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MSU Adapts Its Curricula During 1940s to Fit Needs of Wartime - Missoulian Centennial Edition 1960

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MSU Adapts Its Curricula During 1940s to Fit Needs of Wartime

A war theme pervaded the inaugural of Dr. Ernest O. Melby as president of 46-year-old Montana State University in December 1941.

A strangely tense crowd filled the Student Union Theater and over the proceedings, seldom mentioned but never forgotten, hung the new shadow of war – of which the throng attending were reminded when color guards of ROTC students bearing the Stars and Stripes and the University flag led the processional.

Courses Added

Dr. Melby succeeded acting President Charles W. Leaphart, dean of the School of Law, and Dr. George F. Simmons, president from 1936 to 1941. In 1942 the University adapted its curricula to fit war time needs. Courses added included civilian pilot training, three defense courses in the home economics department, radio technology, special shorthand classes, intensified physical education.

In January 1943, 72 per cent of the men students at the University were enlisted in the Army, Navy, Marine, or Air Force reserve program. Winter quarter registration figures revealed that there was a drop of 143 students as compared with autumn quarter figures, placing the enrollment at 1,363 students. In April leaves of absence were granted 17 faculty members for aid in the war effort. The University turned housing and teaching facilities over to the Army Air Force training detachment stationed on campus.

Dr. Melby was succeeded by Dr. James A. McCain in 1945. The 38-year old President McCain had been serving in the Navy’s bureau of personnel at Washington D. C.

With the end of World War II, it became apparent that college enrollments were due to increase sharply as ex-servicemen resumed war-interrupted schooling, and University officials began a drive to obtain war-surplus temporary buildings to house the expected influx.

In addition to trailer houses, Jumbo Hall and the scores of row housing units obtained through federal agencies, a prefabricated village was financed by alumni and civic minded individuals and organizations. Seven temporary buildings were brought in from Ft. Missoula for classroom and office quarters.

Schools Accredited

During the administration of President McCain every school and department was accredited, regionally and nationally and also by special accrediting agencies for various schools.

President McCain supported the graduate program and research activities and a separate graduate school under its own dean resulted. The University biological station on Flathead Lake was reopened and expanded and one of the 16 federal-state wildlife research units in the nation was assigned to the University.

The Rockefeller foundation gave an $8,000 grant to the University to help finance the Northern Rocky Mountain Roundup of Regional Arts which was scheduled for 1950.

All administrative activities concerned with student academic and extra-curricular programs were brought together under a dean and associate dean of students. A University public service division was formed, through which University lecturers, music school performances, off-campus classes, correspondence study, the speech correction clinic, radio programs and similar activities were made available throughout Montana.

The bureau of business and economic research was set up to make a continuing research contribution to Montana’s economic welfare, and various scientific services were made available to the state.

The $401,000 Business Administration-Education building was built in 1948 and dedicated in 1950. Authorization of $418,000 out of the state’s postwar building fund for this building was the first tax money committed for university building during the 27-year period between the bond issue of 1920 and the division of the postwar building fund by the State Legislature in 1947.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 17:33