Oberlin College Archives

Donald Melbourne Love (1894-1974)

Personal Papers, 1868, 1882, 1891-1974
Biography

Donald Melbourne Love was born in Bloomingville, Ohio, near Sandusky, on September 15, 1894. He was the only child of Melbourne Thomas Love (1860-1937), the village storekeeper and postmaster, and Grace De Lamatre Love (1866-1935), a graduate of the Connecticut Training School for Nurses. Love received his early education in a one-room district schoolhouse. After graduating from Sandusky High School in 1912, he entered Oberlin College where he began lifelong friendships with classmates Frederick B. Artz (1894-1983), Edgar W. King (1893-1969), Allan Fisk Rood (1894-1971), Edward Franklin Bosworth (1894-1957), Grace Schauffler (1894-1982), and Mary S. Yocom (1894-1968). Love majored in economics, winning election to Phi Beta Kappa during his senior year. In December 1915, President Henry Churchill King (1858-1934) chose Love as Oberlin's delegate on the Peace Ship to Scandinavia hastily chartered by automaker Henry Ford (1863-1947) to end hostilities in Europe.

Following his graduation from Oberlin in 1916, Love taught mathematics, history, economics, and English in high schools in St. Charles, Illinois (1916-17), Alliance, Ohio (1917-18), and Youngstown, Ohio (1918-26). In September 1926, he was appointed Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin and invited to teach the English Department's annual "Introduction to Literature" course. Thus began thirty-six years of service to Oberlin College, during which time Love held six administrative positions, more than anyone else has held in the College's history. From 1929 to 1935, while Assistant Dean, he served concurrently as Registrar; in 1935, he was appointed Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He remained Acting Dean until 1937, when he again occupied the post of Registrar. In 1938, he was named Secretary of Oberlin College, succeeding George M. Jones (1870-1948), who had been the first to hold that office (1899-1938). During the absence of President William E. Stevenson (1900-85) from May to September 1959, Love was named Acting President of Oberlin College; he was then serving as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1959-60).

Donald Love is best remembered for his twenty-four year tenure as Secretary of Oberlin College. Under Love, the influence of the Secretary within the college's administrative and academic branches reached its peak. From 1938 until his retirement in 1962, he applied to his official tasks his broad learning, keen judgment, and humanistic ideals. Love saw in President Henry Churchill King the embodiment of those ideals. Love's duties included serving as Secretary for the Board of Trustees (of which he was not a member) and the Prudential Committee (of which he was a member from 1935). His minutes were widely considered works of art as well as official accounts of the meetings. For the Trustees, he prepared reports showing the proceedings of all of the groups whose records he maintained. In his capacity as records creator and records keeper, Love was Oberlin's first unofficial archivist. His genuine interest in preserving Oberlin's history made him an early champion of an archives at Oberlin. For his long dedication to Oberlin, Love was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 1960, and in 1963, the Alumni Association awarded him its highest honor, the Alumni Medal.

Donald Love always considered himself an educator rather than an administrator. Although his formal teaching at Oberlin was limited to the annual "Introduction to English Literature," he taught the course from 1926 until 1965, bringing to life for generations of Oberlin students the splendors of the English literary tradition. His relentless intellectual curiosity contributed to his skills as a teacher. He remained a student of English letters, attending summer sessions at Middlebury (1921) and at Oberlin College (1922, 1924, 1925), and a winter session at Harvard University in 1937-38. Love combined his interests in education, literature, and travel by conducting the summer tour to the British Isles, "Backgrounds of English History and Literature," for the Massachusetts-based Bureau of University Travel in 1950 and 1955.

Known for his fluidity of speech and grace in writing, Love was in demand as a speaker at town gatherings, at College events, and at events outside Oberlin. In academic year 1954-55, President Stevenson granted Love a leave of absence in which to write the biography of President Henry Churchill King. Published in 1956 by Yale University Press, Henry Churchill King of Oberlin was warmly praised by its reviewers. Success in this scholarly endeavor led in 1962 to a request by Board of Trustees that he complete Robert S. Fletcher's History of Oberlin College by extending its narrative from the Civil War to 1925. The project was never initiated, as Love lacked not the ability but the temperament to carry out the considerable archival research required; Love even confessed in a 1969 letter to Ralph Singleton his lack of interest in "grubbing around" in the College's records, many of which he had written himself.

In addition to his administrative and teaching duties for the College, Love was dedicated to the welfare of the town; to Oberlin citizens, he was known as "Mr. Oberlin." Love served the First Church in Oberlin in numerous capacities during the period from 1940 to his death in 1974, including those of trustee, moderator, deacon, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Council, chairman of the Cabinet Committee, and Pastoral Committee member. He served as a board member or officer of such civic organizations as the Oberlin Auto Club, Oberlin City Club, Oberlin United Appeal, Oberlin Chamber of Commerce, Peoples Bank (now defunct), and the Oberlin Community Chest. Love was the first secretary of the Oberlin Historical and Improvement Organization (1964-74) and president of its predecessor body, the Oberlin Historical Society (1960-64). He was instrumental in the establishment of the Lorain County Community College, sitting on the College's Board of Trustees from 1963 to 1970 and serving as Board Chairman from 1967 to 1969.

Donald Love remained active up until his death in Oberlin on November 13, 1974, at the age of eighty.

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