Cynthia Koch To Join FDR Foundation as Historian in Residence and Director of History Programming

We are ever so DEE-lighted to announce that Dr. Cynthia Koch, the past director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park, will be joining the Foundation as Historian in Residence and Director of History Programming.koch
Cynthia’s distinguished academic record (below) speaks for itself. What I would like to add is that working with Cynthia has been truly a delight. I met Cynthia at almost the very beginning of our quest at the FDR Suite, when on a lark I called the FDR Library and boldly asked to speak to the director. I was eager to let the Library know of our new endeavor, but I wasn’t really expecting her to take my call. Instead, after I announced myself, her secretary put me right through, with the note “it’s pronounced COOK, not KOCH. Suitably prepared, I offered, “Director Koch, thank you for taking the time to speak with me,” in what I hoped was my best professional voice. “Oh,” she answered “it’s always a pleasure to meet another FDR fan, and it’s Cynthia, please.” She had me right there with her friendly, no-pretense spirit, and through all the ensuing research requests and demands on her time, Cynthia was never anything but hugely patient and helpful. Now, with her retirement from service with the National Archives, she has once again showed great kindness and dedication to the FDR cause by agreeing to become our historian in residence.

Cynthia will in fact be “in residence” though still living near Hyde Park, New York. Several times a year she will occupy the Suite, conducting programs for undergraduates and alumni, making Adams the very first house to have its own presidential historian. But even more importantly, Cynthia will become the director of history programming for the extensive upcoming list of Foundation events scheduled the 2016–2018 academic years, in particular with the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor this December; the year-long celebration of the 85th anniversary of the Good Neighbor Policy in 2017; and the 120th anniversary of the Spanish American War in 2018. She looks forward this fall to offering programming that explores the political legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt in light of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

Cynthia’s appointment to the Foundation, which comes with a dual appointment to Harvard as a member of the Adams House Senior Common Room, begins July 1.

Welcome aboard, Cynthia!

 

Cynthia M. Koch received her B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She was the Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park (1999–2011), and has been on special detail for the National Archives and Records Administration for the past five years. During 2013–2016 she served as Public Historian in Residence at Bard College, where she taught courses on the Roosevelts as well as public history. Cynthia has also served as associate director of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture, and Community, an international leadership group of scholars, political leaders, and shapers of public opinion, convened by the University of Pennsylvania; executive director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities; and director of Old Barracks Museum, a Revolutionary war site in Trenton, New Jersey. She is the author and editor of works on Roosevelt, the presidential library, culture wars, and scholarship in history museums, including “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Sea: From the Atlantic to the Pacific”; “Portugal, the Azores, and the United States in the Roosevelt Years”; and “Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Short Biography” in the proceedings of three conferences on Franklin D. Roosevelt held in the Azores (Fórum Açoriano Franklin D. Roosevelt) by the Luso American Foundation (2008, 2010, 2012). Also “Franklin Roosevelt’s Dutchness: At Home in the Hudson Valley,” in Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture; “Roosevelt and His Library,” a special anniversary issue of Prologue—Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration; and FDR: A Life in Pictures. Most recently she reviewed Roger Daniels’s new biography, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal for Indiana Magazine of History (forthcoming, September). Other publications include “The Contest for American Culture Revisited,” an update of “The Contest For American Culture: A Leadership Case Study on the NEA and NEH Funding Crisis,” a chapter for Funding Challenges and Successes in Arts Education, Siu Challons-Lipton and Richard Emanuel, editors (Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishing, forthcoming); and “What About a Jobs Program”? Huffington Post, June 15, 2015,

 

70 Years Ago Today

1945 last photoAt 1 PM on April 12, 70 years ago this afternoon, a tired and worn FDR sat in the living room of his Warm Springs, Georgia cottage, surrounded by friends and family. As he signed letters and documents, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, the artist who had early taken what would turn out to be the last ever photograph of FDR (left)  stood painting his portrait at an easel nearby. The conversation was lively, the atmosphere congenial. The president turned to Shoumatoff and reminded her that they had only fifteen minutes left in the session. Suddenly, he grabbed his head complaining of a sharp pain. The president had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage that would end his life in minutes. America’s longest serving president — the man who led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II — was dead.

1945 dead“Take a look at our present world. It is manifestly not Adolf Hitler’s world. The Thousand Year Reich had a ghastly run of a dozen years. Nor is it the world of Lenin and Stalin. The Communist dream turned out to be a political, economic, and moral nightmare. Nor is it Churchill’s world. He was a great war leader, but he was the son of empire, and empires have faded into oblivion. Our world today is Roosevelt’s world.”

Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Adams House ‘38

As we enjoy this Sunday afternoon, let us take a moment to give thanks to a man who gave his life in crafting the freedoms and privileges we enjoy today.

We’re featured in Harvard Magazine!

1900 glee club 18 x 18 copy

Taken in the fall of 1900, a young FDR (front row second from left) and Lathrop Brown (front row, far right) gaze serenely into their Harvard future.

To mark the debut of the Ken Burns PBS series on the Roosevelts this Sunday,  Harvard Magazine has reprinted Geoffrey Ward’s remarks at the Sixth Annual FDR Memorial Lecture this past May. For those of you who were unable to attend, here’s your chance. Take a look HERE.

The Real Gentleman’s C

If you google the term “gentleman’s C,” chances are you’ll come up with some version of: “a grade given by certain schools (often Ivy League) to the children of wealthy or influential families in lieu of a failing grade” — that’s certainly what I always thought the term meant. But in FDR’s day, the meaning of a “gentleman’s C” was entirely different. A “C” was the grade a gentleman aspired to, so as not to seem too interested in studies and be considered a “grind.”

A 1909 verse by Robert Grant, ’73, LL.B. 1879, explains this neatly:

The able-bodied C man! He sails swimmingly along.
His philosophy is rosy as a skylark’s matin song.
The light of his ambition is respectably to pass,
And to hold a firm position in the middle of his class.

Should you try to hard, you became the stuff of parody, as the “The Grind’s Song” from the 1902 Hasty Pudding Show HI.KA.YA reveals:

I’m a typical College grind,
I look it, you’ll admit, you’ll admit, you’ll admit

You’ve heard it’s a grind to be a grind
Not a bit, not a bit, not a bit!
Just the opposite!
Don’t let my words belie my looks
My happiness is in my books

I love to work, I hate to play
For me life’s simply the other way
Don’t enlist your sympathy, I’m as happy as can be,
For to read my Latin Grammar is life in Arcadie!

To document how much things have changed, I thought you might be interested in seeing the study cards of FDR and Lathrop, president and congressman of the United States, respectively. We’ve recently received copies from the Archives, and will reproduce them for viewing in the Suite.  The upper right hand corner reveals their entrance examination results, and year by year grades proceed from left to right across the bottom.

Click on each to view them full scale.

 

UAIII_15_75_10_F_Box_7_Brown_Lathrop UAIII_15_75_10_F_Box_7_Roosevelt_Franklin

As you can see, both FDR and Lathrop (especially Lathrop!) eschewed any possibility of being viewed as a grind! I find this fascinating, not only because it reveals a student ethos so foreign to the current one, but also because it shows the level of grade inflation since the Vietnam War when most universities across the country, including Harvard, felt the pressure of keeping students from falling below a B average and thereby opening them up to the draft. The result was a rapid escalation of grades, to the point where the average grade at Harvard is now -A. (One of our undergraduates recently made the suggestion during a Suite tour that there hadn’t been grade inflation at all, rather that the current students were just smarter, which left me and several of my peers a moment to wonder at the folly of youth.)

On an entirely different subject, today is the last day of the fiscal year, and our coffers are looking uncomfortably bare, given the roster of programming we have planned for the next academic year. I’d like to urge any of you who have been thinking about making a contribution to the numerous activities of the Foundation, that now is time to so! It’s quick, secure and takes only a few seconds online.