May 14, 2007

Commencement: The Way It Was

In the 1940s the university occasionally held Commencement exercises in the auditorium of the old Maryland Casualty Co. on West 40th Street, the site of today’s Rotunda.

At one of those ceremonies, in 1943, according to correspondence in the Hamburger Archives, university Provost P. Stewart Macaulay engaged one J. Norris Herring to be the Commencement organist.

About a week after the event, Mr. Herring, who lived at 2113 St. Paul St., wrote to Mr. Macaulay, saying “one detail relative to the engagement of myself” had not been covered in their earlier correspondence.

That was, said Mr. Herring “the mention of a fee therefor.” He said he hesitated “to make it a point of individual consideration, feeling that it would resolve itself.” But, “possibly now you may have been waiting for me to refer to it, and I do so, now.”

He said he had played for many years at the commencements of the Girls Latin School in the same auditorium “for a fee of $10 on each occasion.” He said if that figure was agreeable to Hopkins, it was to him.

Responding immediately, Provost Macaulay said, “We were both perhaps remiss in not having mentioned the delicate matter of a fee.” He added that the amount was “entirely satisfactory” and assured Mr. Herring that a check would be on its way.

Henry S. Baker, university treasurer, sent Mr. Herring a $10 check the following day. There is no indication whether Mr. Herring played for commencements again.