Chapter 31: Women, Music and Medicine in Wartime

"If the normal ideals, traditions, and interests of undergraduate college life, and particularly of the liberal arts, are to be preserved through the war," President Valentine asserted to the trustees in June, 1942, "they must be preserved primarily in and through the College for Women." Valid though that affirmation was, academic life at Prince Street before Pearl Harbor, the great dividing line, of course, of the era, proceeded to a very large extent at the established tempo.

Registration in 1939-1940 decreased in all classes, the Freshman contingent admitted being the smallest in eight years. Next year the enrollment of 450 was lower than at any time since 1933; then numbers began to move upward and kept on growing.

A considerable increase in women taking upper level classes at the River Campus, chiefly in science, inspired renewed pressure for more courses at Prince Street. In his valedictory report of 1942 as chairman of the English department, Professor John R. Slater strongly recommended a fully self-contained College for Women offering all instruction necessary for a degree except in a few very advanced classes in science. "We now have two co-educational colleges...with no compensating advantages," he believed. Existing arrangements had not bettered "minds, manners, dress, morale," it seemed to his discerning eyes. "The boys grow slouchier, the girls slacker and more crudely cosmetic." 1

Prince Street student organizations carried on much as usual. Several clubs on the "liberal" side interested in public affairs united (1939) into the University Square, which enlivened intellectual growth outside of the classroom. A Photography Club and a "Circulo Hispano," drawing members from both campuses, came into existence and an Interdorm Council (1940) assumed responsibility for governing deportment in residence halls. The Literary Workshop was exceptionally active; Kaleidoscope, intercampus suppers and dances proceeded as in the past. A highpoint on the social calendar was the annual Christmas college supper, for which Cutler Union was ingeniously decorated; Santa Claus, recruited from the faculty, distributed merry gifts to prominent undergraduates, and some of his colleagues contributed their bit, bringing "unsuspected artistic, poetic, and forensic talents" to light.

Sororities held their customary quotas of meetings and parties and in the wartime environment seemed to knit bonds of friendship more firmly; pledging was restricted to Sophomores and students transferring from other colleges. Attendance at assembly and chapel exercises declined to a deplorably low level.

Special columns in the Tower Times commented on politics and art, there were sections on "Library Notes" and "Eastman [School] Notes," and a "Club Corner" contained accounts of extracurricular doings. In the main, news of significance paralleled what appeared in the Campus or dealt with current questions like the foreign policies of the United States and the establishment of units for military training in colleges. "Sour Chimes," a humorous issue of 1940, reported that President Valentine had rejected the nomination of the Republican party for the Presidency of the United States, and that faculty women were militantly demanding a swimming pool at the college. The Dandelion, "our literary diary in miniature," prospered, as did the Croceus, but the class of 1942, as related before, combined with the men in publishing a joint yearbook.

The Athletic Association waxed and waned in vigor; representatives took part in play days at Cornell and Wells College. Very definitely an innovation was the presence (1940) on the River Campus of five Princesses as cheerleaders at football games, a novelty that lasted. Money-raising drives were conducted for refugee students abroad, one of whom was brought to Rochester. In December, 1940, the Genesee River polluted drinking water on the campus, causing many cases of acute intestinal upset; some undergraduates fled home, the administration debated closing the residence halls, and everyone was inoculated against typhoid fever. The scare, however, passed almost as quickly as it had come.

Directly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the lead editorial in the Tower Times explained that war "came not as a shock but as a stunning blow...We exploded at first, but we are quite calm now, calm and sort of dead within. We might as well go in it [the war effort] heart and soul..." Air raid wardens were appointed and undergraduates were requested not to smoke in shelters during air raid practices, instructed on how to deal with incendiary bombs, and asked to apply their leisure hours to work with bearing on the war.


After hostilities began, and more so with the advent of the V-12 to the River Campus, Prince Street held a dual mandate: the education of women and the education of a contingent of civilian males, who for one reason and another were ineligible for military service and who opted to study at the College for Women. There the Rochester heritage of liberal culture and the conventional two-semester pattern was preserved, though Women were permitted to pursue a speeded up schedule if they wished; science majors and students concentrating in disciplines closely related to the war effort were urged to accelerate. Quite a few women who had national service in view elected to attend Intersession and the Summer Session and. thus could graduate in slightly less than three calendar years.

Greenlings might matriculate in January or May as well as in September, and enrollment increased. The autumn, 1942, registration stood at about 485, half a dozen more the following year (included were two Negroes, an American Indian, and a Nisei, but only the last was able to satisfy University academic standards), and in 1944 approximately 530 were in attendance, coming from sixteen states; ten married undergraduates injected "a serious note into college life." Thanks partly to high school recruiting missions by the ''attractive young traveling secretary," Janet Phillips Forbes, 1940, applications for admission jumped to 289 from 158 four years earlier. Since housing shortages made it impossible to accept all qualified applicants whose homes were outside of metropolitan Rochester, steps were taken, as recounted below, to increase residential quarters. Women attending classes at the River Campus dwindled to half a dozen. During the war years slightly more than 200 women on an average graduated annually.

Civilian males studying at Prince Street at first tended to be highly critical of the College for Women, but after they were assigned a lounging room in Cutler Union and formed congenial companionships with the gentler sex, they became reconciled "and made life more interesting for everyone." They were in fact granted "full citizenship" in Princessland, belonged to student organizations (the Y.W.C.A. for one), presented a musical revue, and bested the ladies in a hockey match. 2

Special curricula or course-sequences were devised to meet the wartime demand for women trained in special skills and equipped for effective national service. For example, two-year certificate courses of study with prescribed classes were setup in business administration, in laboratory techniques, and in mechanical drafting and meteorology. College credits accumulated in these programs might be applied toward a bachelor's degree, if the student chose to continue beyond two years, but not many candidates actually signed up for certificate curricula.

Standard studies (termed "war courses"), notably in mathematics and the sciences, acquired heightened importance because of the war, and they were reinforced by new offerings possessing military or industrial significance. It was recommended that all undergraduates elect "war minors,'' which would prepare them for employment connected with the national effort; specifically mentioned were engineering, mathematics, economics, psychology, and geology. Instruction for secretarial positions was introduced, though college credit could not be obtained in this way.

Moreover, for students having homes in Rochester, a work-study plan made it possible to engage in gainful occupations three days a week and to attend classes the other three. Even though the University undertook to find jobs for such students, to the disappointment of the sponsors of the program registration was small; outside of the college orbit, several undergraduates took intensive instruction in motor mechanics, principles of drafting, production planning, and the like. 3

Beginning in 1942, the Honors Division, never large, became essentially an educational enclave for women. This experiment had started off in splendid style in September, 1939 with twenty-five upperclassmen signed up. But several science departments soon pulled out because laboratory experiments could not be properly fitted in, and by the end of the war only five departments were participating; under revised regulations, undergraduates might combine Honors seminars with regular classes and qualified Seniors were permitted to enroll. Regardless of alterations in the original pattern, the high quality of this method of learning was scrupulously maintained. When the war ended, thirty-six students had taken part in the Honors Division; five withdrew at the close of their Junior year and only three had failed to graduate with honors. 4

During the war, women faculty members increased, and pleas were uttered for still more of them, particularly to teach the scientific disciplines. A sub-committee of the Faculty Committee on Post-War Planning brought forth a large budget of recommendations for Prince Street: betterment of the student advisory system, revamping of existing courses and the introduction of new offerings designed to meet the peculiar interests of women and the reduction of courses from five to three each semester, The sub-committee strongly urged a "liberal, humanistic approach" in teaching. "We feel that a conflict exists," the document read, "between the truly great teacher and the efficient research scholar. The Committee wishes to see the emphasis shifted toward greater teaching."


Repeatedly, recruiting officers of the WAVES, the WACS, the Red Cross, and the National Nursing Council for War Service called at Prince Street to enlist volunteers. A big advertisement in the Tower Times underlined that the WACS were involved in "jobs essential to the war" and assured enrollees that they would receive regular army pay. In 1944 a bronze plaque was unveiled bearing the names of eighty-three alumnae, undergraduates, and teachers from all branches of the University who were then in the national service; the WACS, the WAVES, the Red Cross, and army nursing attracted the largest numbers. Two WAVE recruiting ensigns, stationed in Rochester, imparted a realistic wartime flavor to the Eastman dormitory where they lived. The University administration indicated its willingness to train as many as a hundred naval women in photography, but the offer was not acted upon by the Navy authorities. 5

Many undergraduates took jobs in factories and on farms in their spare time or in the summer--the best educated manual workers in the history of the United States! Farmerettes netted up to twenty-five dollars a week for their toil, and it was reported that in the summer of 1944, 217 women earned $56,000 in various types of wartime employment.

An energetic War Activities Board, organized in 1942, managed the steadily growing war-related tasks. Undergraduates worked as Red Cross helpers or as hospital volunteers, donated blood, prepared bandages, knit sweaters for servicemen and migrant farm employees, took instruction in first-aid and life-saving, gathered crops, collected waste paper, sorted scrap iron, begged books for the troops and used clothing for the Chinese and Russians, enrolled in the Speakers Bureau of the Rochester War Council, promoted the sale of war stamps and bonds, and cooperated in entertaining underprivileged children in settlement houses and lonesome soldiers and sailors at the USO in the city.

''Heat cops... tried to cut down waste of heat and light at the college. Because maintenance personnel was in short supply, undergraduates worked on the Prince Street grounds raking leaves and removing snow from sidewalks; the volunteers sported distinguishing jaunty caps and cardigans in dandelion yellow. A paralyzing blizzard in December, 1944, which forced the cancellation of classes, confronted willing hands with a unique challenge; since plows could not quickly sweep away steep drifts, chains of students, reaching from the street where delivery trucks were immobilized to kitchen doors, passed along foodstuffs, and other undergraduates hauled mail on sleds from the city post office. Coal shortage in the following month necessitated a second shutdown of instruction.

Regularly, the Stagers put on one-act plays and big productions in the fall and spring. The Dance Club exhibited fresh vitality and the Glee Club presented concerts and gave polished performances of Christmas cantatas. Rolling bandages and knitting were featured at sorority meetings. On the score that the sisterhoods militated against strong community feeling, agitation revived for their abolition; in a student poll, Seniors favored ending them, yet a majority of the college body voted for retention. Theta Alpha Epsilon dissolved (1943) of its own accord, but its alumnae continued to meet now and then. Theta Eta established (1942) a prize to be presented to the Senior who had best contributed to campus life, and Gamma Phi set up a similar prize for the outstanding Sophomore.

Responding to the national emergency, the Memorial Art Gallery furnished exhibitions to USO centers, loaned paintings to war plants, and secured money for war relief by selling folk art from Allied countries. President Valentine lamented that the University treasury had to absorb the yearly operating deficit of the Gallery, which exceeded pre-war levels. 6


"War or no war, social life on the Prince Street Campus still exists," the undergraduate newspaper recorded. "There is constant social activity, most of it intended to improve relations between campus groups." Dances, formal and otherwise, relieved wartime austerity, though "warsages" replaced corsages and dance halls went undecorated. College suppers were simplified and most students came wearing blue jeans and sloppy sweaters, standard attire for their daily appointments.

Kaleidoscope, Glee, and extracurricular clubs functioned pretty much as in pre-war days, a Sam Johnson Literary Circle filled the gap left by the defunct Literary Workshop, and a City-Dorm Council (1944) endeavored to foster a larger sense of unity between the women residing at home and those domiciled on the campus, including Eastman School students. Freshmen-Sophomore antics culminated in a pleasant Step Ceremony, with singing students emerging from Anderson Hall and holding candlelight rites around the statue of the first president of the University.

Prince Streeters also planned parties for the V-12 personnel, but the initial encounter, as has been related, came off badly. The guests ignored "our friendly stabs at pleasantness" and "the mighty men made unsuccessful attempts at rudeness," according to the Tower Times editor, who went on to decry "breaches of etiquette" and a "contemptuous attitude" of the V-12 men toward the University. Addressing an assembly at the Women's College, Commander Neill poured oil on the troubled waters, and an intercampus committee helped greatly to improved relations. "The marines and sailors fought it out with the Princesses," the Interpres of 1944 informs us, "and finally an arbitrated peace evolved." By then, V-12ers were welcomed to Prince Street parties, shared in a discussion circle on public issues, and the unit band furnished music for an All-University Nite at Cutler Union.

For Valentine's Day of 1945, a budding rhymester framed a "Love Pome," reading,

O, V-12's on the River Campus
lack of writing style may cramp us,
This Valentine we write for you,
Who keep our weekends far from blue!

Thoughts of love our hearts do ponder;
Thoughts of
love forever wander
To our Genesee, so wavy,
Where resides the U.S. Navy.

Whenever finances were in good shape, the Tower Times was published in eight pages, double the ordinary size. It has previously been mentioned that for a short time in the spring of 1943 the paper merged with the Campus, the innovation stopping abruptly upon the coming of the V-12 corps.

Harriet Davis Hamilton, 1942, contributed an illuminating account of experiences at a WAC training center, Anne Houlihan (Keefe) Vanderschmidt, 1946, conducted a highly articulate "Nothing Sacred" column, and Robert G. Koch, 1945, penned articles on the history of the U. of R., the ablest ever written by an undergraduate; fun numbers came out as "Crowning Crimes" and "Friday Fright." After President Valentine gently scolded the women as short on gentility, the Tower Times retorted, "We only ask that our elders be patient with our shortcomings and be assured that we are open to suggestions," language that might have been employed in any academic year. Formally, the yearbook in the second phase of the war was an intercampus undertaking, though in reality it was produced by the Junior women who allocated sections to the men of the class and to River Campus sports.


By 1944 over half of the undergraduates lived in college buildings, a nine-fold increase over 1930 when Prince Street first became a woman's preserve. Castle Hall, or the "21 Club" opened in 1941 on Prince Street for fifteen residents and was the fifth cooperative dormitory. When the plan to make the Sibley home on East Avenue a residence hall petered out, makeshift arrangements had to be made hurriedly; the Women's Faculty Club was commandeered and the top floor of Cutler Union was converted into a dormitory, furnished with double bunks, and dubbed "Freshman Paradise;" sleeping quarters were also fitted up in the Union for students living at home who wished to remain on the campus overnight. The rapid increase in students from out of the city led to the remodeling of Carnegie Hall so as to accommodate about sixty persons. On the upper floor, generous use of paint and glass bricks transformed dingy laboratories into attractive sleeping cubicles; the first level was rearranged into two study halls and a lounge, the basement into a colorful recreational rendezvous. All in all, it was a successful improvisation, noisy, yet the residents gaily sang "the best girls of all live in Carnegie Hall."

Across from the Memorial Art Gallery, Allton House sheltered fifteen more undergraduates, and double bunks were placed in single rooms at Munro Hall. Nevertheless, the demand for housing had not been met sufficiently and the erection of a large new residence hall became increasingly urgent. Beyond that, spokesmen of the alumnae suggested that the trustees purchase a home for the dean, without, however, winning the board to their point of view. In the final war year scarcity of kitchen help necessitated closing the Munro dining room, and meals had to be taken in Cutler Union. 7


Except in the academic year 1942-1943, enrollment at the Eastman School during the war era consistently exceeded the optimum limit of 500 degree students, undergraduates and graduates together. For the final year of hostilities, registration soared to a record total of 577. Yet, whereas before Pearl Harbor male students were slightly more numerous than women, the pendulum now swung radically in the opposite direction and men came to be outnumbered one to four. As in the past, a high proportion of the students--approximately seventy percent--originated in communities outside of New York State, and the large female population taxed residential facilities to capacity. Unlike the other divisions of the University, the Eastman School did not adopt an accelerated schedule, and so smoothly did the School function that not many weighty problems confronted the Board of Managers. In the basement of the School a sorely needed--and soon inadequate--cafeteria was installed (1941). A reduction in the School budget (1942) forced the discontinuance of certain publications and the curtailment of scholarship assistance.

In 1940 the School organized a clinic for the New York State Music Association, attended by some 1,500 teachers and performers. Only a few Eastman teachers were called into military service, creative work and performances by the faculty held to high qualitative levels, and several important appointments were made to the instructional staff. Russian-born Jacques Gordon, who had been concertmaster of the Chicago Orchestra, came (1941) to the School as the top teacher of violin; at Rochester and on nation-wide tours a famous string quartet which Gordon founded presented contemporary American music along with a conventional repertory. For a time a talented young Italian, Luigi Silva, played Violoncello in the Gordon ensemble and for nearly a decade offered instruction at the School in chamber music. A gifted concert pianist, José Echaniz, who had given recitals in European as well as American music centers, joined the faculty in 1944, concentrating on teaching advanced students. Echaniz was in constant demand as a soloist with leading American orchestras, the Rochester Philharmonic among them.

Two Eastman alumni, who were to be identified with the School for many years and to whom reference has been made, accepted teaching appointments: Frederick Fennell, 1937, expert bandmaster and teacher of percussion and orchestral conducting (for many months he was on leave with the USO), and Millard Taylor, 1935, who taught violin together with playing in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he became concertmaster. Oft-repeated rumors that the world-renowned Hungarian composer and collector of folk songs, Béla Bártok, was considered for a faculty chair lacked factual foundation. 8

The facilities of the music center were offered to the War Department to train bandmasters, but the proposal was turned down with thanks. On the other hand, a group of V-12 students was assigned to the School, which obliged certain teachers to "retool," to teach subjects quite remote from their areas of competence; a musicologist, for instance, taught celestial navigation on an elementary level!

Somewhat more than 500 students and graduates of the School served their country in one or another branch of the armed forces; a minority participated in musical organizations, some becoming bandmasters. So far as is known, nine Eastman men lost their lives in the war. An uncounted number of women enlisted in the WAVES, the WACS, the Red Cross, and the USO. 9


Despite the war emergency, the various performing ensembles at the School carried on without a break and maintained their traditional standards of excellence. To the existing groups, an organization of Madrigal Singers was added (1940) and gave concerts. When more than 200 qualified players applied for admission to the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, it had to be split, into a junior and a senior division, each with double wood wind and brass sections.

Until the involvement of the United States in the fighting, extracurricular life displayed many of its established features--large formal dances, class parties, annual excursions across Lake Ontario to Canada; and yet another try was made to quicken student concern about public affairs by means of a forum. When the male population declined, however, interest in social activities and athletics slumped. Throughout the war period the Score came out regularly, pictures, as a rule, predominating over textual materials.

As had been true since its foundation, the music center contributed to the cultural welfare of Rochester--and beyond. For two years the School gave nation-wide broadcasts called "Milestones in the History of Music" in which nearly every department participated; offerings extended from fourteenth century compositions to American works of recent vintage and evoked floods of appreciative letters. McCurdy & Company of Rochester sponsored a radio series by the Little Symphony Orchestra and financed a scholarship for a promising music student. Composers' Concerts and Festivals of American Music continued to uphold their country-wide reputation by the presentation of new orchestral compositions by American artists.

Under the baton of José Iturbi, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, in a real sense an adjunct of School instruction, flourished; owing to the wartime shortage of male players, the orchestra turned ''co-educational," six women, after extensive auditions, taking chairs along with the lone lady with the harp. Iturbi also conducted (1942) a pioneer Starlight Symphony Concert in Rochester's Highland Park; when he resigned in 1944, the management resorted once more to the practice of engaging guest conductors, among them Leonard Bernstein and Sir Thomas Beecham. Besides concerts at home, the Rochester Civic Orchestra performed at military camps, Guy Fraser Harrison conducting. Visiting soloists, opera companies, and the Boston Symphony enriched the educational opportunities for Eastman students. 10


The University as a whole and the Eastman School in particular took pardonable pride in graduates of the war era who at an early age forged to the front in the world of music. Five men stood out on the roster of composers trained at the Eastman School. Ulysses S. Kay, 1940, who wrote an opera, "The Juggler of Our Lady," and a ballet and a symphony, twice won the coveted Prix de Rome along with other prizes and awards. Best known perhaps for the opera "Lizzie Borden," Jack Beeson, 1942, was also twice given the Prix de Rome; of the same class, Pulitzer prize-winning composer and pianist, John M. LaMontaine, received commissions from leading cultural foundations and two Guggenheim Fellowships. Widely esteemed for a concerto for piano and orchestra, a string quartet and a Christmas opera, LaMontaine likewise composed the overture for the inauguration concert of President John F. Kennedy. He scored again as a collector of African folk music and taught composition on interim appointments both at the Eastman School and the American Academy in Rome.

Becoming in time the director of the University of Washington School of Music, William L. Bergsma, 1942, received numerous grants and commissions. Remarkably prolific as a writer of music, Peter Mennin, 1945, instructed in orchestration at the School while completing work for a Ph.D.; in 1962 he proceeded from the directorship of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore to the presidency of the Juilliard School of Music. Along the way, Mennin reached a large national and international audience with highly polished and inspired symphonies, chamber music, cantatas and concertos; all in a manner distinctly his own--divergent, that is, from the style cultivated by the foremost Eastman School masters of composition. Witnessing to the eminence of this alumnus, the admiring School organized (1967) "Peter Mennin Week" during which selections from his varied artistry were performed.

Among the vocalists of distinction was Mac R. Morgan, 1940, who combined instruction in voice at Boston University with the directorship of opera at that institution, William C. Warfield, 1942, a baritone, attained international renown as "Porgy" in George Gershwin's folk opera, "Porgy and Bess;" he also sang in concerts and movies, on radio and television, and undertook good-will missions to Europe under government auspices. 11

Doriot Anthony Dwyer, 1943, became first flutist in the Boston Symphony; A. Clyde Roller, 1941, taught music at the University of Houston and served as associate conductor of the symphony orchestra in that city; and Rayburn B. Wright, 1943, advanced to the co-directorship of Radio City Music Hall. After teaching in several universities, Edwin E. Stein, who earned a master's degree in 1939 and a Ph.D. in 1941, assumed the deanship of the School of Fine and Applied Arts at Boston University. In the general area of music education, Robert P. Fountain, 1941, and Everett L. Timm, master's degree in 1943 and Ph.D. in 1948, presided over the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Louisiana State University School of Music, respectively.


Medical school professors firmly believed in keeping the student body small, on the logic that scientific enthusiasms could thus be more readily transmitted, that knowledge and experience could best be shared that way, and that the personality of a prospective physician flowered most luxuriantly in an atmosphere of personal warmth and friendliness. As of September, 1939, 200 candidates for the M.D. were in attendance alongside of twenty-seven aspirants to graduate degrees, seventeen of them the Ph.D. Next year, the medical student body increased slightly and in the autumn of 1941 it jumped to 228; women students numbered fourteen, the largest ever, and that was also true of the entering class of sixty-five.

Even before Pearl Harbor, qualified male students in advanced classes were commissioned as army second lieutenants or navy ensigns. Pressure mounted after December 7, 1941, to speed up medical education by elimination of the summer vacation, which Dean Whipple stoutly opposed, taking into account the health hazard of around-the-calendar training, and also because so many men relied upon summer earnings to help in financing their schooling. No less than Shakespeare, he reasoned that "And so, to study, three years is but short." All and sundry were reminded that it took longer to equip "a medical officer than to build a battleship." 12

Be that as it may, Rochester followed along (1942) with other leading medical institutions in consolidating study into three calendar years, and the length of internship was cut from a year to nine months. For admission to medical training two years of college education instead of three were now accepted, and applicants soared to nearly double pre-war levels; a new class was admitted every nine months. Thanks to acceleration, students were in fact given eight weeks more instruction than under the standard four-year pattern, though, in the words of one professor, "They are getting knowledge, but less of the wisdom that is essential to be a good physician."

In July, 1943, enrollment climbed to an all-time high of 258,105 (112) of them being in V-12 ranks as apprentice seamen, who upon completion of their studies were sworn in as ensigns, and after internship were placed on active duty as lieutenants junior grade; 102 (110) were signed up in an Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), and were commissioned as first lieutenants when all their training was finished. While at the school, the government paid for the tuition and books and instruments of the two groups, gave them uniforms and fifty dollars a month, and provided subsistence and quarters allowances. For a couple hours each week the enrollees engaged in military drill or received military indoctrination in some form. Until hostilities stopped, virtually all the male students admitted--a class of seventy (the last accelerated contingent) entered in September, 1944--were either army or navy trainees; in February, 1945, the navy extended the term of instruction by four months. 13

Students figured in emergency planning in the event that Rochester was the target of an enemy aerial attack. First-year men received instruction in first-aid and traumatic surgery, but the teaching staff was too depleted to offer basic training in the surgery of warfare. Teams of first-aid workers consisted of a student, a physician, and a nurse. Rochester hospitals requested the assignment of ten or more advanced students to work with their interns should a major catastrophe occur. At the time of area blackouts, students donned tin hats and learned methods of handling casualties by means of "dummies;" detailed preparations were devised to evacuate hospital patients if that should ever prove necessary.

Not much information, unhappily, on the life of the wartime students outside of their professional education is available. Diversion at the Medical Center could be had, of course, in the athletic facilities, "the blessed gym," or at an occasional party or show, such as a performance in 1942 whose most enjoyable spectacle was a rollicking skit on planned parenthood. Spasmodically for three years beginning in November, 1942, a multigraphed sheet, "Strong Memorial Herald," conveyed reports, about the Center to school personnel in the national service, nurses included, whose doings were recorded in a section called interchangeably "Nightingale Notes" or "'Daughters of the Lamp Lady." Graduates in the armed forces contributed interesting narratives on their activities or, in "Clinical Clippings," accounts of unusual clinical cases.

Comparing his medical schooling during the war with that of students a quarter century later, one graduate has written "...there was more personal interaction...more card playing, horse playing, and 'neighborliness'...more of a sense of belonging to a group and striving for common goals including especially the goal of being a good man and a good doctor and not simply a highly educated scientist..."14


In 1939 George W. Corner, who, like other original senior professors, had more than once declined alluring invitations to leave Rochester, accepted the directorship of Carnegie Embryological Laboratory. Dean Whipple sadly remarked, "We almost are prepared to recommend that everyone wear mourning." To take over the chair of anatomy, the Advisory Board, true to form, debated the merits of over a score of candidates, and in the end unanimously agreed upon Karl E. Mason who arrived in 1940 and remained until he reached the mandatory retirement age twenty-six years later. It was felt that since he held a Ph.D., not an M.D., that might be something of a handicap, but this consideration was outweighed by the excellent research Mason had published on vitamin deficiency and endocrines and by the reputation he had fashioned at Vanderbilt University as a good administrator and a congenial colleague.

In the course of the war era more than half of the teaching force and the Medical Center scientific staff was drawn into government service. Merely to cite examples, William S. McCann headed a naval hospital and was on duty when the Allied armies stormed ashore on the coast of southern France; Stafford L. Warren and a supporting cast were key personalities in the medical aspects of the atomic energy project, as is explained farther along; Edmund S. Nasset held a commission in the Army Sanitary Corps; Basil C. MacLean, in the Medical Corps, administered military hospitals and on his return to Rochester laid preliminary plans to establish a new department of hospital administration; T. Banford Jones and William P. Van Wagenen worked as surgeons with the armed forces. 15

Teachers who remained at the Medical Center, many of them profoundly puzzled as to how best they could contribute to victory engaged in war-connected studies under government contracts. Named assistant-- later associate--dean, George P. Berry directed investigations in every department of the School; research ranged over subjects like treatment of shock, infectious diseases, industrial hazards, methods of improving the oxygen supply of aviators at high altitudes, the water requirements of troops in desert areas--all of which added appreciably to medical knowledge and the saving of lives. Additionally, faculty men instructed physicians of metropolitan Rochester on the medical aspects of protection techniques in case of enemy action with chemicals or gas. In Berry's opinion, the high degree of concentration on war-related tasks together with the reduced staff lowered the effectiveness or medical instruction. Faculty spirits were depressed (1942) when a quarter of the recent graduates flunked the State Board examinations, or more than double the failures at Columbia and Cornell.

Hampering smooth operation of the Medical Center was the shortage of competent hospital employees and the exhausting pace at which they worked. When some ninety employees were laid low (1944) by illness, only emergency cases could be admitted to the hospitals. Senior professors in emergency situations were known to push food trucks from division to division, and volunteer aides, including many U. of R. alumni, enlisted for hospital duty; in 1945 a contingent of Jamaicans was hired. About 150 teachers and staff personnel cultivated victory garden plots on land to the west of Lattimore Road; they raised insects, callouses, and even some vegetables on the inhospitable soil.

More in point, however, was gratification because a senior research associate on a wartime appointment shared the Nobel Prize in medicine. He was [Carl Peter] Henrik Dam, a Dane, whose studies in Copenhagen led to the discovery of vitamin K and its application to stop bleeding. In the name of the King of Sweden, President Valentine bestowed the coveted award at Commencement exercises in May of 1945, recalling as he did so that Whipple had been similarly honored and remarking that the presence of two Nobel Prizemen at a single small university was an almost unparalleled distinction. 16


Easily the most exciting chapter--and the most closely guarded secret--in the history of the School of Medicine involved the participation of staff members in the so-called Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bombs. Back in 1939, American scientists had started researches pointed toward the making of an atomic bomb; but progress was slow until taken in hand by the National Defense Research Committee, known subsequently as the Office of Scientific Research and Development of the War Department (OSRD).

At mid-February of 1943, Dr. Albert K. Chapman, at the time vice-president and general manager of the Eastman Kodak Company, invited Stafford L. Warren; professor of radiology at the Medical School, to lunch where he met Major-General Leslie R. Groves, chief officer of the Manhattan District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After Warren had been thoroughly grilled on his experience with radiation and radioactive materials, he was taken into a tightly-sealed room and asked whether he would undertake an extremely important medical assignment requiring the utmost secrecy. He consented. Groves next waited upon President Valentine and requested the services of Warren for work very vaguely outlined. Valentine reluctantly agreed to a leave of absence, reluctantly inasmuch as so many high-ranking University scientists had already been "kidnapped" by the government; and he pledged every possible University support for the enterprise. On March 2, 1943, Warren was named civilian consultant to the Manhattan District.

Warren was chosen primarily because he and Whipple had carried out important pioneer investigations on the injurious effects of X-rays upon dogs; succinctly stated, Warren was called upon to administer a laboratory in which to study health hazards for workers engaged in atomic research. Temporarily, space for research purposes was allocated in several sections of the Medical Center, while essential facilities were being constructed to the north of Elmwood Avenue. Called the Medical School Annex, the structure consisted of three wings, one already in use for high-voltage X-ray equipment, and ground for the other two units was broken on June 2, 1943. At the outset seven men comprised the research team, within three months fifty were on the job, and seven times more by the time atomic bombs were unloosed over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Experts from the Eastman Kodak Company and other Rochester firms took part in the investigations, which required a wide diversity of training and professional experience and a skillful coordination of a variety of scientific techniques. When in November, 1943, Warren was summoned to become medical director of the entire Manhattan Project with headquarters at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, his first lieutenant, Andrew H. Dowdy, was put in charge of the program at Rochester; major colleagues were William Bale, in apparatus and instrumentation, Harold C. Hodge in toxicology, Joe W. Howland in medical sciences, and Henry A. Blair in the biological effects of radiation.

Among the problems posed to the University investigators were physical examinations of personnel in nuclear energy plants exposed to occupational hazards, methods of safeguarding workers engaged in atomic energy production, such as the toxicity of radioactive materials, the biological consequences of direct exposure to radiation, and the genetic effects of ionizing radiation. For experiments about half a million mice were used, some 200 monkeys, and other animals; consternation reigned (1944) after a monkey escaped and indulged in monkeyshines for a fortnight until captured at a football game, in readiness presumably to cheer for the University eleven.

Tight security regulations prevailed. Guards refused admission to the Annex to anyone without an official pass, workers engaged in a given piece of research were prohibited from discussing it with others, and the findings of the medical scientists were disclosed to only a few high-placed individuals. After Japan capitulated, a modification in the "enforced secrecy" permitted the University to reveal part of the part it had played in the atomic bomb project, and high praise from Washington accrued to the University for what had been accomplished. Thanks to the Rochester scientists, not a single employee of the thousands involved in making the A-bomb suffered injury by radiation or kindred phenomena. 17


Installed in the midst of the war, a powerful million volt X-ray machine, mentioned above, was used for therapy and research and to test materials for the military--heavy armor, aircraft parts, high pressure marine valves, and so forth. Rochester firms paid for the building and equipment, and in a single year thirty-five companies had recourse to the facility; in fact, the demand grew so large that a second machine was set up.

In June, 1940, construction of a Q wing at the hospital was started on the west end of the original structure; six stories high, it was designed to care for 120 patients in private and semi-private rooms. To the Strong Memorial facilities a store was added (1941) whose profits, if any, would be applied to the annual deficit of the Out-Patient Department; to beautify the approaches to the Medical Center, the city government lined Crittenden Boulevard with ornamental crab apple trees. 18

University officers complained time and again that the Out-Patient Department, which furnished a large volume of medical care to indigents and operated at a formidable deficit, received no support from the Rochester Community Chest, as other hospitals in the city did. Repeatedly, Dean Whipple called attention to the need for more library space, to serious overcrowding in portions of the Medical Center, and to the urgency of securing funds for emergency research projects and to bring distinguished scientists to the School for special lectures.

From the Woodward family of LeRoy, New York, came comparatively modest benefactions, the evidence of larger things to come. For instance, Ernest L. Woodward gave (1939) money to conduct research in epilepsy, and Mrs. Helen Woodward Rivas provided funds to carry on special medical investigations. Then in 1945 she generously turned over about $2,300,000 to erect, equip, furnish, and endow a psychiatric clinic. 19


At least 637 graduates of the Medical School wore military uniforms during the war, a large majority of them army and navy doctors. Four alumni lost their lives and a fifth was killed in Korea in 1955.

Several wartime graduates of the Medical Center quickly progressed to high rank in their profession. At Washington University (St. Louis), Arthur Kornberg, 1941, completed experiments that made him (1959) a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine, the second U. of R. alumnus distinguished in that way. While a medical student, Kornberg developed hepatitis and undertook an investigation of the disease which led on to studies of enzymes and metabolism. He found an enzyme that promotes the production of deoxyribonucleic acid from smaller commercially available molecules; in more technical terms, the Nobel laureate discovered "the mechanisms of the biologic synthesis of ribonucleic and deoxyribonucleic acids." Presently he accepted the chair in biochemistry at Stanford University, and the U. of R. saluted his achievements with an honorary doctorate in science (1962). 20

An expert in oral biology and in methods of studying the histology and pathology of teeth, Reider F. Sognnaes, 1941, winner of a Ph.D. in pathology, taught at Harvard before becoming dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry and professor of anatomy in its School of Medicine. Medical investigator and physiologist, G. Donald Whedon, 1941, advanced to the directorship of the Division of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases of the National Institute of Health; metabolic and physiological aspects of convalescence and immobilization and human energy metabolism were the principal areas of his study and writing.

Sometime a teacher of parasitology at the University, Oliver R. McCoy, 1942, conducted studies on the life history of trematodes, hookworm, and malaria and tropical disease control. Following service in the medical and public health operations of the Rockefeller Foundation, he joined the China Medical Board and subsequently was appointed its director. Leonard D. Fenninger, 1943, surgeon and articulate medical educator, in the course of twenty years at the Medical School held the offices of assistant and associate dean and medical director of the Strong Memorial Hospital; protein and energy metabolism in cancer formed his main research interests. Resigning in 1967, Fenninger took charge of the Bureau of Health manpower of the U.S. Public Health Service.

A leading investigator in human genetics, James V. Neel, 1944, who also held a Ph.D. in genetics from Rochester, wrote extensively on his specialty, which he taught at the University of Michigan Medical School; he also studied the radiation effects. on Japanese citizens living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bomb explosions and was active in the World Health Organization. And, finally, Nevin S. Scrimshaw, 1945, who as Director of the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama made original contributions to the understanding of protein and iodine deficiencies in man and of amino acid requirements. Frequently called upon as a consultant on nutrition problems, Scrimshaw was elected to a professorship at M.I.T. in nutrition, food science, and technology. 21


Naturally, the acute wartime crisis intensified the demand for well-trained nurses. The Medical Center responded in one way by speeding up nursing education, so that a bachelor's degree could be earned in four and a half years instead of the customary five, and in another by enlarging the student body. Whereas in 1939-1940, 133 students were enrolled, whom forty-nine aspired to the B.S., registration jumped substantially in each of the next two years and in the spring of 1945 totalled 325. Standards of admission remained firm and stable, but a "Florence Nightingale Day" and kindred stratagems were invoked to recruit nursing candidates, and married women whose husbands were in the national service were admitted. Unprecedented, too, was the permission granted to a member of the class of 1944 to, enter into matrimony before she had finished her training.

To accommodate the swollen student population, the federal government made (1943) grants for an extension to Helen Wood Hall and to convert the second floor of Wing R of the Strong Memorial Hospital into living quarters; together they provided space for about one hundred prospective nurses.

In the considered judgment of Director Dennison, the results of unwise wartime policies "which hurried many through the schools without sufficient teaching and clinical experience" became painfully apparent after the fighting stopped. Since the armed forces drew away many trained nurses, students were assigned more responsibilities and tasks; a six-day work week was the norm, with an eight-hour day introduced in 1943; it was believed that a relatively high incidence of tuberculosis was due to overwork. A degree scheme for graduate diploma nurses with a year of professional experience was hammered out (1941), enabling them to win a bachelor's distinction. This program, which was managed by a department of nursing education within the department of education at the College, attracted a large number of candidates, mostly from Rochester hospitals, who aspired to become head nurses, supervisors, or teachers.

As a wartime expedient, a Cadet Nurse Corps, was established (1943), with all costs and a small monthly allowance to each student paid by the government. After thirty months of schooling and six more of hospital experience, candidates received a diploma, and were obligated to sign up for military or essential civilian nursing for the duration of the war.

In spite of all that was done, the demand for nurse services outran the supply, necessitating at times the closing of sections of the Medical Center. Bulletin boards flaunted a "Notice to Patients:"

Be kind to Nurses
We can get plenty of patients.

Of the approximately 500 alumnae of the Nursing School, it is known that seventy-nine saw wartime service with the army, the navy, or the air force.

Traditionally, both diploma and degree graduates had taken part in Commencement exercises with graduating nurses from Rochester hospitals. It was felt, however, that the ceremonies were not very impressive, and felt, too, that nurses in uniform would lend a picturesque flavor to University Commencements; accordingly, in 1940 nurses first received their awards at the same time as graduating students from other divisions of the University, and that year--or soon afterward--graduating M.D.'s, started the diverting custom of rising en bloc to applaud the nurses as their sheepskins were conferred. 22

Instead of declining after the cessation of hostilities, the need for nurses increased. It was pointed out that years of fighting had left "much of Europe and Asia with homes devastated, health organizations destroyed, and populations diseased and starving...The nurse will be a strategic factor," it was stated, "in the large group of health workers who will bring order and relief to this chaos and suffering." Besides, care of wounded war veterans would impose heavy demands upon nursing resources. 23


1945 marked the tenth anniversary of Valentine's tenure. With the University making ready to pass from the ordeals of war to peacetime pursuits, the President believed the time propitious to outline publicly the challenge of the decade ahead. Freely acknowledging that planning for "so complicated an organism as a university" required prophetic powers that he did not presume to possess, Valentine, nonetheless, ventured a set of suggestions that might fruitfully be pursued. Studies and reports by University personnel, he said, had direct bearing on his own thought about the future.

It was the duty of the college to "produce men who are men of good will as well as skilled specialists," he declared. To that end good teaching was fundamental, "and a constant effort to improve both the spirit and techniques of teaching must be made..." At the same time, emphasis should be laid on expanding graduate training in the humanities and social studies to bring them abreast of the advanced work being accomplished in the sciences, in medicine, and in music. The "humane studies" needed to be stressed as never before in order to ensure balance, proportion, and perspective in individuals concentrating in the vocational and so-called practical areas of learning.

More than that, the University should shoulder the responsibility of carrying forward scientific investigations of value for manufacturing concerns in metropolitan Rochester and of turning out men and women equipped as research workers for industry. And, as the President had pointed out to the board of trustees before and would again, to achieve the declared goals of the University that was to be in 1955, to create "a finer University to serve the needs of our times and our children's times," major additions to the institution's financial resources would be indispensable. 24

Footnotes for Chapter 31

  1. John R. Slater to Alan Valentine, March 31, 1942. Valentine Papers. The materials for this section have been drawn largely from the student newspaper and yearbook, 1939-1945.
  2. Ruth A. Merrill to A. J. May, July 28, 1966. Rhees Library Archives.
  3. War Bulletin, College for Women, 1943-1944. RAR, XXIII (1942-1943), no. 2, 9. Faculty Minutes, XVI, September 17, 1942, January 14, February 4, 1943. New York Times, August 22, 1942.
  4. Neil C. Arvin to Alan Valentine, June 11, 1945. Valentine Papers.
  5. Tower Times, September 22, 1944. Janet H. Clark to Mildred H. McAfee, December 1, 1942. Valentine Papers.
  6. Alan Valentine to Gertrude Herdle Moore, April 7, June 21, 1945.
  7. RAR, XXIII (1944), no 1, 8.
  8. New York Times, September 28, 1941 (Gordon). Ibid., September 19, 1944 (Echaniz). R T-U, May 20, 1967 (Taylor).
  9. Riker, I, 45.
  10. Howard Hanson, "Rochester Experiment," New York Times, September, 28, 1941. Wayne Barlow, "Composers' Symposium," Ibid., November 9, 1941. Blanche Lemmon, "Scoring a Success," Etude, LVIII (1940), 724ff. New York Times, May 7, 24, 1944. R D&C, November 1, 1942. The Score, 1939-1945.
  11. A. Shulsky, "The Music of William Bergsma,"Juilliard Review, Spring, 1956. Musical America, LXXXI (May, 1961), 57-58; Ibid., LXXXIV (March, 1964), 35; International Musician, LXI (March, 1963), 12-13; R D&C, December 9, 1967 (Mennin). RAR, XIV (1952), no. 1, 6 (Warfield).
  12. R T-U, February 27, 1941. Advisory Board Minutes, February 19, 1942.
  13. R D&C, July 2, 1943. John R. Craf, "ASTP," Journal of Higher Education, XIV (1943), 399-403.
  14. F. Gordon Pleune, 1943, to A.J. May, October, 31, 1967, Rhees Library Archives. See, also, Frederick J. Martin, 1943, to A. J. May, November, 1967. Ibid.
  15. New York Times, September 20, 1942. R D&C, March 27, 1943.
  16. RAR, XXIII (1944-1945), no. 2, 2. Valentine Papers, May 19, 1945.
  17. Alan Valentine, Trial Balance, pp. 145-149., Leslie R. Groves, Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project (New York, 1962). Henry A. Blair, "A Brief History of the University of Rochester Atomic Energy Project from 1943-1968." Rhees Library Archives. "The Rochester Story" (1945), Valentine Papers. Executive Committee Minutes, XI, September 10, 1943. Andrew H. Dowdy to Alan Valentine, November 29, 1945. Valentine Papers. New York Times, December 10, 1945. R D&C, December 10, 1945, April 26, 1946.
  18. Executive Committee Minutes, X, April 9, June 9, 1942. Science, XCVII (1943), 395. R T-U, April 7, December 17, 1942.
  19. Alan Valentine to Mrs. Helen W. Rivas, March 9, 1943. Valentine Papers. Trustee Records, VIII, February 3, 1945.
  20. RAR, XXI (1959), no. 2, 4-5. U. of R. Medical Alumni News, Summer, 1962, 1.
  21. U. of R. Medical Alumni News, Winter, 1963, 6 (Whedon). Ibid., Fall, 1961, 7-8 (Fenninger). Ibid., March, 1960, 2 (Neel). Ibid., Summer, 1960, 4-5 (Scrimshaw).
  22. Ruby Rogers Hendryx, 1955, "Notes on the History of Nursing Education at the U. of R... " Alumnae Review-School of Nursing, XXVI (1951), 7. New York Times, August 31, 19 41. R T-U, February. 9, 1943.
  23. The School of Nursing (Twenty-third Bulletin), XLII (1947), 4.
  24. Alan Valentine, "The University: 1935-1955," RAR, XXIII (1945), no. 5, 3-5. President's Report, 1944-1945.
Chapter 31: Women, Music and Medicine in Wartime