was difficult to follow Dr. Herrick because he had accomplished so much to
raise the prestige and quality of the College and its graduates. When Dr. Odgers became President, the country
was slowly coming out of a major depression and heading for a world conflict
and social changes that would change the
country and especially
In 1937 the number of students was 1727. This was the first year that Allen Hall, the new name for No.1, was used exclusively for the graduating class. In September, sixty-nine seniors moved in to be supervised by Emil Zarella and his wife. John Donecker, a 1911 graduate, was named Assistant to the President a position he held for many years. On March 10 the boys listened to a radio broadcast entitled, “A Perfect Citizen,” which was based on Stephen Girard’s life. It was part of a long running radio show called “The Cavalcade of America”. Troop 400, a division of Boy Scout was established, under George Duncan, in Lafayette Hall. The Student Council was established this year under the direction of Mr. Karl Friedmann. Mrs. George Dallas Dixon presented a collection of Indian craft to the college. The collection belonged to her and her late husband, and it was presented as a memorial to Mrs. Dixon’s father, Dr. William Allen, first president of the opened College.
Each year, Student Activities Night was the chance for the students to display their hobby projects. In 1938, forty tables were necessary to display sketches, coin collections, wood carvings, electrical devices, radio sets, miniature furniture, beadwork, clay models, basketry, airplanes models and soap sculpture. The two bronze plaques on the pillars of the front gate were made as a Foundry class project and they were installed this year.
1939, John A. Diemand, a graduate, was named to the Board of City Trust. Two thirds of the students, 1154, attended
1939 the College imposed a quarantine because of the large numbers of scarlet
fever cases. The first case was detected
on January 4 th and by March there were 30 cases. A quarantine was placed on the boys leaving
the College and mobility within the College was restricted. Easter vacations were canceled. All students were given the “Dick Test” and
400 tested positive for possible scarlet fever.
Those 400 were confined to the Armory where beds were set-up and cooking
and eating arrangement were installed.
The Infirmary was overflowing with Scarlet Fever cases and a temporary
infirmary was set-up in the
Quoting from the Steel & Garnet May 1939 issue, “Household problems at Girard assume small town proportions. All the bread used daily is made in the bakery by four men who turn out 1800 loves daily. In the kitchen 1200 pounds of meat and 150 gallons of milk are consumed daily. Fifty tons of coal are used daily. In the laundry, 40 women are employed to insure a change of clothing twice a week for each of the 1385 students.”
three most significant things that happened in 1940 were the renovation of Good
Friends, the enlargement of the Hum camp when the students constructed 24
cabins, and the establishment of a general high school course for those unable
to compete in the academic course. The
student population was 1733 and the cost to operate the College was $1.7
million. (Note: Today, 1999, the
population is about 580 and the cost is near $10 million.) Since the National Defense Program (the
Draft) was activated several College staff were called or enlisted in the service. An example of how the professionalism of the
college staff was changing is revealed in these statistics. In 1936, 23 of the 35 teachers in the Middle
School did not have degrees whereas in 1940 only 9 of the 35 where without
degrees. The practice of taking the
senior boys on a campus tour began and included the attic and basement of
Founder’s Hall, the sub-basement of the high school, the basement of the Dining
The total population of students
peaked in 1940 at 1733 and in 1941 it declined to 1694. In 1941 a committee of visiting educators
evaluated the college and praised almost everything except the existence of the
In 1941, there were 465 students in the college whose brothers were also there. Thirteen families had two brothers and three had three brothers attending. This was the first year that a student dance band was organized successfully. With more staff entering the service or taking jobs in the war industry, students were assigned additional tasks, i.e.: raking leaves, mowing lawns, sweeping roads and sidewalks, cleaning locker rooms, pools and gyms. Older boys were assigned additional kitchen duties. They were assigned to shovel snow and ice, and some worked with the maintenance men. In anticipation of possible air raids, all the building windows were “blacked out” with shades to prevent light from escaping at night time. The total cost to operate the camp for 1941 was $14,391, hardly enough to justify selling the camp to the City.
In October 1941, the
The students were being
trained to react to possible air raids.
Wardens were selected from among the students. Air Raid shelters were designate and
manned. Students took turns manning a command
center. Others were designated as guides
and to assure that the building were properly “blacked out” of all light
exposure. Six hundred and six Girardians
were known to be in the service and in June the College learned of its first
war casualty, John R. Clanton, who survived
A private group made a survey of 27 school libraries and Girard’s expenditure topped the list. In all categories the Hum library ranked at or near the top. During 1942, 116 boys graduated largest ever graduating class. The first labor strike since the College opened occurred when the power engineers were refused the increased pay being sought. Student population decrease to 1615
In 1943 the
In April 1943 a campaign was
initiated to purchase government E-bonds so that a bomber could be funded and
named to honor Girard. For $300,000 an
airplane would be inscribed in Girard’s name and to honor the Girardians who
were already in the service. The class
of 1932 pledged $50,000. In one month
$124,893.75 worth of bonds were purchased. Within three months $361,368.75 was
raised and before the campaign was over the amount exceeded $400,000. A B-25 bomber was named “Sons of
Girard”. Also, in 1944 the Alumni
requested that the Maritime Commission name a ship “Stephen Girard”. They discovered that a
The May 1944 issue of the Steel
& Garnet reported that a Dr. Nathan Mossell wrote a four part article, in
the Pittsburgh Courier, challenging why only “white” students should be
The College population decreased
again in 1944, down to 1407, a reduction of more then 300 since 1940. The
In 1945 educators, including Dr. Odgers, were predicting major changes in education as a result of experiences learned from the war. The predictions were; attendance at colleges would no longer be restricted to those with adequate finances; clustering of courses would replace emphasis on an individual course; educational objectives would be clearly defined; there would be more learning by doing; there would be increased dependence on psychological testing; there would be an increase in education by correspondence; more “gadgets” will be used as visual aides; radio would become a major tool in education and new emphasis was placed on social studies.
The College soccer team lost the
City championship to
A modernization plan for the College
was written in 1945 and revealed that the college dormitories did not conform
to army health standards and consideration was being given to breaking up the
dormitories into smaller rooms containing two, three and four students. The plan included a recommendation to replace
In October 1945, a Centennial
Committee consisting of members of the Board of City Trust, the College
Administration and the Alumni Association, had their first meeting to prepare
for the 100th anniversary of the opening of
The College staff was exceptional in 1946 and their educational backgrounds were impressive. Excluding the medical staff, ten people had Doctors degrees and fifty-one had Master’s degrees. Thirty-four had either their undergraduate or graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, a statistic that was probably influenced by Dr. Odgers having come from the U of P to Girard College. Dr. Odgers wrote that the excellent professional staff was a attributed to the salaries that enabled the college to hire and retain staff. One of those hired this year was John Lander, a 1940 graduate who later would become President of the College. Most of the Alumni were returning from service and about one-third were entering Colleges under the “G.I Bill”. Many received financial assistance from the Board of City Trust and the Alumni Scholarship Fund.
The College still maintained a
unique double curriculum whereby students received both vocational and academic
training. In 1946, the students in the
upper buildings were rearranged by classes.
Instead of each building housing students from all four years of high
school, they were rearranged so that each building had only classes from two
years. After leaving
Plans were progressing for the Centennial celebration and now included a Philadelphia Bar Association plan to present a play titled “Girard”. Stephen Girard’s restored furniture and other relics, cataloged and appraised this year at $46,428, were to be displayed. The grand plans for refurbishing Founder’s Hall were curtailed because of the “excessive costs” and only essential re-wiring occurred. Work was underway to install a kitchen facility and toilets near the north entrance.
Although the number of students dropped from 1694 in 1941 to 1306 in 1946, run-away inflation was severely hurting the college’s buying power and staff demands were causing major budgeting difficulties. Operating cost rose nearly fifty percent in one year. Applications for admittance continued to decrease so it became necessary to reevaluate facility requirements.
Most of the pre-1900 buildings
needed extensive repairs. No major
construction had occurred since 1933 and very little was spent to maintaining
the older buildings. In 1945, a decision
was made to demolish
In 1947, the House Group (west end)
buildings reopened. Good Friends was
The Alumni speaker’s Bureau was
established and used to promote the College.
They spoke in conjunction with the film “The Life of a Boy at
The Centennial celebration, after
four year of planning, was a grand year.
It began in December 1947 when during the Christmas Concert, Dr. Harry
Banks’ original piece, “The Christmas Story” was presented. The Alumni began the Centennial year (1948)
with a January 3rd banquet and dance that was attended by 2100 people. “This was by far the largest gathering of
Girardians, their families, friends, guests and the College faculty ever
assembled at one function.” The affair was held in the Armory and a new
film, showing the life of a Girard student from first grade to graduation, had
it’s first showing. The entire program
was aired, live, by a local radio
station, including a speech given by
Judge George W. Maxey, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The last week of January was “Girard Week in
The Centennial year was interrupted in March by a 12-day strike of College maintenance workers who set-up pickets at both gates. Since the buildings were without heat and electricity, the College closed and the 1300 boys were sent home to relatives. Alumni families housed many students. The 25 workers returned to work after being threatened with the loss of their jobs.
Centennial attracted much alumni attention and caused the Alumni Association
membership to rise to 2175 by March 1948, a 400% increase. The goal was 2500 by Founder’s Day. The alumni speakers group, by May 1948, had
spoken to 354 organization throughout
Naturally, the highlight of the year
was Founder’s Week. Continuous events
were held ie: speeches on education
trends, needs of the youths, curriculum, the College history, Stephen Girard,
and a play “Stephen Girard” staged at the Academy of Music. The highlight of the week was a visit to the
college by the President of the
night several hundred ex-Hummers and their wives and dates attended the
Centennial Dance, held at the Rose Garden Room of the Belluvue-Stratford. John Diemond, class of 1903 and Vice
President of the Board of City Trust (later President) , speaking at the
Centennial Banquet revealed that financial constraints were necessary in
handling the Girard Estate. In 1898 the
average yearly maintenance of a boy was $300 and in 1948 it was $1750. “To maintain and educate 1800 boys on the
basis of (1948) today’s inflation costs would require an income of $3,150,
000. This is approximately 2.5% on
$135,000,000 invested capital ---which we do not have.” Diemand concluded with the following “Thus a
grand and glorious story with an eternal plot, fifteen thousand characters, and
the wide world as the scene of action concludes its first chapter. In this our triumphant hour, let not our
proud spirit blind us from the fact that the future of Girard College depends,
in no small part, upon an intelligently loyal and sincerely interested
alumni.” At that time the Estate was
worth $88,893,629 including $13 million, the value of the
The Centennial was also celebrated at the camp with the dedication of a Stephen Girard plaque presented by the Alumni and unveiled above the fireplace in the Recreation Hall.
The College had a glorious first 100 years. Stephen Girard’s dreams had been fulfilled and many orphans benefited from his wishes. In 1974, Founder's Hall was placed on the National Register Of Historic Buildings. Girard College is still an impressive campus, an oasis in a badly deteriorated neighborhood. Would the future be as glorious as the first 100 years?
 The author was one of those kids and remembers mostly the box lunch the College prepared for each child.
 Cunningham’s retirement party was held on Dec. 6th 1941. He wrote what I believe to be the best book written on the College. It is entitled Memories of Girard College. He is the only person who actually interviewed some of the original students who entered the college in 1848.
 Steel & Garnet February 1943
 Steel & Garnet September 1947
 Steel & Garnet January 1948
 Truman was the seventh President to visit the College, preceded by James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, James C. Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison.
 The battalion, consisting of the high school students, drilled weekly. This drilling was an outstanding application of military discipline, drilling, and rifle handling that aided the boys who later entered military service.
 The text of President Truman’s speech can be found in the June 1948 S & G.