International House is indebted to Eleanor Irvine Davisson (IH1940-'42) for her reflections on her experiences as a student and as a staff member. Following are excerpts. The House is especially grateful to Mrs. Davisson for her donation of Seladdin Kurtepelli's prayer rug, noted below. Mrs. Davisson, who will celebrate her 92nd birthday in June, now resides in Pacific Grove, California.
It was in the Sacramento Sierra Camera Club that I first met James Madison Stephens who was to become a lifetime friend. He was a resident of International House and was the official House photographer. When he heard that I was entering U.C., he convinced me that International House would be the perfect place to live. There were so many brilliant and fascinating individuals from far away places. Some of them are unforgettable and are vividly remembered even after fifty years.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was a physics research scientist from Nanking, China, and was the only woman to receive a Ph.D. in Physics from Professor Ernest O. Lawrence. M. Louis Foy was a correspondent for French and American newspapers. Abdul Kerim Huseyin Kami Kay from Turkey, was to become a key consultant for our State Department in Washington on Far Eastern affairs. Valentine Vasilevsky, a refugee from Russia, was a former member of the Bolshoi Ballet. Mohamed Selim, from Egypt, was to become one of the key engineers in the construction of the Aswan Dam. Peter Franck had been put in a concentration camp twice for his anti-Hitler policies. Charan Singh, one of the leading sikh poets of the day from India, was always scribbling little gems on any handy piece of paper.
Seladdin Kurtepelli, a graduate student from Adana, Turkey, was highly motivated to go into the import-export business with his uncle in Istanbul. How deeply grieved I was when it was found that he was stricken with acute leukemia. He only lasted for about six months. He had turned to me to wind up his affairs. What a dear friend he was and how deeply touched I was when he insisted that I have his prayer rug to remember him by. When I look at the many repair stitches in it, it is obvious that many prayers were said as he and his family members had used it during the years.
1942 saw the draft in full force and our American residents leaving for uncertain futures. Ration stamps, shortage of meat, butter, eggs, and other items changed the menus in our dining room noticeably. No longer could our chef, Mr. Monihan, treat us with his gourmet meals and international delicacies.
The Quarterly journal had a circulation of about 5,000 and was sent all over the world to the Alumni members. The Berkeley area membership was approximately 400. In addition there were business and budget meetings and many social programs to be arranged.
I was asked to become the Assistant to the Director and Director of Admissions. The selection of the 450 Berkeley residents and the 250 non-resident members required careful checking of character and personal qualifications of each applicant (and there were thousands) by personal interviews and letters of recommendation. The policy was to admit one-third American citizens and two-thirds foreign students with emphasis on the graduate student. It was a serious decision in each case, for the acceptance or refusal would have a profound effect on the applicant's life. No one could have realized it more than I did and I only hoped the right decisions were made.
The biggest problem was with some of the American girls. The majority of the foreign boys, regardless of their native land, were so much more sophisticated and emotionally mature than their American counterparts. This was an irresistible challenge and as a result many of them turned on their sophisticated charm and appeal and some of the girls were unable to resist this new approach to their emotions. As a result, the regular staff members had a new assignment: to watch for imminent situations and to see that they would not develop into problems. It had to be kept in mind, however, that the majority were over twenty-one and could not be treated as teenagers. It was a diplomatic approach that was called for.
The U.S. Navy commandeered International House for its use, as of the summer session, 1943. This meant an upheaval of staff, residents, supplies, and equipment. As Admissions Director, aided by two other staff members, I was kept busy canvassing some of the empty fraternity houses around the campus that would suit our needs and standards. Four of them were selected, two on the north and two on the south side of the campus.
The Navy renamed International House "Callaghan Hall" and put two people in each room with bunk beds. Only after the war was over and the Navy had put things back into order, did International House come back into the campus community to play its intended role.
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