Monday, December 18, 2006

Memories of a Phantom University?

The winter '07 issue of the always-interesting American Scholar magazine (published by the Phi Beta Kapa Society, it's not online) contains a fascinating memoir by Cleveland native James McConkey, now a literature professor at Cornell, about his stint in college. Headlined "Fear of Falling--Working in the Mop-and-Bucket Brigade in College Created the Perspectives of a Lifetime," it describes how his stint on the school's janitorial staff during his term as a student nicely prepared him for life.

Like most college graduates, I am fond of my alma mater, though it exists only in historical records and the memories of those who attended it. In 1939, when I entered Cleveland College on a working scholarship, it seemed solid enough to last for centuries: a stone seven-storied building on Public Square (the center of downtown Cleveland) with stout Roman goddesses supporting the balconies on its facade. And its hallways, elevators and classrooms were crowded with students, especially in the evening. Most of these evening students were adults, enrolled less for a degree than for courses to abet their knowledge of culture or to provide skillls necessary for employment or a better job. Each year, 20 students from the Cleveland area were granted scholarships like mine, and we made up the majority of full-time students. The Depression had not yet lifted, and without these scholarships, few if any of us could have attended college.
Only one problem: I'm not so sure there ever was a "Cleveland College." I scratched my head when I first read it, because I knew of no such institution. Then I checked the generally authoritative Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, and didn't find it there, either. What I did find in this entry on higher education is something that sounds more like Fenn College (note that like the school he mentions, it too was located on Public Square). Could the good professor be confused, or is there some other error? Stay tuned: I'll try to clear up this mystery sometime soon.


At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Lou said...

I thought that Cleveland College was the beginnings of CWRU?

Here's a link:

At 2:37 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks, Lou. There it is: we have our answer. In fact, one of those photos (of the entrance to the Baker Memorial Building) was published with the article.

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

right. damn old guy can't remember where he went to college. or his wife's first name. or his father's first name. or the name of the school where he teaches...


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