Calm after the tumultuous 1930s: Henry Schultze
By Richard Harms, College Archivist

The 1930s were particularly difficult years for Calvin College. In addition to the economic difficulties resulting from the Great Depression were growing tensions among the school’s faculty and increasing criticism from outside of the college. Several efforts to lessen the tension and criticism failed until Henry Schultze was appointed president in 1940.

The tensions among the 25 faculty members resulted from what some faculty saw as a failure to link faith and learning. Professor W. Harry Jellema—whose Socratic teaching method often left philosophy students with more questions than answers—was the object for most of these concerns. Other faculty saw Jellema as one of the brightest minds on campus and a gifted instructor. The inter-faculty division became more pronounced in 1933 when newly appointed president Ralph Stob seemed to support Jellema’s critics. Two years later, receiving no encouragement from Stob to stay, Professor Jellema accepted an appointment to Indiana University. And criticism of Stob by some faculty began to grow.

Noteworthy

Schultze-Eldersveld dormitory

 

Prior to Stob’s appointment as president, external criticism was directed at the students, who chafed under some of the rules, particularly those imposed by the Christian Reformed Church Synod in 1928 that prohibited members from dancing, card playing and attending movies; the latter notably and widely ignored by students. In addition, student behavior in general was rambunctious. In 1930 a group had built a fire on an asbestos blanket on the flat roof of the dormitory, making it appear from the ground that the building was on fire. Later that year the editor of Chimes, Peter De Vries, referred to the board of trustees as “very pious and very lazy” as well as the “1930 vest pocket edition of the Sanhedrin.”

When Stob became president, the board wanted him to resolve the student misbehavior. He decided to use a strong hand, which led instead to more problems. Students continued attending movies, and faculty refused to patrol the entrances of theaters to catch malefactors. Interviews with students were attempted, but those who honestly admitted attending movies were punished, while those who lied were not.

As a result, the Synod of 1939 appointed a committee of 10 to implement stricter enforcement of the student conduct code. That same year Stob asked not to be reappointed as president and returned to teaching. The committee met with each faculty member individually, which some felt was little more than an inquisition. In addition, the committee broke the longstanding practice of asking for faculty recommendations for the president; instead it put forward Henry Schultze for the presidency.

Realizing the faculty had been slighted, the board of trustees asked the faculty for their recommendations, one of whom was Schultze. When Schultze was appointed, he took a different approach, using a great deal of tact in dealing with faculty and students. The tumult subsided and, eight years later, Jellema returned to teach philosophy at Calvin.