PostScripps: The Power of Presidents

by Norma Jean Blair Gilmore '47


Ellen Browning Scripps founded Scripps College in Claremont, California, in 1927.

Her philosophy was to educate women to be leaders of commitment, leadership, and engagement. Ernest Jaqua, Scripps’ first president, officially proffered his resignation at a Board of Trustees meeting in June 1942. At the meeting, Mrs. Albert Shirk, who had been active on the Board for 12 years, was named acting president. She made the following statement: “War is always an emergency, education is a long, continuing process. Scripps College, with its emphasis upon integrated humanities, seeks to prepare its graduates for responsible leadership.”

Mrs. Shirk helped Scripps by ably dealing with problems confronting both peace and wartime education. She was an excellent administrator, straightforward and honest when speaking with others. I can still see her standing at the lectern in Balch Hall telling us about a problem that had occurred so that there would be no gossip. I learned to be a good administrator from observing her.

After my sons were grown, I became a director of special education and a college professor. During the 1980s and 90s, I published several articles on learning disabilities.
I retired in 2003 and moved to Montana, where I supervised student teachers. In a small, underserved school, I founded a Visual-Motor-Cranio-Sacral Program, training adult volunteers to work with the children who have reading problems. In 2013, I turned the program over to another volunteer chairman, but continued working on the initiative, publishing a training manual as well as several articles on the project. I attribute my accomplishments and knowledge to Mrs. Shirk, Scripps staff, and my Clark Hall dormmates.

We first-years did not realize it when we arrived at Scripps, but the Board was looking for a new president. They were impressed with the credentials of Dr. Frederick Hard, a professor at Tulane University. His wife had graduated from Wellesley College, and they had two children. The Hard family visited Scripps in November 1943, and my classmates and I were told, “He is here to see if he likes the Scripps students!” Dr. Hard started as president on January 3, 1944. His inauguration was held in Balch Hall. It was very solemn—there was a lighted stage, he wore his cap and gown, and he stood at the lectern and made his statements seriously. And, he had a moustache! Balch was filled with trustees, staff, and students as well as representatives from Pomona and Claremont Men’s College.

I am so very pleased to be able to participate in Dr. Tiedens’ inauguration ceremony as an alumna marshal. I do not know Dr. Tiedens yet, but I support her as the Board’s choice as an appropriate president for Scripps, and I am sure that she will continue the work of strengthening the College in the tradition of the great past presidents.

Once a Scrippsie, always a Scrippsie!