Pauling’s OAC: Sophomore Social Life

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[An examination of Linus Pauling’s sophomore year at Oregon Agricultural College, which began in Fall 1918. This is part 3 of 3.]

Life on the Oregon Agricultural College campus during Linus Pauling’s sophomore year started off with one primary focus: World War I. As a result, Greek life activities and other traditional social excursions were temporarily suspended by the U.S. War Department as their ideals were deemed to be “incompatible” with those espoused by programs like the Student Army Training Corps. Ever vigilant, OAC students found their way around some of these restrictions by participating in planned informal gatherings. Greek life was not reinstated until late fall, after the war’s conclusion, and social planning committees did not return until late winter term.

Despite the war pulling away many of the school’s athletes for service, OAC still fielded teams through all three terms. Sports offered students a distraction from the realities of war and gave them a common point of focus to rally behind. In fall, football games began shortly after school started with the first contest of the season taking place on Saturday, October 12, 1918. As the term moved forward, several games were cancelled on account of the influenza epidemic and the season ended on a disappointing note with a 13-6 Civil War loss to Oregon in Eugene. Illness hampered the basketball team as well and their schedule on a down note with two additional losses to the rival Ducks, described as the “Lemon Yellow men” in the class yearbook.

Women’s athletics were also popular on the OAC campus. Though the war effort led to the cancellation of the the hockey and tennis seasons, OAC’s ladies completed intercollegiately in swimming and intramurally in basketball and soccer. Nearly 300 students turned out to participate in basketball, the women’s sport with the longest history at OAC.


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Linus Pauling and Paul Emmett (back row) with a group including Pauling’s sisters Lucile (3rd from left) and Pauline (far right), 1919. Paul Emmett and Pauline Pauling married some fifty-seven years after this photo was taken.

After living on campus during his freshman year, Pauling spent the fall 1918 term rooming with Lloyd Jeffress, a friend from his childhood who had first introduced him to the chemistry a few years back. In addition to this crucially important experience, it was through Jeffress that Pauling also met Paul Emmett, a fellow OAC student who would become a close friend, research partner and, eventually, brother-in-law.

Just as Pauling had been academically successful in his freshman year, so too did he excel in the classroom during his sophomore year. Taking courses including engineering physics, metallurgy, analytical chemistry, and mining engineering, Pauling received all A’s in his math and science classes throughout the year, and a complete 4.0 grade point average in his winter term. In addition to his schoolwork, Pauling was a member of the Miner’s Club. This group took field trips to study mine surveying, mining geology, and mining methods throughout the year. These excursions were particularly fascinating to Pauling as he had already been interested in rocks and minerals for many years.


The OAC student body was a very vocal bunch who often took to their school newspaper, The Barometer, to voice their opinion. One particular issue of common concern was the fight to resume programmatic social functions. Temporarily banned during the war, activities of this sort still had not been reinstated by the beginning of the winter 1919 academic term.

In response to growing unrest, college administrators created a social events committee, comprised solely of faculty members, to which the students offered their complaints. As a result of this dialogue, the first school-sponsored social function of the year – aside from a series of Armistice celebrations – was a “Greater O.A.C.” dance held on Saturday, February 1, 1919.


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Illustration included in the 1918-1919 Beaver yearbook.

In the spring, an exciting and important opportunity was extended to Pauling: an offer to join the Gamma Tau Beta fraternity. Pauling eagerly pledged, despite being troubled by the feeling that he had been selected mostly to raise the house grade point average. By 1919, OAC’s Greeks had established a reputation of regularly compiling a collective GPA that was higher than the college average, and Pauling suspected that his invitation may have been in keeping with the continuation of this ambition.

Pauling’s experience in the fraternity was different than anything he had known before. His upper-class house brothers nicknamed him “Peanie” and expected that he, as with his fellow underclassmen, would go out on weekly dates. Pauling was not interested in pursuing this obligation and often feigned illness as a means to excuse himself. Indeed, romantic involvements were mostly a passing afterthought for Pauling in the years prior to his meeting Ava Helen Miller in January 1922.

By the end of spring term, there were at least 25 fraternities and 13 sororities associated with Oregon Agricultural College. Not surprisingly, Greek life on campus was a potent force, and was especially prevalent within the spheres of intramural sports and competitive speech. Gamma Tau Beta regularly competed in both areas and often fared well – in 1919 the house placed second in baseball and track, and third in basketball.

In debate, students from across campus enjoyed taking on topics both serious and comedic. In one instance, competitors were asked to wrestle with the following argument: “Resolved, That an alligator is a better pet than a rhinoceros.” Pauling participated in an inter-class competition that spring and eventually developed a reputation for his oratorical skill.

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Image of the “Nothing But The Truth” cast, 1919

Indeed, once unshackled from the restrictions of war-time, social life took off during spring term. In April, the college’s theater club, Mask and Dagger, performed a farce titled “Nothing but the Truth.” A “stunt show” put on by students throughout campus was also staged during the term. And in addition to the inter-class debate competition, Pauling also participated in a sophomore class party to round out the school year.

Athletically, while fall and winter proved pretty rough, spring brought a couple of OAC victories over rival Oregon in both track and baseball. These wins contributed to a broader sense of good feeling on a campus that had seen some tough times over the past academic year.

Buoyed alongside his classmates was young Linus Pauling. Still just 18 years old, Pauling concluded his sophomore year with excellent grades, an improved social standing through his fraternity, and a job lined up over the summer to test paving materials used on Oregon’s brand new highways.

Pauling’s OAC: Life During Wartime

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SATC cadets being addressed by OAC President William Jasper Kerr, October 1, 1918.

[Examining Linus Pauling’s sophomore year at Oregon Agricultural College, the 1918-19 academic year. This is part 2 of 3.]

While World War I began in the summer of 1914, it was not until April 1917 that the United States entered the field of battle. During this time, Oregon Agricultural College became a significant site for military training and was particularly well-known for producing young enrolled officers. In 1918, a Student Army Training Corps unit was established on campus, and the early period of Linus Pauling’s sophomore year at OAC was dominated by SATC influence.

The SATC was created to allow young men to enroll in the military while still furthering their technical education. From the outset of hostilities, the War Department established as a high priority the need to maintain standards of higher education for the nation’s youth and, in particular, to build practical skills for those who would eventually serve.

While the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) had been established a few years prior, during the war the SATC effectively replaced the roles and responsibilities that the ROTC had been meant to build and organize. Nearly half of all male students at OAC were enrolled in the SATC during the school year, and Pauling was among them. Following the conclusion of the war, Pauling remained active in the ROTC as well. Indeed, by the time that he graduated from OAC, Pauling had been promoted to the rank of Cadet Corporal within local Company H.


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Benton County (Oregon) War Bonds poster, 1918.

The Great War made a tremendous impact on students at OAC and with the establishment of the Corvallis SATC unit the college became a West Coast epicenter for military training. The urgency of a war-time curriculum was partly enabled by a shift away from semesters in favor of an academic quarter system, which allowed for three-month training periods that dovetailed more readily with the military’s needs.

Following American entry into hostilities, OAC also began to heavily promote student enrollment in classes that would support the war effort. Many courses at OAC were likewise adapted to fit the needs of the moment. This shift was most pronounced within the School of Engineering, with courses in mechanical, electrical, experimental, civil, chemical, and mining engineering quickly reimagined to strengthen the student body’s readiness for battle.

For Pauling, who was a chemical engineer, these adjustments manifested in three specific classes that were new to the college’s course offerings: “Explosives” in fall term, “Camp Drainage/Trenches Issues” in winter term, and “Excavation for War Purposes” in the spring.  As with all other SATC students on campus, Pauling was also committed to a rigorous training schedule, often devoting multiple hours in a day to military drills. These shifts in obligations did nothing to wither his enthusiasm: throughout the war, Pauling remained a steadfast and enthusiastic supporter of the American effort, and was later described as “100% for it” by his cousin Mervyn Stephenson.

Indeed, during the war years, communities across the United States were enveloped by a wave of nationalistic feeling, and Corvallis was no exception. On October 1, 1918, the community put forth a Pledge of Loyalty with 3,000 male students, between 700-800 female students, and nearly 10,000 Benton Country residents signing on. Uncle Sam was likewise a regular character in the school’s newspaper, The Barometer.


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A portrait Pauling in his military dress, 1918.

World War I came to a conclusion mid-way through Fall term and, as might be expected, November 11, 1918 proved to be a significant day on the OAC campus. Upon hearing the news that the war was over, spontaneous celebrations rocketed through campus, and within days there had been multiple parades and assemblies honoring those who had served. Notably, war-time restrictions on social functions were also temporarily lifted to allow students to gather in good cheer.

And while the armistice did not bring with it an immediate dismantling of war-time activities, the thoughts of many began to shift toward ideas on reconstruction in the post-war period. Students throughout campus debated the specifics of how best to proceed through the months and years ahead, with many agreeing on a global industrialized democracy as the ideal for moving forward. In letters to The Barometer, multiple students further commented on the role that higher education would play in this vision for the future. One writer perceptively offered that OAC had become an important breeding ground for future leaders and

will have to broaden out into bigger lines of thinking, for the world is demanding real leaders who are more than technical leaders.

In another demonstration of the lasting effects of the war, the Oregon legislature passed a law in the months following the Armistice that made military training compulsory for high school boys throughout the state. Similar regulations remained in colleges like OAC, where ROTC programs had already been mandatory for male students.

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Dedication of the Memorial Union, June 1, 1929

Oregon Agricultural College lost 51 students and staff in battle during World War I. Their collective sacrifice was not forgotten by OAC, an institution that took seriously its long tradition of military service. In 1920, proposals for a student activity center that would “stand as a lasting memorial erected to the honor and memory of the students and alumni who gave their lives in the service of their country” began to circulate on campus. Pledges were solicited not long after and, in 1927, excavation began in the heart of campus. Completed in 1928 and dedicated a year later, the Memorial Union now serves as a warm, welcoming and universally beloved space for OSU students to study, socialize, rest and reflect.

Pauling’s OAC: Sophomore Year

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Linus Pauling, age 17.

[Ed Note: Another academic year begins this week at Oregon State University. This fall also marks the 100th anniversary of Linus Pauling’s sophomore year at what was once known as Oregon Agricultural College. This is post 1 of 3 looking back on Pauling’s experience of the 1918-1919 school year.]

On September 23, 1918, a Monday, 350 sophomore students returned to Oregon Agricultural College to resume their classes after a long summer break. Among them was seventeen-year-old Linus Pauling who, because of his ROTC commitments, had split his vacation between an intensive six-week military training course at the Presidio Army post in San Francisco, and a job working at a shipyard in Tillamook, Oregon.

Pauling was excited to return to Corvallis because it meant that he could once again frolic with his first love, chemistry. A Chemical Engineering major in OAC’s College of Mines, Pauling thoroughly enjoyed his courses. He also appreciated the overall college experience and felt comfortable in the close-knit community that OAC embraced and advertised.

A total of 4,086 students registered at OAC throughout the 1918-1919 school year, and among them were 86 Chemical Engineers. More popular majors at the Land Grant school included Mechanical Engineering – which accounted for a quarter of enrolled students – Agriculture, Home Economics, and Commerce.

Fall term also marked the opening of a new academic unit at OAC, the School of Vocational Education. Included within this unit were the departments of Education, Psychology, Agricultural Education, Home Economics Education, and Industrial Education. The stated mission of the new school was to “train teachers in vocational lines for secondary and higher education.” And while this ambition was squarely in line with the broader charge of the college, World War I had also pulled many local teachers away, leaving Oregon’s communities in dire need of more instructors to take their place.

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The reference area in OAC’s new library, housed in current-day Kidder Hall. 1918.

The beginning of a new school year likewise brought with it the opening of OAC’s first designated library, located in what is now known as Kidder Hall. The building was so named in 1964 to honor the first professional librarian to staff the building, Ida A. Kidder, a beloved faculty member whom many referred to as “Ma Kidder.”

Indeed, OAC was in the midst of a period of significant maturation during this time and many faculty members who were then active on campus are now remembered through buildings that bear their name. These individuals include William Jasper Kerr (president of OAC), Ava B. Milam (Dean of Home Economics), Clara H. Waldo (first woman to serve on the OAC Board of Regents), John Andrew Bexell (Dean of the School of Commerce), and others. In 2011, Linus Pauling joined their ranks when the Linus Pauling Science Center was formally dedicated on the western edge of campus.


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Students working in an OAC chemistry lab, circa 1915.

Throughout the school year, Pauling was employed in a chemistry lab, preparing solutions for his fellow students to use in their coursework. Since his father’s death eight years prior, Pauling and his family had been confronted with a severe financial burden and young Linus had been compelled to work to bolster the household economy. This trend continued at OAC, where his wages were meant to fund his higher education, which he valued so deeply. During this time, Pauling had been storing his money with his mother, Belle, in Portland, and she had been unknowingly using the savings to keep herself and her two daughters afloat. This turn of events would become the source of a major interruption to Pauling’s education down the road.

Two disruptions of more immediate concern defined much of Pauling’s sophomore year: U.S. involvement in World War I and the deadly outbreak of Spanish Influenza. The arrival of the flu wreaked havoc on Corvallis students from the outset of the term: within the first month of fall, four students had fallen ill and a handful of new cases were being reported each week. In response, OAC converted it’s YMCA/YWCA facility, present-day Shepard Hall, into a hospital to attend to all who had fallen ill. The college also brought in two nurses and a new physician specifically to handle the epidemic.

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Mervyn Stephenson with his cousin at Kiger Island, south of Corvallis.

But amidst the seriousness of the times, the end of Pauling’s sophomore year did bring several pieces of exciting news. For one, Pauling’s cousin, Mervyn Stephenson, was set to graduate. Part of a graduating class of 130 students, Stephenson was one of five to complete a degree in civil engineering. Immediately following the completion of his coursework, Stephenson was taken on to work with famed bridge engineer Conde B. McCullough in southern Oregon.

That spring, OAC also received approval to begin construction of a new engineering building, present-day Graf Hall. This new space would include modernized lab equipment for OAC’s faculty and engineers-in-training, including a hydraulic testing center, a material testing center, and a steam and gas engine laboratory. While not directly focused on the needs of the college’s chemical engineers, the new space was an indication of OAC’s commitment to its engineering curriculum and surely a source of excitement for Linus Pauling and many others who inhabited his world.

Pauling’s OSAC Honorary Doctorate

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Linus Pauling at Oregon State Agricultural College in June 1933. The 1933 commencement program stated that Pauling was “now acclaimed among the distinguished scientists of our time.” Included in the photograph (left to right) are Dr. Marvin Gordon Neale, Commencement speaker; David C. Henny, honorary degree recipient; Pauling; Dr. William J. Kerr, Chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education and OSAC president from 1907-1932; and Charles A. Howard, honorary degree recipient.

[Ed Note: This weekend is commencement weekend at Oregon State University, and to mark the occasion we thought we would look back at Graduation Day 1933 at Oregon State Agricultural College, a commencement exercise distinguished by Linus Pauling’s receipt of an honorary doctorate from his undergraduate alma mater.]

The early years of Linus Pauling’s academic career were marked by a dizzying array of accomplishments. Offered an assistant professorship by Caltech at the conclusion of his graduate studies in 1927, he was promoted to full professor just four years later. And by 1933, he oversaw twice as many graduate students and post-doctoral fellows as any other professor at the Institute.

His Caltech salary also increased substantially during this time, the result of his having received numerous offers from other institutions trying to pry him away from Pasadena. Since he was usually asked to teach only one seminar per term, he was also left with plenty of time to conduct research, often as a visiting professor at nearby universities.

Perhaps most notably, he had also won the first ever Langmuir Award, granted in 1931 for his research in structural chemistry. A.C. Langmuir, the brother of Nobel chemist Irving Langmuir, established the award for “outstanding chemical research,” defined to be work of unique merit conducted by an individual in the beginning stages of their career. In granting the award to Pauling, A.C. Langmuir recognized Pauling to be a rising star and predicted that he would one day win the Nobel Prize. In many respects, the award launched Pauling into the public eye.

Around this time, Pauling gave a seminar at Caltech on the quantum mechanics of the chemical bond that famously baffled Albert Einstein, who was in attendance. Not long after, Pauling became the youngest individual ever invited to join the National Academy of Sciences. It is no wonder then that Caltech’s chemistry chief A.A. Noyes remarked that Pauling was “the most promising young man with whom I have had contact in my many years of teaching.”


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Pasadena Post, September 27, 1933

Where Pauling’s talent was coming to the attention of the broader scientific community in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Oregon State Agricultural College had recognized Pauling’s potential much earlier, during his years as an undergraduate. In May 1933, perhaps seeking to strike while the iron was hot, OSAC sent Pauling a telegram offering him an honorary doctorate of science, which would be his first. Despite the short notice, Pauling promptly and eagerly agreed to be present for the commencement ceremony, which would take place on June 5, 1933. Not long after, he hopped in his car and drove from Pasadena to Corvallis to partake in alumni events scheduled for the preceding weekend.

Recent changes at Pauling’s alma mater made this honorary degree all the more impressive. In 1932, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education established what was then called the Oregon State System of Higher Education to manage the affairs of colleges and universities in Oregon, an arrangement that remained in place for more than eighty years. Oregon State president William Jasper Kerr subsequently became the first chancellor of the system.

Over time, Oregon State University has both decentralized and simplified the process by which it decides to award honorary doctorates. In contrast, the decision to award Pauling his doctorate required the agreement of numerous individuals from the top of the system on down. Specifically, Pauling was recommended by the state system’s administrative council, approved by Chancellor Kerr, and endorsed by the board of higher education.


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Pauling was one of three alumni to receive an honorary degree from Oregon State Agricultural College that year. The others were David C. Henry, a consulting engineer in Portland who received his honorary doctorate of Engineering, and Charles Howard, the state superintendent of public institutions in Oregon, who received an honorary Doctorate of Education. Dr. Marvin Gorden Neale, president of the University of Idaho, gave the commencement address that afternoon. In his speech, delivered in the early years of the Depression, Neale spoke of the need to fight against critics of the education system and to work to insure that support for land grant colleges and universities didn’t slip away.

When the moment came to introduce Linus Pauling, William Jasper Kerr listed off a string of accomplishments amassed since Pauling’s 1922 graduation from Oregon Agricultural College. In addition to the Languir Prize and the National Academy of Sciences admission, Kerr also emphasized Pauling’s achievements during his two years as a Guggenheim fellow, his authorship of over fifty scientific articles, and his appointment as a full-time professor at Caltech.


The evening report published in the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper leaned heavily on Pauling’s local roots and agreed with others’ assessment that Pauling’s future was bright. The paper also reported that 486 degrees were conferred at the 1933 commencement: 418 bachelor’s degrees, 52 graduate degrees, and 13 pharmaceutical chemistry diplomas.

OSAC Executive Secretary W. A. Jensen wrote to Pauling following the ceremony to confide that his award had been one of the most heartily endorsed doctorates he could remember. He also conveyed the encouragement and approval of Pauling’s burgeoning career that had been relayed by many on campus. Jensen concluded his memo with an increasingly common idea: “The Nobel Prize is just ahead!”

When Science published news of Pauling’s accomplishment, Fred Allen, another Oregon State alumnus, wrote Pauling to congratulate him. In his letter, Allen joked

I am proud that our alma mater could break away from the precedent which has stumbling over one’s beard a prerequisite to an honorary degree.

Indeed, Pauling was only 32 when awarded his first honorary doctorate, just eleven years removed from his undergraduate program. The two other recipients of honorary degrees at the 1933 graduation ceremony were decades older than Pauling.

Pauling would ultimately accumulate 47 honorary degrees over the course of his lifetime. For a man of such decoration, it would seem fitting that his first honorary degree came from his alma mater, a school that encouraged his passion for science well before he became nationally recognized. The honor captured an important moment in Pauling’s career and provided a glimpse of what was to come.

Pauling’s OAC: Completing the Freshman Year

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President William Jasper Kerr speaks to members of the Students’ Army Training Corps, as assembled near the OAC bandstand, 1918.

[Part 4 of 4 in our series examining the Oregon Agricultural College that Linus Pauling knew during his freshman year, 1917-1918. Fall 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Pauling’s enrollment at his undergraduate alma mater, known today as Oregon State University.]

Linus Pauling’s freshman year at Oregon Agricultural was spiced up a bit by a little administrative drama. Beloved OAC President William Jasper Kerr, who been appointed ten years prior in 1907, was being courted by Kansas Agricultural College, at that point the largest “aggie school” in the United States. An “insistent” Kansas board of higher education offered Dr. Kerr the presidency of KAC and a salary of $9,000 per year, compensation far beyond anything that OAC could propose.

The Kansas offer was met with heartfelt concern from OAC’s students, one of whom stated in a Barometer article that “every friend of the College hopes the President may decline the offer.” Of this moment, Pauling later recalled

Directly after I arrived in Corvallis, in the fall of 1917, there was a big rally with a couple of thousand of students marching down to the President’s House, singing songs that had been made up for the occasion, urging him to stay here instead of going to Kansas State College, in Manhattan, Kansas….that was one of my memories of one of the exciting events during my first year.

In December, the campus shared a collective sigh of relief when it became public that Kerr had decided to stay. Speculating about this turn of events, The Barometer suggested that “President Kerr’s decision seems to have been made chiefly on the grounds of the splendid opportunities afforded in Oregon through the cooperation of the able and united forces that have supported his administration.”

Kerr’s presidency would continue for another fifteen years, coming to a close only upon his acceptance of the position of Chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education. His leadership was key to the success of OAC, which grew significantly during his years of service.


Pauling at track practice, Bell Field, Oregon Agricultural College. 1917.

Pauling hurdling at Bell Field during his short-lived track career, 1918.

Pauling came away from his first semester of college with five A’s, two B’s, and a D in Mechanical Drawing. (Of Pauling’s one notably poor mark during the term, biographer Tom Hager writes, “he wasn’t patient enough to let the ink dry on his work, Pauling remembered, and kept smudging it.”)

Spring semester for Pauling revolved around a heavy course load that included Integral Calculus, Descriptive Geology, French, and Qualitative Analysis. It was during this semester that he also received his only failing letter grade, the product of an unsuccessful attempt to circumvent the physical education requirement by joining the school track team. His try-out was, evidently, a mess, and he did not make the team. Once this gambit had failed, Pauling chose not to return to the Gym class in which he was enrolled, as his course load was proving to be quite heavy. (He took, and passed, the required class later on during his OAC career.)

Though encumbered by significant responsibilities outside of the classroom – including the lack of a permanent address and the need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet – Pauling completed his first year with seven A’s, one B, and two C’s – one in Descriptive Geometry and the other in Camp Cookery. The grade scale that OAC used at the time included a letter grade “E,” meaning that OAC marks of B, C and D were comparable to contemporary grades of A-, B+, and B-. As such, Pauling’s freshman academic record was really quite superb, both within his major and across the military and liberal arts courses that were required of him.

As Pauling’s academic excellence mounted, so too did the invitations to join a number of honor societies. By the time of his graduation in 1922, Pauling was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honorary, and had served as secretary of the Sigma Tau engineering honor society, treasurer of the Chemical Engineering Association, and president of the Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society.


 

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Two OAC classes battle in the tug of war, 1912. The competition was often held at the nearby millrace, with the losing class obliged to take a dip.

Socially, the 1917 school year broadly conformed to the calendars that had defined previous years, though a few changes were necessitated by World War I, particularly during spring semester 1918.

Because a significant portion of the men in the junior and senior class had left campus for Officers’ Training Camp, springtime saw a premature rendition of Junior Weekend. The commencing affair was “Junior Flunk Day,” while other happenings included the “Fresh-Soph Tug-of-War.” Pauling’s class, the freshmen, won this display of strength and, after watching this apparent disgrace, the juniors challenged the seniors and won. Junior Prom followed the tug-of-war and was treated as a sendoff for the young men leaving for the European theater. Previously a formal event, the conditions brought about by war rendered the 1918 Junior Prom more of an informal affair.

Outside of socializing on campus at dances and club events, students in Corvallis often entertained themselves with a night out. Popular activities included seeing movies at the Majestic Theater and ending the night with ice cream at Winkley’s Creamery. Another hot spot for spending time and grabbing a bite to eat was Andrews & Kerr, which served “Hooverized” waffles and offered a location where “seniors enjoyed high jinks.” Pauling was fond of A&K’s and frequented it when he could afford to, especially after seeing a show downtown.

The concluding social activities of the year transpired during Graduation Week and consisted primarily of events tailored to the graduating class. One notable highlight was the Senior Picnic Breakfast at A&K’s, complete with “bacon, coffee, oranges, eggs, buns, and doughnuts.” Other events included the dedication of the class monument and, as post-commencement exercises, an Alumni Ball and Banquet.

Overall, the 1917-1918 school year at Oregon Agricultural College was an eventful and productive one, if shadowed throughout by the specter of war across the Atlantic. The OAC to which Pauling had been introduced was a varied and multifaceted institution, buoyed by an enthusiasm for shaping students into engaged, innovative, and community-oriented citizens. These principles and this spirit left a mark on Linus Pauling, just as he made an impact on the college and, later, the world.

Rook Life

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Pauling outside his boarding house, first term of his freshman year at OAC.

[Part 3 of 4 in our examination of the Oregon Agricultural College that Linus Pauling came to know during his freshman year. Fall 2017 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Pauling’s enrollment at OAC, known today as Oregon State University.]

Each year, students arrived from around the state, country, and abroad to attend Oregon Agricultural College. For the 1917-18 school year, OAC boasted a student body of over 4,00 men and women. Long requested by the student body, the number of college personnel also began to rise that year, with totals nearing 200 faculty members. And despite the onset of American involvement in World War I during the previous spring, OAC’s fall 1917 registration was its largest ever. Contributing to this was the fact that more women had enrolled for the 1917-18 school year than had ever previously been the case at the college.

One member of this large first-year class was a sixteen-year-old Portland resident, Linus Pauling. Once arrived in Corvallis, Pauling, in his diary, described his living situation, a boarding house close to campus, noting that “I have a nice big room, much larger than two boys usually have. I will share it with a sophomore named Murhard.” He likewise recorded these observations of two other young men sharing a room in the same house

they are two rooks; one, a 20 yr. old talkative fellow, named Hofman, weight 175# and always talks about his girl, Millicent, nicknamed “Titter.” The other, Henry, is a very quiet, small young man, but slightly deaf.  He will take Commerce, and Hofman will take Forestry.

Pauling left the boarding house after Fall semester and, because he was unable to find a permanent place of residence, he often wound up staying with friends during the Spring. Viewed through a modern lense, it would not be a stretch to say that Pauling was effectively homeless for this period of his studies at OAC.


Early on, Pauling expressed a great deal of insecurity in his potential to excel at the college. It did not take very long, however, before he discovered that his merit in academics had very clearly carried over from his high achieving ways in high school.

During the fall semester, Pauling registered for a typical collection of first-year classes, including Modern English Prose, Drill, and Gym. In addition, he began working through the core curriculum for Chemical Engineering majors, taking courses like General Chemistry, Mining Industry, and Calculus.

As he moved forward through his coursework, Pauling found that his high school education, though incomplete – he had not taken a required history class and did not graduate from Washington High School – was more than satisfactory. So pleased was he by the preparation that he had received for college, that he wrote a letter thanking his high school math teacher, Virgil Earl, for having done an exceptional job.

Earl replied to Pauling with gratitude and encouraging words, saying, “you have the ability and the disposition to work so I feel sure that you will succeed in your chosen work.” Earl’s point of view would soon be reflected by waves of praise and admiration extended by many of Pauling’s OAC professors.


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Pauling wearing his “rook lid,” ca. 1917.

Student functions played an outsized role in the undergraduate experience at Oregon Agricultural College. Activities and meetings were held each week and larger gatherings, such as dances, were hosted with great frequency.

Socially, the school year was underway once the YWCA-YMCA welcome reception had been hosted. This event, which was basically a dance, was put on by the two clubs to familiarize first-year students with the social dynamic of their new home. The 1917 welcome dance took place in the Men’s Gym (now Langton Hall) where the College president, William Jasper Kerr, kicked off festivities by addressing the assembled student population. The rest of October saw Mask and Dagger theatrical auditions, a senior reception held for the “frosh,” and an informal band dance. Class and student body elections also took place at the end of October.

In addition to cultivating a culture of of student involvement, the college did its best to stoke long-running social traditions. Pauling took these rituals seriously and commented on how they had strengthened his school spirit. By the end of his first month in college, he noted in his diary that “I am getting along alright. Have lots of beaver pep.”


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The Burning of the Green, 1925.

Central to many of these traditions was one’s class standing. First-year students were colloquially called “rooks” and “rookesses,” and were made to wear green caps (for men) or ribbons (for women) to denote their status. At the end of the year, students burned their “frosh” paraphernalia in a bonfire held just south of the Women’s Gymnasium.

Beyond hats and ribbons, amicable competitions and friendly rivalries between grade levels was an aspect of life at OAC which continued year round. Many of these events were staged during Homecoming, which took place annually during a fall weekend and focused intently on the college’s athletic teams as well as class rivalries. Sophomores and freshmen went head to head in both a bag rush and a football game, while all class levels participated in a three mile cross-country race. Intercollegiate sporting events during the 1917 Homecoming weekend included a soccer game between OAC and the University of Oregon, which O.A.C won, as well as a 6-0 home loss in football to Washington State College.

bag-rush

The 1914 OAC Freshman-Sophomore Bag Rush.

The culminating event of the weekend was Sunday’s open house, during which undergraduates met and talked with alumni who had returned to campus. Of this experience the Beaver yearbook recounted, “all in all, it was a great success and the old fireplaces again welcomed familiar faces, and the undergraduates listened to stories of the ‘Good Old Times.'”

Another annual happening, The Co-Ed Ball, was held solely for the women of the college. Unsurprising, given the rising number of women attending OAC, 1917’s Co-Ed Ball was the largest in school history, with “four hundred women being present.” The supervisors of this specific occasion included Mary Fawcett, the Dean of Women, and Ida Kidder, the college’s beloved librarian, known to many as “Mother Kidder.”

stunt-show

Performers in the Women’s Stunt Show, 1925.

The women of the College also sponsored the “Women’s Stunt Show,” for which every women’s organization on campus prepared and performed a skit. In addition to competing for a trophy, the Fawcett Cup, the ultimate goal of the Stunt Show was to raise funds. The 1917 edition succeeded on this front as a total of $400 was collected, with $200 apportioned to the YWCA.

In December, as the end of the term neared, the Intercollegiate Oratorical and Debate Society won its Annual Dual Debate against the University of Oregon. Other notable winter events included two Mask and Dagger shows: “Why the Chimes Rang” and “The Magistrate.” The Military Ball and the Interfraternity Informal rounded out a busy fall calendar for Linus Pauling and his fellow students at Oregon’s land grant college.

Study and Social Life at the Oregon Agricultural College

chemistry-lab

OAC students in the Chemistry Lab, 1916. Note the student in military dress – during Linus Pauling’s undergraduate tenure, two years of ROTC were required of all males enrolled at the College.

[Post 2 of 4 examining Oregon Agricultural College during the years contemporary to Linus Pauling’s studies there as an undergraduate. These posts have been written in celebration of the centenary anniversary of Pauling’s enrollment at OAC (now Oregon State University) in Fall 1917.]

In 1908, Oregon Agricultural College adopted a semester system, which remained in place until the quarter system was reinstated in 1919. To graduate with a degree, 136 credits were required, and though an OAC student could not major in any liberal arts discipline at the time, all four-year degrees did require classes in the liberal arts. Linus Pauling fulfilled this requirement largely through foreign language study, taking coursework in French and German throughout his time at OAC. In addition, all students were required to take a gym class as well as an additional class in “Hygiene.”

As a Land Grant school, OAC offered a rich and varied curriculum that offered opportunities for both degree-seeking students as well as those wishing to bolster their practical skill through shorter vocational courses. The College was organized into seven schools: Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering, Forestry, Home Economics, Mining, and Pharmacy. The College also offered an affiliated but financially self-supporting School of Music, which was created at the behest of OAC students in 1908.

Some of OAC’s schools offered a wide breadth of options for their majors while others, such as Pharmacy, focused on a sole course of study. In the main, however, the variety of classes offered for students in most disciplines was staggering. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was especially true of Agriculture, which offered seventeen “areas of specialty,” or majors. Included were emphases in Animal Husbandry, Bacteriology (the forerunner to modern-day Biology), Botany and Plant Pathology, Farm Mechanics (now Bioengineering), Soils and Farm Management, and Zoology.

Engineering was another popular course of study, perhaps second only to Agriculture, at least among male students. Within the School of Engineering, majors included Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Highway Engineering, Industrial Arts, Irrigation Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. In addition, other Schools offered engineering-centric degrees that pertained to their respective fields. For example, the School of Forestry advertised a degree in Logging Engineering and the School of Mines housed both the Mining Engineering degree as well as the Chemical Engineering curriculum.

Linus Pauling entered OAC with a particularly keen interest in chemistry, but he could not major in the discipline as, per state edict, the only School of Science operating at the time was located at the University of Oregon. Instead, Pauling chose the next best option, chemical engineering, as administered by the School of Mines. As he began his introductory coursework, Pauling may have found the classroom to be a bit more crowded than did previous first-term freshmen — the OAC Barometer, reporting on a bump in Engineering majors, hypothesized an invigorated interest “due to the demand for engineers in military service.”


practice-house

OAC Home Economics students posing with children outside of the Withycombe “practice house.”

Women at the college predominately gravitated towards Home Economics, though a smaller number sought out degrees within the School of Commerce, majoring, more often than not, in Secretarial Studies. The School of Home Economics was organized into four degree paths: Domestic Art, Domestic Science, Home Administration, and Institutional Management. Specific Home Economics courses included Home Nursing, Sanitation of the Home, Dress Making, and Costume Design. The school also offered a year-long vocational course to men in Camp Cookery.

For additional scholastic development, women seeking degrees could hone their domestic skills in the college’s “practice house.” Opened in 1916, the Withycombe House was made available to interested Home Economics students who lived in the building for two months at a time, rotating through a variety of assigned duties during that time.

As mandated by the Morrill Act of 1862, men attending the College – including those enrolled in shorter vocational courses – were required to participate in military training. A ROTC program was officially established in 1917, Pauling’s freshman year, replacing the Cadet Corps that had existed previously. By the time that ROTC was implemented, the military organization at the College consisted of “one regiment of infantry, a hospital corps, signal corps detachment, and a band of fifty instruments.” Heading into 1918, as the U.S. ramped up its involvement in the Great War, OAC became a military hub of consequence for the state of Oregon, a scenario that repeated itself in the early 1940s.


shepard-hall

The pool housed in the basement of Shepard Hall, home to OAC’s YWCA operations.

Beyond scholarly inquiry and military training, the College strongly encouraged student involvement in extracurricular activities. This sentiment was echoed in advice that Pauling transcribed into his diary before he started college, wherein it was suggested that he “not take a number of extra [class] hours, but should try to do something for the school.”

OAC promoted a vibrant social environment for its students by fostering the creation and growth of student clubs and organizations. Most prominently, OAC was home to a number of Greek letter societies – one of which Pauling joined during his sophomore year – and other living organizations. Each dormitory and department as well as, in certain cases, specific majors, also sponsored their own club. As an incoming student studying in the College of Mines, Linus Pauling was naturally a member of the Miner’s Club.

The YMCA and the YWCA were also prominent organizations on campus, holding sway over many areas of campus social life and volunteerism. The YWCA, for example, organized the Campus Auxiliary of the National Red Cross so that the women of the College could fulfill their patriotic duty to “do their bit” in support of the war effort. To provide a base of operations for the YMCA and the YWCA, the College built Shepard Hall, which the two Y-organizations eventually shared with the Student Employment Bureau.

The College also housed organizations such as the Mask and Dagger – responsible for campus theatrical performances – the Oratorical Association, and the Intercollegiate Debate and Oratory organization. Likewise supported were location-based clubs that enabled students to connect with others who hailed from similar geographic backgrounds, especially California and Washington.

Central to the flow of information on campus were student publications, in particular the student newspaper, The Barometer. Published bi-weekly, students could find information in each edition on current events happening within the state and beyond, as well as notices of upcoming activities and meetings at the College. During Pauling’s time, the newspaper also regularly reported on humorous social slights in a column titled “We Have Observed That.”

This same lightheartedness permeated the final pages of the 1919 Beaver Yearbook in a section titled “The Disturber,” in which editorial staff ruthlessly poked fun at Greek letter organizations, other student publications, and the ROTC. While OAC prided itself on maintaining a serious scholastic environment and participated vigorously in the war effort, it is clear that the College’s students, in time-honored fashion, were intent on seeking out fun during their college years.

Through careful consideration and development of infrastructure and community principles, OAC provided a productive and agreeable setting for Oregon’s students to pursue a higher education. From diverse coursework to copious social opportunities, the College “within the vail of western mountains” provided students and professors with ample support to enrich themselves and their communities. These values clearly made an impact on the young Linus Pauling and continued to permeate his world view in the years that followed his departure from Corvallis.