March 16, 2008
Mr. Shriver’s Elocution Class
Just over 70 years ago, in January 1938, Alfred Jenkins Shriver (class of 1891) wrote to university President Isaiah Bowman with “some facts about the Elocution course” he had taken 50 years earlier.
“Elocution, Drawing and L.E.P. (Logic, Ethics and Psychology) were courses compulsory [underlined] to all undergraduates, of which I was one,” he wrote.
Shriver said, “Rev. Woodward was the instructor in Elocution and was very unpopular. About 1888, President Gilman fired him. I recall distinctly in 1890 asking President Gilman when he was going to have an instructor in Elocution, and his answer (I remember it well) was ‘As soon as I can find a man I am willing to call instructor in Elocution of The Johns Hopkins University.'”
Apparently persons meeting Gilman’s standards were in short supply, as Rev. Woodward’s successor, John R. Scott, was not appointed until 1894.
Shriver later became a prominent Baltimore attorney. When he died in 1939, he left the residue of his estate to the university to construct the building that bears his name, Shriver Hall, on the Homewood campus.
The bequest for the building, which was to serve as an assembly hall for all of Baltimore, had several conditions attached to it. Shriver specified that several murals be painted on the interior walls. They were to depict 10 philanthropists who had been generous to Johns Hopkins and to Baltimore, 10 “famous beauties of Baltimore” (as chosen by Shriver), the first faculties of Philosophy and Medicine, the original boards of trustees of the university and hospital, and Baltimore clipper ships. He also required that statues of presidents Gilman and Bowman and Dr. William Welch be placed near the building’s main entrance.
Shriver also asked for a smaller painting of his class of 1891, which was hung just outside the Board of Trustees Room on the main floor. In the 1970s that painting disappeared, without explanation, only to reappear in the same spot several years later.
The trustees had six months from the time of Shriver’s death to accept or reject his bequest. If they rejected it, the bequest was to be offered to Loyola College, and then to Goucher College, subject to the same conditions. The trustees accepted the gift within the time allotted, but construction of the building did not begin until 1952. It was completed in 1954.
Over the years Shriver Hall’s 1,100-seat auditorium has been the setting for many university convocations, public lectures with prominent speakers, film festivals, theatrical events and notable musical programs, especially the Shriver Hall Concert Series.