1930s Faculty

Percival Hunt: Professor and Chair. In 1929, Percival Hunt self-published An Outline of Composition and this document had some national circulation, since it is cited in the English Journal. The Outline represented the “aims and plan” for English 1 and English 2, the two semester composition sequence at the University of Pittsburgh. It also includes “Four Lessons on Poetry.” The Outline is detailed, sometimes obsessively so, and is organized in predictable terms: sentences, paragraphs, essays; description, narration, argumentation. This curriculum is most likely the origin for what became known as the “Pittsburgh Paragraph,” a term used sometimes with admiration and sometimes with scorn, particularly by later generations of faculty. Hunt also published an annual collection of Student Themes.” This is a cumulative anthology, a collection of student writing over time rather than the best essays of each academic year. Most likely it was used as a text in undergraduate courses. The student essays provide a different and much richer view of undergraduate writing at the University of Pittsburgh. If the Outline now appears to be predictable, the student essays, although written within the classroom genres of the period, are smart, inventive, charming, compelling and sometime surprising. They are perhaps a better index into the ways writing was valued and promoted in the English department.    

John Kemerer Miller

Walter Lawrence Myers:  Professor of English.  

John Kemerer Miller (1880-1949). J. K. Miller was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1930. He began his career in the English department in 1911 and taught until his retirement in 1945. He held a BA from Mount Union College (1908). He had no advanced degrees, although he spent short periods of study at Harvard and Oxford. In a tribute to Miller, his colleague, H.W. Schoenberger, said: “[Miller] joined the English staff in 1911 when the university was small, serving mainly local needs. He lived to see it become a metropolitan institution of national prominence and prestige. He took a personal pride and pleasure in its growth, and he may well have felt that he made a modest contribution to its development. His loyalty and devotion to the University were unreserved.” Miller taught courses on Bacon, Spenser, Ruskin and Chaucer.  

Wayland Maxfield ParrishWayland Maxfield Parrish. In 1930, Parrish promoted to the rank of Full Professor and appointed head of the department’s Division of Public Speaking. Parrish was an important and influential figure on campus. The William Pitt Debating Union continues to sponsor a Wayland Maxfield Parrish award. He was the first of many colleagues to come from Cornell and Cornell’s famous 1920s rhetoric program. Parrish was the author of a classic essay in his field, “The Study of Speech,” included in the book, American Speeches, prepared with his student, Marie Hochmuth (Nichols). Parrish was also the author of The Teacher’s Speech (1939), Reading Aloud: A Technique in the Interpretation of Literature (1941), Speaking in Public (1947, with Richard Murphy), and A Series of Six Radio Talks on Public Speaking (1926). In 1936, Parrish left the University of Pittsburgh to take a position at the University of Illinois where he taught until his retirement in 1955.

Harold William Schoenberger. In the 1930s, Schoenberger taught drama and American literature. With his colleague, Ralph Ware, and with Richard P. Smith he edited a volume, The Sentinels & Other Plays in the series, America’s Lost Plays (Princeton, 1941).

George Carver: Promoted to Professor in 1931. 

William Don HarrisonWilliam Don Harrison: Associate Professor. Harrison, who was promoted to Associate rank at the end of the 1920s, was another member of the English department drawn from English department at the University of Iowa (A.B., University of Iowa, 1916; A.M., University of Iowa, 1921). He served as the Dean of Men. In 1928, Harrison became the University’s Director of Athletics. He was, then, responsible for athletics during the peak years of the Jock Sutherland era, an era that included a win at the Rose Bowl in 1937, national success in basketball, track and swimming, and when Pitt was trying to position itself to replace Chicago in the Big Ten. Harrison was to resign the position in 1937, when, representing the Chancellor, he and Sutherland were locked in a battle over funding for athletics, a battle over the sources as well as the levels of funding. Harrison left Oakland to teach at the University’s Erie extension campus and then at Johnstown, but he remains on the English department roster and returns to teach in Oakland at a later date.

Ellen Mary Geyer: Geyer was promoted to Associate Professor in 1932. 

Ford Elmore Curtis (1895-1979) completed his BA at Oberlin in 1918 and his MA in drama at the University of Michigan in 1924, when he joined the faculty in English at the University of Pittsburgh as an Instructor and where he helped to open the Johnstown campus. He left for graduate study at Cornell, where he completed his PhD in 1931. In 1931 he returned to the University of Pittsburgh English department. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1939 and Professor in 1949. He retired in 1961. With his wife, Harriet Ralston Curtis, he amassed a substantial collection of theater books, programs and memorabilia, which is now housed as the “Curtis Theater Collection” in the Hillman Library.

Putnam Fennell Jones: Jones was hired as an Assistant Professor in 1930 and promoted to Associate rank in 1932. Like Maxwell Parrish and Hoyt Hudson, Jones comes from the rhetoric program at Cornell (BA, Cornell, 1924; MA, Cornell, 1926; PhD, Cornell, 1927). His declared areas of specialty were “English language” and “early English literature.” By the end of the 30s, he had published essays in Modern Language Notes and other professional journals, and a book, A Concordance to the Historia Ecclesiastica of Bede. Jones, whose career in the department extends into the 60s, will later become Chair of the English department and Dean of the Graduate School. In 1931, he published an essay in the Pittsburgh Record (the alumni magazine) on American dialects, “What English Do You Speak?”

Frederick Philip Mayer was promoted to Associate Professor in 1936. Mayer wrote regularly for local newspaper and university publications. In 1930, for example, he published an essay, “A Day in Old Allegeny,” in the Pittsburgh Record, the alumni magazine. Mayer completed his BA and MA at the University of Pittsburgh. Although he never completed a more advanced degree, he was a prominent figure and he had a long and distinguished record at the University of Pittsburgh, including service as English department chair.

Ralph Hartman Ware: Ware was promoted to Associate Professor in 1931.   

John Wendell Dodds: (BA Wooster, 1924; MA and PhD Yale, 1927, 1932.) Dodds was hired as an Assistant Professor in 1930 and promoted to Associate in 1935. In 1937 he left to take a position at Stanford, where he ended his career as the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor Humanities. He also served as Stanford’s Dean of Humanities and as the Founder and Director of Special Programs in the Humanities. He was actively involved in bringing educational program to TV, including “The Measure of Man” (KQED/NET, 1957) and, in 1959-60, twelve films for the National Educational TV Center in New York. These were later published as the book, American Memoir (1961). Dodds acted in local theater. He was the author of Thomas Southerne, Dramatist (1933), Thackeray, A Critical Portrait (1941), The Age of Paradox: A Biography of England, 1841-51 (1952), The Several Lives of Paul Fejos (1963). He also served as an editor of An Oxford Anthology of English Prose (1935), Types of English Fiction (1940), and British and American Plays, 1830-1945 (1947).

Agnes Lynch StarrettAgnes Lynch Starrett: (BA, University of Pittsburgh, 1920; MA, University of Pittsburgh, 1925). Instructor in English, promoted to Assistant Professor in 1935.  Starrett had a long and distinguished career in our department. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1944 and Full Professor in 1955.   She retired in 1964. In 1936, Chancellor Bowman commissioned Starrett to write a history of the university in celebration of its 150th anniversary, Through 150 Years:  The History of the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh UP, 1937). This is the first book published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. In 1938, she became the first editor of Pitt Magazine, a position which she held for 20 years. She also served as the faculty supervisor for the student yearbook, The Owl. Throughout her career, Starrett taught courses in composition, in writing, and in literature. In 1954, she became the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Press. In 1986, she was awarded the University of Pittsburgh’s Medallion of Distinction; in 1987 she was named a Distinguished Alumna. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Waynesburg College. The University of Pittsburgh Press continues to award the very distinguished Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for a first book of poems.  

W. George Crouch was appointed as an Assistant Professor in 1937. Crouch, a native of London, England, received his BA and MA from the University of Pittsburgh (1925, 1927) and his PhD from Princeton (1937). He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1944, to the rank of Professor in 1950, and was named department chair in 1955. In the 1930s, he taught composition and technical writing.

Peterson's officeEdwin L. Peterson: Edwin (Pete) Peterson was a protégé of Percival Hunt. He received his BA and MA in English at the University of Pittsburgh (1926, 1928). He would later be the lead faculty member in the Composition Program and play an important role in the developing courses in fiction and literary nonfiction in the Creative Writing program. Peterson was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1935. In 1939, he developed a new course, “Conference in Writing,” that met in the Early American Nationality room. This was a space he was to make his own for many years. In this course, 15 students met regularly to share work in progress—poetry, fiction and nonfiction. According to Peterson, in this course “students are really writing, not just talking about it; and it is only by writing, I am convinced, that students learn how to put a story together or how to make a poem truly sing.” An evening section was offered for local journalists.    

Buell B. Whitehill, Jr.

Buell B. Whitehill, Jr. In 1939 Whitehill joined the English department as an Assistant Professor. He earned an MFA in theater from Yale and brought experience and interest in theater production to a faculty with an already substantial interest in the dramatic arts and literature. Whitehill was Director of the Pitt Players and very active in campus theater. In 1935, he published A Project for the Lighting of Parsifal with Yale University Press. Whitehill also developed courses in film and film history. He could, then, be said to be the first to introduce the study of film to our department. In 1951, he organized an interdisciplinary symposium on “The Role of Communications in Human Relations,” drawing faculty from Speech, Sociology, Psychology and Journalism. Whitehill was part of a successful movement to create a separate, free standing Department of Speech, a department he chaired until 1953.

Charles Arnold: He continued to remain at the rank of Assistant Professor through the decade of the 30s. He had taught Journalism and supervised student publications for years. It is surprising, then, that he was not given charge of Journalism when it became a Division of the English department. 

Justus Howard Dice: Dice (BA, University of Pittsburgh; B.L.S., New York State Library School, 1913) was hired as an Assistant Professor of Bibliography. He became University Librarian in 1939.

Carson Crandall Hamilton: (MA, University of Pittsburgh). Hamilton joined the department as an Acting Assistant Professor of English in 1930. He left in 1933.

Marvin Theodore HerrickMarvin Theodore Herrick: Herrick is another of several Cornell PhDs hired to the English department. His specialties were drama and 18th century literature. Like several of his colleagues, Herrick was an actor and involved in local theater. With Hoyd Hudson (under the joint pseudonym John Smith), he was the author of two one-act plays, “The Upper Forty” and “Out of the Night.” Through the university’s program with KDKA, he presented and then published Ten Radio Talks on the One Act Play (U of Pittsburgh Press, 1930). While at Pitt, he published The Poetics of Aristotle in England (Yale UP, 1930) and, for the Pittsburgh Journal (the alumni magazine), an essay on the consequences for the stage of the new medium of cinema, “A New Method of Acting.” Herrick left the department in 1934 for George Washington University, although he spent most of his career at the University of Illinois (1937-1966), where he was Professor of English and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences. His other publications include: Eleven British Writers (with Charles Osgood, 1940), The Fusion of Horation and Aristotelian Literary Criticism (1946), Comic Theory in the Sixteenth Century (1950), Tragicomedy: Its Origin and Development in Italy, France, and England (1956), Italian Comedy in the Renaissance (1960), Italian Tragedy in the Renaissance (1965), an anthology, Italian Plays, 1500-1700 (1966), and a critical edition of Wicherley’s The Country Wife (1967).   

Benjamin Thomas McClure: Assistant Professor. McLure died in 1932. In a 1930 issue of The Pittsburgh Record (the alumni magazine), McLure published an essay on the literature of World War One, “A Ray of Hope for Peace.”   

Clarke Olney: Acting Assistant Professor. Olney left the department in 1938.

Henry Clayton Fisher: (BA, Pittsburgh 1928; MA Pittsburgh 1930). Fisher was promoted from Instructor to Assistant Professor in 1938.    

Carl B. Cass: Assistant Professor (PhD Wisconsin) joined the department in 1930. He taught Speech and Theater and served as Director of the Pitt Players. He left the department in 1935. 


Instructors:  There were 10-15 non tenure track instructors on the roster each year throughout the 1930s.  There was substantial turnover, so we won’t list them all. Those who held Pitt degrees are:   

George W. Gerwig: Ph.D., 1904.  Gerwig, a businessman and educator in Pittsburgh, taught fiction writing courses in the evening and extension divisions.

James Stewart Hunter: BA, 1929. In 1931, Hunter published an essay on “Some Pittsburgh Authors” in The Pittsburgh Journal (the alumni magazine).

Emily Gertrude Irvine: MA, 1928. Irvine introduced courses in “Child Literature” to the curriculum in the 1930s. She went on to a long career at Pitt. 

Alma Carlson: BA, 1926

Frank Daniel Curtin: BA, 1927; MA, 1929

Emily Hall Duffus: BA, 1927; MA, 1928

James McHugh Flanagan: BA, 1926; MA, 1928

Theresa Kahn: BA, 1925

Richard Murphy: BA, 1927; MA, 1928

Francis Beall Stone: BA, 1926; MA, 1930

Charlotte McMurray Kidney: BA, 1928


Others with years of service include:

Robert X. Graham: Graham, who was hired in 1935, became the Director of Journalism and Student Publications.

Frederick James Gilsdorf

Elmer Sandfrid Osberg

Doren Tharp

Hugh Allen Wing