Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
Happenstance or Providence: How I found all my jobs
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Fritz Marti [top row, center] on an outing with colleagues from Hollins College.
Fritz Marti [top row, center] on an outing with colleagues from Hollins College.

In the twenties the Johns Hopkins department of philosophy consisted of only two but first rate men, Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas. There were few graduate students, and we Goucherites felt not only a philosophical interest but an inter-campus obligation to attend the Hopkins seminar. In February 1927, when I returned from Haverford, Boas sent for me and told me that Lovejoy, on sabbatical leave, was offering me a one year instructorship at Hopkins. Miss Bussey reported this honorable invitation to Dr. Guth who called me to his office and said he wanted to keep me at Goucher where he would promote me as fast as possible and, as a mere token, he would raise my salary from $1500 to $2400. I should have asked him to spell this out in writing, but one did not use that kind of language to college or university presidents. As it turned out, Guth never gave me a promotion nor any raise above the $2400. I took his oral promises at face value and turned down Lovejoy's invitation. It was probably a foolish decision. Even one year at Hopkins would have been a good stepping stone toward the big league. But the disappointments of 1925 had scared me, and I liked Goucher and the prospect of spending sheltered years of quiet reading so as to gradually fill the worst gaps in my knowledge. I had no inkling of the impending depression of 1929.

By 1931 the Goucher enrollment of 1000 or 1100 girls fell to 600. The college had no cushion of capital. It had to dismiss one third of the faculty. As the youngest and latest member of the philosophy department I had to go. There seemed to be no vacancies anywhere, but by sheer happenstance I found one.

One of the Hopkins psychologists and his wife were returning from a spring vacation in Florida and were motoring northward through the piedmont section of the Carolinas. When they approached Virginia they decided at the spur of the moment to make a detour through the Blue Ridge and visit Hollins College where the wife had taught psychology. There they learned that the full time teacher of philosophy, Orlie Pell, a pupil of John Dewey, had just resigned because Dewey had invited her to become his research assistant. The two psychologists brought the news to Baltimore and phoned it to Jane Goodloe, the assistant professor of German at Goucher. Jane, too, had taught at Hollins and immediately saw to it that I could go there for an interview. Hollins had had only two presidents since 1842, Charles Cocke to the end of the century, and then Miss Matty, his daughter. She was a grand old lady representing everything truly venerable in the old South. She was also a most likeable person, erect but kindly. As she was approaching retirement, the Vice President, her nephew Estes Cocke, formerly professor of physics, was taking care of most of the college business. He and I talked all day. In the morning he would say, "if you come to Hollins what about this point?" -- in the afternoon, "when you come to Hollins." The formal appointment came through in about three weeks. I was to be Associate Professor of Philosophy, having free board and room and $1600 per annum. I was to teach all philosophy courses but the one taught by the Dean, Mary Williams. I was to teach the one course in education required by Virginia law of seniors who, by fulfilling that requirement, could obtain a three year certificate for teaching in high school. I was also to give a course in the history of art and start a department of fine arts. (No art history courses had ever been given but around 1900 an old lady had taught the girls how to draw pretty flower arrangements and playful kittens. When I left Hollins in 1935, the art department had two full time men, an art historian and a creditable landscape painter.)

With three other bachelors I lived in "the monastery" below the vast circular dining room. I had a depression job, I had desirable responsibilities, I was happy, and I already had my eye on a spot under the cypresses up in the hill cemetery, where I might be buried after a lifetime at Hollins. I was still an unregenerated bachelor.

Before leaving Baltimore I bought an almost new Buick coupe at a very low depression price. It came handy for my education course which usually enrolled 6 or 8 seniors. I took them, three or four girls at a time, to almost every school in two counties for observing classroom procedure. By their own critique they learned some pedagogic proficiency.

Miss Matty resigned in 1933. Her successor lacked Miss Matty's impressive dignity and formal charm. She immediately changed the location of faculty meetings. Miss Matty used to preside in the large reception hall of the main building where we all sat in one big circle along the walls. Anyone who wanted to speak had to stand up in plain sight without the protective parapet of a lectern or a professorial desk. Bessie Randolph had us meet in a classroom, with herself at the desk and the rest of us in rows like good pupils. Miss Randolph remained the typical professor. She was kindly but rigid -- incidentally well corseted; I know, I have danced with her.

Hollins was a place of southern proprieties. When Miss Randolph was expected to arrive and take over from Miss Matty, the Dean, Mary Williams, felt it was proper to tender her resignation, so as to give the new president a free hand. Unexpectedly Miss Randolph accepted the resignation. Mary Williams had come to Hollins as a young girl. After her four years and her A.B. she went to Columbia University for a year and returned with her M.A. in English, to begin her life time career at Hollins as an instructor in English. Later she became interested in philosophy. Now, having resigned from the deanship and being still a decade from retirement, she had to go back to full time teaching. That meant my dismissal at the end of the first semester of my third year at Hollins. The college was fair and gave me free room and board for another semester. The new dean, Marguerite Hearsey, asked me to conduct a philosophy seminar for the faculty during that last semester. It was a success; a full third of my colleagues attended regularly, others dropped in.