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Herman Receives an Unringing Endorsement to Test Run His Idea

Co-op was criticized from the first.  Labor organizers though it might be a scheme to train strike breakers, and many a manufacturer was unwilling to take on mere schoolboys.  And even within the academy, faculty were openly hostile to the notion, predicting it would languish and die.

Date: 8/10/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: From UC Archives and Carnegie Mellon Archives

UC ingot  

The 1906 proposition by Herman Schneider, co-op’s founder, squeaked by the University of

Schneider in his office

Cincinnati board with a single vote to spare.  All in all, it was a soggy, doubt-laden contract, as evidenced by the wording of the consent:  “We hereby grant the right to Dean Schneider to try, for one year, this cooperative idea of education…[for] the failure of which, we will not assume responsibility.”  It was an unringing endorsement if ever there was one, but Schneider quietly delighted in it for the rest of his life.  In after years, he publicly preserved the board’s painfully reluctant permission on his office wall.

A $13 million idea
Early in the last century, one-time UC President Charles Dabney sat down to dinner in New York City with steel baron Andrew Carnegie, a mega-industrialist and philanthropist of the time.  Of the evening, Dabney later wrote:

Andrew Carnegie

“After dining with him (Carnegie) at his house on Fifth Avenue…we were sitting in his library, discussing the problems of engineering education.  He was telling me about the great institution he had built for training young men and women in Pittsburgh and its splendid equipment.  He was very proud of it.  Suddenly, he stopped his narration, turned to me and said, ‘Dabney, I hear you have no shops for your engineering college in Cincinnati.  How in the world do you get along without them?’

I explained to him that Cincinnati had a great variety of fine shops representing almost every branch of industry and that we used them.  ‘How in the world can you do that?’ he asked.  In reply, I explained to him the method of our cooperative course.  He listened intently and after remaining silent for a few moments, turned to me and said, ‘Then, you mean to tell me that I have spent $13 millions of dollars in building shops for my school in Pittsburgh when I might have used the shops they already had there?’  And, he added, ‘And I have had to keep them up to date at great expense; and right now, the president (of Pittsburgh’s then Carnegie Institute of Technology) is soliciting me for a million or more to build some more shops.  Do you mean to say that I have spent all of this money when I need not have done so?’”

Return to main page of "Co-op Special Report."
Return to main page of excerpts from The Ivory Tower and The Smokestack.

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