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Alan Valentine(1901-1980)

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

Alan Valentine (1901-1980), Rochester's youngest president at age thirty-four, arrived at Rochester from Yale University in 1935. His fifteen-year administration saw the final years of the great depression, the many stresses and dislocations of the Second World War, and the surging enrollment that greatly taxed University facilities after the War.


Behind Valentine was a life spent in universities, with some side trips into politics and into the business world. A Quaker, born in Glen Cove, N.Y., he went to Swarthmore where he played three years of varsity football, went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and played on and coached the American 1924 Olympic champion Rugby team. He returned to teach English at Swarthmore, became Master of Pierson College at Yale, a professor of history and chairman of admissions, and finally at 34, president of richly endowed Rochester.

By March 1943, enrollment on the River Campus had fallen by one third, due to the effects of the War. It was feared that by fall 1943, it would fall even further, as low as 200, as more students and prospective students entered the service. Such drastic reduction was averted when in April 1943 a Naval V-12 unit was assigned to the University. The first Navy and Marine students arrived in July and from then until the program was phased out in 1946, it is estimated that more than 1,550 men received academic and military training.

According to George Eastman's will, the Eastman House was left to the University, to be used as the home of UR presidents. President and Mrs. Rush Rhees lived there from 1932 to 1935. Alan Valentine was in residence with his family from 1935 to 1948, when the House was established as an International Museum of Photography.

On the eve of the University's second century, its fourth president resigned. Stating that he had always planned to stay only for ten years, but that the War caused him to defer his plans, Alan Valentine submitted his resignation in November, 1949 to the Board of Trustees. Valentine had taken a year's leave of absence to become chief of Economic Cooperation (better known as the Marshall Plan) in The Netherlands, the birthplace of Rochester's fifth president.

In October 1950 Harry Truman picked the mild-appearing man for one of the nation's roughest, toughest jobs: bossing the new Economic Stabilization Agency. The precarious honor went to meteoric Alan Valentine, who quit the presidency of the University of Rochester chiefly because he was not sure (at 49) that he had made the right choice of a career.

In the 1950's when Alan Valentine penned his memoir Trial Balance he reflected retrospectively upon the England he had known as a Rhodes Scholar three decades earlier. He remembered Balliol's grace, form, style, and catholicity; he noticed that its students pursued truth "as ardently as at Columbia and Chicago but less effortfully and impatiently." In contrast, he had grown up as a Quaker Puritan with a background "remote from the fine arts" while his college, Swarthmore, represented American "parochialism." Valentine had been raised to believe in individualism, in the Republican Party, and in the absolute right and truth of American history.Now, at Oxford, he found himself surrounded by intellectuals who believed that single answers rarely explained historical questions. His Oxford experience forced Alan Valentine to reexamine his values. He wrote that if "there was much to be said for both Charles and Cromwell," then was it not also possible that "even the events of our own 1776 might have to be evaluated in a new light." Without perhaps totally being aware of it Valentine had started a lifetime journey on the "road of Oxford's open-mindedness." His scholarly quest would be to understand why Britain and America had taken separate paths in 1776.

Growing up on Long Island Alan Valentine easily absorbed the intense anglophilia of the turn of the century "eastern establishment." He was impressed by their Tudor-Stuart houses, their tennis courts, their "Scottish gardeners and English grooms," and he resolved "to win his own place in the warm sun of power." Valentine said of his youth that he grew up "half living with Robin Hood and Ivanhoe" and imagined himself as part of the "elite of the Saxons." As did many of his generation, he saw the past in the present. Thus by both background and inclination and his belief that it was "only sensible to go where money is," Oxford was a step in the right direction. There he "wallowed with enthusiasm in the muddy exhilarations of the Rugby football" and "secretly glorified in his captaincy of lacrosse and membership in the all-England team." And, he "took very kindly to sherry, whiskey, and champagne." Simply put -- like the loyalists he would one day study -- he had "made England a second home." There can be no doubt that Alan Valentine liked British and American elites and that he admired style. Valentine knew what he wanted. He had "one of the finest schoolings the world had to offer," good looks, "good fortune and good friends." In his public career Valentine would gain a practical knowledge of how influential people work. And he held command as President of the University of Rochester and Chief of the Marshall Plan in the Netherlands.


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