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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 2.4 Organizational Meeting

The minutes from the meeting of the Board of Trustees (now Governors) that was held during the annual MAA 1  meeting on December \(30-31\text{,}\) \(1926\text{,}\) provide a summary of proceedings that took place during the latter part of \(1926\text{:}\)
The Trustees voted to approve the organization of a PHILADELPHIA SECTION of the Association, subject to the submission of suitable by-laws, a petition to that effect having been sent by a meeting of thirteen members of the Association. This section is intended to serve more than one hundred members living in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, in southern New Jersey, and in Delaware, meetings usually being held in Philadelphia.
We do not know if the petition sent to MAA 2  headquarters, then located in Columbus, Ohio, is extant, so the identity of the \(13\) members who signed it cannot be known with certainty. However, the official report from the most important event in the section’s history, the organizational meeting held on Saturday, November \(27\text{,}\) \(1926\text{,}\) just two days after Thanksgiving, contains details of the proceedings and so provides clues to the identity of the signatories. On that date Howard H. Mitchell of the University of Pennsylvania, and Albert A. Bennett and Joseph B. Reynolds of Lehigh University, arranged a program of talks appropriate for college mathematics teachers at Lehigh. In so doing, these three mathematicians became the founding members of the section. Their profiles are given at the end of the chapter and their continued participation in sectional activities is chronicled in subsequent chapters.
Members of the section today will recognize the format from the \(1926\) meeting, except for the fact that it was held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, a tradition that was continued until \(1963\text{.}\) (Recall from Chapter 1 that the AMS 3  held its organizational meeting on Thanksgiving Day \(75\) years earlier.) The initial gathering featured five lectures about mathematics and the teaching of mathematics. It was followed by a break for lunch and a business meeting. In \(1926\) lunch preceded the business meeting, the reverse of today’s order. Besides, the spouses of the local members were present during lunch. But on this historic date, November \(27\text{,}\) \(1926\text{,}\) there was vital business to conduct, and it was important for the three founders to discuss their major initiative over lunch before proceeding with business. Once the meal was finished, a vote was taken. It was agreed unanimously to request permission of the Trustees of the MAA 4  for the organization of a new section to be known as the Philadelphia Section.
Although the proposed section still had to be approved by the MAA 5 , the \(20\) persons in attendance moved to set up a governing structure for future meetings. They decided initially to elect two officials to one-year terms. The results of the election reinforce our elliptical model, with officers coming from the two foci, chairman Howard Mitchell from Penn and vice-chairman and secretary-treasurer Albert Bennett from Lehigh.
There followed two other items of business. The first was a vote to approve the section’s by-laws. Although the gathering deferred official adoption of the by-laws until the next meeting the following November in Philadelphia, minutes from the 1927 meeting do not mention the by-laws at all. It is safe to assume they were approved without dissent. The second item of business in 1926 was an expression of appreciation by everyone in attendance for the courtesies extended by Lehigh University. Then the session adjourned. Unlike today, no mathematics followed lunch.
Detailed information about the five lectures will be presented in the next chapter. Here we note that, appropriately enough, the founder Joseph Reynolds of Lehigh presented the first lecture, on evolutes of certain plane curves. The next three talks were also on mathematical topics: Howard Mitchell of Penn spoke on ideals of quadratic forms, Lloyd Smail of Lehigh described Dedekind’s theory of irrationals, and William M. Smith of Lafayette discussed differential equations.
The 20 persons who were able to commute to Bethlehem for the meeting included 14 members of the MAA 6 , six of whom were on the faculty at Lehigh. These \(14\) therefore became the charter members of the section
Crawford (NJ) High School:
Paul A. Knedler
Franklin & Marshall:
Rollin L. Charles and William F. Long
Albert H. Wilson
Victor H. Doushkess and William M. Smith
Albert A. Bennett, Morris S. Knebelman, Joseph Reynolds, Lloyd L. Smail, Frank M. Weida, and Kenneth W. Lamson
Howard H. Mitchell
State Director of Mathematics and Science:
John A. Foberg
Six of the \(14\) charter members were eventually elected chairmen so their profiles will appear in later chapters (Bennett, Mitchell, Reynolds, Smail, Smith, and Wilson). We glimpsed Lamson above. Among the others, Knedler and Weida participated actively enough to warrant biographical sketches at their times of maximal service. Here we sketch four of the remaining five charter members.
  • Rollin Landis Charles (1885-1941), a mathematical physicist born in Bethlehem, PA, was associated with three institutions in the Philadelphia Section. He obtained two degrees at Lehigh University – an A.B. in 1907 and an A.M. in \(1910\text{.}\) He pursued additional courses at Lehigh, Columbia, and Penn. Charles began teaching at Lehigh as an instructor in physics in the fall after taking his undergraduate degree, the position he held when he became a charter member of the MAA 7  in \(1916\text{.}\) In \(1922\) he moved to Franklin & Marshall College as professor of physics and applied electricity, the position he held at the time of the founding of the Philadelphia Section. Charles remained at F & M until his death at age \(56\text{.}\) In the meantime he was also a professor at Albright College in Reading, PA, from \(1928\) to \(1930\text{.}\) He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also a member of several other organizations, including the American Philatelic Society, Sons of the Revolution, and the Pennsylvania German Society.
  • Victor H. Doushkess (1895-1966) received a B. S. degree at Lehigh University in 1917. He enrolled in the graduate program at Lafayette College two years later, receiving an A. M. degree in 1921. Doushkess was appointed an instructor at Lafayette in 1919 and was promoted to assistant professor five years later. He remained at Lafayette until 1935.
  • Morris Samuel Knebelman (\(1890-1972\)) was born in Russia. After coming to the U.S., he received a B.S. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912 and an M.S. from Lehigh University in \(1914\text{.}\) During his second year at Lehigh he was appointed an instructor. In \(1925\) he enrolled in the graduate program at Princeton University, where he earned his Ph.D. in \(1928\) for a dissertation on differential geometry written under two notable advisors, Oswald Veblen and Luther Eisenhart. Knebelman served as an instructor at Princeton while completing his degree, and he remained there the next year on a National Research Council Fellowship. Due to the sudden death of a faculty member in the summer of \(1929\text{,}\) Princeton had the dire need for someone to head the university’s mathematics courses for engineers. Knebelman’s background at Lehigh made him a suitable candidate, so he was offered the position of assistant professor. He continued in this capacity until 1939, when he became a professor and head of the department at Washington State University. He later became Dean of the Graduate School at Washington. Knebelman taught there until \(1965\) when, at age \(74\text{,}\) he returned east as a visiting professor at Bucknell University. He died in Lewisburg in \(1972\) at age \(82\text{.}\)
  • William Franklin Long (\(1871-1945\)) was an astronomer who was born in Boyertown, PA. He graduated from Kutztown State Normal School in \(1891\text{,}\) earned his bachelors degree from Franklin & Marshall College in \(1897\text{,}\) and did graduate work at Cornell, Harvard, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Columbia. In \(1942\) F&M bestowed on him an honorary degree of Doctor of Science. Long taught in high schools in Johnstown and Pittsburgh from the time of his graduation from F&M until \(1918\text{.}\) He was also a principal during that time. In \(1918\text{,}\) Long accepted a professorship of astronomy and mathematics at his alma mater, and remained there for the next \(26\) years. A newspaper clipping states, “he was known by ‘thousands of Lancastrians’ as the director of the Scholl Observatory.” Long retired in June \(1944\text{,}\) yet he taught an evening astronomy course in the fall of \(1944\text{.}\) He died on New Year’s Day \(1945\) at age \(73\text{.}\)
Although we were unable to locate personal items about the remaining charter member, some of the professional activities of John Albert Foberg are worth noting because they link the section to current developments in mathematics education. J. A. Foberg graduated from the University of Illinois and taught at Crane Junior College in Chicago when he became a charter member of the MAA 8  upon its founding in 1915. One year later he was selected to be the representative from the Central Association of Science and Mathematics Teachers to the National Committee on Mathematical Requirements. This committee was formed by the MAA 9  “to give national expression to the movement for reform in the teaching of mathematics in secondary schools and colleges.” Foberg and J. W. Young (Dartmouth) received funds to devote the entire year 1919-1920 to writing reports for the committee. Foberg’s report, “Junior High School Mathematics”, appeared at the end of the year. Three years earlier he had been one of the organizers of the Illinois Section of the MAA 10 . A 1972 MAA 11  publication reported, “It is worth noting, in this day of expansion of the junior college concept, that the first chairman of the Section was J. A. Foberg of Crane Junior College.” When the NCTM was founded in the early part of 1920 Foberg was elected its first secretary-treasurer. He also became the business manager for the NCTM’s official journal, The Mathematics Teacher. During this time he moved to Pennsylvania to become the State Director of Science and Mathematics, the position he held when the Philadelphia Section was founded in 1926. The preceding year he published the book General High School Mathematics with D. E. Smith and W. D. Reeve from Columbia Teachers College. Foberg later completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh. He then left the Department of Public Instruction to become the head of the mathematics department at California State College. He appears to have lived in Camp Hill during his entire stay in the state. He was last listed in MAA 12  membership rolls for the academic year 1937-1938.
This brief glimpse of those MAA 13  members who attended the organizational meeting shows a solid core of mathematicians with a wide array of interests and abilities. Most of the 14 MAA 14  members were associated with colleges and universities in the area, and most were involved with undergraduate programs entirely. Not all were pure mathematicians, however, as the initial meeting attracted a mathematical physicist and a mathematical astronomer.