C o m p e t i n g V i s i o n s
maxwell school archives|
George H. Maxwell, a successful Boston attorney and SU trustee, had a clear idea of what he wanted the school to be when, in October 1923, he pledged a $500,000 endowment to Chancellor Charles Flint. Maxwell, an 1888 SU graduate, had originally intended to fund a chair of United States citizenship at the University. In a letter to Flint, Maxwell outlined his vision for the school: "My object is not to train citizens but to train teachers of citizenship, to develop lobbyists who will go out in the world and become centers of influence on this subject, each permeating his circle with the good-citizenship essentials, enthusiasms, and education."
Maxwell hoped the school would perpetuate the patriotic boom caused by American participation in World War I, says historian John Robert Greene G'83, a Maxwell alumnus. "He had seen the sudden rise in patriotism during the war, then lived through the Red Scare in the 1920s," says Greene, who sifted through thousands of boxes of Maxwell archival material while researching and writing the two most recent of five volumes of Syracuse University historySyracuse University: The Tolley Years, 1942-1969; and Syracuse University: The Eggers Years. "He believed with all his heart that what young people needed was a forced dose of patriotism."
During the planning process, however, another vision of the school arose. "One group wanted the school to be the social sciences arm of the institution that would teach and organize history, economics, and political science," says Greene. "Another group was more oriented toward career studies. They believed that they could train young people to go out and immediately take jobs in local and federal government. They felt that what was happening here was no more or no less a career path than engineering or education or any of the other colleges at the time. Throughout the early years-and maybe even up to today, although it's not as pronouncedthose two visions have competed with each other."
The latter view was put forth by Frederick Morgan Davenport, a former professor of law and politics at Hamilton College who served as a New York State senator from Oneida County, and was eventually elected as a U.S. representative. Chancellor Flint enlisted Davenport to help organize the new school. Greene says Davenport agreed in principle with Maxwell's ideas, but argued for a school that would train practitioners in public affairs who could immediately enter government and effect change. "Maxwell was seeing a much broader vision, and then Davenport the professional politician came in and said, 'We can train people to go out and save the world.' He was a Teddy Roosevelt man, a man who was in the Bull Moose party and firmly believed that politics was a practical science, and that political service could be taught." When the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs formally opened October 3, 1924, on the second floor of Slocum Hall, its name reflected the school's expanded mission.
courtesy of maxwell school archives|
The 1935 creation of the undergraduate and graduate concentrations in social studies teachingintended to prepare students to teach in teachers' collegesillustrated the school's interdisciplinary nature, Greene says. The program was tied to both the Maxwell School and the School of Education. It was directed by Roy A. Price, who held appointments in both schoolsthe first SU professor to do so. "Maxwell was interdisciplinary virtually by its birth," Greene says. "They put together a series of departments that in other schools would have been located under the arts and sciences. It is the textbook definition of interdisciplinary. Either that or it's the shrewdest organizational gambit that ever existed." The interdisciplinary approach, Greene notes, can be a tough sell for academics who concentrate heavily on one discipline and feel out of their element covering others in their courses. "It's best for students because it gives them the broad view," he says. "It's best for the school to be able to offer them the broad viewbut narrowness is a heck of a lot easier."
In October 1937, Maxwell Hall opened for instruction, and former President Herbert Hoover spoke at its dedication the following month. The distinctive colonial-style building was designed by Dwight James Baum and John Russell Pope. In the lobby off the main entrance, behind a statue of George Washington, an inscription from the Oath of the Athenian City State reflects the aims of William E. Mosher, Maxwell's first dean: "We will ever strive for the ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many; we will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty; we will revere and obey the city's laws; we will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
While Maxwell was officially an arm of the College of Liberal Arts (now the College of Arts and Sciences), it remained autonomous for the most part, thanks to George Maxwell's influence. "The fight to decide whether Maxwell was part of arts and sciences or in its own school is part of both the charm and the challenge of Maxwell," Greene says.
Continued on page 4
Continued on page 5
Continued on page 6
Back to page 2
Back to page 1
E-mail the magazine editor
E-mail the web guy
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE
820 Comstock Ave., Rm. 308
Syracuse, NY 13244-5040