1920s Faculty

Lincoln Robinson Gibbs: Professor and Chair. Gibbs left in 1922 to take a position at the University of Miami.

Percival Hunt (1878-1968) received his BA and MA at the University of Iowa, where he spent five years as an Instructor (1902-1907). At Iowa, he was appointed assistant professor in 1907 and Associate Professor in 1916. He served two years as Acting Head of the Department, 1917-1919. He built a brilliant reputation as a teacher. Hunt organized and directed the freshman composition program, “Constructive Rhetoric,” from 1904 to 1919. He taught Freshman Composition, Shakespeare and, beginning in 1903, a very popular course in Short Story Writing. With this course, Hunt was part of the emergence of creative writing as a school subject and part of the project that would become the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Creative writing courses had been part of the Pittsburgh curriculum since 1912.  

When John G. Bowman became the 10th Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, he quickly moved to recruit Hunt, his former colleague, to join the Pittsburgh faculty and to chair the English department. Faculty members at Iowa were concerned and lobbied the administration to meet any offer Pittsburgh might make. The administration turned down this request. saying that although Hunt had a reputation as a great teacher, he had not published anything of particular significance.

Hunt chaired the English department for 19 years, from 1922 to 1941, and this was a period of unprecedented growth, growth in both size and reputation. During this time, Hunt taught courses in composition, creative writing and literature and he directed graduate student dissertations. He was known for his courses on Shakespeare and the English Renaissance. He inspired a generation of Composition teachers, many of whom went on to very significant careers. And he made Creative Writing (fiction and the literary essay) central to the identity of the department and the College. After stepping down as chair, Hunt became a Professor-at-Large, a position he held until his retirement in 1948. He continued his engagement with the department, its faculty and students, until his death in 1968.  

During his time at Pitt, Hunt published very little, but was known for his “Outline of Composition,” a document which defined the program at Pitt and had some national recognition. With his colleagues, W. Don Harrison and Frederick P. Mayer, he presented a “Brief Course in the Contemporary Novel” as a series of 10 lectures broadcast through KDKA (1924). Hunt took pride in saying that his teaching did not allow him the time to write books. After he retired, he published four: Samuel Pepys in the Diary (Pittsburgh UP, 1958), Fifteenth Century England (Pittsburgh UP, 1962) and The Gift of the Unicorn: Essays on Writing (Pittsburgh UP, 1965) and To What Green Altar (privately published, 1969). Hunt died in 1968.  

At his retirement, students and colleagues prepared a festschrift in his honor: If By Your Art: Testament to Percival Hunt. In his Preface, John Bowman wrote:

Percival Hunt is tall and slender and straight. A strong wind, it seems, might blow him away. He is a solitary man who, one of his colleagues told me, commutes to work from another star….The man is the best teacher of English I have known.

What is Percival’s secret of teaching?...In his class you must be you; simply, honestly, gladly be you. Tomorrow you will be a more satisfactory person to yourself. No one can tell you how to change in such a way. But you may begin by being now honestly what you are: a bright or dull person, a selfish talkative sham, or a seeker of loveliness in human personality and in the outdoor world. When you write a theme or a paper, you are to make it an expression of yourself.  Also you are to keep you mind open and sensitive. In this way you may find more of heaven in these days than you suspected was in them.  

Hoyt Hopewell Hudson (1893-1944) was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, the son of an itinerant preacher. He took his BA from Huron College, South Dakota, in 1911, his MA from the University of Denver in 1913, and then taught high school in Idaho, Minnesota and Ohio. In 1916-17 he took graduate courses at the University of Chicago. In 1920, he went to Cornell to work with Everett Lee Hunt, whom he had met earlier at Huron College. Hudson completed his PhD in 1923 and taught at Swarthmore College from 1923-1925, when Percival Hunt recruited him for position as Professor in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1927, Hudson left Pittsburgh for a position as Associate Professor at Princeton, where he later became Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory and Chair of the English department. In 1942, he accepted a position at Stanford as Professor of English Literature. He served as editor of the Quarterly Journal of Speech (1933-35). He was the author of various textbooks on public speaking and literature, including Poetry of the English Renaissance. He edited scholarly editions of Thomas Moffat’s Nobilis and Erasmus’ Praise of Folly. His best known work of scholarship is the unfinished and posthumously published The Epigram in the English Renaissance (Princeton UP, 1947).

John Kemerer Miller: Promoted to Associate Professor in 1924.

Wayland Maxfield Parrish (BA, Ohio Wesleyan, 1908; MA, Cornell, 1922; Ph.D., Cornell, 1929) joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 1923 as an Assistant Professor of Public Speaking, part of the Division of Public Speaking within the English department. In 1926, Parrish was given a leave to work on his PhD at Cornell. In 1927, the alumni magazine reported his memorable reading from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on a radio broadcast from the University of Pittsburgh’s studio at KDKA. In 1929, Parrish was promoted to Associate Professor. Parrish was influential in recruiting Hoyt Hopewell Hudson (see above). Parrish and Hudson remained friends after Hudson’s move to Princeton.

Herbert August WichelnsHerbert August Wichelns (1894-1973), like Parrish, was trained in rhetoric in the fabled program at Cornell. Wichelns received his PhD from Cornell in 1922, and joined the Pittsburgh faculty in 1923 as an Assistant Professor of Public Speaking. He taught for two years (through Spring 1925), when he returned to join the faculty at Cornell, where he eventually served as Chair of the Department of Speech and Drama (1940-48). While in Pittsburgh, he prepared his landmark 1925 essay, “The Literary Criticism of Oratory,” an essay which established his position as a founding figure in rhetorical criticism. In 1937, Wichelns served as the President of the National Association of Teachers of Speech. The National Communication Association provides an annual James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address.

Walter Lawrence Myers: Assistant Professor, 1923, promoted to Associate in 1924, promoted to Professor at the end of the decade. Myers moved quickly through the ranks, with a promotion to Full Professor after the departure of Hoyt Hopewell Hudson. Myers (BA, Iowa, 1908; MA, Iowa, 1912; PhD, Chicago, 1924) was one of several with Iowa connections (like Ellen Mary Geyer and John Kemerer Miller) who were recruited by Percival Hunt as he worked to build a department. Myers was the author of The Later Realism: A Study of Character in the British Novel (Chicago, 1927). He also published a Handbook for Graduate Students in English: A Guide to Candidates for the Degree of Master of Arts (1934).

George Carver (1888-1949) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1916, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio, and in 1941, St. Vincent’s College awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Carver taught at Pennsylvania State College (1916-18) before entering the Army in World War I, during which he served in the infantry. After the war, he taught at University of Iowa (1919-24) before joining the faculty of Pitt’s English Department in 1924 as a Lecturer. He was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1927. He remained at the University until his death in 1949. Carver was active in campus organizations, including the Polygon Club, the Junta, Sons of the American Revolution, The Midland, Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Sigma. Carver also founded the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Priory Scholars. He published 15 books, including several textbooks and essay collections: 

Writing and Rewriting (1923) – with William Shipman Maulsby and Thomas A. Knott
Minimum Essentials of Correct Writing (1924) – with Millington Farwell Carpenter, William Shipman Maulsby, and Thomas A Knott
Points of Style: A Minimum of Correctness in Writing English Prose (1928)
The Catholic Tradition in English Literature (1926) – Editor
Representative Catholic Essays (1926) – Editor with Ellen Geyer
Periodical Essays of the 18th Century (1930) – Editor
The Stream of English Literature (1930) – Editor with M. Eleanore, and Katherine Bregy
Elements of English Composition: A Handbook with Tests and Worksheets (1932)
Paragraph Design (1932) – with Frederick Phillip Mayer
Index to Sentence Essentials (1938)
Communicating Experience (1941)
Not With Eyes Only (1948)
Alms for Oblivion (1948)

Ellen Mary GeyerEllen Mary Geyer (1880-1953) received her BPhil and MA degrees at the University of Iowa. She taught as an Instructor at the University of Iowa (1906-1919) and then as an Assistant Professor at Montana State University. She joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh as an Assistant Professor of English in 1924, a position she held until 1949. She co-authored two textbooks, Enjoying English (1944) with Don Marion Wolf and Communicating Experience (1941) with her colleague George Carver. With Carver, she was the editor of Representative Catholic Essays (1926). With Alfred P. James, she published A Series of Five Radio Talks on Christmases Long Ago, talks first broadcast from the University of Pittsburgh Studio at KDKA, 1928.    

Joseph Patrick Blickenderfer: Assistant Professor (1924-28), Associate Professor (1928-1929). Blickenderfer left the university in 1929 to take a position as Full Professor at the University of Oklahoma, where, in 1937, he founded the School of Letters (now the School of Classics and Letters). The purpose of the new program, he said, was to “cure the mental indigestion produced by the cafeteria style of education.” In 1947, he became Dean of Oklahoma’s University College.

Harold William Schoenberger (BA, Muhlenberg College; PhD, University of Pennsyvlania) was hired as an Assistant Professor in 1924, with a specialty in American literature. In 1929 Schoenberger was promoted to the rank of Professor.  

Frederick Philip Mayer earned his BA (1923) and MA (1924) at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1929, he was promoted from Lecturer to Assistant Professor. In 1928 Mayer published an essay in the Pittsburgh Record (the University alumni magazine) titled "On Living in Pittsburgh."   

John Valente: Assistant Professor

Jonathan Leo Zerbe: Assistant Professor

Charles Arnold: Assistant Professor (Journalism) 

Elmer James Bailey: Assistant Professor  (1921-1922)

John T. Frederick: Assistant Professor (hired in 1922)

William Don Harrison: Assistant Professor (hired in 1923)

Roger L. Serge: Assistant Professor (hired in 1923)

Guy Shepard Greene: Assistant Professor (hired in 1927)

Putnam Jones: Assistant Professor (hired in 1927)

Marvin T. Herrick: Assistant Professor (hired in 1927)

Benjamin T. McClure: Lecturer (1926); promoted to Assistant Professor in 1927

Ralph H. Ware: Assistant Professor (hired in 1928)

E.E. Ericson: Assistant Professor (hired in 1928)

George Leslie Stout: Lecturer (hired in 1925). Stout was on our campus for only a year. He was hired to prepare illustrations to help promote the Cathedral of Learning. He also taught a course in Freshman Composition. After leaving Pittsburgh to study art history at Harvard, he became one of the founding fathers of art conservation at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum during the 1930s and 40s, and he was one of the U.S. Army’s “Monuments Men” during WWII. (Stout’s character was played by George Clooney in the 2014 movie of the same name.) Note: We are grateful to the art historian Seth Adam Hindin for pointing us in this direction.


There were 10-15 Instructors on the teaching roster in each year of the 20s. There was substantial turnover, so I won’t list them all. Those who taught for a long term or who are notable for other reasons are:

Alexander Cooper

Ford Elmore Curtis

Raymond Floyd Howe

Charles Bedell Monroe

Mary Martha Purdy

Harvey Russell Salt

Agnes Lynch Starrett