Wednesday, March 19, 2014

May 3, 1939: Top Eight for Oberlin

Original Letter from Helen-Mary Forbush from Oberlin College to Charlotte Salmon at AFSC


Dear Charlotte S. Salmon,

The committees have gone over the material you sent us about Thomas Doeppner and are quite favorably impressed. We have not made any decision yet and probably will not do so for several weeks. We have had many fine applicants and have at present eliminated all but eight of whom only two can receive scholarships. You can see we are going to have some difficulty.

The school records and recommendations of Thomas Doeppner have not yet been received and of course we will have to have them before we can decide further about him. I have enclosed the regular advanced blank and wondered if there is some one in America who could fill this out for him.

We would like to know more about the financial support he would be able to get. The scholarship will be for tuition only, so he would have to pay about $400. or $450. in addition to it. Also I wondered if he could come to Oberlin with a $200. scholarship. It may be possible for us to grant this sum to an applicant who may not qualify as highly as those chosen for the tuition scholarships.

We hope to get this settled as soon as possible, but still have to have an answer from a very promising Hungarian, so it may be several weeks before definite selection is made.

Sincerely yours,

Helen-Mary Forbush
Chairman of Refugee Committee
Oberlin, Ohio 

Things are really picking up now, and it’s a good thing too! If you remember (or are in that time yourself) May is pushing it for making college decisions. Add in a student visa application process- and you’re working down to the wire. I remember hearing back from colleges around this time of year, March and April. I had to make a decision by May to have enough time to get my housing squared away and sign up for orientation and my first semester of classes. Opa isn’t trying to get to orientation (if they even had one), but he certainly wants to be in classes when the fall semester starts!

This letter from Helen-Mary Forbush was written on May 3, just about a week after Charlotte passed on the news to Opa that Oberlin was indeed interested. It looks like they still haven’t received any of Opa’s official school records, which doesn’t surprise me- as it’s only been a week since they asked for them. As time-crunched as I feel just reading this and realizing how close they are getting to the fall semester, Helen-Mary Forbush and the refugee committee didn’t seem to be overly rushed. She mentions that Opa has made it into the top eight candidates, out of which only two may be given scholarships. She says it’ll probably be several weeks before they have a final answer.

Several weeks?!?! That’s… let’s see- if we say several is seven weeks- and it is May 3, that means no news until almost the end of June. Is this normal? Is Charlotte at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) breathing into a paper bag, or is this par for the course? (Although I will say, I can’t imagine Charlotte ever losing her cool.) I’m also thinking that the process of applying for the student visa cannot begin until the acceptance and scholarship has been received. Lastly, I can’t help but notice that most of the conversation has rotated around scholarships. I know that the typical German (Jewish) refugee did not have money at their dispense, in fact, they were unable (not allowed) to bring any money outside Germany other than to pay for travel. However, in Opa’s case, when he had a parent outside of Germany who still had an income… could a simple acceptance not do the trick for a student visa? Or was the student visa predicated upon proving that the student not only was able to study in America and return home after- but that they also had the means readily available to do so?? So many questions, I wish I could call or write Charlotte Salmon today and ask her. She’d probably have a pamphlet to answer all my questions.

Either way, Helen-Mary at Oberlin does allude to this financial question that I have. She wonders if my Opa might be able to support himself with the scholarship they offer, or even a lesser scholarship if he didn’t make the top two slots.

I don’t know why this tickled me, but the delay of decision making seems to be solely on the shoulders of a promising Hungarian. I don’t know who this is- but I love that his title is “very promising Hungarian.” Not a bad title. Opa has quite favorably impressed the committee at Oberlin- so let’s see if they get his information in time!

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