by Gordon Pruett
In 1931, the country was in the midst of the Depression, the Empire State Building had been completed in May, there were but 30,000 television sets in the country, and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction went to Margaret Ayer Barnes for Years of Grace. Enrollment at Southern Illinois Teachers College, as it was then commonly known, was approximately 1,500, and Charles Dewey Tenney came to Carbondale. In the ensuing forty-two years of service to the University, he “wore more hats” and received more academic and administrative appointments than possibly any other individual in the University’s history. He initially served as an assistant professor of English, and just prior to his retirement in 1973 he was Project Director of Resources for Tomorrow, but in between he was acting chair of the philosophy department which he organized, acting chair of the art department, an administrative assistant to Presidents Chester Lay and Delyte Morris, and a vice-president in several different capacities. He was instrumental in the mid-1950s in organizing Southern Illinois University Press, and he even served as the men’s tennis coach from shortly after his arrival to the mid-1940s. In 1969 he was named a University Professor, one of but four persons so honored at the time, and in 1979 he received the University’s Distinguished Service Award. Tenney died in 1983 after suffering a stroke a few years earlier.
His passing came at a time when there was essentially a moratorium with new construction on campus, and no SIU building bears his name, though many of his contemporaries (Henry Shryock, Robert Faner, Charles and Julia Jonah Neely) are so remembered. Possibly, his legacy is in the hearts and minds of those students of the past, present, and future that have benefitted from his instruction and vision. Tenney’s papers are held by Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), and as a voracious reader, book collector, and bibliophile, the Library was always of special interest to him. Today, the most recognizable element of his presence on campus are his words that grace the wall in the Hall of Presidents and Chancellors.
A native of Helena, Montana, Tenney received his undergraduate degree from Gooding College in Idaho, where his father was the president, before completing his MA and PhD at the University of Oregon. He spent the last year of his graduate work at Harvard as a student of the distinguished philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead. According to a memorial service tribute written by the director of SIU Libraries Ralph McCoy, “[I]t was the enthusiastic support of philosopher Whitehead that helped him get the appointment in the competitive job market of the Depression.”
From the 1930s through the 1960s Tenney maintained accounts of his activities (teaching, reading, films, sports, card-playing, dinners, etc.) in small diaries and journals that are unique and insightful. Tenney seemed to follow in the footsteps of the many historical and literary figures from the Renaissance to the twentieth century that kept a diary. Over the decades his entries changed from recording the memorable and the mundane to writing reflective commentary on life, literature, academia, and related topics.
His entry for January 2, 1935, is reflective of his intellectualism, his athleticism, and his love for the card game of bridge—“Worked away on the third canto of The Divine Comedy, Mr. Dante at his best. In the afternoon a long basketball workout, three on a side and lots of chasing up and down the floor. Pangs in the gut from something I ate, and a dollar lost to Maude [his wife] at bridge with the Cramers.” His entry for January 5th was similarly diverse and befitting his sagacity—“Read examination papers of candidates for West Point and Annapolis. Most of them were impressed with Poe’s drunkenness, Longfellow’s profound knowledge of human nature, and so forth, but there were two or three genuine intelligences. Dinner and bridge at the Cramers, where I became somewhat acquainted with Burnett Shryock [the son of University President Henry Shryock and a member of the Art Department].” His entry for April 11, 1935, was topical and somber, “President Shryock died of a heart attack at chapel time. The whole school was visibly affected. I was one of the last to hear, being busy in the English office, grading papers. I wonder if we shall see his like again.” His entry for April 26th indicated that a bit of extra income was hard-earned, “Went to Shawneetown with Faner, Mrs. Combs, and Mrs. Smith to judge high school intellectual contest. Heard forty-four assorted humorous readings, dramatic readings and orations, most of them old standbys like “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” “Toussaint L’Ouverture,” etc. Earned my eight dollar fee many times over.”
His entry for December 7, 1941, America’s “day of infamy,” combined those elements that were both memorable and mundane—“Japan declares war on the U.S. and attacks Hawaii. Played badminton—Bridge with the Cramers.” Other entries for December 1941 were more seasonal, “Won high at potluck club—ate steak dinner at Tom’s Place. Faculty party at Little Theater; excellent Madrigal singing—Read A Vision by W. B. Yeats. Snow falls—Christmas party at the Beyers—Learned to play Bingo.”
By the 1960s observations on life, literature, art, and academia had replaced accounts of daily activities in his diminutive journals. An entry in 1966 stated, “Literature is not merely a temporal process. It is life transmitted by the alchemy of the imagination into a precious substance.” In another reflection on writing he wrote, “Poetry is an abrupt attack upon experience; prose is a slow encirclement. Poetry is a tower; prose is a storehouse.” And in musing about the priorities of his contemporaries, he wrote, “University professors now speak of teaching loads and research opportunities. When will they speak of research loads and teaching opportunities?”
After twenty-five years in administrative work Tenney stepped down in 1970 to become Project Director for Resources for Tomorrow, a part of the University’s centennial celebration. This move allowed him the opportunity to work on a manuscript dealing with the processes of discovery, invention, and creation. In a series of essays Tenney discussed the elements identified in creativity and bolstered his position with hundreds of excerpts of creative minds in literature, the arts, politics, and science, ranging from the ancients to contemporaries.
Regrettably, Tenney’s long illness prevented the completion of this project, which was to have been published in league with the University’s centennial celebration in 1974. After his death in 1983, colleagues Harold M. Kaplan, Ralph E. McCoy, and Lewis E. Hahn took on the task of editing his manuscript, and The Discovery of Discovery was published in 1991. In their Editors’ Preface, “This work is presented as a memorial to Charles D. Tenney, in recognition of his distinguished career as university administrator, scholar, teacher, and writer. . . . [H]e had the all too rare ability to present complex and abstract ideas with simple eloquence.” Such is his legacy.
Photo caption: The words of Charles D. Tenney have long greeted patrons in the Hall of Presidents and Chancellors, which will remain unchanged in the new Morris.
Click on photo to read.
Click on photo to read.
Few others have served the University so distinctively and diversely, as did Charles Tenney in his forty-year career with both campuses of Southern Illinois University.
Gooding County Historical Society...Preserving Our Past For Our Future
Gooding College was established in 1917 and remained a pillar of education in Southern Idaho until 1938. It was founded and operated by the Methodist Episcopal Church. The college was located south of Gooding and had its own post office, Wesleyan. Frank Gooding and the Gooding Town site Corporation gave seventy acres to the school and many unsold lots within the town itself. The college had a campus of 110 acres. Two buildings with a white brick exterior were constructed on the campus. Prior to its opening the community of Gooding gave $267,000 to the institution with the understanding that the Methodist Episcopal Church and its constituents would raise another $130,000.
The first student enrolled at the college was Frank Bennett who became president of Eastern Oregon State College. Mary Blue in 1919 was the first graduate. The last class was composed of two and graduated in May of 1938. At its peak the college had an enrollment of 209 in 1928. Fifty-six people graduated from Gooding College in its first ten years of existence.
Bachelor of Arts was the only degree offered by the school. Gooding College was the only Higher Education in Idaho between Caldwell and Pocatello. In its beginning students were placed into three different groups, preparatory, special and regular. Preparatory students were those who sought to finish their high school education while taking some college course at the same time. Special students took less than twelve hours of regular college courses. Regular students took twelve or more hours.
Basketball, speech and debate teams competed against other colleges. Idaho State College was on the basketball schedule. The school also sponsored outlaw high school basketball tournaments. The debate team competed with schools in Oregon, Washington, and California including the University of Southern California.
Fine arts were strong with the presentation of various dramas. Musical concerts including national artists were given through the efforts of Madame Lillie Sang Collins, a faculty member. Two papers were published by the student body the Seismograph and The Gooding Collegian. An annual, The Sagebrush, was also produced.
The college had one president most of its life, Dr. Charles Wesley Tenney, who led the school from 1917 to 1935. He resigned due to pressure to include non-academic subjects in the curriculum. W.F. Shaw became president. He resigned to take a position in the Office of Education, Dept. of the Interior, in Washington D.C. Rev. W.H. Hertzog of Twin Falls was acting president when the college closed due to financial losses.
The property was given over the Conference Claimants (Pension) Board of The Idaho Conference of The Methodist Church. It had loaned money to keep the school functioning. In 1941 the property was given to the State of Idaho for the development of a tuberculosis hospital which opened in 1946. The TB Hospital was, at the time, one of the most advanced Hospitals for TB in the United States.
Tenney Hall is the only building left on the site of the collage campus today. The building and grounds are host to a beautiful greenhouse, 8 room bed and breakfast and events center.
If you have old yearbooks, programs, photographs, etc. from Gooding College or documents from the TB Hospital that
you would consider donating to the research department of the Gooding County Historical Society, or letting the
Society scan the information, please contact the Society at P.O. Box 580, Gooding, ID 83330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2002 Gooding County Historical Society All rights reserved.
For problems or questions regarding this Web site contact Sally's
Last updated: 11/30/08.
Gooding College 1927Charles Wesley Tenney, M.A. – President (father of Charles Dewey Tenney)
Edith Florence Barrett, M.A. – Dean of Women, Latin & German
Martha B. Bowler – Expression, Public Speaking
Chester L. Buckner, M.A. – Athletic Director, History, Philosophy
Leonard W. Buell, M.A. – English Department
B.M. Cooledge, Director of Orchestra
Dr. James H. Cromwell, M.D. – Anatomy, Bacteriology
Cecilia Cutts, M.A. – French & Spanish
A.H. Gould, B.A., B.S. – Science Department
David A. Hiles – Commerce, Business Administration
V.O. Humphrey, M.A. – Mathematics
Mrs. Virginia Ikard – Art
H.G. McCallister, B.A., B.D. – Religious Education
Nellie Teasdale Ostrom, Music
Helen Ernestine Woodcock, B.A. – Dept of Education, secretary to Pres. Tenney
Tenney, Charles D.
Tenney, Helen (sister of Charles)
Beamer, M. (Maude Beamer, the future Mrs. Chas. D. Tenney)
Students whose pictures were not included in the class sections: