Raising money for Johns Hopkins has always been high
on the "to do" list for every president
since the university's first, Daniel Coit Gilman. The need
to bring in financial support was especially
critical in the 1935-36 academic year.
A Half Century Fund, conducted between 1922 and 1926
in conjunction with the university's
50th anniversary celebration, raised about $7 million, but
nearly half of that was designated for the
Wilmer Institute, and most of the remaining funds were
targeted for specific purposes that did not
always coincide with the administration's priorities.
By 1932, with the Great Depression in full bloom,
investment income had fallen dramatically.
Accumulated deficits amounted to $600,000. Expenditures
were slashed, and economies were imposed
throughout the university. The faculty took voluntary 10
percent salary reductions.
A new president, Isaiah Bowman, arrived in July 1935.
He immediately set out to find funds to
pull Johns Hopkins from its precarious position. A 1936
Sustaining Fund was launched, and the first
year's receipts covered a $171,000 shortfall for that year
and the next two years.
Bowman was making the "case" for supporting Johns
Hopkins wherever he could. He got the
attention of editors at Time magazine, and they put his
picture on the cover of the March 23, 1936,
edition. An accompanying 2,800-word article, under the
headline "Scholars Without Money," described
the university's key role in American higher education,
research and clinical medicine, and spelled out
its financial plight.
Bowman traveled frequently to New York City to meet
with potential donors. He recorded the
expenses of one of his trips in May 1936, in a memorandum
now in the Hamburger Archives of the
Eisenhower Library. Rail fare was $13.30, with additional
charges for a "seat and berth to Baltimore"
at $4.25. He made 10 phone calls at $.16 each. A room at
the Columbia University Club was $3, and
taxi fares amounted to $4.40.
On that trip he had hoped to see two of New York's
most influential, and wealthy, citizens,
Henry Morgenthau and Bernard Baruch. The meetings were
canceled. When he returned to Baltimore,
the ever-optimistic Bowman wrote to the two men to
reschedule his appointments. Among other
things, he wrote, "I am sure that after such a talk you
would want to contribute generously." The
record does not indicate whether he saw them again or
whether they became donors.
That same year the university's campaign received an
unexpected and unusual assist from an
unlikely source — Harvard University. Bowman told the
trustees that he had received a letter from one
George Simmons, regional chairman of Harvard's 300th
Anniversary Fund. Simmons told Bowman that
Harvard's president, James Bryant Conant, would postpone
Harvard's campaign in Baltimore "until
whatever you may wish to do [in your campaign] has been
There was no end to campaigning for funds. The
Sustaining Fund was followed, in the early days
of World War II, by the Continuing Fund of 1942. Then, as
now, alumni and friends stepped forward
to support the university and the medical institutions.
This is part of an occasional series of historical
pieces by Ross Jones, vice president and secretary
emeritus. A 1953 graduate of Johns Hopkins, Jones returned
in 1961 as assistant to President Milton
S. Eisenhower and was a close aide to six of the
university's 13 presidents.