Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
Happenstance or Providence: How I found all my jobs
Page 5

Rufus Matthew Jones.
Rufus Matthew Jones.
Image courtesy of the Haverford College Library Special Collections

At the boarding house a block from Goucher I met and soon had a friend in Joe Beatty, an assistant professor of English. He had the good grace to play tennis with me though I was very bad at it. He was a Quaker and off and on took me to the Friends' Meeting House. A graduate of Haverford College, he was also its recruiter in the Baltimore area. Through Joe I met Rufus Matthew Jones, the famous Quaker mystic and professor of philosophy at Haverford. Jones was soon to retire. He was going to spend the fall semester of 1926 lecturing in China and India. His Haverford classes were to be taught by some young man who might prove fit for an appointment after Jones' retirement. Joe Beatty arranged an interview for me. I went to Haverford and spent a most pleasant hour with the committee of three, W.W.Comfort, the president and professor of romance languages, Dean Palmer, and the professor of mathematics. They invited me to spend the fall semester at Haverford as a lecturer pro tempore. At the very close of the interview President Comfort mentioned what he called "the awkward question of compensation" and asked me what I would consider proper. I knew Haverford was rich and so I bid high and said $1500, the sum Goucher paid me for a whole year. Comfort uttered a hesitant "no", and I was afraid I had overbid my hand. But Comfort continued, "I believe $1600 would be a more proper figure." This is the only time I found a college or university president outbid the applicant. It shows that trustees should hesitate in turning a scholar into a president!

I enjoyed my semester at Haverford but was found wanting. I must explain. On my part, relishing the prospect of spending a lifetime at Haverford, I wanted to know every aspect of the place and therefore regularly attended the Sunday morning hour at the Meeting House of the Friends of the Haverford neighborhood. I am still glad I had that experience, for two out of three meetings were first rate and the third impressively good. One Sunday Comfort and I happened to walk out of the door together and he suggested we chat for the short distance to the campus. He had a purpose. He casually asked me why I never spoke up in any of the meetings. I replied: "I have nothing to say." It was one of the most deliberate lies I have ever uttered. I knew what I was doing. Toward the end of quite a few meetings I had felt tempted to give voice to a sentence or two which would have brought into explicit focus the gist of the particular meeting. The Friends left it implicit. In fact, the Haverford Meeting seemed to have a kind of ritual formula voiced by an older man or woman in the form of a concluding prayer of thanks. "Thank Thee, Lord, for having let us come so close to Thee." My formulations might have taken the mystic plunge or rather would have voiced a philosophical concept. To do that would have meant to turn a religious service into a philosophical seminar. And I had no business to do that. Maybe Rufus Jones had that calling, and he may have been able to speak up without breaking the religious spell. I still believe my lie cost me the Haverford appointment but, in retrospect, I am not sorry.