. L. Marvin was added to the faculty.[25]

            A Department of Bacteriology and Hygiene was formed and a degree in medical technology set up, as well as training for nurses. After completing studies at the University and two years of service in a hospital, nurses were granted a degree. Work in Wildlife was offered by the Departments of Botany and Zoology and the School of Forestry. Social Welfare studies were given in cooperation with the Family Welfare Agency of the Federal Government. These excellent moves were reaching out into the community, a function of the University which had been recognized for many years but inadequately followed up.

            The School of Business Administration had advanced to the place where it was applying for accreditation. Its faculty produced a study entitled “Montana’s Production,” an economic survey which the President stated had been received as “the most outstanding [one] yet made.” The School of Forestry made its fastest growth during the ‘thirties. It received “the highest ranking in the United States,” Dr. Simmons reported, “by the Society of American Foresters,” one of twenty in the country. A magnificent laboratory had been added in 1937 in the form of a gift by the Anaconda Mining Company and another gift by the Northern Pacific Railroad.[26] A large nursery was planted on campus land next to the Milwaukee tracks in the mouth of Hellgate Canyon for the growing of trees to be sold to ranchers for shelter belts and windbreaks. In 1936-1937, 695,289 trees were shipped from it. In 1938, Dr. Simmons reported in a speech that “The School of Forestry was declared the No. 1 undergraduate school of forestry on the basis of competitive examinations held by the U. S. Forest Service.”

            The School of Music received its largest reorganization in the late 1930’s, meeting both the demands of the State and the requirements of the National Association of Schools of Music and winning accreditation by the latter in 1939, one of 103 in the United States. Professor John Crowder joined the faculty in 1929 and worked diligently with Dean Smith to make the campus, the community and the State music conscious. The task was abetted by the sweep of music at the time into the public schools of the nation and by radio carrying music into the homes of the country. Upon becoming Dean, when De Loss Smith died, Professor Crowder displayed admirable ability in forwarding the School’s development. In 1939 the School celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary and had 76 major students and about 300 other students studying music courses in a total University enrollment of about 2,800. Also, these students were receiving credit toward graduation for their work, a notable fact because faculties even in the liberal arts had been dragging their feet in allowing credit for music courses, especially for applied or instrumental music. Out of 250 applicants the School, one of twenty-five, received a Carnegie Music Set – about 1,000 records, 75 books about music and 150 music scores.

            In the next few years, after 1939, Professor Crowder set up and developed the Montana School of Music Foundation, a non-profit incorporated organization approved by the Montana Legislature. The new Dean was a good money-raiser – gifts came readily and earnings from various musical events were added. It has sponsored statewide music events, provided scholarships for music students, made grants for research.[27]

            The Law School celebrated in 1938 its twenty-fifth anniversary, marked by publication of The Silver Anniversary Bulletin. The Law alumni published the first Directory of Alumni of the Law School and the School put out in 1940 the Montana Law Review,[28] which students had had in mind for five years and about which they had consulted Professor Mason, and Montana Annotations to the Restatement of the Law of Contracts, the work of a half-dozen professors over a long period of time. Dean Leaphart was on leave of absence on law work in the offices of the U. S. Attorney-General in Washington, D. C., for two years, 1937 to 1939. Professor David Mason was Acting Dean. In April of 1937 the Law School Foundation, consisting of Law faculty, became a non-profit corporation to receive and administer a student loan fund which had been established in 1937 out of the Charlotte Russell Fund and sundry other existent small funds, and other properties donated or bequeathed for Law School purposes.

            For whatever happens during his years in office a president is given the credit – and the blame. The fact is that innovations and general changes in curricula are principally the work of the faculty. Even in the proposed construction of buildings the faculty must be consulted about the urgency and the order of needs and about floor plans. Students, too, express needs and ways of fulfilling them. The faculty and the students are the university, the President their leader. The three collectively should receive both praise and blame.

            In line with the satisfaction which some professors found in the administration of Dr. Simmons, the students had pleasant and profitable relations with him. A comment of the President of the student body, Robert Pantzer, made when Dr. Simmons resigned, indicates why: “Dr. Simmons always treated me as though I came in [to his office] to donate a half-million dollars . . . he was never too busy to be friendly, to drop in on student events.” At the beginning of his presidency Dr. Simmons told them: “I am very sympathetic to the student attitude toward university affairs and activities as well as academic,” and he proceeded to counsel with them. He enjoyed talking with them and liked to have them come to him. The 1938 Sentinel editor wrote of him as “a go-getter with looks, drive, initiative . . . a diplomat well-liked by students,” and the 1941 editor noted that “the presidency is no small job and Prexy seems to be the man for the job.” The Class of 1941 presented him with a gold watch in token of their appreciation of him and his activities.

            Student life during the Simmons years was in high spirits, even gay until World War II struck – the Mavericks (non-fraternity students) came alive, the first Beaux Arts Ball was held; the University band, 125 strong, toured southern and western Montana and the A Capella Choir appeared in Butte, Anaconda, Deer Lodge and Seattle; Central Board gave the University Orchestra $150 for an appearance in Helena; in 1937 an All University show was staged and Masquers took “The School for Scandal” on tour after a campus presentation. The feud between Lawyers and Foresters reached a new pitch when it was discovered that the moose head, Bertha, which hung in the Forestry building, had disappeared and Law School students were suspected. The Lawyers sported canes and bowler hats and set up November 2 as Derby Day. In football Doug Fessenden, Montana’s most successful coach to that date, in five seasons coached his teams to 25 wins, 17 losses and 2 ties. In 1937 “with a possible Cotton Bowl bid hinging on the game” Montana lost to Idaho, its one loss of the season, on a rain-soaked field that made passing impossible. In that year a mascot, a bear cub, was bought for $35, sold in the spring, bought again in the autumn with the sale’s money, and so on. These were fair years for other sports, too.

            When a collection of university official songs was being made by an Eastern firm, Central Board discovered that MSU had never voted for such a song; it decided to send “Fight, Montana” to the editors. In 1941 it voted $500 for work on the golf course on South Avenue. In the Simmons years trouble with the Missoula Musicians’ Union developed when the University wished to stage a musical. Some of the players in the orchestra being Union members, the local insisted that all orchestra players must be union members. The controversy continued for more than a year before a working agreement could be found. Central Board voted, when a proposal was made to establish a faculty-student council, that it neither approved nor disapproved the idea, but the students when asked to vote on it approved. It served a useful purpose for a while but never received the support it deserved. Two important steps were taken by Central Board in the Simmons years: Law Professor Briggs proposed that the student body incorporate for the purpose of holding title to student properties and for investing student funds and incorporation was enacted, and Bill Forbis, editor of The Kaimin, proposed that The Kaimin reduce its size from seven to five columns and issue daily (four times a week). Central Board approved a year of experiment. Since that year the student newspaper has retained its five-column page.

            The President gave the students, as he stated, an improved health service, providing in particular a regular physician and an X-Ray machine, and “the best Journalism plant in the Northwest.” He reported with sympathy that “over half of the students are wholly or partially self-supporting.” Here the National Youth Administration helped, employing in one year 531 students in campus work. Students increased in number, in 1936 reaching 2,780 and 2,851 in 1940.

            Again, the University demonstrated its ability to survive and develop under misfortunes. Dr. Simmons was a hard-working President, and the faculty did not allow quality of instruction to sag. And, to their credit, in the face of troubles the people of Montana in 1940 voted the mill-tax measure and the building bond issue.



[1] The committee was C. W. Leaphart, chairman, R. H. Jesse, W. E. Maddock, H. G. Merriam, J. E. Miller, P. C. Phillips, J. P. Rowe. It was no sooner appointed than each member was accused of himself wishing to be president. Even Dr. Simmons ultimately made such a charge. This was nonsense.

[2] Mr. Brennan would not listen to committee members who tried to tell him the reasons for their opposition. Letters are in the archives at the University from four Missoula businessmen to members of the Board of Education. One of them states that “local alumni and the businessmen of this section” feel that Dr. Simmons is the right man for the presidency. This was no doubt the honest opinion of the group and they had every right to express it to Board members. Some weeks before the selection of Dr. Simmons this writer was advised by a friendly Missoula businessman not to oppose the selection of Dr. Simmons for he would surely be appointed. On another occasion two prominent Missoula men spent a long evening trying to convince Dr. Jesse and the writer that Dr. Simmons was the right man. Other faculty members were similarly approached. The townsmen wanted in the presidency a good public speaker who would “sell” the University to the State’s people. They had been disappointed in Dr. Clapp in this capacity.

[3] The words are those of an AAUP committee which investigated conditions on the campus in 1937.

[4] A graduate of the University of Texas he took his Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago in 1934. For two years (1921-23) he was an Instructor in Zoology at that University, was leader of the Blossom South Atlantic Expedition of the Cleveland Museum (1925-26, a scientific search, Lecturer in Biological Sciences at Western Reserve University (1927-31) before becoming an Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of Montana (1934-36) and President in 1936.

[5] This was the principal element of the ruling.

[6] The Board’s ruling was aimed in particular at the Librarian and the chairman of the Department of English.

[7] Its story implied that the play had been censored. The President responded that he had not censored it – “I am a firm believer in academic freedom . . . Censorship defeats its own ends.” The investigating committee of the AAUP was “of the opinion that had it not been for the activity of Professors Keeney and Hewitt as well as the general resentment of the faculty, the University would have had a censorship in fact if not in name.”

[8] The writer does not know whether Professor Keeney had or did not have pre-publication knowledge of them or of letters and other materials.

[9] Chapters existed at the universities of Yale, Harvard, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Chicago, Ohio, Pittsburg and seven other institutions, according to a list sent by President Thomson of the School of Mines in Butte to each president on June 16, 1937. The university chapter that had been formed in the ‘20’s had waned.

[10] The first two meetings of the new Union were held in town halls; President Simmons then invited the Union to meet on the campus, which it did from then on.

[11] In a press release Dr. Simmons wrote: “So far as this administration is concerned, it has been definitely announced that organization representatives of teachers’ unions will be welcomed on the campus. Nor is there opposition to the formation on the campus of such unions.”

[12] Dr. Rowe was on permanent tenure; this action nullified his tenure without giving him a hearing. He was sixty-five years of age and the President thought that age made it possible legally to put him on month-to-month tenure. At the Supreme Court hearing in the Kearney case Dr. Simmons testified that Dr. Rowe had made “difficulty on the campus and off the campus from time to time.”

[13] Philip O. Keeney had been appointed Librarian and Professor of Library Economy in 1932 by President Clapp. By the following year Dr. Clapp, not completely satisfied with the Librarian or his services, had put him on year-to-year appointment and had continued it.

[14] The National Academic Freedom Committee of the American Federation of Teachers made an investigation in 1938-39 which was published under the title “The Keeney Case, Big Business, Higher Education, and Organized Labor.”

[15] President Simmons in a long account entitled “Involvement of Teachers Union with the Keeney Case at Montana State University” stated that Keeney “had no right to appeal to organized labor since the University American Federation of Teachers had not yet been granted a charter.”

[16] The Rowe case and the Keeney case were investigated by a committee of the Association of University Professors and were in the AAUP Bulletin, Vol. XXIV, No. 4, April, 1938. It found the action taken against Dr. Rowe “involved unfair discrimination and was unjustified. Further, the action was extremely unwise from the point of view of the faculty morale. . . .” In the Keeney case it decided that the “real reasons for [his] dismissal [were] his opposition to the election of Dr. Simmons, his “inability to keep silent about his dislike of the President” and “his participation in the protest over the censorship suggestion.” Dr. Simmons pronounced the report “unfair.”

[17] The brother-in-law’s motive was unclear.

[18] The sum agreed to in order to get the defendant to consent to trial.

[19] Later Dr. Phillips was restored to his position as Professor of History.

[20] Professor Keeney had been reinstated by order of the Supreme Court of Montana. Professor Merriam, being told by friends that he might be under fire, requested appearance before the committee but was not granted an interview. He learned of the Board’s action through reading the morning newspaper. He resigned at once in order to accept a professorship at the University of Oregon. His resignation was later changed to a leave of absence. Professor Atkinson also resigned and later his resignation was interpreted as “a communication.”

[21] A telling testimony at the hearing was reluctantly given by Dr. R. H. Jesse, a most fair-minded person who arrived at decisions with deliberation and thoroughness, that Dr. Simmons 1) had a streak of vindictiveness, 2) possessed a flair for intrigue which he used to subdivide men, and 3) made equivocal statements. The American Association of University Professors after investigation placed the University on it censured list. See p. 117.

[22] After he had resigned Dr. Simmons showed to a faculty member a list of faculty persons whom he would have dismissed had he remained as president. During the trouble one rumor gave the number as thirteen and another as seventeen.

[23] The Women’s Club of Missoula contributed $17,000 toward the cost of the building in return for permanent ownership of a meeting-room, kitchenette and joint use of an exhibits room. The desirability of having on the campus a building owned jointly by the State and a private organization has been questioned by succeeding presidents of the University.

[24] The University purchased copies of the magazine for library exchange purposes; the administration reduced the number of copies from 200 to 100 and was about to reduce it to 75 and thereby the magazine’s income. Upon suspension many colleges and universities throughout the nation purchased back issues in order to complete sets. A few public libraries also filled their files, notably in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, New York City. Nearly thirty years later the N. Y. Public Library microfilmed the entire nineteen volumes – the British Museum in London had queried it about acquiring a complete set.

[25] Today (1969) the Department of Philosophy has a staff of ten.

[26] Since then a few other tracts have been added from several individuals.

[27] For instance, in 1950 a grant was given to the School’s alumnus, Alan P. Merriam, to study the music of the Flathead Indians. Seventeen years later and after much added work the study resulted in a 400-page book entitled Ethnomusicology of the Flathead Indians, which, published by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, was sent to anthropologists over the world.

[28] It has endured where such magazines in similar law schools have not.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 13:48