Teaching

Group of students work in a laboratory
Chemistry Lab, Quantitative Class, 1922

Sciences of the Home

From the 1913 college bulletin introducing the new four-year course in Home Economics:

The College has been for many years coeducational, and has offered its facilities alike to men and women. The new course is arranged to provide for young women special and technical training in subjects of greatest value and interest to them the same way in which other subjects of particular interest to young men are provided. It is a recognition of the fact that the sciences and economics of the home are as important as those of the shop or farm.

Truly Evergreen

Although the Office of Sustainability was not established at UNH until around 1997, the idea of sustaining the environment is not a new one on campus.

In the December 10, 1919 issue of The New Hampshire, Prof. K. W. Woodward of the Forestry Department suggested that instead of cutting down a tree for Christmas, it would be better to set one out.

"It usually happens," he says, "that the straightest and most likely trees are selected for Christmas and are afterwards thrown away. Not only are the woodlands deprived of these trees year after year, but the tree's usefulness is only a transitory one."

He suggested a permanent community Christmas tree set out near the church or town hall. For family Christmas trees, Prof. Woodward suggested, "a conifer from three to four feet high be dug or purchased and afterward set out on the lawn."

Tractor School

Group of farmers with a tractor
In the spring of 1920, New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (as UNH was then known) offered farmers and gardeners of the state the opportunity to learn how to operate tractors at the first Tractor School ever held in New England.

Tractors were first mass-produced starting in 1916, and Prof. Taylor of the agricultural department estimated that their use in New Hampshire was increasing at the rate of fifty new tractors a year.

For three days, students listened to morning lectures on such topics as "Motor Farming" and the "Principles of Tractor Design." The afternoons were devoted to practical field instruction in tractor operations. Demonstrated by company representatives were five large tractors—two Fordsons, a Cleveland, an International, and a Moline—and two small garden tractors or motor cultivators, a New Britain and a Utilitor.

Eighty-one people, both men and women, took advantage of the Tractor School for a registration fee of $1 plus $2 a day in room and board.

Student Teaching

Mrs. Lucinda Smith was a popular English teacher at UNH from 1920 to 1957. When asked to talk about some of her experiences during her long career, she remarked, "Teaching students sometimes educates the teacher." She continued:

One evil day, I slipped a theme of my own in with the typed unsigned themes of my students… I wriggled and squirmed as my work was thoughtfully read, critically evaluated and finally pronounced ‘fair with a tendency to sentimentality.’ And they were right.

The Last Supper, 1939

Students portray da Vinci's Last Supper
One of the more astonishing photos in the university's historic photo collection is this one, titled: "Depiction of Last Supper at UNH," 1939.

A little sleuthing through the archives and the mystery is solved. For many years the university hosted the Northern New England School of Religious Education. Young people and adults came from eight states for the week-long program of Christian leadership training, which included "a complete curricula of lectures and discussion courses in the morning and a well rounded recreational program of games, drama and stunts in the afternoon."

Mister Kara's Neighborhood

In 1952, the Federal Communications Commission set aside 242 television channels for the use of non-commercial educational and cultural interests. After almost a year, only one station was on the air and 11 construction permits had been granted. The future of educational television looked bleak, unless you were one of the 200,000 weekly viewers of UNH physics professor John Karas' show, "Science Sketches," airing on Boston's WBZ-TV.

Ignoring his critics, Karas felt that to hold an audience, educational television needed to be entertaining. He gave each show an intriguing title and used simple terms and household items in his demonstrations so they could be repeated at home. He often invited guest scientists to keep the show interesting and varied.

His most successful teaching aid was a robot named "Tobor." Although touted as a mechanical genius, Tobor sometimes made mistakes and often found it hard to understand everything, which allowed Prof. Karas to make his explanations simple enough for all to understand. Although his show was aimed at children, fan letters indicated that the show was popular with adults as well.

Live! From Durham

When Channel 11 was established at UNH, it was expected that the TV station would be used in the instructional program of the university, but only two attempts were made to do so.

Under Prof. George Moore, lectures for the basic freshman course in biology were broadcast starting in 1960–61, with students gathered in a large lecture hall that had been equipped with TV receivers. Prof. David Long gave his course in US history over open-circuit TV. Long's lectures appealed to the off-campus audience and were picked up by stations in Boston and Albany.

University students, however, did not like the television classes, preferring live, if less colorful, teachers. Both experiments were soon abandoned.

Creative Writing

Carroll S. Towle taught creative writing at UNH from 1931 until his death in 1962. His students frequently won national recognition in the Atlantic Monthly contest for college students.

Towle once described his approach to teaching as "inductive," distinguishing it from the deductive methods of his colleagues. From Dan Ford '54, a former student of Towle, who is now a successful writer:

Whatever it meant in theory, inductive teaching was chaotic in practice. Take, for example, the Case of the Sixth Point. Towle came into class one morning and announced that we would consider the Sixth Point that day. There had never been any consideration of the first five points, at least not to our knowledge, but we dutifully recorded the numeral in our notebooks. For the next 50 minutes Towle lectured us upon some esoteric technique of the writer's art—point of view, perhaps. And just before he dismissed us he said, 'Unfortunately, we didn't manage to reach the Sixth Point today, but we will take it up next time.' We never heard of it again.

Memorable Mentors

In a poll of "best-remembered" teachers, conducted in connection with the Golden Jubilee fund drive in 1972–73, a total of 365 teachers were named by the 2,044 alumni who voted.

William Yale, history, took top honors, ranking first with classes graduating from 1930–49. Other firsts were Ernest R. Groves, sociology, before 1919; Donald C. Babcock, history and philosophy, and Leon W. Hitchcock, electrical engineering, tied in 1920–29; G. Harris Daggett, English, 1950–59; David F. Long, history, 1960–69. William G. Hennessy, English, impressing students over three decades, tied for second in 1940–49 and received honorable mentions in 1920–29 and 1930–39.

At a disadvantage in the polling, because of their more limited exposure to students, teachers in the agricultural and technical departments who ranked high included Frederick W. Taylor, agriculture, before 1919; Charles James, chemistry, before 1919 and 1920–29; Harold A. Iddles, chemistry, 1930–39 and 1940–49; and Edmond W. Bowler, civil engineering, 1930–39.

Life Studies, Rest in Peace

One of the most innovative additions to the university's offerings was the Life Studies Program, initiated in 1970. This experimental program was designed as an alternative path to "general education" in the first two years of the student's college career.

Instead of traditional classes, there were workshops designed around multi-disciplinary themes such as Perception and the Creative Arts, Spirituality, and Environmental Issues. The students were expected to share actively in the decision-making process regarding the structure of the course. No tests were given and the only grades were credit/fail. The student was counseled in their course selections to prepare them to enter their major's curriculum by their junior year.

Seventy-five freshmen enrolled in the program, but few were willing to assume the active leadership roles that the program required to function. Life Studies was dropped after only two years.

Cats' Cradle

When the historic submarine USS Albacore was being docked in its final resting place in Portsmouth, NH in 1986, it hit the steel structure on which it was to be placed for display. As a result, the Albacore had to be floated into position and supported aft by temporary cradle blocks.

Eugene Allmendinger '50G, '92H, professor emeritus of naval architecture and vice president of the Portsmouth Submarine Memorial Association, put out a call for volunteers to submit designs for a new cradle to replace those rejected by the Navy.

Mechanical engineering technology students Randy Colby, Ray Hebert '87, and Matt Parker '87 answered the call. Their successful design was done as part of a design course taught by Prof. Ralph Draper.

Tilting Windmill

A man stands with a large windmill blade
In the fall of 1978, 45 students in the civil technology program at the Thompson School of Applied Science enrolled in the Energy Management program, the first of its kind in the Northeast. The program prepared students to become certified technicians who could analyze the interrelated possibilities for making buildings more energy efficient.

The program came to the attention of Boston's best-known meteorologist, Don Kent. In the summer of 1984, he donated a wind turbine and an electric generator for use in the Alternative Energy Systems course.

The wind turbine stood about 90 feet high with a 24-foot-diameter propeller. The 5-kilowatt generator was connected to the UNH power grid, with the expectation that it would save the university about $200 a month. Thomas March, mountain climber and associate professor of agricultural mechanics, and Arthur Leclair, instructor of applied plant science and tree climber, were recruited to help install the turbine near Putnam Pavilion.

Five years later on a bitter cold winter day, March's talents were again called upon when an eight-foot section from one of the blades broke loose and crashed through the roof of greenhouse No. 5. The only way to completely stop the off-kilter windmill was to climb up and manually disengage the mechanisms. The wind turbine and generator were deemed beyond repair and both were scrapped.