Zhang: So what attracted you to Rollins?
Hellwege: Well now how, how—? Rollins, okay. Now having come under the Walter-McCarran Act [McCarran-Walter Immigration Act, 1952], I was registered with the State Department. And they provided lists of these people who had come into the country to industry and universities and colleges, okay. And while I was working there, I was bombarded almost weekly with offers from some company, chemical company, or from a university for a teaching position. One day I— My wife got a call from Hugh McKean. He had probably seen the list here at Rollins, okay, and he was in New York and called and it so happened I wasn’t home; I was working in the lab library on a project that night. And my wife told him to call back later on, okay. I was waiting, waiting for his call and I needed some razor blades. Went to the next corner Mom and Pop store to get them. In the mean time he called again, but he left his telephone number. And I called him back and he arranged for breakfast meeting the next day in his hotel. He always stayed in the St. Regis hotel. I don’t know whether you know that.
Lane: Yes, yes I know that.
Hellwege: But he invited me. Now with him was Dean French, who was dean of the college at that time. We met the next morning. I told him right away I really wasn’t interested in teaching because (laughs) my father was a teacher and that was the last (laughs) thing on my mind that I ever wanted to do, you see. And, uh, well, he said, “We’d like to know you a little bit anyhow.” And it turned out the breakfast room at the St. Regis was closed that day. We had to go across the street in a Schraft store, and that’s where I got interviewed. After they grilled me for a couple of hours, Hugh McKean said, “Well, we’re interested in you and would you like to come to Winter Park and look the place over?” Well, I said, “Yea!” Free flight to Florida, you know, I wouldn’t say no to that (laughs).
At that time there wasn’t much in Florida anyhow so I flew down to Jacksonville because direct flights into Orlando were very scarce. And then I took a Greyhound bus from Jacksonville. Come down here, they put me up in the Casa Iberia, there. And then I met all the faculty members, and the science division, especially Paul Vestal, who took care of me, took me around town. And then I told them, “I don’t know whether I could accept the position. My wife probably would not leave New York because she had all her friends in New York, and I would have to convince her.” So Hugh McKean gave me a stack of slides to take back, of Winter Park (laughs), and the college here. And I should say, about three months earlier, our oldest son had been born, in May 1954. And after discussing— Hugh McKean made me a job offer, okay. He offered me four thousand dollars a year. And that was less than what I got in New York, but on the other hand living expenses aren’t quite as great here in Winter Park. And it’s only for nine months and I could find another job, most likely, and make up for the short fall.
that with my wife, and the reason that I truly came down here is
did not want to bring up our son in New York City, okay.
We already saw a change in the neighborhood.
We lived in a completely German section in Richford.
Everybody spoke German there, mostly German people,
generation, sometimes third generation, and a lot of German Jews
in that area. Well the
reason was we didn’t want to bring up our son because there was a
migration in, mostly Puerto Rican, and the Germans would move
that area. And I accepted
for one year with the idea that after that we’d go back to
Hellwege: The reason for that is I was in love with a girl, which was really my one neighbor, our neighbor’s daughter.
Lane: In your hometown?
Hellwege: In my hometown, right. And we dated right after the war started. Matter of fact, before we married, seven years passed by. And she had relatives in the United States and— An uncle of hers and their children had visited Germany in 1939, but the parents of these children were not American citizens. They tried to— They knew the war was starting, tried go back to the U.S. in July of 1939 and couldn’t get any bookings on any ship at that time. The kids were born in the United States were of course American citizens and their daughter wanted to go back to the United States and work here, and she had relatives here. And she was still underage, about eighteen I think at that time. And her parents wanted my future wife to go along, and my wife, my future wife, applied in 1946 for an immigration visa and it took five years before her quota number was called up at that time. It was quite different then. Now you know you can just cross the border and you’re in. Five years it took! So in 1951, two years before I graduated from the University of Hamburg, she went to the United States and worked in New York. Came back in 1953 after I finished and we got married and then we had discussed that earlier I had also applied for a visa to the United States, which was a rather simple thing for me because at that time the McCarran-Walter Act, which had been passed which allowed immediate entry into the United States for natural scientists. Jack knows about that, okay. So there was really a lot of people coming from Europe over to here. And I was one of them. I applied for a visa and in about, later I had it. So my idea was to get some experience here and go back to Germany. And we came to the United States in November of nineteen hundred fifty-three and I had a job at a chemist in the food and drug search laboratory in New York City. We settled in New York City.
Lane: I noticed in your evaluations, that they mentioned your innovative approaches to some of your courses. Uh, did you— When you came to Rollins, did you get a sense that Rollins was open to that kind of education— lead you to that?
Hellwege: I pleaded for that in our division meetings, okay. And I think they let me have free reign, whatever I wanted to do. That was a nice thing about teaching here. Always been good, you know. The innovative approaches, well one of these was these oral exams, okay, a lot of more class discussion rather than actual lectures in the advanced classes. They’d better come prepared for their class or otherwise they would be nailed because they could not participate in the discussion, of course. I talked to Don Griffin the other day about that and he remembered that. Well then, innovative— The foundation courses were innovative. And later on Don and I developed a rather innovative non-science major course. And this, this was quite exciting for both of us because, because we did it in a kind of I teacher, him student set up, okay, in front of the class, all right. And we would invite them to ask questions, and I would ask Don questions. And we built in that he would make some mistakes once in awhile (laughs). So that made it exciting for the rest of the students; here the professor of physics could make mistakes (laughs). So that was mostly combined physics-chemistry type thing. So these were the kind of innovations we did. Another new course that I taught was radiochemistry, environmental chemistry, I did. Okay. Then these became kind of fashionable. But they were good basic courses.
Zhang: I’m looking at some newspaper articles. I am very interested, tell us some more about your research on cosmetics.
Hellwege: On cosmetics, oh. Yes, our department got approached by the chief of Vander Cosmetics, which was this division of Tupperware, located in Kissimmee out on Orange Blossom Trail. And he was interested in studying the influence on ingredients in cosmetics and the respiration of the skin. Oxygen respiration of the skin. About— Most people don’t know that about ten to fifteen percent of oxygen your body uses is going through the skin, rather than through the lungs, you know. And he approached me and I thought it was a good project for student research and told him that if he would get a grant, and proper equipment— I suggested an approach to, how to do that. He agreed that that was a good possibility. And I asked for a grant to buy the equipment and also to support students to do the research, also pay for guinea pigs, who would come and be tested for skin respiration. A rather gruesome, gruesome experience for many of them. Well anyhow, what we did is we attached a dome to the thigh of the person. Okay, and then in enclosed system, air was pumped over the thigh, and after one hour the amount of oxygen depletion in the air was measured. And now the cosmetic was applied. Another hour; again the oxygen depletion was measured and then the difference of course would be the contribute to the influence of the cosmetic applied. Several of my students did that.
The most— The student I’m most proud of is one that is now the head of the department of clinical chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A girl who came from a— Her father was a dentist. A broken kind of family. Her parents later divorced. I kind of did some parenting on her, besides teaching. Well, anyhow, she did a lot of that, and some other students did a lot of that. And we invited students from the college to come in, paid them four bucks an hour, or something like that, to be our research guinea pigs. And we found that, really, most of the ingredients he provided us with had very little affect. And so the project was abandoned. Of course we kept the equipment we got under the grant. And I didn’t profit from that, and it didn’t help me much. It’s not an area of research I’m very much interested in, but it was very helpful for students to do that. Very good for them.
Hellwege Talks About His Role in the Rollins Soccer team
Hellwege: Should I tell you about that, my involvement in the soccer team?
Zhang: Yes please.
Hellwege: Okay. Well I got a— I think it must have been ’55 or so, before you came, I got a postcard from Hugh McKean from India. And he and Jeanette had traveled through India and he had seen Indian boys play soccer there, barefooted. And he was intrigued; intrigued by the game that needed hardly any equipment. Rollins had quit (laughter) — Rollins had quit football a couple of years before I came, okay. And as a matter of fact the last game they played was the University of Miami game; Rollins against the University of Miami, they beat Miami. Joe Justice had that filmed. You know I saw the film, it was kind of interesting. So I got this postcard from Hugh McKean and it— “Herb, do you know anything about soccer?” Okay, of course I knew everything, I had played as a boy, you know, and later on as a young man I’d played soccer. And when Hugh McKean came back in the fall, he called me into his office, he said, “Is it, do you think it’s possible to field a soccer team here?” I said, “I have my doubts, you know, I don’t think you can get (laughs) American boys into playing soccer.” Well he said we’d try it anyhow. He called Joe Justice in, he was, I think—
Lane: Athletic Director?
Athletic Director at that time.
No, no, Jack McDowell was Athletic Director. He was coach of the baseball team.
And Joe committed his baseball players to play soccer, you
know. And we had a few
foreign students, a French kid and a couple of South Americans,
would go out to Harper-Shepherd field and start to field a
The first year was a disas[ter]— Well Hugh McKean would
there every afternoon, you know (laughs).
But we couldn’t play here on the Sandspur Bowl, it really
Sandspur bowl, you know, was covered in sandspurs, the whole
You could not play there. So,
every afternoon— Not every afternoon, but on my lab-free days I
go out and teach those boys, together with those foreign
rudiments of soccer. The problem was
there was no opponent anywhere in sight, in
the whole area. So we had
to travel to the University of Florida.
They didn’t have a soccer team, but they had a soccer
all the foreign students there. Okay,
and we lost. And Hugh McKean paid a
trip, or Jeanette paid a trip down to
Miami, and there was a soccer team, all foreign people, and we
And then they financed a trip to the Bahamas, and we lost
(laughter). So then Jack
McDowell called together all the athletic directors of Central
colleges: Stetson, and Southern, and I don’t think Eckerd
the time. But the few of
those, okay, and convinced them to start a soccer league.
And we did, okay. That
was the beginning of our soccer team here.