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He Was Ever Co-Optimistic: Herman Schneider, Co-op’s Founder


The straight-laced photos of Dean Herman Schneider belie the warm portrait of him that can be drawn from well-loved tales told by those who remember him.

Date: 8/10/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover and from UC Archives

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He reads like a big-gauge Renaissance man: architect, bridge builder, award-winning story writer, essayist, educator, researcher, labor mediator, wartime administrator, art collector and even university president, serving as president of UC from 1929 to 1932.  But he never brayed and was happiest and proudest in his modest role as the College of Engineering’s first dean, the man who dragged UC from the ivory tower into the world’s foundries and factories, mines and machine shops.  Yet, none of this tells you who the man was, really.


Herman’s grace, humor, generosity and human foibles still shine through more than 60 years after his death of a heart attack – on the job of course – on March 28, 1939.  His former students can always conjure up a choice memory of the man who taught even while serving as dean and who also, in co-op’s early years – took responsibility for placing all of his co-op “boys” and visiting them on the job.  He invariably invited each student to his house for Sunday evening chat sessions and knew all of them by name. 

One-time student John Johnson was sure he was going to have to drop out of school when his father died unexpectedly during the Depression.  Johnson went to the dean’s office and informed the secretary that he would be leaving the program.  Schneider’s secretary told him to return in a few hours to meet with the dean.  “The dean told me that my grades made me qualified for a scholarship tuition loan,” Johnson writes.  “He also said the people in Cincinnati had made funds available to him to help students who needed financial assistance for living expenses.  He then handed me a $50 check.

“…I had the opportunity to see the dean as a very warm, caring person,” Johnson recalls.  "He was efficient, prepared, knew my needs and had a logical plan…”

Marguerite Whitney, today, makes a run for ice cream just as she did when working for Dean Schneider.

Another alum, Marguerite Whitney, a 1938 graduate of the business program, has the sweetest memories of Dean Schneider.  While a student, Whitney co-opped in the dean’s office for two summers, assisting the executive secretary.  Recalls Whitney, “I can still picture Dean Schneider.  He would go up to Michigan in the summers to vacation, but he always left ice-cream money for the office staff.  I was married, and my husband had a job.  So, I was the one in the office who had a car.  It was my job to make a run…for ice cream.  I always had all these orders to fill.  I can still remember that Barb Kiessling, the registrar, always had one dip of chocolate and one dip of peach….”

Whitney further insists that this ice cream was no luxury but a necessity.  “We needed it because it was always so hot in the summers in Baldwin Hall!  We didn’t have air conditioning.  I can’t even recall that we had a fan.  We’d pull the shades down to keep the sun out, but that meant no air flow.  I remember working one Saturday till 4 p.m. when we had to get some letters out.  It was 104 degrees that day.”

Painting of Dean Schneider, fully and formally attired, while vacationing at the beach in Michigan.

When pondering how she got the ice cream back to the office without a melt down, Whitney laughs, “I don’t know anymore.  Maybe I was the only one who had ice cream, and everyone else had ice milk?”

Such recollections wax hot and cold on Dean Schneider.  Marie Seuberling Ludeke, a business graduate from 1940, also worked as a secretary at UC from 1935-1940.  She recalls that Dean Schneider always walked.  He would never drive due to his weak eyesight.  The young secretary and her brother would often stop to give the dean a ride to work when they spotted him at the bottom of University Avenue where the No. 35 streetcar dropped him off.  And no matter how cold the winter morning, Dean Schneider would always roll down all the windows in the car. 

Similarly, he always rode on the open back end of the city’s streetcars.  It seems that after enduring the threat of consumption and an honest-to-God-case of malaria when he was young, Schneider was germ phobic and always glad to seek fresh air which, in his opinion, guaranteed a “germ-free” environment.  Whatever his reasons, Ludeke was just grateful for one thing: “…on winter mornings, I was glad it was a short ride!”

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