School of Business - Bits of History
The enrollment in Business was growing so the faculty members were routinely teaching five classes with four different preparations each semester. Father Fidelis felt that it was now time to seek quality rather than quantity in our graduates and suggested that we upgrade the course materials and grade more rigorously.
The faculty, numbering six, met monthly and considered the record of each student in all his courses; notes were made of faculty comments, and the student was informed if his situation seemed precarious. Professors Guson and Finan failed almost half of their students in the first semester and, wondering if they would have jobs the following year, they approached father Fidelis about it. His reassuring reply was that he had expected us to fail two-thirds of the group and to get on with it!
It is worth noting that, after the grades were posted, better students from other departments began to enter the business group despite the uncertainty caused by the entry of the U.S. into World War II after Pearl Harbor. Twenty-one degrees were granted in June, 1942, but when the fall semester began the war's impact was soon felt and class sizes dwindled steadily as the draft took increasing numbers each month.
As the spring term began in february 1943, the Army announced that it would take all the registered ROTC students out of school in late April. Since this would take 100% of the two lower classes and about 50% of the upper classes, the future was bleak. the college doubled the length of each class period, which caused very long days but allowed the term to be completed in time for a mid-April graduation. Fifteen B.B.A. degrees were awarded including one to Mary J. Shortell of Olean, New York, who became the first lay woman to receive a degree in Business and the third woman graduated from the department.
As the doubled-up class schedule began in February, 1943, Lt. Col. Tenney who commanded the ROTC unit on campus swore the senior and junior members into Enlisted Reserve Corps so that they could not be drafted until the semester ended.
Local commandants had the option of swearing in the ROTC students as privates, corporals or sergeants and Lt. Col. Tenney chose the corporal rank with interesting results.After graduation, the seniors went to officers training at Fort Sill and were commissioned in June, 1943. The juniors, however, went to basic training just as any draftee would but they had corporal's stripes and a corporal's pay, which was 56% higher than the other trainees received.
Professor Leo Kennan, currently chairman of the Bonaventure English Department, was one of those highly paid trainees and recalls with a smile the consternation he and his fellows caused in basic training.
Soon afterwards, a large number of faculty, lay and clerical, left to enter military service including Austin Finan and James Cullather from Business. Mr. Cullather never returned to Bonaventure. Instead he went back to the Wharton School after the war and later joined the Notre Dame faculty where he ultimately became Chairman of the Accounting Department.
The remaining faculty, except those who entered area defense plants, began to teach in the branch of the Army Specialized Training Program which the military instituted at Bonaventure. This was a one-year camp program in basic math, science, and arts courses designed to qualify a group of superior young enlisted men to enter the engineering schools to maintain a flow of professionals into the service. Prof. Ralph King of the Mathematics Department first came to St. Bonaventure in the A.S.T.P. group. The regular academic programs dwindled rapidly during these years for lack of students and faculty. There were two graduates in business in 1944, none in 1945, and two in 1946.
However, a sizeable freshman class made up mostly of wounded veterans entered in February of 1946 and became sophomores in September 1946 by means of a double summer session. Professor Finan returned from the Navy to resume teaching in the first summer session. He taught in uniform for two weeks for lack of civilian clothes but about half of each class was also in uniform so he was not alone. Incidentally, these veteran students and the veterans who entered in the next two years were, because of the maturity and motivation, perhaps the best group of students the school has ever seen.
Excerpted from: "The School of Business Administration St. Bonaventure University The First Half-Century"
by Prof. Austin L. Finan
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