May 24, 2010

Employment practices in the 1930s

Anyone who has been seeking employment, at Johns Hopkins or elsewhere, knows that the process can be complicated and time consuming: interviews with search firms, telephone “screening” interviews, on-site interviews and lots of paperwork. Each step can take much time before matters are concluded.

Today’s practices are a far cry from what happened nearly 75 years ago, in the fall of 1935, when President Isaiah Bowman wanted to hire a person to coordinate the university’s public relations, news and alumni affairs functions in a newly created position to be called secretary of the university.

Bowman, who recently had taken office, had learned about a highly regarded reporter at The Baltimore Sun, P. Stewart Macaulay, JHU Class of 1923. Macaulay had written a number of in-depth articles about the university for The Sun and was well-known to many in the Johns Hopkins community. Bowman thought he would be just the right man for the secretary’s position.

At Bowman’s request, Macaulay wrote him a letter on Nov. 15, 1935, a copy of which is in the Hamburger Archives of the Eisenhower Library. In it Macaulay described why he believed that creating the new office would be valuable to the university and what the duties of the secretary should be.

Bowman then invited Macaulay for a personal interview. On his desk he had placed a single sheet of paper with brief information about Macaulay: Age, 34; Hopkins A.B. 1923; Employment, “Sun”; Home, 2503 Queen Anne Rd.

Then, typewritten at the bottom of the page, were five personal characteristics Bowman wanted to examine. Following each of them Bowman wrote his impressions in his neat, small hand. Financial Level (probably makes up to $4,000”), Personality (“dignified”), Aggressiveness (“average”), Sense (“excellent”), Speaking or Writing Ability (“extraordinary”).

Less than a month later, on Dec. 11, 1935, Bowman notified Macaulay that the university trustees had accepted his recommendation that he be appointed “to the office Secretary of the University effective January 1, 1936, at a salary of $5,000 a year.” In his letter Bowman added that he believed “we have great days ahead and that you will find pleasure in working with us in advancement of the interests of the university.”

Macaulay later was appointed provost of the university and, on several occasions, he was acting president during some of Bowman’s extended absences from the university. He continued to serve as provost under presidents Detlev Bronk (1949–53) and Lowell Reed (1953–56). President Milton S. Eisenhower (1956–67) appointed him executive vice president. He retired, due to illness, in 1966 and died a few months later at age 65. In 1963–64 Macaulay Hall was constructed on the Homewood campus in his honor. Originally it provided facilities for the Department of Oceanography and the Chesapeake Bay Institute, which Macaulay had been instrumental in creating. Today it is used for the Department of Anthropology as well as for classrooms and administrative and academic offices.