Rich Talks About Students He has Admitted to Rollins College

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Rich:  It was amazing that first, the first class I entered, fall of ‘51 graduated in ’54.  One of the first to come by was— No, wait a minute.  During my first year the one that came by was Fred Rogers in his freshman year at Dartmouth.  A straight ‘A’ record for the first semester and I said, “Well this is great that you want to come to Rollins.  Why is this when you already doing ‘A’ work at a great—“  And he said, “Because I went to Dartmouth with three interests: one, the theatre; two, the music; and three, creative writing.  And I find in looking around that all three areas are stronger here at Rollins, because they don’t really have a music department at Dartmouth.”  Which they didn’t at that time.  And we had the best-known creative writing professor: Edwin Granberry here, and also he said that Annie Russell Theater, he was spellbound by it.  So that’s why he came here; earned two degrees, you know.  Music degree and then the other degree.

Now, I made my first trip to New England prep schools and went school after school.  I visited Andover, Ashford, Saint Paul’s, Saint Mark’s, Saint George’s. And Brooke school, I remember.  And when I went there, the headmaster, Doctor Ashgreen (??), said, “I’ve had the notice up for the week and nobody’s signed up to see you.”  And I said, “Oh, that’s okay.  I hope you have a little time to talk.”  And that’s what I did for school after school when nobody signed up.  Of course, that didn’t happen always.  But simply because Rollins had had nobody working in admission for ten years!  Nobody working in admissions at all.  They just sat back and had taken what came by on the GI Bill.  Anybody who had the money on the GI Bill could get into Rollins prior to my coming in here in ’49.

But Wendell Stone, dean of the college, realized the GI Bill was about to run out.  And so he approached me about coming in to do the admissions job and as soon as I could get an office created, they had no admissions office, as soon as I created an office, which is now the treasurer’s office over in the administration building, I took off with this tour of schools in New England, because we were often unknown as a referred to as the only New England college not located in New England.  It had that much of a New England atmosphere about it.  And the clientele and so on in the early days and the New England Congregationalist College.

Anyway, I went up there, and then one of the schools I went to, Brooke School, Mr. Ashgreen (??) said, halfway through my telling him about what was going on at Rollins, of began to describe the Annie Russell Theater, which was a far more active theater program than it is today.  We would have twelve major productions a year!  Now I think they have something like four.  There’s just no comparison to the act.  And I go by that theater and see it night after night when it’s not being used for anything.  That was unheard of in the fifties.  There was something going on in there all the time, you know.  So that’s another story.

But, “I have a student that should be in here talking with you.”  So next thing I know, in comes two arms, two long arms, two long legs flying around like this, and he said, “I never heard of your college, but Dr. Ashgreen (??) wants me to talk to you.”  I said, “Fine, well sit down.”  I said, “What’s your name?”  “Anthony Perkins.”  You see?  And I said, “What are your college plans?  You’re a senior.”  He said, “I’m going to fine arts school at Yale.”  I said, “Oh, that’s certainly an excellent choice.”  And so we told him a little bit about Rollins and he was not particularly interested.  I said, “What are you planning for your spring vacation?”  He said, “Well it just so happens I’m going to be in Florida with my mother because my grandmother just retired.”  I said, “Well how about coming to see us?”  So he came to see Rollins.  Lost all interest in Yale.  That’s how we got Tony Perkins.

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Rich Tells of the Roosevelts' Visit to Winter Park

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Rich:  Oh, now when the Roosevelts came in 1936, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, okay.  Of course, this was a very conservative.  The residents of Winter Park were very conservative.  Dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, you know, who hated the name Roosevelt, you see.  So when he finally worked out the date for the Roosevelts to come in March of ’36— Now remember that’s just four years after Mrs. Warren had given the chapel.  The chapel wasn’t yet four years old, and Mrs. Warren lived here in the Virginia Inn.  And Dr. Holt thought it would be a polite gesture to let Mrs. Warren know, be one of the first to know, the date.  So before he released it to the press, he invited her for lunch.  Guess where.  At the Whistling Kettle!  The only place to take her out.  I was one of those waiting on them.

I can remember, this is vivid to this day, how Hamilton Holt tried to lead up gently to Mrs. Warren, who was a wonderful woman, but nobody’s fooled.  She was as wise as they come.  And he was leading up gently to the subject.  She said, “Hamilton, if you’re about to tell me that the Roosevelts have accepted an invitation to come here, and that you want to have the convocation in the chapel, don’t forget I gave that chapel to the college not with any strings attached.  It’s for you to use as you see fit!  So if that’s the purpose of all this, you’re wasting your time.”  And she said, “I just have one request.  Don’t ask me to be in town when those people are here, because I will not be here when they’re in town.”  So she went off to (laughs) Palm Beach and took a suite at the Brakers (??).  And most of the people left town, most of the residents on Palmer Avenue.  They just didn’t want to be in the same town as the Roosevelts.  And when they drove in in the car—

Of course, the students were the opposite.  The students were mad.  The students were about equally divided between the pro-Roosevelts and the anti-Roosevelts because what kept the college going during the Depression, regardless of what they tell you, was the wealthy families.  It was always in those days is when it became known as a millionaire’s hangout, that you had to have big money to send your daughter to Rollins College, the most expensive college in the country, you know.

And so, they were— Hamilton Holt and others were doing everything they could to bring in poverty-struck students like, as I was.  But it was about evenly divided.  It was wonderful.  At least, I’d say fifty percent of the students must’ve been on large scholarships to make possible their being here.  It was an interesting experience, all right.

Well now, when the Roosevelts came to town, I was waiting tables then at the Whistling Kettle.  And it was the only catering service in town.  And I think there was one in Orlando, but Orlando is the other side of the tracks as far as Winter Park was considered it in those days.  That was a struggling city over there somewhere (laughs).

But anyway, so Ms. Lucy was asked to do the luncheon at Prexy’s home.  Do you know which house is his down on Interlachen?  Beautiful white house, just immediately adjacent to the Methodist parking lot.  Go down Interlachen on the right, you see the Methodist church on the left and their big parking lot on the right.  The house, beautiful big white house next to it, was Hamilton Holt’s home.

We were to do the luncheon.  We’d done many luncheons so it was just in a way, just another luncheon.  But Ms. Lucy had a heart of gold but she was as strict as they come.  And she wanted to hold her waiters to the same high standards she held herself.  So she began a little pep talk.  “Now remember, just because these are known people, you’re to give your full attention to serving them as waiters and not to be gaping at them or anything like that.”  So we go over there to get the luncheon table all set up, this big long table.  And I guess there were about, not more than, eighteen or twenty to be there, and a cocktail period before the lunch, and _______ tea with it.

And there Hamilton Holt with Franklin Roosevelt next to him, and Eleanor in a chair across from them in front of the fireplace.  There was no fire in March.  Anyway, and I was busy going back and forth, okay.  And (laughs) he said, “Oh Jack, come!  I would like you to meet our guest!”  And so I thought, There’s Ms. Lucy in the dining room staring out.  And so of course I go over.  And he said, “This is one of our students, Franklin.”  And I shook hands.  And then, “This is Mrs. Roosevelt,” I shook hands with her.  She says, “Oh, oh Jack, what are you majoring in?”  And I said, “Mrs. Roosevelt, I would love to talk to you, but I have to keep busy as a waiter.”  And so Ms. Lucy, you know, said that was fine.  So I went on about my business, and this is the interesting part of the story.  At the end of serving that luncheon, an hour later, Mrs. Roosevelt got up and came over and said, “Jack, can you tell me now what you’re majoring in?” (Laughter)  And that was Mrs. Roosevelt!  Eleanor Roosevelt; I don’t think there was any greater woman in the Western world in the twentieth century than that remarkable woman.

And when she came back to speak later on, she remembered my name!  That was when I was back as dean of admissions.  Over ten years later!  She remembered my name!  Said, “I never knew your last name, but I know your name is Jack.”  And I said, “Yes, it’s still my name, my nickname.”  “What are you doing now?”  “Oh, I’m the dean of admissions here.”  “Oh, how interesting,” she said.

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Rich Discusses the Benefits of Holt's Honor College Program

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Rich:  Of course, people in the north said, “You’re turning down Princeton and Trinity to go to this college in Florida?”  “Yes, I am!”  In those days, where they knew about Rollins in the north, they’d kind of laugh at it, you know?  Because Hamilton Holt was so far ahead of his time!  You realize you go to the college that was first so-called honors quote and unquote, honors college, where it was here the first college, accredited college, in the Unite States where students did not know what their grades were.  All they were told was whether they were passing or failing.  And you didn’t, you weren’t permitted to know your GPA [Grade Point Average].  You had to have a GPA recorded in the office because if you wanted to go on to grad school, they had to have that.  But the secrecy of it, I don’t know how they managed to maintain it.  But I don’t know one student who found out what his GPA was until he graduated.

Graduation was in the chapel, and then we made a beeline for Carnegie Hall, the registrar’s office, because the registrar was there with a copy of your transcript and it was marvelous.  I remember this great friend of mine, a classmate girl, in her cap and gown, streaming wet with perspiration and all that.  This is always the first Saturday in June.  And she said, “What! Damnit that guy!  I worked like a dog in that course, and he gave me only a B!  I should’ve had a—”  And that kind of remark, you know.  But most of the remarks were very good.

And anyway, it was, that’s the way it was.  And, of course, to us who lived through those Hamilton Holt years, it’s always been, it’s been wonderful to see Rollins progress the way it has.  But we wish it had gone on at the credit today of being the first of honors, quote end quote, college in the country.  Now, “How are you doing at Rollins?”  “Well my GPA is such and so.  I’m trying to get it up to such and so.”  The talk that goes on about grades.  I’d love to come over here and eat in the dining room, but I wish the conversation could be more about what you’re learning.

The emphasis was on the teaching and learning with Hamilton Holt, and he never lost, he never let us lose sight of it.  He often called unexpected assemblies, always in the chapel where everybody could be seated, all the students.  He had, his plan was the college never go beyond five hundred total.  He said, “When we get to that point where so many people want Rollins, we’ll talk over the whole Genius property across the lake, you see?  And build another college over there.  But on this campus, there will never be more than five [hundred].”  That was his goal.

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Rich Shares the Benefits of Holt's Education Through Inspiration

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Rich:  All this I owed to Rollins and Hamilton Holt, you know.  It continues to be the inspiration of my life and I’ll never forget his address to us as freshman in the Annie Russell Theatre.  By the way, when we graduated in ’38, it was a headline: “Rollins graduates the largest class.”  Guess how many were in it.  Eighty-four.  That was the largest class in the history of the college.  And it was an interesting class because of those fifty scholarships.  Fifty of the eighty-four were on those anniversary scholarships because we entered on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the college.

But I’ll never forget his opening address to us as freshman.  He described a again, we’d all read about it.  But he described so vividly what was going on in his mind in creating this, what he called a conference plan.  “It’s education by inspiration rather than by requirements.  I doubt that you’ll have any required reading in any of your courses. What you’ll do, you’ll be inspired to read books.”  And when I think about one course, French civilization, Baron d’Estournelles taught in such a way and referred to books like John Adams’, no Henry Adams’ Mont Saint Michel and Chartres.  If you want to get the true feeling of what the Middle Ages and the gothic age is all about, read the book.  Well I think we all rushed to get the book.  It wasn’t required, but that’s— And then The Education of Henry Adams was another one that he inspired us to read.  And then various books by Frenchmen, which those of us who were able read in French and others read in translation.

But at the end of giving this address to us, us freshman, he said, “Now go forth, get started, and whatever you do, don’t let your studies interfere with your education.”  And that, in a nutshell, really summarized what he was talking about.  And when I have a student telling me how well he’s doing on GPA, and how he got an ‘A’ in such and so on, how his courses are great, I think of this, Are these students letting their studies interfere with their education?  And I hope not.  I hope you’re not.  But that’s what it was all about.  He was definitely education by inspiration.

I don’t think you can do it in times, you couldn’t launch something like that in times of prosperity.  These were days when Princeton and Harvard and Yale, all you had to do was have your high school diploma and arrive on the opening day and you could go there, you see.  They were so hard up for students.

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Rich Talks About Hosting Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at Rollins

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Rich:  In my senior year (laughs), he had students— Each visiting writer had a student host and I was host to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling and so on.  And just at that time, in 1938, The Yearling had just been out less than a year and it was the talk of the world of writers, you know.  And so I was very privileged to be taking her around.  You met her at the train or at the bus station.  There was no air travel in those days.  And took her to all the different events.  There was a dinner the night before; you took her to that, then took her back to her hotel.  And then the next day there was a lunch at Prexy’s home; I was luckily living in the garage apartment there so I looked in on.  I was very much apart of that lunch.  And oh, I’ll tell you a story about when the Roosevelt’s came, you know.

Anyway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, she was a delightful woman and so interesting, but what very few people knew about her was if she had as many as two cocktails she started to swear like a trooper.  Just for the fun of it!  Not because she’s angry at anything, but “You bastard, you!  So nice to see you!”  You know?  Something like that.  And, “Do you know so and so?  What do you think about him?  I think he’s a son of a bitch,” she’d say (laughter).  Just in a normal conversation, that’s the way she’d talk!  She was wonderful (laughs).  Of course the students loved her.  And she and most of the writers who were here for the Contaminated Magazine would stay on the following day for convocation and then after that, seminars were set up.  They were invited to special seminars where they could meet with students, and that was a lot of fun.  And hers was— Of course I took her to that and took her home from that, and back to her train leaving, I guess it was bus.  Bus leaving back for home up _________ (??).

Invited us all to come see her; I never got around to doing it, but some students did.  Have you ever been to her home up there?  Ugh, go.  The typewriter which she wrote The Yearling on is right there on the porch where she, same old royal typewriter, you know?  It’s an experience.  Really, a great experience to go there, and don’t miss her Cross Creek, whatever it was.  Called it Cross Creek.  That’s the name of— Cross Creek is the other lake, you know, and so on.  Anyway.  She’s a delightful, she was delightful.


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