A Transcendent Idea: The Student Personnel Point of View

A Transcendent Idea: The Student Personnel Point of View

Melvene Draheim Hardee
Edited and with a Preface by
Sally Click
Butler University
Michael D. Coomes
Bowling Green State University

Preface: Has it been Twenty Five Years?

The year of the 50th anniversary of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View (SPPV) (American Council on Education, 1937), student affairs practitioners gathered for a joint conference of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). The theme, “Make No Little Plans,” described the ambition of the early architects of the grand city of Chicago, the setting for the 1987 joint conference. As it turned out, it aptly reflected the significant role that the SPPV had played in the development of what we now call the student affairs profession. In historical hindsight, the SPPV turned out to be “no little plan.”

The Hyatt Grand Ballroom was filled to capacity at 5:30 pm for the opening session. After the welcome by conference chairs and association presidents, the lights in the ballroom dimmed and the theme song to the movie Gone with the Wind filled the auditorium. The podium was flanked by floor to ceiling screens. Varied voices narrated the multiple images that flashed upon the screens. First slide: a black background and the number 1937emblazened in red. Click. A mention – Margaret Mitchell had won the Pulitzer Prize for her epic novel. Click. Click. Click. Vivid images appeared conveying the highlights of the year: FDR was in his second presidential term, the U.S. Supreme Court favored a minimum wage law for women, Amelia Earhart vanished over the Pacific, and Joe Louis gained his heavyweight boxing title. The images culminated with a photo of the Hindenburg as it crashed after a transatlantic flight killing all 36 passengers.

And then it was quiet. A spotlight shone upon a single figure at the podium—a petite woman, perhaps five feet tall, wearing large framed glasses and a furry white stole. There from over the top of the podium, peered Melvene Draheim Hardee, Professor of Higher Education at Florida State University (FSU). Her voice emerged and her story began. She explained that on the tragic day of the Hindenburg explosion, just about 50 years before, she was standing in a hallway at Teachers College, Columbia University waiting to defend her master’s degree. Although she did not know it at the time, this day was also the birth date of a document that would guide her professional practice from beginning to end. On that momentous day, a committee of the American Council on Education endorsed a document entitled, The Student Personnel Point of View.

And so the teacher described to the Chicago assemblage the economic, cultural, and political events happening in the United States in and around 1937 that shaped the thinking of those who gathered to scaffold the work known as student personnel. She dissected the document’s structure and reminded us of the 16 people who met for two days in Washington to consider the prospectus presented by two Ohio educators, W. H. Cowley and D. H. Gardner.

Hardee researched this presentation for over a year; her quest took her to the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the archives of the American Council on Education. No doubt she consulted with her colleagues, C. Gilbert Wrenn and Esther Lloyd Jones, two 1937 SPPV summit participants. She finished the keynote script in November 1986 and then worked with the (FSU) Multi-Media Department to put it together with her visual and audio enhancements. Hardee prepared several different versions and back-ups. She was so nervous about losing it in transit from Tallahassee to Chicago that she bought the slide show its very own seat on the airplane flight. Hardee wanted to get this just right; she also wanted to do it her way.

From an early age Melvene was a musician, a singer, and a thespian. In her small hometown of Clarion, Iowa, she took Shakespearean lessons and spent the summers in a local youth theatre troupe. Friends paid a dime to watch the “Neighborhood Players” perform. This penchant for performance made classes with Professor Hardee a constant surprise. Former student, David Meabon, described her magnetism.

When Dr. Hardee is in front of an audience, she is totally different. She comes alive in a way that in rehearsal is not there. I think she thought life was a stage. She was a director at times, an actress at times; she loved props. She thought [we all needed] to figure out: What is the best way to help somebody learn what you are trying to teach? (personal communication, October 27, 2007)

The inspiration for Hardee’s Chicago keynote performance was a radio broadcast, written and produced by Norman Corwin and entitled, We Hold These Truths. Commissioned by President Roosevelt to observe the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, it aired eight days after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. An estimated 63 million people listened to the broadcast that featured such well-known voices of the time as Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Walter Brennan and Lionel Barrymore (Corwin, n.d.). Hardee employed this audio taped drama in her classes asking her students to listen not only for content but also for emotions. At the podium for a national convention keynote, she would similarly want her audience to feel something as a result of their participation.

Unbeknownst to Hardee at the time, feelings were running high behind the scenes of her keynote performance. Well before the development of PowerPoint, in early multi-media days, this slide show was constructed of film slides and audiotape synced together. Three trusted souls had come to Chicago with Hardee, their Mentor, to provide technical assistance. John Opper, Robert Dawson, and Mike Lawrence had rehearsed and practiced umpteen times back at home. With one hour before showtime to set up and test the equipment, the trio discovered that the production was not compatible with the hotel’s system. Without letting Hardee know, the three of them manually keyed the projectors throughout the performance from various points in the room. To their great relief, a technical catastrophe was averted, and their Mentor’s efforts were rewarded (J. Opper, personal communication, October 26, 2007).

The opening keynote entitled, The 1937 Student Personnel Point of View: The Birth of a Charter, was certainly dramatic: Big pictures, big music and a (petite) woman with a big voice. The keynote’s ending was equally memorable. Her closing was a commanding mix of Constitution, poetry, and theatre. Tying threads together, she blended political wisdom (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”) to the truths understood about learning and young adults, such as validating the whole person, individualizing education to promote the development of potential, and assisting our charges in contributing to the betterment of society. Hardee likened Theodore White’s (year) thought about the U.S. Constitution “as an idea that became a nation” to the assertion that the 1937SPPV was an idea that became a profession. The lover of the humanities tied the movie story of the Tara plantation to Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. To describe those drawn to the student affairs profession, she relied on her standby, O’Shaughnessy’s poetic line, “We are the music-makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.” Hardee sealed the keynote with the punch line, “Frankly, my dear, we are the ones who do give a damn!” (Hardee, 1987).

Hardee had been asked to open and to set the tone for an historic meeting. At the time, there may not have been a more perfect choice for this task. She and the SPPV had shared the profession’s development together for 50 years. Her keynote honored the construction of a philosophical treatise that had stood the test of time. She, too, had stood the test of time. Those in attendance were reminded of the founding tenets of their profession, and they witnessed the dramatic flair of Melvene Hardee. Her FSU department chair at the time, David Leslie, described it as not just any keynote:

Mel’s grand extravaganza at the joint anniversary meeting was not a “presentation.” This was an Oscar-worthy dramatic show. There were probably 3,000 people in the hall. At the end of it, they were in tears, they were standing on chairs, and they were applauding. I have been to a Christmas Mass with the Pope in St. Peters, and that is the only thing I can say that rivals what Mel did for the two associations. (personal communication, February 15, 2008)

Former doctoral advisee, Terry O’Banion, described it similarly:

The audience was totally engaged in this process and finally at the end, after she had [positioned] her ideas in the framework of Gone with the Wind, her last line was, “Frankly my dears, we are the ones who give a damn.” The audience rose to its feet in thunderousovation. It was one of the greatest speeches I have ever seen in an educational environment. Mel was just a master of that sort of stuff. She really had a sense of drama. She was a great communicator. I think it was probably her greatest moment as a professional. (personal communication, February 20, 2008)

In an ACPA Developments editorial that followed the joint meeting, Caple (1987) lauded Hardee’s accomplishment:

Her use of history, her understanding of the political, economic, and cultural climate of the period, her knowledge of the field of College Student Personnel work, and her skill in presentation combined to make this the best keynote address I have heard in the 20 years I have attended the convention.

Hardee retired from teaching at FSU in 1989 after 41 years of service. She died in 1994 at the age of 81. Among Hardee’s papers, housed at the National Student Affairs Archives at Bowling Green State University, treasure hunters can find the script of her 1987 presentation. Some of the historic slides are housed in the Hardee Center Collection at FSU. Audio tapes of the speech exist, as do video clips of its delivery that were used in a post meeting teleconference entitled, Student Affairs: A Historical Perspective and a View of the Future.

In an attempt to translate her keynote performance into writing, Hardee worked with former FSU student, John Opper, on the unpublished manuscript that follows. Hardee readily admits in the prologue that writing for reading and writing for speaking are very different endeavors. Much is lost in translation. In this, the 75th anniversary year of the SPPV, Hardee’s insights within A Transcendent Idea: The Student Personnel Point of View are once again offered to the profession for consideration. The voices of those who constructed the SPPV live on in writing; as does hers.

A note on the article.

As her former students tell us, Dr. Hardee was a voracious reader who remembered most of what she read (Click, 2009). She read widely and worked diligently to integrate the knowledge gained from a recent book or article into her lectures or presentations. In editing this speech for publication, we have attempted to track-down as many of the sources she used to inform her thoughts as possible. When we have been unable to do so, we have trusted her encyclopedic knowledge and refrained from deleting her ideas or the sources of those ideas. Where minor changes have been made, we have noted them by including them in brackets [. . .]. A PDF of Dr. Hardee’s original draft may be found on the website of the Student Affairs History Project (http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/library/cac/sahp/pages/resources2.html).

American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view. (American
Council on Education Studies, series 1, no. 3.) Washington, DC: Author.
Caple, D. (1987). Editorial. American College Personnel Association Developments, 14(3).
Click, S. (2009). Melvene Draheim Hardee: Music maker and dreamer of dreams. Dissertation
AAT 3351099)
Click, S., & Coomes, M. (2010). Melvene Draheim Hardee: A touchstone of the profession.
Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47(1), 1-10.
Evans, N. J., & Reason, R. D. (2001). Guiding principles: A review and analysis of student
affairs philosophical statements. Journal of College Student Development, 42, 359-377.
Corwin, N. (n.d.). Classic radio programs 1938-1955. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from
Hardee, M. D. (1987). The 1937 Student Personnel Point of View: The birth of a charter. [Multi
media]. Keynote address to the joint meeting of the American College Personnel Association and
the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Chicago, IL. [MS-773, Box 3,
Folder 4] Hardee, M. D. (1992). A transcendent idea: The Student Personnel Point of View. Unpublished
manuscript. [MS-773, Box 3, Folder 4]

A Transcendent Idea:
The Student Personnel Point of View

The 1987 combined conferences of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) opened in Chicago with recognition of the origins of the 1937 Student Personnel Point of View (SPPV) (American Council on Education, 1937).  The introduction featured a multi-media presentation using two giant screens, as well as a series of larger-than-life photographs matching the script and appropriate musical accompaniment reminiscent of the 1937 era in America.
This event was likely the first time in history that the document was voice-expanded and image-oversized.  It was a production of the Multi-Media Laboratories of The Florida State University (FSU).  With but few additions, the speech is presented here. Assuredly, an essay, which follows this spoken event five, six, or more years, undergoes a sea change. A translation of Krajewski’s1 research on the subject of rhetoric names the problem one of information transmittal over time, or hermeneutics, the bridge linking the meaning of a speech fixed by writing and understood by reading (emphasis added). In addition, Krajewski reminds those who perform in these three forms, that there is a difference between writing oriented to reading aloud and in reading silently.  Of continuing concern to this writer is the adaptation of a professional association to these varied presentations.

The odyssey of SPPV(1937) must extend its lifetime into the future with the hearing of its words (rhetoric), subjecting the written text to something bigger than print size.  One model is the 1941-recorded performance of Norman Corwin and cast, giving voice in a variety of scenes, to the First Ten Amendments to the Constitution (it is notable that this document is never reduced to four letters – FTAC).  If there is any residual benefit from the half century of its historical antecedents, SPPV should be used as often as possible in its entirety, giv[ing] it full play in higher education. The distillation of a basic belief, a philosophic commitment, to a word of five letters is no mean accomplishment in the saving of time and space.  But SPPOV 2 is an unpronounceable descriptor – an aberrant mix, referring as it does to a full-grown professional group and, conversely, not understood by those “outside the loop.”  It can be mistaken for a slogan or trade name – conceptual but not actual.  What is needed is a return to the original full designate: Student Personnel Point of View.

The professional stature of the field raises question in times of economic stringency, with the diminishment of the service concept, and the hardening of the arteries of compassion and campus relations.  This is the time that renewal of means for insightful communication is needed in reading, writing, speaking, and listening for all administrators, academicians, student personnel workers, and students.  It may be the last best chance to fulfill our historic resolve.


On the evening of May 6, 1937, on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, the great German dirigible, The Hindenburg, nosed into its moorings after transatlantic flight.  Tragically, its explosion and the loss of 36 traveler lives headlined the New York Times, obscuring all the other happenings in the eastern metropolitan area – one of which was an important announcement [by] the American Council on Education. The unannounced message was that of [the] approval given a document termed The Student Personnel Point of View [1937].

This document, in its formulation, has an auspicious history, parts of which can be found in the repositories in Washington, D.C.: the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the National Museum of American History, the American Council on Education, and in such radial resources as the Jerome Archives at Bowling Green State University, the Strozier Library of Florida State University, as well as in personal mementos, videos and other pronouncements of scholars of the student personnel specialty in higher education.

To discuss the historical concepts of this document one must search for answers to the question: What was happening in [1937] America in relation to economic, cultural, and political events? At the outset, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1986) reminds history trackers: “[Science] and technology revolutionize our lives, [but] memory, tradition, and myth [frame] our response” (p. 21). The early trackings of our founding document have uncovered some hidden memories, some buried traditions, and not a few myths – all in a jumble, for as Daniel Boorstin (1983), the Librarian of Congress emeritus, adds:  “There is no academic neatness to history.  There is only miscellany with overlapping, interfusing, and blending.”

This is indisputably true of America in the 1937 year.

[1937] was the year:

  • that Gone with the Wind sold a million and a half copies. Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and the first script for filming the epic was submitted to David O. Selznick, the producer;
  • that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his second inaugural address stated: “I see [one-third] of a nation ill-housed, ill-fed, and ill-nourished;” 3
  • that half a million American workers went on sit-down strike[s], slowing industry, deep in the second stages of the Depression;
  • that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a minimum wage law for women. 4
  • that Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, regained the heavy-weight championship, defeating Jim Braddock in the 8th round [Schlesinger, 1983];
  • that Amelia Earhart vanished in her daring flight over the Pacific [Schlesinger, 1983];
  • that F. D. R. signed the Neutrality Act [Schlesinger, 1983], while across the Atlantic in the village of Guernica, as Picasso’s masterpiece reveals, 2000 civilians were killed or wounded in a three hour testing by German bombers in air-to-ground strategy; [and]
  • this was the 150th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States with both charters [the U. S. Constitution and the SPPV], one new and the other a century and a half old, affirming history as living, human experience.

The emergence of the SPPVconfirms this fluid record of human encounter, all in a blend – romantic, realistic, polemic, with no bibliographic propriety.

The Transcendent Idea – An Awakening 

The overlapping, interfusing and blending of the efforts of dedicated professionals in the field of education are evident in the shaping of policy directed to change.  This recalling of fact is presented not in the belief that history is the ultimate test of painstaking policy formation, but rather that the instances noted attempt to explain how decisions over time have been accelerated by choice, change, collision, revision, and just plain “resistance to” and muddling through 5.  The transcendent idea which became the SPPV experienced some or all of these.
As early as 1926, the American Council on Education established a Committee on Personnel Methods chaired by Dean H. E. Hawkes of Columbia University.  In that year, Dr. L. B. Hopkins, Director of Student Personnel, Northwestern University, created an opening in the thick of personnel work with publication of his study of 14 institutions purporting to provide student personnel services as defined in the mid-twenties6.

After a 10-year interval, and with mounting appeals for curtailment of committee overlap, the American Council accepted the report of the Committee on Review of the Testing Movement – thought to be parallel in importance with the Committee on Personnel Methods – recommending both the formation of a new Committee on Measurement and Guidance, and the discharge of the Committee on Personnel Methods.  Obviously unaccounted for were committee-formulations for bringing eye-to-eye and ear-to-ear, two vocal groups seemingly diverse in academe – the teacher [or] major professor and the practitioner, [or] administrator-manager of student campus life.  A variety of beliefs defined their differences in status and performance; there were few terms used to unite their missions.

But, on the periphery, moving toward the front, were the problems of students, admittedly financial, which many administrators, faculty, and staff aides to consider remedies for a widening area of student welfare.  In 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act initiated the student work-study program as part of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. (This writer supplemented her aid form home with her work-study pay of 20 cents per hour, 20 hours a week at the college switchboard.  But, a sophomore switchboard operator, located in the sensitive strategic center of a campus, holds a trust tantamount to that of a member of the National Security Council in the White House.  As such, she was likely underpaid.) In 1935, Executive Order #7086 placed student aid under the newly formed National Youth Administration and was soon thereafter to become an affiliate of the National Youth Commission.

Both coalition and collision were to be expected.  Some efforts of well-intentioned groups were given audience in Washington; some were cut short.  One appeal was made to the American Council on Education by two who came out of the West, so to speak.  They presented a prospectus designed to combine theory and practice, with a transcendent idea for bringing together academicians and practitioners in the area of student life.  Their identity: Dr. W.H. Cowley, Professor of Education, Ohio State University and Dr. D. H. Gardner, Dean of Students, University of Akron.

Their goal was to minimize misunderstandings between academicians and student personnel workers – to make clear the types, functions and administration of what was termed student personnel services.

From the beginning, their partnership had need of a philanthropic windfall – in Broadway parlance, an angel to back the undertaking.  An affiliate bond existed.  Dr. George Zook was earlier President of the University of Akron where Gardner in 1936 had served as Dean of Students.  The message, which the two from the West relayed, was: “Sir, a study of student personnel work in higher education is urgently needed.”

Activating the Idea 

Their [proposal led to] the convening in April 1937 of 16 professionals who would represent both theoretical and practical viewpoints.  It would seek to delineate the specialty in its derivatives from the various fields of scholarship.  It would direct efforts to inform and ultimately to disarm academicians.  However, with all such justifiable effort, Dr. Zook had misgivings.  He needed to be convinced of the tour de force of his own Council.  There were, in fact, five professional organizations, which could as well, if not better, sponsor the proposed meeting. [They were]: the American College Personnel Association, the National Association of Deans of Men, the National Association of Women Deans’ the American Council of Guidance and Personnel Associations, [and] the National Occupational Conference. The two standard-bearers [Cowley and Gardner] argued for a new coordinated approach, which the American Council, with its distinguished reputation, could provide in a climate of cooperation essential for success of the idea.

It was patently understood that the record of the two-day conference would be forwarded to the Committee on Problems and Plans in Education of the American Council on Education – a wide receivership within which a number of associations would compete for approval and funding of projects.

The 16 members of the Committee [held] impressive titles – presidents of collegiate institutions, deans of colleges, deans of student personnel, chief of the U.S. Office of Higher Education, directors of guidance and counseling, administrative personnel in professional associations, high school and corporate business – together with staff of the American Council on Education – its president, vice president, and the administrative assistant.  [In addition to Cowley and Gardner,] they were: Dr. Thyrsa Amos, Dean of Women, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. F. F. Bradshaw, Dean of Students, University of North Carolina; Mr. D. S. Bridgman, American Telephone and Telegraph; Dr. A. J. Brumbaugh, Dean of the College, University of Chicago; Dr. A. B. Crawford, Director of Personnel Study, Yale University; Dr. Edward Elliott, President Purdue University; Mr. Burton Fowler, High School Principal; Dr. H. E. Hawkes, Dean of the college, Columbia University; Dr. L. B. Hopkins, President, Wabash College; Dr. Fred J. Kelly, Chief, Division of Higher Education, U.S. Office of Education; Dr. Edwin Lee, Director, National Occupational Guidance Conference; Dr. Esther Lloyd Jones, Chairman, Department of Guidance and Student Personnel, Columbia University; Dr. D. G. Paterson, Professor of Psychology, University of Minnesota; and Dr. C. Gilbert Wrenn, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota. The production staff (i.e., representatives from the American Council on Education) were: Dr. George F. Zook, Chairman; Dr. C. S. Marsh, Vice President; and Dr. Donald J. Shank, Administrative Assistant

With the date and place for the committee assembly set for April 16-17 in Washington D.C., the two crusaders in their separate engagements, 1926 to the present, murmured soto voce; “Mission accomplished.”
But not quite.  There were gaps admittedly in what transpired from then on.  In random letters recovered from various offices and personnel files from video tapes, and from fragments of newsletter and newspaper reports, and little else, this first formal meeting of administrators, teaching faculty, and association entrepreneurs was pieced together.  And again there was the reminder… “there is no neatness to history; instead, memory, tradition, and myth mark the milestones of change.”

The Sum of Its Parts 

The 1937 SPPV contains approximately 4,000 words.  The foreword is equivalent to a single page.  Thereafter follow three sections – Philosophy, Coordination (six divisions) and Future Development (five divisions).  When introduced to the reader-world, the modest document, paper-backed, was offered for sale at 10 cents – reminiscent of the Depression pleas of its time, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”


The section is viewed by wordsmiths as the soul of the writing.  The first paragraph affirms the basic purposes of higher education – the product of scholarship, research and creative imagination.  The task of colleges and universities is unequivocally stated: “to assist the student in developing to the limits of his/her potentialities and [to assist the student] in making his/her contribution to the betterment of society.” (The gender shift to include her has been added by this writer.  There was no intentional omission.)

The philosophy reaffirms the student as a whole person with eight dimensions cited – intellectual, emotional, physical, social, vocational, moral, economic, and aesthetic.  Eugenie Andruss Leonard, in her book, The Origins of Personnel Services, reminds the reader that this view has had a long and honorable history in America.  It was, in fact, as old as education itself in the colonial beginnings.  From 1630 to 1930, three centuries of the whole person philosophy dominated.  The reversal occurred when faculty and administrative personnel promoted expansion of subject matter in opposition to the study of students in relation to their potentialities and their resulting contributions to society’s betterment.  As subject matter was expanded, the student, as subject for study, was suspended.

But to return to the SPPV and its original evocation: twenty services are named.  The student personnel practitioner is seen as interpreting, selecting, orienting, providing, assisting, supervising, assembling, coordinating, maintaining and evaluating – all symbolic of energy and forward direction.

The philosophy, in its reaffirmation, is the center of the historic document we currently address. The commitment is similar to that contained in the Constitution of the United States in its bicentennial year, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” The prefatory paragraph of the Constitution of the United States speaks of (1) forming a more perfect union, (2) establishing justice, (3) insuring domestic tranquility, and (4) promoting the general welfare.
The prefatory paragraph of the 1937 SPPV speaks of promoting the general welfare of a selected group, namely students, thereby transmitting and preserving the products of scholarship, creative imagination and human experience.


The second section of the 1937 document, with its six sub-parts, sweeps the scenario, recommending study of a theory of administration which guarantees to keep intact the central design and operating relationships of the transcendent idea.  It appears to connect the campus with the world of business, trading, and corporate and consumer interests.  The term [i.e., coordinator] can be viewed as a possible replacement for titles in the collegiate sector such as director, administrator, head or chief, as well as others conceptually alike.  The whole student concept would favor a unifying of the total institution, inclusive of study, recreation, work, health, and all the varieties of counseling and advisement – resulting in less separatism and more communal planning.

At The Florida State University in the 1940s, at the time the institution moved from a college for women to coeducation, a committee, after study of the SPPV, advised the president to name a University Coordinator of Counseling.7 The administrator’s primary goal was to combine counseling and faculty advising with residence hall life, religious activities, psychological, vocational, religious counseling, part time work, internships, and other related aspects of the students whole experience.  This plan proceeded with success for eleven years before returning to the so-called traditional pattern.

The section on Coordination, in addition, underscored the cooperation between and among institutions, professional associations, secondary schools and higher education, colleges and the job placement of students both during and following the completion of courses of study and fulfillment of graduation requirements.

Future Development

The final section of the 1937 SPPV is relatively short.  It is conceivable that the two-day conference in the cherry blossom springtime of the nation’s capital generated pressures, (i.e., duties on the home front), competing with those of the conference table.  It is certain that the member group, viewing the magna size directives of philosophy and coordination, gave reign to their responsibility believing that the future should be the task of other philosopher kings.  They reasoned that with national economic malaise, impending wars, and the surety of scientific and technical advances in the period ahead, committee clairvoyance had run its limits. (This truth is born out with the convening of the second Student Personnel Point of View committee twelve years thereafter [in] 1949 [and] which numbered many of the original convening group, as well as additional personnel.)

In the 1937 committee report, the conferees were quick to state that the life and times of the student personnel movement (now a common referent) could thrive only through sound and studied research – some to be generated in company with other agencies, bureaus, and association committees over time. For this emphasis, continuing credit is due the 1937 committee for the volume of theses and [dissertations] which has supported the profession’s growth, given status to its journals, and supported its convention programs.

In his dissertation, completed in 1973, Dr. W. W. Blaesser, Division of Higher Education, U.S. Office of Education, researched the contributions of the American Council on Education to student personnel work in higher education.  He concludes, the SPPV:

Became the most widely quoted and used statement in the field of college student personnel work. Along with the 1949 revision, it continues to be quoted or paraphrased in most articles purporting to cover the field. (p. 140)

Societal Influences: A Renegade Society?

For this writer, the 1937 SPPV, as a transcendent idea, must attach – and when disassembled – be reattached to its philosophy.  The reaffirmation:

It is the task of colleges and universities so to vitalize this and other educational purposes as to assist the student in developing to the limits of his [sic] potentialities and in making his [sic] contribution to the betterment of society.

In the countdown of intervening years, it would appear that the first command has received major attention.  The second trails.  It is possible that the betterment of society – its fulfillment – lies not within reach of the institution’s grasp or that the goal is an impossible dream or a myth.  And so, a thoughtful questioning ensues.

The two-day roundtable of April 1937 was composed of professionals knowledgeable in logic, reasoning, foresight, and skilled in communication – the far reaches of reading, writing, speaking, listening.  In what form was this accumulated wisdom shared?  With what counterparts in the classrooms, laboratories, study halls, counseling offices, and playing fields?  What did the 1937 Committee bring to the table? What did each take form the experience?  What was the society within which the sixteen interacted?

It is possible that they were influenced in their thinking in at least three ways: (1) by educational philosophers and policy makers; (2) by news media of the time; and (3) by the influence of novels and films. These may be all-too subtle stimuli or, on the other hand, too heavily weighted.

Educational Philosophers and Policy Makers

In the period of the early 1900s, the writings of Professor John Dewey (1990) were vigorously discussed, his words re-echoed:

The place of the individual in society shall be determined by the student’s own nature as discovered in the process of education…and the student’s own nature includes not merely the intellectual but also the wide range of potentialities such as habits, attitudes, ideals and aspirations. (p. X)

In an analytical review in special recognition of Dewey in the University of Chicago’s centennial, Dr. Philip Jackson (1990) has written:

Dewey’s psychology…was more a point of view than an integrated assemblage of empirically grounded facts and principles.  It was an outlook on human nature, one that depicted humans as actively striving to explore and to master their world rather than passively relating to forces impinging upon them from the outside. [pp. xxii]

The use of “point of view” as a designate of difference in thought and behavior appears to confirm the influence of Dewey psychology on the 1937 SPPVpronouncement, at least in Jackson’s discernment.

The SPPV is not a rule book.  It is not a manual for administrative policy or performance.  It is primarily an outlook focusing on college students who can, with assistance, explore and master their world and contribute to the betterment of local, national, and global society.

In 1932, Professor George Counts of Columbia University was urging educators to examine the relationship of education to social action.  Following his visits to Asia, he confronted students in classrooms and auditoriums with the question from the title of his book, Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order?8

At that time, in the marketplace of ideas, there was mandated the National Youth Administration, with its concerns for Negro youth, assumed by Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and advisor to Mrs. Roosevelt.  Thereafter in 1939, the National Youth Commission was formed under the direction of Dr. Homer Rainey posing the question of his 1937 book, How Fare American Youth? He contended: “There must be no widening gap between youth and society” (p. v).9 The Commission’s interrogation proceeded on two key questions: Shall success be measured in terms of money? and Shall there be a national service developed to enlist the loyalties of youth? Both questions have resurfaced in successive decades in policy formation.

The Influence of News Media

The period of 1938-39 was marked by President Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Newspaper editors, radio newscasters, and platform speakers addressed public policy, giving critical as well as, complimentary comment.  The foremost political theorist and journalist of the era was Walter Lippmann, regarded as a one-man State Department.  In his book, The Good Society, a 1937 publication, he stated what all counselors and advisors to students believe, “Man is an inviolable, self-respecting human person (p. X).”10

Lippmann used the term as it was used four centuries earlier (1592), stating that man must be kept sacredly free from profanation, infraction, and assault.  In one of his columns, Lippmann (1937) praised creators and visionaries; one of whom was Amelia Earhart.  He wrote:

They [discoverers like Earhart] do not know what they discover.  They do not know where their impulse is taking them.  They can give no account [in advance] [of where they are going or explain completely] where they have been.  They have been possessed for a time with extraordinary [passion which is unintelligible] in ordinary terms. (p. 348)

There are creators and visionaries who can be cited for their efforts to contribute to social betterment through philanthropy.  Boorstin (1983) calls them “discoverers” in their exploration of the universe of wealth.  In 1936, the report of John Maynard Keynes (Perkins, Leininger, & Perkins, 1987) appeared [and was] vigorously debated.  Its content was viewed both analytically and critically in the media.

As Boorstin (1983) notes, the Keynes Report (YEAR) recounted the shift of traditional economic theory from its base in the impersonal marketplace to the actual street scenes worldwide where human wastage and despair, resulting from unemployment, were rampant.

In 1937, the deaths of Andrew Mellon and John D. Rockefeller occurred.  Industrialists, financiers, and philanthropists, the two became beneficiaries for higher education in American colleges and universities following the Great Depression.  In the sessions, the conferees were reminded of the Keynes’ redefinitions of economic theory, which figured into their plans for assisting students in developing to the limits of their potential.  Out of this liaison of great wealth and great need has come some initial means for evaluating the theory born of 1937 times – education for all and employment for all.

The Influence of Novels and Films

The third influence upon conferees includes the works of writers of novels and film adaptations – Saroyan, Hemingway, Huxley, O’Neill and Steinbeck.  In the forefront were Steinbeck’s novels, Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath.  Steinbeck, holder of both Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, is viewed as a literary cameraman.  The story of George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men is one of social dropouts…”transients follow the harvests…bucking grain bags and invoking the dream of owning a little farm” (p. #)

Steinbeck raises two questions: Is the good society impossible because humanity is flawed? (Note the difference between Lippmann and Steinbeck in the assessment of man.)  And a second question: What are the economic and social barriers creating loneliness, disaffiliation and disadvantage?

Steinbeck knew America—the waterfront, the farmlands of California, its Midwest cities—as places where the benefits of the general welfare and the blessings of liberty were missing.  He was pointing, say analysts, to the gap between great charters, constitutions, declarations, and points of view as expressed in the language of law, agreement, and covenants.

The three influences – educational philosophy, communication in print and airwaves, and in novels and films – provided background for the committee of 16 who put the mood of the times, with its overlapping, interfusing and blending, into the student perspective.  What emerged was the transcendent idea – name it as you chose: a declaration, a charter, a compact, a mandate, or creed – for that time.


Theodore White wrote that the Constitution of the United States was an idea that became a nation.  It can be said that the 1937 SPPV is an idea which became a profession or, if not that, a document giving stature – a vision of possibility for becoming a profession.  So emerged the transcendent idea – one for all of higher education in America – far beyond the usual promise for its day and time.

Dr. John Opper policy analyst for the Florida Postsecondary Education Planning Commission, summarized the current struggle within the student personnel ranks:

As a profession possessing its own research base, together with standards for preparation and performance, the student personnel specialists, and student affairs and development staff demonstrate not one unified point of view but multiple views.  There are many voices, many standard bearers – these constituting a collection of points of view.  This state of affairs confuses entrants to the field, complicates decisions on general funding as well as fiscal rewards for individual performance within the field. Student personnel work continues to search for its evolving identity as a large-scale movement within the diversities of higher education.

In its membership, there is diversity almost unparalleled in other fields of specialty.  In it lies the promise of continuing strength or the warnings of epitaph in under-performance:

  • We are the business oriented: the management prone.
  • We are the keepers of records: the keepers of law.
  • We are the technically oriented: the computer “byten”.
  • We are the elder statesmen: orating from pulpit and press.
  • We are the young firebrands: pied pipers without burnout.
  • We are the humanists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, biologists, psychologists, technologists, and more.
  • For we are what O’Shaunnessey wrote in his matchless verse: “We are the Music Makers and [We are] Dreamers of Dreams.11
  • And, if permissible in print as it was in voice [in] Chicago in 1987, one could repeat the bold line of 1937: “We are the ones who do give a damn!”

Questions for Consideration

  • Like Hardee, others (e.g., Evans & Reason, 2001) consider the SPPV to be an important (if not the most important) statement of student affairs philosophy. Is the SPPV a philosophy? If so, is this philosophy sufficient to guide student affairs practice in the 21st Century?
  • Hardee posits that educational philosophy, communication (news media), and novels/film shaped the thinking of the committee of 16. How do current educational philosophy, communication (read: social media), and popular culture shape our thinking about the purpose/role of higher education?
  • An important aspect of the 1937 SPPV deals with the need to coordinate a number of activities, not the least of which was the coordination of student personnel services and academic affairs. What evidence exists that this coordination has taken place? Would Dr. Hardee be satisfied with the current state of student affairs-academic affairs collaboration?


1. Krajewski, B. (1992). Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and rhetoric. Amherst, MA:  University of Massachusetts Press.
2. We acknowledge Dr. Hardee’s assertion, but conventional usage has shortened the Student Personnel Point of View to SPPV as opposed to SPPOV.

3. Roosevelt, F. D. (1937, January 20). Second inaugural address. Retrieved from Bartleby.com: Great Books Online website” http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres50.html.
4. West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937)

5. Lindblom, C. E. (Spring, 1959) The science of “muddling through.” Public Administration Review, 19(2), 79-88.
6.  Hopkins, L. B. (1926). Personnel procedure in education: Observations and conclusions resulting from visits to fourteen institutions of higher learning. The Educational Record (Supplement, No. 3). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

7. American Council on Education consultant, E. G. Williamson, recommended to FSU a new organizational structure. It is this newly created coordinator of guidance position that Hardee assumed in 1948. In1959, she helped establish the FSU Department of Higher Education and assumed the title of professor.

8.  Counts, G. S. (1932). Dare the school to build a new social order. New York, NY: John Day, Co.

9. Rainey, H. P. (1937). How fare American youth? New York, NY: Appleton-Century.

10. “The root of the passion which has moved such men is in some measure present in all men; it is the will to live, not as an animal, but as an inviolable, self-respecting and respected, human person. Lippmann, W. (1939, December 14). Today and tomorrow: “The Bill of Rights”, New York Herald Tribune. Reprinted in Rossiter, C., & Lare, J. (Eds.). (1963). The essential Lippmann: A political philosophy for liberal democracy. New York, NY: Random House.

11. O’Shaughnessy, A. (1847). Ode. In Music and moonlight. London, England: Chatto and Windus.


American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view (American Council on Education Studies, Series 1, Vol., No. 3). Washington, DC: Author.

Boorstin, D. J. (1983).  The discoverers. New York, NY: Random House.

Dewey, J. (1990). The school and society. In J. Dewey, The school and society & The child and the curriculum. Chicago, IL. University of Chicago. (Original work published 1900).

Elliott, E. (1988). Columbia literacy history of the United StatesNew York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Gadamer, H. (1992). The expressive power of language: Of the function of rhetoric for knowledge. (Bruce Krajewski, Trans.). Publications of Modern Language Association in America, 107(2), 345-347).

Grun, B. (1946). The timetables of history: A horizontal linkage of people and events.  New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Hardee, M. D. (1959). The faculty in college counseling. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Books Company.

Jackson, P. (1990). Introduction.  In J. Dewey, The school and society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Leonard, E. A. (1956). Origins of personnel services in American higher education. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Lippmann, W. (1937, July 8). Amelia Earhart. New York Herald Tribune. [Reprinted in Avlon,

J., Angelo, J., & Louis, E. (2011). Deadline Artists: America’s greatest newspaper columns. New York, NY: Overlook Press.]

Perkins, G., Leininger, B., & Perkins, P. (1987). Benet’s reader’s encyclopedia of American literature (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

National Archives and Record Administration (1988). Celebrating the Constitution: A bicentennial retrospective. Prologue—Quarterly of the National Archives. (Special Issue) National Archives Trust Fund Board: Washington, D.C.

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (1989). Points of view 1937-1949-1987.  National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (With permission of the American Council on Education). Washington, D.C.

Schlesinger, A. M., Jr. (1983). The almanac of American history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Schlesinger, A. M., Jr. (1986). The cycles of American history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Schlesinger, A. M., Jr. (1986, July 27). The challenge of change. New York Times Magazine, pp. 20-21.

Steel, R. (1980). Walter Lippmann and the American century. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

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