WEBEXTRA'S :: Oberlin Roots
Gentle Ones: For what it's worth, here is the story of my Oberlin family
connections. My grandmother, Adele Matthews, attended Buchtel College
in Akron for four years, but decided that her true calling was in music,
so enrolled in Oberlin Conservatory in 1889. I still have her tuition
receipts. (I think I gave a photocopy of one to the Archives.) At age
24, she did not live in a dormitory for girls but rented a room in a "new" house
on Elm St. (still standing). She studied piano and voice; Prof. Rice and
his wife were teachers of hers. In 1892 she went to Berlin to study voice
there. She finally received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1906. By this
time she was the mother of four children. Her two oldest, both boys, attended
Oberlin Academy. Thereon Matthews was thrilled to be an underclassman
and was allowed to take a room in the new Men's Building. His brother,
Gerald, was in the last class to matriculate before the Academy folded.
The two youngest were girls, the older one my mother, Lillian. They were
only one year apart in age, so they entered school at the same time, and
entered Oberlin together, too. Her sister Helen, however, was deemed to
be the one with musical talent, and so the plan was to see her through
graduation with a music degree, while my mother would be allowed to attend
as long as there was money. Lillian picked out all the courses that appealed
to her---music, drama, art---and avoided those that did not, since she
had no burden of graduation requirements. In the end, she did attend for
four years. She was a protege of P. D. Sherman of Oberlin Dramatic Association,
who urged her to consider the professional stage, but she went instead
for a director's job with the John B. Rogers Company, which traveled the
U.S. and Canada putting on amateur theatricals in small towns which otherwise
would have had no opportunity to experience live theater. Shift now to
my family. My older brother James entered Oberlin in the post-war years
1947-1951, being one of the few who initiated the radio station WOBC.
He broadcast Oberlin's baseball games, and favored playing jazz records.
I tried hard to be independent and not be swept into the Oberlin current,
but in the end, it had the twin programs I was looking for: harp instruction
and an education major. My mother thought I should go into Music Education,
but that did not appeal to me. As to the fourth generation, only my brother's
son Chris entered Oberlin, but he found his love in journalism and transferred
to Northwestern University to pursue a degree there. I'm not sure what
benefit legacy students are to the college, but to me it means a shared
experience, even with those members of the family I never knew. By the
way, I have a photo of my grandmother with friends taken while at Oberlin.
I have been reading the latest OAM and the article on Oberlin roots.
There you asked for other contributions to the Oberlin legacy and so I
am adding our part. So far the Dart family has had six generations attend
Oberlin. Here is a summary of what I know: My great-grandmother, Maretta
O. Whedon, was an Oberlin graduate of the class of 1847 (156 years ago)
when the college was only 14 years old. Two years later she married Hervey
Leonard. Two of their children, David and Mary (my grandmother) went to
Oberlin College; David in 1870-73 and Mary in the Conservatory 1869-70
and college 1872-77. My grandfather, Francis Henry Dart (who married Mary
Leonard) was an Oberlin graduate of the class of 1868. He had two brothers,
Benjamin W. Dart and Sidney Kellogg Dart who attended Oberlin in the 1870s.
My grandparents were married in 1880 and had two children: my father,
F. Sidney Dart, class of 1910 and my aunt, Helen Maretta Dart, class of
1912. Then came my generation (the fourth at Oberlin) three of whom graduated
from Oberlin. My sister, Ruth, graduated in 1936, my brother, Francis,
in 1937 and I in 1940. In the next generation (the fifth) one of our four
children, Mary, went to Oberlin (class of 1966), although her cousin,
Helen Dart, (Francis' daughter) also went there (class of 1967) and Sidney
Smith (Ruth Dart Smith's son) attended for one year. In the sixth generation
Beth (our son David's daughter) went to Oberlin and graduated in 1995.
Tess Coppieters (our daughter Sarah's daughter) has been attending Oberlin
but has taken a leave just now. I hope that this will be helpful in keeping
up to date. We have other roots to the town of Oberlin but the above is
what relates to the college. If you have any questions about this please
feel free to ask.