Tuesday, April 29, 2014

June 9, 1939: Phil Myers Asking

Letter from Phil Meyer to American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)


Dear Sirs,

     I have at hand your letter of May 27, the dossiers of two students, Manfred Lange and Thomas Doeppner, as furnished by you and the dossier of Jan Rosenback as furnished by Miss Frenyear. Your former communications have been addressed to Mr. Luther Harshbarger who graduated this spring. I am chairman of the committee in charge of this project for the summer and the ensuing school year. Will you please place my name on your mailing list in place of Mr. Harshbargers.

    The committee has met and considered the dossiers of these three students. We do not feel that we have sufficient information about Manfred Lange to consider him, furthermore since he is an Aryan, we cannot favor him because our campaign was conducted for the support of a non-Aryan student. We doubt that Thomas Doeppner could receive the instruction he desires at McPherson College because this institution is a Liberal Arts college. The remaining student Jan J. Rosenbach seems to fulfill our needs quite satisfactorily. However, we would like some additional information about him before making our final decision. 

   Our registrar has had some difficulty in interpreting the grading system used on the "Annuary School Report". The individual grades appear to be average or below, while the "degree of total progress" seems to be above average. Could you clarify this matter by expressing these grades in terms of an A, B, C, D, F, system or on a percentage basis? We desire a student of superior ability if such an individual is available.

    Your original letter states that Jan's father was a "prominent pacifist." This was one reason for our particular interest in this student since McPherson College, supported by the Church of the Brethren, holds strong pacifist convictions based upon religious tenets. However we are interested in the motivating force in the pacifism of the Rosenbach family, for we do not desire agitation of a communistic or other undesirable nature. Can you clarify this matter to our satisfaction?

    Will you please send us a picture of Jan Rosenbach if one is available.

    I have asked the Registrar to send you a catalogue of McPherson College. You will notice that the institution is a small, church related, liberal arts college. The student body is drawn from rural and small urban areas. The social life is based upon the traditions and beliefs of the Church of the Brethren. Smoking, drinking and dancing are prohibited on the campus. On the basis of available information do you recommend Jan J. Rosenbach as a student who will be able to adjust himself to such an environment?
     Referring again to your letter of May 27, I notice that you mention that we have raised $400. I think it is advisable to clarify our financial situation. Our original plan provided for a three point program.

1. Student-Faculty contribution  -  $150  
2. Charitable and religious organizations - $100
3. College administration
 a) scholarship - $50
 b) Work at the prevailing wage - $100 ($150)
                                 Total - $400

     A student, by careful financial planning, can complete a year at McPherson College for this amount. The Student Faculty contributions amounted to $135; organizations to date have contributed $70. Of the deficit of $45 we have pledges of $20 and finally three of the largest charitable organizations of the city have delayed action until new officers shall have been installed. We have a tentative promise of a job on Saturdays for the student. We are confident that sufficient funds will be available at the opening of school to care for this student. Does this plan fulfil the requirements of a student entering the U.S. on a non-quota visa?

   President V.F. Schwalm is out of the city and expects to return June 19. We hope to receive the additional information requested above before that date, in order that we may take final action upon his return.

Phil Myers

Here is a letter from Phil Myers of McPherson College. From the looks of it- this guy has all the qualities it takes to be a CEO. I mean seriously, I’d follow this guy in any business venture!

Phil takes over for Luther Harshbarger, who started the conversation between McPherson and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and has now graduated (if you missed the spotlight on how his life shaped up, check it out here). Phil gives the update on how McPherson is doing in selecting a refugee to support at their college: they have eliminated Manfred Lange as a candidate due to a lack of information on him, as well as the fact that he is Aryan, and they hope to help a Jewish student. It is interesting to me that this distinction in labels is so obvious. Before this project, I thought of Christian and Jewish as only a religious distinction. It never quite entered my brain as a racial or “blood” or even cultural distinction. It certainly did not occur to me that someone could be considered distinctly Jewish without having any personal religious connection to the Jewish faith, or even that they could be of another faith entirely, but still “genetically” Jewish. I’ve learned otherwise in this research, but I wonder how many people think like I did, when only a generation or two ago, the racial/genetic identity of the Jew was clear and distinguishable to the common person.

So McPherson decides to rule out Manfred because he is Aryan and has insufficient information. Then Opa is next on the chopping block. They fear Opa wouldn’t receive the kind of education he wants at a small liberal arts school. Opa had interest in studying engineering, so this logic makes sense, but it excludes him from a potential opportunity to leave Europe.

Phil Myers and his group focus in on Jan Rosenbach as the most likely candidate for a scholarship. Jan’s family background, especially his father’s reputation, as a prominent pacifist, is intriguing to McPherson. However I think it’s funny that they make sure that the pacifism is not stemming from a Communist or other political agenda that could potentially be disruptive for McPherson. When I think about it though, this was probably wise for them to ask because he did describe McPherson as a small school that had students from rural and small urban towns. So a student with strong political opinions that were very different would have a hard time in a school like this. This school seems to be still closely tied with the Church of the Brethren, its original founders, and Phil reminds the AFSC that a student will not be allowed to drink, smoke, or dance.

Phil clarifies how the scholarship plays out in terms of support from the students, staff, and area organizations. That comprehensive effort to support a refugee student, involving the entire community, it’s pretty amazing. Phil makes sure that this would be sufficient support for a student to come on a non-quota visa and asks for more information on Jan. So at this point, it looks like Opa is out of the running. So right now Oberlin seems to be his best bet.

1 comment:

  1. I just did a project for my molecular anthropology class on the genetic variation among Jewish groups. I'll have to explain it to you sometime!


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