Washington State Magazine

Spring 2009

Spring 2009


In This Issue...


What Is Art For? :: Art, says independent scholar Ellen Dissanayake '57, is "making special." It is an act that gives us a sense of belonging and meaning. It is passed from mother to child. Its origins lie deep in our evolutionary past. It makes us human. by Tim Steury

The Love Letters :: In 1907, Othello had no high school, so Xerpha Mae McCulloch '30 traveled 50 miles to Ritzville to finish school. There she met, and fell in love with, Edward Gaines, a few years her senior. The recent gift to Washington State University of her steamer trunk reveals the life of a woman whose story is not only threaded through the University's, but also through the story of agriculture in Washington State. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Photos and letters from Xerpha's trunk }

You Must Remember This :: Having reached a certain age, our correspondent sets out to learn the latest from Washington State University researchers about memory. She learns that memory comes in different forms, that the human brain is made for problem-solving, and that the key to much of brain health is the "dendritic arbor." And then she sets out to create an action plan. by Cherie Winner

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEStory: Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe's work to help people with memory loss }


Privacy and the Words of the Dead :: Do we violate the privacy of the dead when we read what they wrote for themselves? Maybe it depends on our purposes. by Will Hamlin

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Annotated pages from early English editions of Montaigne's Essays. }




:: SPORTS: Coaching with heart

:: GREEN PAGES: Building green

:: A gift toward fuel research

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Yucatecan lentil soup recipe }


Cover photo: Bryan Hall clock tower reflected in the Abelson-Heald skybridge windows on the Pullman campus. By Zach Mazur.

First Words

Cougar Memory

by | © Washington State University

An essential part of being a Cougar (as well as being human) seems to be the need to tell one’s story of one’s youth and experiences here at Washington State University.

To make it easier to do so and to share it with your fellow Cougs, we have introduced a new feature on our website called Our Story.

Together, the 140,000 or so living alumni of WSU have an extraordinary collective story to tell, not necessarily of the comings and goings of presidents and professors, of scientific breakthroughs and other major news, but of the day-to-day life on campus, of one’s fellow students, of classes and football games and parties.

We offer this opportunity with some urgency, of which we were reminded by the passing of two of our oldest alums, Edythe Boucher ’34 and Avis Brown x’29. One can now only imagine the stories they might have been able to contribute to Our Story, had they had the opportunity.

Or consider the story of a young undergrad in the 1930s, told to me last year by his son. The said undergrad hitchhiked to Pullman from the West side, catching a ride with a regent. The regent, learning about the student’s lack of funds, told him to check in with President Holland. Being an entrepreneurial Coug, upon reaching campus he marched right up to the president’s office. And President Holland promptly hired him as his chauffeur! He also occasionally loaned his Cadillac to his young chauffeur for dates. Imagine.

Stories like this add depth and color to the history of Washington State University. Our Story is not meant to supplant the scholarly histories, such as the History of Washington State College by Enoch Bryan, our first lasting president, or the recent official histories, published in 1989: Going to Washington State by William Stimson; The Crimson and the Gray by Richard Fry; and Creating the People’s University by George Frykman. Rather, we see it as an informal, participatory history that will inscribe our collective meaning and memory.

And even though I’m reaching back in time, I do not mean these stories must be old. We’re interested in the stories of alums who graduted last year as well as those who did in the 1930s.

All you need to do is go to our website, wsm.wsu.edu, identify yourself, and then tell your story. If you don’t have a computer or simply are not comfortable submitting your story over the Internet, we will gladly take your contribution via letter. You may also submit photographs as did Ken Wise ’42 (see Our Story).

Our Story is a collaborative effort with the public history program of the History Department, the Alumni Association, and Manuscripts and Archives. Advice and accuracy checking is provided by our most esteemed institutional memories: Gen DeVleming ‘48, executive secretary to presidents French, Beasley (interim),Terrell, and Smith; Dick Fry, above-mentioned sports historian and former head of the news bureau; Al Ruddy, also a former head of the news bureau; Pat Caraher ‘62, founding editor of Hilltopics and Washington State Magazine; and Bob Smawley ‘52, slideshow producer extraordinaire and employee in many capacities over many decades. Many of you know these good people, and indeed they will be encouraging you personally to contribute to this effort.

When you go to the Our Story site, you’ll find a good amount of material already there, providing a beginning structure and inspiration for your elaboration. Each issue of Washington State Magazine will offer a reference to the site, including historical photographs of campus life, to which we hope you will respond. Do you know any of the people in the photos? Can you add to stories that the photos depict? You will also be able to add to, or correct, existing accounts.

Telling our story has always been a part of the Cougar experience. But now, not only can we tell it more readily, for sharing with current and future Cougars, but we can build a permanent record and a collective memory of the Cougar experience. We look forward to your stories.

Tim Steury, Editor

Categories: WSU history, Alumni | Tags: WSU staff, Autobiography

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