Millard E. Gladfelter rose from teaching in York County schools to the rank of president of Temple University. Background posts: Christ Lutheran is oldest York church – but how old? and Glatfelter, Morgan Smith head industrial legacy list and Glatfelter family history is as clear as … paper.
Millard E. Gladfelter, of the York County Gladfelters, hit for the cycle in the educational game.
He taught in one-room York County schools. He taught at West York High School. He served as principal there. And later supervising principal of West York schools.
And still later, he became president of Temple University.
Yes, that giant university in Philadelphia.
And he helped make it so.
He is one of many successful descendents of Casper Glattfelter, who came to York County in 1743.
His last name is spelled with a “d,” different from the papermaking Glatfelters, but he’s still a Glattfelter.
Millard Gladfelter died at the age of 95 in 1995.
His obituary, as distributed by Knight-Ridder wire service (2/16/09), tells about this popular, profoundly Pennsylvania Dutch educator, who never forgot his York County roots.
Millard E. Gladfelter, 95, the former Temple University president who guided the school through eight years of energetic growth and who worked to redefine the role of the urban university, died Sunday at his home in Rydal Park.
During his tenure from 1959 to 1967, Temple doubled its faculty, reorganized its first two undergraduate years, expanded its research activity, added four schools or colleges, erected seven buildings and started seven others, and dramatically increased enrollment.
He also got Temple designated a state-related school, a move that immediately cut tuition in half and gave the university “the clear-cut role of expanding educational opportunities in the area,” Dr. Gladfelter said at the time. “Of all his accomplishments, the most important was his successful drive for Temple to become a state-related university,” said Temple President Peter J. Liacouras, who ordered the school’s flags lowered to half-staff.
Dr. Gladfelter was born in York County. He seemed born to be an educator. In 1918, he was teaching all eight grades at the one-room schoolhouse in York where he had been a student only four years earlier. He was just 18 years old. He had applied for and received his teaching credentials after two years of high school and two years of prep school.
He then taught for three years to earn tuition to Gettysburg College. His savings paid for the first year, but to get through the next two he had to go into debt. He earned his bachelor’s degree in three years by going to summer school and by carrying large course loads. One semester he carried 21 credit hours.
After graduating in 1925, he became the principal and the history teacher at West York High School. During the summers he earned his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin. In 1928, he was appointed supervising principal of the West York schools.
He arrived at Temple in 1930 as principal of the junior-senior high school and immediately found a home. In 1931, he was named registrar. He was appointed vice president in 1941 and provost in 1946. He was elected president unanimously by the board of trustees in May 1959. He received a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1945.
One of seven siblings, he grew up in Glatfelter’s Station, on land settled by his great-great-great-grandfather, Casper Glattfelder, in 1743. Although he moved away from the area when he was barely 30, he preserved it in his affections and portrayed it in scores of oil paintings he turned out during his lifetime.
Scenes from his boyhood home, especially barns with hex signs, were among his favorite subjects. One of the many paintings that brightened the walls of his offices at Temple was Beck’s School No. 9, the school he attended and where he first taught. He spoke the dialect of the Pennsylvania Dutch and was recognized as a historian of the group.
And he brought with him to Philadelphia some of the light-hearted aspects of the culture in which he grew up. In 1938, Dr. Gladfelter formed the Grundsow Lodge Nummer Drei fon Filadelfy (Groundhog Lodge Number 3 of Philadelphia) for those who, like himself, believed in the fortune-telling power of groundhogs. In 1963, the Evening Bulletin reported, the lodge met in Mitten Hall at Temple, and Dr. Gladfelter, then president of the university, was also “Erwartiger Haabman,” or honored president of the lodge.
To mark his 25th anniversary at Temple, the public information office prepared a cake that poked gentle fun at his heritage: Pictured on the icing was the provost with his feet up on a desk and a distelfink, a mythical bird symbolic of good luck, on his shoulder. The inscription was to “Gladdie, who wears wonderful good after 25 years.” He liked the cake so much, he put it in the freezer and kept it for three years. It was finally devoured at a party by his 17 nieces and nephews.
Photograph courtesy of “A History of York County Academy”