Howard Ohline '58

  • Ben Doehr
    Ben: Could you say a few words to make sure we have good levels?
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: Sure.Ben: So, if you'd say your full name, where you're currently living, and college class you graduated in.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: My name is Howard Ohline. I'm living in Media, Pennsylvania, which is a small burrow outside of Philadelphia. I graduated in the Class of 1958.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: Excellent. So, why did you come to Grinnell College?Howard: I came to Grinnell College because my parents wanted me to come and because my brother came before me and graduated in the class of ’56. I actually started at a different school and transferred into Grinnell in the Spring of ’56, when my brother graduated.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: Mhm. Did you want to be here when he was here?Howard: I wa-- Well, hmm… that wasn’t any reason for not coming earlier.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So what was your first memory of the campus?Howard: Well, that’s hard to say. Actually, my first memory of the town was the train station. Ha, ha. Getting off with all of my junk... but I really cannot answer that question, honestly. So, okay.Ben: Okay.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So what was your best memory of your time at Grinnell, or one of your best memories?Howard: Well, I had many memories of classroom experiences that were very impressionable.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: I was a History major and I had Professor Wall. I had Professor Al Jones, and I had Professor Baumann, and also Sam Baron, all of whom were great History teachers and so I was very impressed with them.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: I was impressed with, kind of the general collegiate atmosphere of the whole campus. As I go along, I was impressed with other things... thought maybe we should...Ben: We can.Howard: Okay.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So, what did your freshman year dorm room look like?Howard: The room I lived in was in North Younker and it was a.. L-shaped room with, I think three other guys in it. There were four guys in the room, which was a very good experience. I don’t remember the names of all of them, but I had a wonderful experience in the dorm.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: And I liked-- I stayed in North Younker my whole career and I ended up being President of North Younker my senior year.Ben: Really, so they had four Presidents, or a normal--?Howard: No, they had-- they had an organization called the C of HPs—The Council of House Presidents—and every hall had a president who was responsible for enforcing the various rules that existed on the campus at that particular time.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: That was the primary responsibility of the president. They met periodically-- I guess it was once a week, and discussed issues usually dealing with entertainment programs that were coming up and various other activities that were coming up on campus.Ben: Hm.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: I was talking with a woman earlier who was talking about the Social Chairperson. Were those around when you were around, or were those replaced by Dorm Presidents or Hall Presidents?Howard: That I don’t know.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: I’m not familiar with… There might have been a Social President or a Social Chairman or woman on the Women’s Campus because when we were here, the Men’s Campus was North Campus and the Women’s Campus was South Campus. Yeah, so, we were separated by sex.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: In fact, the first year, I remember we had a House Mother, but I don’t remember… There were social planners who were responsible for various types of programs that came on campus, but I don’t remember their exact title. Yeah, so…Ben: Mmkay.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So what book most influenced you in college?Howard: What book?Ben: Yes. Do you have one?Howard: Well, I think it was the book used in a course called "History D-10" taught by Freddy Baumann, called “The History of Liberty.”
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: The author, I cannot remember right now. I had it on the tip of my tongue earlier, but it was a history of the idea of liberty from the very beginning of Western Culture that related the sociology of the world to the development of the idea of liberty and Freddy, Professor Baumann, was a great advocate because he believed that no idea existed separate from the sociological context in which the idea emerged. So it was a very influential book, in my thinking.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So obviously Grinnell has changed a lot since you were a student. The integration of the dorms, the building of..Howard: Yeah. Right.Ben: Do you think-- What sort of ideological changes do you think have happened in Grinnell since you were around?Howard: Well, I don’t know.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: I still think it’s probably a strong supporter for the Social Gospel movement and social justice, although they probably don’t use the phrase Social Gospel anymore. But that’s a form of 20th century liberalism, applying Christianity to the improvement of the social world, which I think is fundamentally American liberalism, so I’m not sure.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: The way I understand it is, Grinnell is still a fairly liberal institution concerned with social improvement; concerned with developing social character; improving the world. Not preoccupied-- well, it is concerned with professional excellence, but not primarily concerned with market excellence.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: I mean I'm not sure-- I don’t know what is taught, but I can’t believe that they spend a great deal of time advocating free market economics at Grinnell. Maybe I’m wrong.Ben: They seem to be kind of classes that are... We examine all sides of things.Howard: Yeah. Right. I’m sure they do. I'm sure they do. But I don’t, other than that, I don’t know how, ideologically, it would have changed.Ben: 'Kay.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So while you were here, what was your favorite place on campus?Howard: Favorite place?Ben: Favorite study spot or place to meet friends.Howard: Well, it was the Union, which doesn’t exist anymore.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: It was a small, Quonset hut-type building, that... It would have been, oh, maybe 100 yards in front of Burling Library. It was a place where you danced; it was a place where you had a coffee shop—drank coffee and sandwiches. It had a place where there were private rooms upstairs where couples often went up to enjoy themselves.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: And it was called the Student Union I believe. Yeah, so, okay. That was, in terms of-- because that was really kind of the center of social activity, but that’s not to say that my dorm wasn’t a place where I really enjoyed. I really-- because the basement of the dorm had a rec room which had a TV set in it, and no one at that time had a TV in their room.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: No one had electronic-- I mean, there was only.. No one had a telephone in their room. There was only one telephone on the floor and so, in the evening, either after meals or before or after studying, people would congregate to watch TV. So that was also a very enjoyable place to be.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: But, there was a great deal of intramural sports. I don’t know if they still have intramural sports.Ben: We have Ultimate Frisbee and--Howard: Well, we often-- you know, we were always at the Darby Gym playing intramural basketball; on the field playing intramural softball. So there was, you know, many different places doing many different things that were very enjoyable in my experience at Grinnell.Ben: Excellent.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So, did you two meet at Grinnell?Howard: Yes.Ben: Do you wanna describe how you guys met?Howard: Well, I was introduced to my wife, Katherine, outside of ARH by a mutual friend who was female, who I had dated, and who knew Katherine and she introduced us.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So you guys had-- did you guys have classes together, or... how'd you get together?Howard: No, no. Never had classes together.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: She’s two years behind me, class of ’60. We dated pretty consistently from the winter of ’56-’57 until I graduated, and then after she graduated, we got married. So, the fullness of my life was shaped not only by the classroom, but by social activities.Ben: M'kay.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So, if-- anything that I’m missing, that you'd like to tell a story about? Your favorite party at the campus? Your wildest story?Howard: Well, I don’t have any wild stories.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: One of my-- Well, I-- I worked in the dining room as a waiter throughout most of my career, a work-study program, which was also very enjoyable because you interacted with your fellow students on a different level in a different way.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: And I also worked on what was at that time called the “paint crew.” That was a group of men, students, who worked with a staff person to paint various buildings inside and out during the year and then we worked through the summer and I got to know many of my very good friends on that paint crew, working in the summer, living in the Union.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: We lived in the rooms upstairs and they fed us breakfast and meals in the coffee room and we spent the entire day working on various buildings around the campus. That was a very memorable experience because I learned many things that I didn’t know about the skill of painting. So, I enjoyed that too.Ben: M'kay.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: So, any parting advice for me? I’m going into my third year at Grinnell College. I’m a Chemistry and Economics double major. So, based on that, what would you tell a current Grinnell student about your time, life and place, anything Grinnell taught you?Howard: Well, I mean, the intensity of the academics was very high. There were some students that, like all students, weren’t very intense and weren’t very involved.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: But, in the hist-- Well, let me put it this way: I was a History major in a group in which I would believe that almost close to a dozen of the men and women, but mostly men, ended up teaching History in universities.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: My career-- I left here and got my Master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri and I taught History at Temple University for my entire life. I mean, I retired there.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: My friends have taught at... well, Tutson Ageta taught at the University of Illinois. Lynn Parsons taught at Binghamton in New York. Bob McJimsey taught at Colorado College. George McJimsey, who is here today and going to give a speech on Harry Hopkins, taught at Ames.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: I think what Grinnell really does very well, from my experience, and from what I sense subsequently, is they really do prepare a student who has a professional goal in mind to be successful in that goal.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: So I don't-- your major is Chemistry and--?Ben: Chemistry and Economics.Howard: Why did you put those two together?Ben: I like them both, frankly.Howard: Yeah, because one is theoretical and one is, well, also theory, but it’s also very practical.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: Do you see any way you can put those together professionally or do you have a conception of how you’re going to put those together?Ben: My theory is that I’m going to be a... work in a finance division of a chemical firm.Howard: Oh, alright. Okay. Alright.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: You know, my brother who graduated in ’56 went on to get his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern. Again, you know, almost all of my colleagues or friends followed that pattern. Now I’m sure there are some who didn't, but many of them did.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: He, as soon as he graduated from Northwestern... at that time-- now, this was the late ‘50s --all of the chemical companies contacted him. In other words, they’re on their database, what-- however they kept it as to who was coming out of the various universities with a Ph.D. in Chemistry. They contacted him.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: So he first started working as a chemist for Mallinckrodt in Saint Louis. But, he felt confined in the corporate world as a chemist and thus, went into the academic world where he did-- could do and pursue his own research.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: He felt that he was trapped in a corporate world that was telling them-- telling him that they wanted something done which he had no interest in at all. And so he left the corporate world to go into the academic world.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: But that’s interesting! You see yourself working in the economics-- or in... Do you see yourself going on in business school?Ben: Possibly.Howard: Yeah, because business... business schools and economic programs are considerably different...Ben: Mhm.Howard: --in universities, at least.Ben: Well, we’ll see where life takes me.Howard: Okay. That's good. Well, that’s what a univer-- that's what a good college career does. It sorts out.
  • Howard Ohline
    Howard: Now one of my colleagues, or, one of my friends, who also was a History major, we were talking last night, and he indicated that he came with the intention of going to medical school and his first semester took a history class from Professor Joseph Wall, ended up majoring in History and pursuing that career.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: So, you learn in many ways, very quickly, at a good school where you’re introduced analytically to disciplines in a very solid, professional way. You learn what you don’t want to do as much as what you do want to do.Ben: Mhm.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: And... so there are people who changed as they went through.Ben: Yeah. I’ll keep that in mind. Life is open.Howard: Sure. Oh, yeah, right. Right.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: And in fact, when I first gradua-- when I did graduate, I thought: "Well, I would like to go into law." And I went to law school, Washington University law school in St. Louis ,and within two months I realized that I really was not very interested in the, sort of, minutiae of most types of law. And so, I left and went back into graduate school and history.Ben: Mhm.
  • Ben Doehr & Howard Ohline
    Ben: Oh, anything else you'd like to add?Howard: Well, let’s see… No. We always enjoy coming back. This is my 55th reunion, I was here at my 50th; I was here at my 40th.
  • Howard Ohline & Ben Doehr
    Howard: It is a wonderful place to come back to and see-- although the number of people coming back has reduced in my class. I don’t know if... anything more.Ben: Okay. Well, it’s been a pleasure and thank you!Howard: Okay.
Alumni oral history interview with Howard Ohline '58. Recorded May 31, 2013.
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