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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 3.2 Leaders

As we have noted, every successful professional organization depends upon a small cadre of leaders to get it started and to plan a program of activities, as well as a large contingent of adherents who support and sustain those efforts. In this section we profile the officers and several other leaders of the section from 1926 through 1932. We identify their academic affiliations in order to reinforce the geographic spread throughout the area.
Table 3.2.1 addresses the section’s governance structure in this period. At the organizational meeting at Lehigh in 1926 it was decided that two officers should govern the section. Not surprisingly, two of the founders were elected to the initial offices, Howard Mitchell as chairman and Albert Bennett as vice-chairman/secretary-treasurer. The following year a Program Committee was formed to assist the officers in planning the following year’s annual meeting.
Table 3.2.1.
Year Chairman Secretary Program Committee
1926 Mitchell Bennett
1927 Owens Kline Dresden, Thomas
1928 Wilson Caris Fort, Kline
1929 Miller Caris Fort, Kline, Miller (ex-officio)
1930 Fort Caris Caris, Smith, Morris, Dresden (ex-officio)
1932 Kline Caris Caris, Owens, Raynor, Kline (ex-officio)
During the period \(1926-1932\) the Philadelphia Section had \(15\) different leaders who either held office or served on the Program Committee. Their academic affiliations reflect the geographical diversity of the section. Of the section’s three founders, only H. H. Mitchell continued to provide leadership, although he never held another elected office in the section. Bennett moved to Brown University the following year. As we will see, Reynolds continued to participate in sectional activities, even being elected chairman in \(1938\text{.}\) However, he never attended a meeting outside the Lehigh Valley area, not even in \(1938\text{,}\) though he did ensure that the 1939 meeting, over which he would preside, was held at his home institution of Lehigh.
Because of Bennett’s departure and Reynolds’ apparent unwillingness to travel to the Philadelphia area, it was necessary for a new group of individuals to assume the mantle of leadership if the section was to survive, let alone thrive. Moreover, this group had to emerge quickly. Fortunately the section boasted many energetic, capable mathematicians who were willing to grab the reins.
It always has.
Table 3.2.1 lists three different secretaries of the section. After Albert Bennett completed his term, the title “vice-chairman” was dropped when J. R. Kline of the University of Pennsylvania was elected secretary-treasurer. The following year even the designation “treasurer” was dropped when P. A. Caris of Penn was elected as secretary. Caris held this position from \(1928\) to \(1941\text{.}\)
We adopt the following convention regarding years.
Each year refers to the November in which elections are contested, even though the person probably carried out most of the duties the following year.
  • Perry Aquila Caris (\(1890-1966\)) is a native of Tylersville, PA. He spent a lifetime working his way up the academic ladder. Caris received two degrees from Bucknell University, a bachelors in \(1913\) and a masters in \(1917\text{.}\) He held an instructorship at Bucknell from \(1913\) to \(1915\text{,}\) which explains the four-year period between degrees. Besides, from \(1916\) to \(1925\) Caris taught at various high schools in the state, including West Philadelphia H. S. for boys. All the while he pursued graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in \(1925\) for a dissertation comprised of several papers he had published in the interim on the theory of numbers and analytic geometry. His doctorate was the very last one granted at Penn for a dissertation lacking a formal supervisor. That same year he accepted an assistant professorship at Penn, where he remained until retirement in 1960. Caris is the author, with E. S. Crawley, of the 1933 textbook A First Course in Calculus. In addition to writing several articles in the Monthly, he was cited for vital contributions to the Committee to Review the Activities of the MAA 1  in the late 1930s. In \(1959\) Penn awarded him a prize of $\(1000\) for “excellence in undergraduate teaching.” Caris died in \(1966\) at age \(76\) after having been a member of the MAA 2  for \(43\) years.
Table 3.2.1 lists seven different people who served as chairmen during this seven- year period, a sure sign of a healthy organization. Indeed, these seven stand at the forefront of a long line of dedicated individuals who have given freely of their time and energy. Although the national MAA 3  had just changed its by-laws to lengthen the term of the President to two years, the Philadelphia Section decided on one-year terms, a practice that persists today, although since the \(1960\)s most chairs have served two one-year terms. The founder and first chairman, H. H. Mitchell, was profiled in Chapter 2. Here we provide biographical sketches of the six other chairmen in the order of their terms.
  • Frederick William Owens (\(1880-1961\)) was born in Iowa and received his B.S. degree from the University of Kansas in \(1902\text{.}\) He continued graduate studies at Kansas, where he met and married fellow graduate student Helen Barten Brewster (\(1881-1968\)). Both Frederick and Helen Owens then enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. degree in \(1907\) under the estimable E. H. Moore. Then he accepted an instructorship at Cornell University, where Helen B. Owens continued her graduate studies, obtaining a Ph.D. in \(1910\) under the department chairman, Virgil Snyder. In \(1926\) the couple moved to Penn State, where Frederick became head of the department, a position he held until his retirement in \(1949\text{.}\) Although he was unable to attend the organizational meeting of the section in \(1926\text{,}\) held just a few months after he moved to State College, he did travel to Philadelphia for the second meeting and was rewarded with election as the section’s second chairman. Not only did Helen Owens accompany him to that meeting, but there is no record of the either one of them ever attending a meeting without the other. Helen herself had two careers, one as a suffragette (fighting for women’s rights in both New York and Kansas), and, later, as a mathematician (she was an associate editor of the Monthly and taught at Penn State \(1941-1949\)). When she died in 1968 she had been an MAA 4  member for \(49\) years.
  • Albert Harris Wilson (\(1872-1958\)) was born in Tennessee. After receiving a B.S. degree in \(1892\) from Vanderbilt University, A. H. Wilson spent the next three years in the graduate program at Johns Hopkins University. During the first academic year, \(1892-1893\text{,}\) he was a Fellow and obtained a masters degree. He left the program two years later, without taking another degree, to accept an instructorship at Princeton University. He left Princeton for the year \(1899-1900\) to study in Göttingen. He came to Haverford College as an associate professor in 1910. In the meantime Wilson studied under the renowned Leonard Dickson at the University of Chicago, earning his doctorate in \(1911\text{.}\) He remained at Haverford College for the rest of his life, retiring as professor emeritus in \(1939\text{.}\) He was a charter member of the national MAA 5  when it was formed in \(1915\text{.}\) Wilson died in \(1958\) at the age of \(86\text{.}\)
  • John Anthony Miller (\(1859-1946\)) was born in Indiana. After graduating from high school there, he taught in the public schools for several years before taking his bachelors degree at Indiana University in \(1890\) at age \(30\text{.}\) One year later he accepted an instructorship at Stanford, which was just opening that year. A famous student in his first class was Herbert Hoover. Miller took graduate courses at Stanford, resulting in a masters degree in \(1893\text{.}\) The following year he returned to Indiana University as professor of mathematics. He seems to have become interested in applications because, after only one year, he switched from mathematics to the department of mechanics and astronomy, where he remained until \(1906\text{.}\) In the meantime he enrolled at the University of Chicago. In \(1899\text{,}\) at age \(39\text{,}\) he earned his Ph.D. as Heinrich Maschke’s first doctoral student. Seven years later Miller accepted the positions of professor of astronomy and Director of the Sproul Observatory at Swarthmore College; he held both for the next \(26\) years. When he was elected our section’s fourth chairman in \(1929\text{,}\) at age \(70\text{,}\) he not only held two academic positions, he also served as Vice President at Swarthmore (since \(1914\)). In that same year Indiana University bestowed an honorary doctorate upon him. Miller’s retirement in \(1932\) did not equate to lack of work, as evidenced by the \(1935\) publication of the second edition of his book Analytic Mechanics, which appeared initially in \(1915\text{.}\) In \(1937\) an appreciative group of Swarthmore alumni initiated the Miller Student Loan Fund in his honor.
  • Tomlinson Fort (\(1886-1970\)) was born in Georgia and received two degrees from the University of Georgia, a bachelors in \(1906\) and a masters in \(1909\text{.}\) He then enrolled in the graduate program at Harvard University, earning his Ph.D. in \(1912\) under Maxime Bôcher. Fort was a faculty member at Lehigh University from 1927 to \(1945\text{,}\) serving as Dean of the Graduate School from \(1938\) to \(1945\text{.}\) After that he taught at Georgia, South Carolina, Miami (Fla.), and Emory. His election in \(1930\) marked the first time a chairman of the Philadelphia Section had come from the Lehigh Valley and undoubtedly explains why the annual meeting returned to Bethlehem the next year after four years in Philadelphia. Fort also served three consecutive terms on the Program Committee from \(1928\) through \(1931\text{.}\) Later he was elected vice- president of the national MAA 6 . He died in \(1970\) at the age of 83, having been a member of the MAA 7  for \(53\) years.
  • Arnold Dresden (\(1882-1954\)) was born in the Netherlands and came to the U. S. in \(1903\text{.}\) In \(1905\) he enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. four years later under Oskar Bolza. Upon graduation he accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Wisconsin, where he remained until moving to Swarthmore in \(1927\text{.}\) When he retired in \(1952\text{,}\) his replacement was future EPADEL governor David Rosen. Dresden died in \(1954\) at age \(71\text{.}\) (See the profile of Arnold Dresden at the end of the chapter.)
  • John Robert Kline (\(1891-1955\)) was arguably the best mathematician among all leaders of the Philadelphia Section during the period of establishment. A \(1912\) graduate of Muhlenberg College, Kline earned the distinction of being R. L. Moore’s first doctoral student when he received his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in \(1916\text{.}\) Except for brief stints at Yale and the University of Illinois, Kline spent the remainder of his life at Penn, where he supervised \(19\) doctoral dissertations from \(1925\) to \(1954\text{,}\) including MAA 8  stalwarts Harry Gehman and Lida Barrett. (See the profile of J. R. Kline at the end of the chapter.)
The final column of Table 3.2.1 lists the members of the Program Committee, which came into existence at the second meeting, held in November 1927. Two years later it was decided to make the section’s chairman an ex-officio member of the committee. As the name connotes, the Program Committee was charged with planning the program for the next year’s annual meeting. In 1953 it evolved into the Executive Committee; in 1968 the newly created post of vice-chairman was put in charge of organizing annual meetings.
Members of the Program Committee during this period proved amazingly beneficial to the section. Of the dozen different individuals elected to the committee during this period, ten would ultimately become chairmen of the section. We have already provided sketches of J. A. Miller, (who was chairman in \(1929\)), Tomlinson Fort (\(1930\)), Arnold Dresden (\(1931\) and \(1940\)), and J. R. Kline (\(1932\)). Subsequent chapters will sketch the lives of William Mackey (“Will”) Smith (\(1933\)) from Lafayette, Richard Morris (\(1934\)) from Rutgers, John Wentworth Clawson (\(1935\)) from Ursinus, and George Emil Raynor (\(1948\)) from Lehigh.
Altogether the union of the sets of chairmen, secretaries, and members of the Program Committee supplies us with \(15\) different individuals who provided strong leadership throughout the seven-year period of establishment. Their academic affiliations are diverse. Four of the leaders hailed from the Lehigh Valley: Bennett, Fort, and Raynor from Lehigh and Smith from Lafayette. Three came from the Penn: Caris, Kline, and Mitchell. Moreover, the suburban Philadelphia area provided four leaders from three small colleges: Dresden and Miller from Swarthmore, Wilson from neighboring Haverford, and Clawson from Ursinus.
Three of the \(15\) individuals were from areas that no longer lie within the section’s boundary. Orrin Frink and Frederick W. Owens, from the Pennsylvania State College, represented central Pennsylvania. Their participation in the Philadelphia Section would diminish, but not disappear, with the establishment of the Allegheny Section in \(1933\text{.}\) Similarly, Richard Morris of Rutgers College represented southern New Jersey, an area that remained part of the Philadelphia Section until \(1956\text{.}\)
We observe the lack of leadership initially from the state of Delaware and from areas north and west of the Lehigh Valley. That situation would change in Delaware in the \(1940\)s but would take a longer period of time for the more geographically remote locations of the section.
Official records from meetings of the Philadelphia Section up to \(1954\) include complete lists of all MAA 9  members in attendance. In general we make no attempt to analyze these lists, but in this case we present a brief analysis in order to gain a greater understanding of the breadth of the mathematical community in the Philadelphia area during the roaring 20s. Then, as now, all who attended the meetings basked in camaraderie with fellow mathematics teachers. This camaraderie was more valuable at that time than today because only the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University contained more than a handful of mathematicians.
Two individuals attained perfect attendance at the first seven meetings – A. H. Wilson (who was profiled above), and P. A. Knedler.
  • Paul Allen Knedler (pronounced need-ler; \(1900-1972\)) was born in East Texas and graduated from the Keystone Normal School in \(1917\text{.}\) Knedler earned a bachelors degree from Muhlenberg College and a masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania. During his career he held various positions. Initially he was a teacher at a high school teacher in New Jersey from \(1920\) to \(1928\text{.}\) He then became an instructor at Penn, remaining there until \(1932\text{,}\) when he moved to Kutztown State Teacher’s College (now Kutztown University). Knedler remained at Kutztown as associate professor until his retirement in \(1969\text{.}\) During his tenure he served as chairman of the mathematics department for many years. He also taught classes in astronomy, resulting in the university naming part of its science building in his honor – the Gruber-Knedler Planetarium and Observatory.
Next, we provide sketches of three other members of the section who attended frequent meetings.
  • Edwin Schofield Crawley (\(1862-1933\)) attended five of the first seven meetings. Crawley is a native Philadelphian who received his bachelors degree from the University of Pennsylvania in \(1882\text{.}\) He then became an instructor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Penn. In \(1885\) he switched to the Department of Mathematics. Crawley was married in \(1888\) and resided in the city of Philadelphia his entire life. In \(1892\) he was awarded the first Ph.D. in mathematics that Penn ever granted. No dissertation supervisor is recorded for his thesis; it was common practice at the time to fashion a dissertation as a collection of published articles so there was no need to acknowledge any special guidance provided by a senior member of the department. In 1899 he was appointed to the Thomas A. Scott professorship of mathematics. Today the Department of Mathematics at Penn dates its modern period from the appointment of E. S. Crawley as head of the department. To commemorate this date the department sponsored a celebration on October \(30\text{,}\) \(1999\text{,}\) called “A Century of Math at Penn”.
  • George Abram Harter (\(1853-1943\)) was born in Maryland. He became an assistant professor of mathematics and Latin at St. John’s College (Maryland) after earning his bachelors degree there in \(1878\text{.}\) He remained in this position until receiving his masters degree two years later. From then until \(1885\) he was a principal at two different schools. In the meantime he was awarded a Ph.D. from St. John’s College in \(1882\text{.}\) Harter joined the faculty of Delaware College (now the University of Delaware) in \(1885\text{.}\) Initially he was a professor of mathematics and modern languages, but, after three years, physics replaced languages. In \(1896\) he was chosen as President of the University of Delaware, a position he held until \(1914\text{.}\) Subsequent chapters will record several other instances of Delaware mathematicians rising to top positions in the university administration.
  • Albert Eugene Meder, Jr., was born in \(1903\) in New York City, where he attended Columbia University, receiving an A.B. in \(1922\) and an A.M. in \(1923\text{.}\) He spent \(1922-1926\) on Columbia’s faculty before moving to Rutgers University, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was appointed Dean of the Faculty in \(1945\text{,}\) which explains why he was referred to as Dean A. E. Meder in subsequent literature. Earlier in his tenure at Rutgers, Meder held two administrative positions at the New Jersey College for Women, Acting Dean \(1932-1934\) and Admissions Officer \(1933-1934\text{.}\) This helps to explain why the New Jersey College for Women at Rutgers hosted the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Section in \(1933\text{.}\) Meder helped found the New Jersey Section in \(1956\text{.}\) He was elected that section’s first chairman during the year \(1956-1957\text{;}\) he held the position again \(10\) years later. The report of a panel he chaired at the section’s second meeting, “The education of mathematics teachers”, was published in the Monthly in \(1959\text{.}\) Meder also served on several MAA 10  committees. According to a reviewer, his 1967 pamphlet Topics from Inversive Geometry “was apparently designed for high school students ... [but] would be enlightening to many college students.” Today Dean Meder is retired and living in Manchester, Vermont.
At the other end of the attendance scale, Joseph Reynolds, whose idea sparked the founding of the section, attended only two meetings, both held at Lehigh, his home institution. Two other charter members of the section, Rollin L. Charles of Franklin & Marshall and Victor H. Doushkess of Lafayette, attended only the organizational meeting.