Whatever Became of Julius Rosenwald and William Schuman?

Have you ever opened the old photo album of a parent or grandparent and wondered, “Who are these people?” So many smiling faces lost to the passage of time.

We spend lots of effort at the job of being remembered. No one wants to be forgotten, unless, like the old-time actress Greta Garbo, you “want to be alone.”

Indeed, one of the chief reasons people skip high school reunions is the fear of not being recalled.

Look around you at the buildings. Once gone, the person whose name appears on the edifice loses control. Buildings get torn down, names get changed.

Take Dyche Stadium, Northwestern University’s football field in Evanston, Illinois. The edifice opened in 1926, named after William Dyche, an NU grad in the Class of 1882, who later became the Mayor of Evanston and oversaw the venue’s creation. To the dismay of the Dyche family, NU sold the rights to the name in 1997 to Pat Ryan, then the Chairman of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees. For eight-million dollars, Dyche Stadium became Ryan Field.

256px-Ryan_Field

Percy Bysshe Shelley would have understood. His poem Ozymandias tells a similar story about the collapse and destruction of an ancient monument to a once formidable and arrogant ruler. An inscribed pedestal is the only thing left:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/af/S_F-E-CAMERON_EGYPT_2005_RAMASEUM_01319.JPG/256px-S_F-E-CAMERON_EGYPT_2005_RAMASEUM_01319.JPG

If the exception proves the rule, then we should talk about Julius Rosenwald. You probably don’t know his name and Rosenwald wouldn’t have cared.

Julius Rosenwald (pictured at the top) was President of Sears, Roebuck, and Company from 1908 to 1924, and the Chairman of its Board until his death in 1932. In 1917 he established the Rosenwald Fund, a charitable enterprise designed to have no endowment, i.e. an untouchable bankroll to be invested for the purpose of the charity’s survival. Rather, Rosenwald intended the Fund to disperse grants “for the well-being of mankind” until there was nothing left. The money was gone by 1948; and with it, any chance we might hear about it in our time. Only a 2015 documentary on the philanthropist’s life has (for the moment) reintroduced his name to the public.

During its existence Rosenwald’s fund distributed about $70 million, with much money going to the establishment of over 5000 schools in the South, aimed at educating black youth. Rosenwald was also a principal founder of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, seeding it with five-million dollars and serving as its president from 1927 to 1932. At the time, people in Chicago were as likely to refer to the structure as the “Rosenwald Museum” as they were the Museum of Science and Industry.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4e/Museum_of_Science_and_Industry.jpg/512px-Museum_of_Science_and_Industry.jpg

William Schuman’s name, on the other hand, was never a household word. But in his day (1910-1992), only Aaron Copland was a more prominent living American composer in the classical world. Moreover, as president of the Juilliard School and then of the emerging Lincoln Center, no one had a greater influence on serious music in the middle portion of the last century. Schuman also wrote 10 symphonies among other works, and won the first Pulitzer Prize ever given for musical composition. His Symphony #3 is arguably the greatest such piece written by an American.

William Schuman: Symphony No. 3

Yet, the centenary of his birth in 2010 was hardly noticed by performing groups and the major US orchestras pay him little attention. I asked an orchestral executive why, with few exceptions, deceased 20th century Americans like Schuman are not performed. His wry answer: once dead “it is easier to say ‘no’ to them.” All the friends in high places who programmed Schuman’s music are now gone, along with his music, except for occasional performances and recordings. The musicians and executives of our own time don’t know his work and don’t care, or so it seems.

Schuman would have agreed, I suspect, with the notion that a composer’s life is like trying to create art on a block of ice on a hot day in July, to paraphrase Arthur Miller. In other words, you hope those notes will last and be played, but the odds are against you.

Shakespeare treated the fleeting memory of our existence more gently in the words he gave to Prospero, the sorcerer, in The Tempest. Prospero’s comment comes as he ends a brief staged performance — a play within a play. What he says refers not only to the matter of creating illusions in the theater, but also to the insubstantial and temporary nature of life itself, not just our names:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air…

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The irony implicit in Shelley’s and Shakespeare’s words is that while they talk of the transience of things, their names and works live on. Though it’s not called Dyche Stadium any more, the place Dyche built still stands along with the “Rosenwald Museum.”

Got to run. A recording of Schuman’s Symphony #3 is coming on the radio. Perhaps his music, like that of Gustav Mahler, will be revived 50-years after his death.

The future is full of surprises.

Who knows. Somebody at the reunion might remember you after all.

The top video is the trailer for the 2015 documentary, Rosenwald. The 1970 photo of Ryan Field (formerly Dyche Stadium) comes from Greenstrat. Steve F-E-Cameron is the author of the Temple of Ramses II, Luxor, Egypt. The photo of the Museum of Science and Industry is courtesy of Knarfol. All of these are sourced from Wikimedia Commons. The final image is the Columbia LP (long playing record) cover of William Schuman’s Symphony #3 with the smiling Schuman facing the photographer.

17 thoughts on “Whatever Became of Julius Rosenwald and William Schuman?

  1. Beautiful post. Perhaps it matters less that we are remembered once we are gone, and more that we pursue opportunities today for the good of mankind.

    Like

    • Thanks, Jenny. I certainly believe we should make the effort you have described. I do wish, however, that some of the greatest artistic efforts of the past are not performed so often as they deserve. But, as I mentioned at the end of the post, composers like JS Bach and Gustav Mahler did surface after some decades. Then, too, Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime, but is now well-loved.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr. Stein, right now I’m listening to Schuman’s Symphony #3, available on YouTube. Over 37,000 people have watched/listened to this video. His work survives.
    Thanks for mentioning Julius Rosenwald. His work, too, lives on in shaping the lives of many African Americans.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rosaliene. I suppose the question depends on one’s vantage point. My most popular post received more views in the past year than Schuman’s 37K YouTube auditions. There should be no competition. He should be far, far ahead of me. Indeed, my guess is that most classical listeners, to the extent that they believe they have heard his name, confuse it with the great German 19th century Romantic composer Robert Schumann. But your point is well-taken — he has not vanished, though in my judgment he deserves a much wider audience. Re: Rosenwald, you are welcome. He was quite a remarkable man, especially when one considers the virtual absence of educational opportunities for African Americans in the USA in the period before the Great Depression and long after.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These kind of people are so inspiring, especially when doing good for others goes against what’s popular or what is the norm. I’ve noticed to that sometimes doing good for others puts you on a ‘side’ as if doing something for someone means you are against someone else rather than that you are coming to the aid of someone because that person is in need and its just basic human decency to help if you can. I think for Rosenwald he wouldn’t really care about making a name for himself, he could have done that in a more popular way, but that ‘there is more happiness in giving than in recieving’. As we can see in the video of the students who went to the schools, they will never forget him because of the difference he made to there lives.
    Others to who made a big difference because they stood up when it wasn’t popular, in fact it was just down right dangerous, are the Freedom Riders and Little Rock Nine. These ones also changed the history of the African American people. I don’t think they were worried about making a name for themselves, just that they could no longer live with themselves or live with the blatant injustices without doing something, that being silent was no longer an option for them. I know I wont change history or probably be remembered but knowing that a person can show courage in the face of incredible odds and paralysing fear has given me the strength to rise above my own personal injustice and grow and not become embittered. Thanks for another wonderful post Gerald.

    Like

    • You are welcome, Claire. Most of us, myself included, won’t be remembered past the lifespans of those who knew us. And, as you have suggested, it really ought not matter — only the good works we can do that perhaps create a bit of a positive domino effect in the world.

      Like

  4. When I think of the good Julius Rosenwald did from the money he made at Sears, I am all the more saddened by what the Walmart money does (and doesn’t do).

    Like

  5. I appreciate the reminders of what people CAN do with their money. Hats off to the philanthropists among us (even if no one remembers!).
    High school reunions? I never attended any of them mostly because I moved far away geographically from that community once I left high school. Additionally, although I was well liked enough (no mean behaviors directed at me) I never felt as if I belonged in that school. It was an upscale Catholic high school and I attended on a scholarship – talk about uncomfortable socio-economic class division. I was never particularly interested in seeing those kids again and wanted to leave high school far behind.

    Like

    • Thanks, JT. Yes, money has many uses, and as has been suggested, research says giving actually makes you feel better than spending on yourself. Glad to hear you survived high school. Many feel like they should receive combat pay instead of a diploma!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In the end nothing matters. Few are seen or heard, let alone remembered. Most of us are but background noise, the “hollow men”, not the “stuffed men”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A bold and courageous statement. For myself, however, I have found much that matters: love, beauty, kindness, art, learning, and even the courage you displayed in writing what you did. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been thinking about this comment for a couple of days now. It’s rather haunting and I see the truth in it. I agree that it is unusual to really feel seen or heard. In my own little world, I like to think that I make a conscious effort to genuinely see and hear those around me (at least some of the time). It’s hard to do sometimes as I think I get caught in my own need to be seen and heard. Complex, this living business. I agree that we may very well be background noise that pings around the what? cosmos? It’s too big to imagine. Background noise can be both intrusive and soothing at the same time.

      Perhaps what matters is how the world is affected when we have moved on to whatever comes next after this life (even if that includes nothingness). I have attended four funerals in the last year. Two in particular will always stay with me because I changed as a result of those deaths. I appreciated the lives of all four people but I am different because of what those two deaths, in particular , taught me. Will those two people be remembered in 100 years? Doubtful. They were just ordinary people living ordinary lives. They was nothing huge about their lives except for the impact that they had when they died. And that impact reverberated in my community and, I dare say, many other people were affected by those deaths. Sadly, I think the community is a better place because of those deaths. We are holding each other just a little tighter because these two left us. And in their leaving they taught us a bit more about how to live.

      Your comments stayed with me because I often feel as if nothing matters. I am in my 60’s and recently left a community service related occupation. Sometimes the rat race felt just like that and I was the rat running so fast for nothing. I have had some time for reflection in recent months but I can’t say I have any answers. I, too, admire your courage for saying your truth. In doing so, you’ve given me a chance to consider my own. Thank you,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for adding to the mix in response to Brewdun. My condolences on your losses. The random injuries, especially when they are visited upon the young, are surely the most difficult and raise the most questions, as do the multiple simultaneous losses such as your own.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. And don’t forget William Blake. What an imaginative and thoughtful poet and artist but a man who was not even acknowledged until years after his death. He would fit in well with countercultural thoughts today.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s