Moral capital

Kudos to Jennifer Sherman for her good article summarizing her research and book about real-life experiences in Golden Valley. It describes the price of economic disaster in a rural atmosphere in a revealing and provocative way.

Moreover, we were struck by the completely unnecessary cause of this disaster in the first place. It seems that the collapse of the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest was “due in large part” to placing the protection of the spotted owl over the welfare and economic well being of the entire human population of not only Golden Valley, but also other communities in the logging territory.

Even though Ms. Sherman’s research shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of disaster, this fact cannot offset the hardships people were forced to endure so unnecessarily.

Common sense tells us that our priorities are upside down. How many such terrible decisions with bad consequences such as these have to be made before we wake up to the awful price being paid by our people—in the name of “environmental protection?”

Gordon Pilcher BA, ’51 MA
Mountain View, CA


Free-flowing Columbia

Your article, “Back in the Earth,” contains an inaccuracy regarding the Columbia River. It states “Their traditional fishing grounds, Priest Rapids and the entire stretch of the Columbia between the Tri-Cities and Vantage, now lie deep under the backwaters of the dams.”

Actually, the Hanford Reach is a free-flowing portion of the Columbia and stretches from Priest Rapids Dam downstream for approximately 50 miles to the Tri-Cities.

John R. Smoots ’69 Comm.


Griffin, Still, and Burke

Reaching below the surface into the long-ago has become an adventure! The “Worth Griffin era” is my time in a thousand ways.

I sit here looking at the interior walls of my house, which have been transformed into an “Alice Gallery.” Alice Schuchman, formerly Alice Burke, who passed in 2006, graduated in Fine Arts in 1939.

They are walls that very much reflect the careers of Griffin and more especially Clyfford Still. My walls show me, at the beginning at least, she was all Clyfford Still.

Your twenty-one years at State should almost have carried you back to a day when you yourself could have walked to the top-of-the-stairs hall-way in the old science building [now Murrow]… Clyfford Still used to have his office there. You might have viewed in person on those walls Alice’s senior project—a “War Mural” which she painted under the supervision of Still.

The completely unexplainable thing about this was that when we returned to the campus for our two anniversaries, the mural was still there.

That means, that from the time it was first done in ’39, through the World War II years, through the Vietnam years, and during the intervening time until the building was remodeled for the new Ed Murrow wing, the mural had been left untouched for any viewer, including yourself, who happened along.

Why? I suppose there could be a lot of reasons including “There was no money to repaint.” But there always remains the one, “It was a remarkable piece of work…

Clarence Schuchman ’39

Ed. note: Alice Burke’s mural is no longer evident. We still have not uncovered its fate, though it’s likely it was covered over in the remodel. If anyone has information on it, or photographs, we’d love to hear from you.


Northwest architecture

Ed. note: Below is the full text of Mr. Rash’s letter. An excerpt appeared in the print issue of Washington State Magazine.

I read with great interest Hannelore Sudermann’s article, “Outside In—Architecture of the Pacific Northwest”; however, a number of observation made by Sudermann regarding the sometimes contentious relations between the University of Washington and Washington State University were somewhat erroneous. The statement that “Suzzallo and Holland started their friendship as students in 1909 at Columbia University” is not entirely correct, since only Holland was a student at that time. In 1909 Suzzallo accepted a position at the Teacher’s College of Columbia University as professor of the philosophy of education after having briefly taught at Stanford University as an assistant professor of education. Consequently the relationship between Suzzallo and Holland began as teacher-student and not coequally with both being students. I cannot say with any certainty as to how much bearing the start of their friendship as teacher-student had in their dealings with one another as heads of the two largest institutions of higher education in the state, but one cannot rule out the possibility that Suzzallo still had expectations of Holland following his lead in regards to state policy, and Suzzallo’s lead was to build a “University of a Thousand Years” at the University of Washington.

At the time when Holland was being considered for the presidency of the State College of Washington, as WSU was then known, Suzzallo assured Holland that he would “make decisions in terms of the best educational service to the state regardless of how it cuts my own institution” (Charles M. Gates, The First Century at the University of Washington, 1861-1961, page 147). When the Educational Survey Commission was established by the 1915 State Legislature, the expectation was that major lines of education would be consolidated at either the State University or the State College, as had just previously occurred in Oregon, where the state university got architecture as a major (a partially extant program at the state college, but then inexistent at the state university) and the state college got engineering (both sets of programs were consolidated), to name but one aspect of Oregon’s intent to eliminate duplication as much as possible. Suzzallo would have none of that and was successful in arguing for the maintenance of engineering at the University of Washington due to its location in in the populous and industrialized Puget Sound—an argument that was also used to justify the elimination of architecture, pharmacy, journalism, business administration and forestry at the state college.

Sudermann is also mistaken as to the creation of the Joint Board of Higher Curricula, which occurred in 1917 when legislation was passed that officially eliminated WSU’s ability to grant degrees in a variety of fields, including architecture (but not until after 1920 to allow students already in the major to have an opportunity to complete their degree) and not in 1921. It was in 1921 when the University noticed that architecture courses were still being taught at the State College even though no degree in architecture was being granted. The issue was not the granting of degrees but the teaching of specific courses, which the University wanted eliminated by way of the Joint Board. Even though the position of the State College was upheld, Holland directed Rudolph Weaver to eliminate the fourth year of the architecture course in hopes of placating the State University. Instead, Weaver resigned and accepted a similar position at the University of Idaho and later inaugurated the architecture program at the University of Florida. The State University hired Stanley A. Smith to replace Weaver, and Smith acceded to the official elimination of the fourth year. Some years later, the State University objected to the existence of a Department of Architecture at the State College, which prompted the transformation of the architecture program into an architectural engineering program, the only such educational program in the country not affiliated with an arch
itecture program. As late as 1961, the State University’s justification for its actions was that the elimination of courses in architecture, journalism, forestry and commerce (business administration) was “a loss of prospective fields, rather than of subjects which were already established” (Gates, First Century, 1961, page 150). This claim ignored the reality of the time, particularly since E. Walter Burkhardt (Class of 1917) would eventually have a distinguished architectural career, which would include election to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects—the earliest graduate from the state of Washington to earn FAIA status.

One aspect of the conflict over architectural education in Washington state that Sudermann appears to be unaware and undoubtedly part of the reason why the University of Washington, and Carl F. Gould (head of the program in Seattle), wanted to eliminate the program at the State College was the fact that Weaver’s program was one of the few not based upon the prevalent Beaux-Arts system. When Weaver was receiving his formal education in architecture, no particular system had gained favor. After the success of H. H. Richardson and firms like McKim, Mead & White of New York City, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, was increasingly viewed as the best possible method for training architects in the United States, and after the first decade of the twentieth century was the system that was invariably adopted by new architectural schools and was the system under which Gould had been trained. While Weaver was at the Drexier Institute in Philadelphia, he was introduced to the art educational system of “Pure Design” by one of his instructors, Emil Lorch. Pure Design became as prevalent for art education as the Beaux-Arts became for architecture education, and Weaver was one of the few educators in architecture who based his teaching philosophy on Pure Design, which is still the original base for the architecture program at Florida. Even Lorch, after becoming head of the architecture program at the University of Michigan allowed his curriculum to absorb aspects of the Beaux-Arts in addition to Pure Design, primarily because of the difficulty of finding and retaining architecture instructors versed in Pure Design as opposed to the Beaux-Arts. Weaver was also very interested in grounding his program in the practical realities of the world outside of academia, and was able to get Burkhardt hired as the construction inspector for the Northern Pacific Railroad depot in Pullman during Burkhardt’s senior year at WSU.

While I can appreciate Sudermann’s attempt to remind alumni and others of the difficulties that WSU has had in maintaining the second oldest architecture program on the West Coast, Sudermann over-simplified reality and implied that WSU acted in an illegal manner by offering degrees in architecture. For eight years (from 1920 to 1928) there were no degrees in architecture granted at WSU as required by law and the Department of Architecture granted only 3-year certificates in architecture, if the student wanted a diploma from WSU that contained the word “architecture.” Nonetheless, Donald J. Stewart (B.A, 1922) and Harry C. Weller (B.A., 1923), among others, had distinguished careers in architecture that resulted in their eventual election to the College of Fellows of the A.I.A. I also realize that the nature of “Outside In” was to discuss current students and practitioners, and as such, was not a good forum for attempting to discuss an unfortunate episode in the histories of both the University of Washington and Washington State University, since such a discussion needs more space than Sudermann’s article allowed or even what I discuss here. Still, to characterize anything that WSU or its Department of Architecture did during the 1910s or 1920s as “illegal,” misrepresents both the actions and the underlying intent which is highly regrettable.

David A. Rash ’78

P.S. I recognize that the above is too long for being printed in full, and I am not certain as to how easily it might be shortened for publication. Nonetheless, Sudermann unfortunately misrepresents by oversimplification what happened. I spent more than two decades researching the early history of the Department of Architecture, including looking at the similar departments at the University of Washington, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, University of Idaho and University of Florida, before presenting my paper “Connections by Weaver,” at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians.