Ed Coltman, E49 and Eleanor Dwyer Coltman J37, F38


Eleanor Dwyer Coltman, J37, F38 and Ed Coltman, E49

Eleanor Dwyer was born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts. Her earliest memory of Tufts was being wheeled around the Rez in her baby carriage. Much later, she attended Tufts College as a student, walking from Ball Square to campus and forming close friendships with other "off-Hill" women. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and, anticipating a career in the foreign service, went on to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Her career plans shifted to teaching, but that course was redirected when the United States entered World War II. Eleanor enlisted almost immediately in what became known as the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Some years later, at the army base in Richmond, Virginia, she met Ed Coltman, who was back from the South Pacific and waiting for reassignment. They were married in September, 1945, and that same fall Ed enrolled in Tufts' program in electrical engineering as one of the many married students attending college on the G.I. Bill. Tufts was ready for this influx of vets, offering married student accommodations in Stearns Village, along with a stipend of about $90 a month. (Tufts actually didn't build the "village" on College Avenue, but created it out of a dozen prefab buildings that were formerly housing for United Aircraft employees in East Hartford, Connecticut. The designation Stearns comes from the site, formerly known as the Stearns Estate, and once a farm. The site is now the Gantcher Family Sports and Convocation Center, next to Cousens Gym.)

In October, 1946, Ed and Eleanor welcomed their first child, a daughter, Joan. "I took an exam the morning of after her birth, and flunked it," recalled Ed with a laugh, "but the professor figured that he'd give me another chance and gave me a makeup exam and I passed that fine." Ed and Eleanor would go on to have another child, a son, before his graduation. Eleanor recalls a cartoon that shows a man in cap and gown at graduation. "He's holding one child and there's another one standing there and he's saying, "It feels kind of strange to be getting a 'bachelor's' degree," she said. "That was Ed's feeling, too."

Ed and Eleanor later settled in Manchester, Connecticut, where they raised four children, one of whom Michael Coltman, E73, G78, attended Tufts. Eleanor taught at a community college for nearly 13 years. She later served on the board of trustees for community colleges. She still maintains close ties with her Tufts friends from many years ago.

Interview Excerpt

"And another famous place to study was in the library, the Eaton Library. They had a room upstairs that was devoted to the classics, mostly Latin and Greek. And very few people went in there. So that was where I went when I needed to study and really concentrate on what I was doing. I don't think I ever looked at any of the books that were in there but it was a nice, quiet spot where you would be undisturbed most of the time. The bookstore was in the basement of the library at that time and that was a fun place to be."

"The overwhelming memory is that this was a friendly place and you didn't feel excluded. And I could have easily felt that way because, for one thing, I was living off campus, I was not a sorority woman, and I came from a background that was very different. I was a Roman Catholic going to a Unitarian Universalist college, but none of that mattered at all. The important thing was whether you were a decent student and you were applying yourself. And then another thing that they did -- the times being hard, they would offer scholarships, and my second and third year I had a $100 scholarship each year and tuition was $300. So this was a big help. And then my father had a promotion in my senior year and I wasn't eligible anymore."

On questioning authority

"There was a strong pacifist group on the campus, the isolationist group. And I think Dr. Bartlett leaned that way a little bit. They were isolationists, mostly throughout the Midwest, who did not want America to get involved in the war at all. But the irony of it is that I was very active at that time with this pacifist group. And then the minute the war came along I joined the Army."

On extracurricular activities and world affairs

Eleanor was a member of the History Club and the International Relations Club, which held the following event. "The Nazi movement was beginning to get started. We would have a district-wide mini United Nations, no, League of Nations, conference with the neighboring colleges. And each one of us would represent a country and presumably take the point of view of that country in the League of Nations. I was aware of world events but not as intensely as I might have been. It was something that was going on over there. And although international relations were my special interest, I think that I was not sure that I was aware of the Nazi movement at all, except maybe in a kind of vague way. Going beyond 1937, in '38 I was at Fletcher [School of Law and Diplomacy]. The following year it was the 'Peace in Our Times' meeting and I was at a tea again, a social in the Beaver Country Day School, where I was about to become an intern teacher. And everybody was standing around saying, 'Oh, isn't this wonderful? They finally straightened this all out.' And some of the people were much more knowledgeable than I was, maybe, we hope, but we were aware of England's unpreparedness for war."

On working

"Something that I should mention because of its historic value is that when we were in college during the Depression, in the years after Roosevelt became president there were various agencies. And we could earn money at the college for being a part of WPA [Works Progress Administration] and we got a huge sum of 25 cents an hour. But that wasn't too bad in those days. And I remember that one of my jobs was to paint some wicker furniture, and most of my friends were also doing something or other and some of the others were on this painting detail. But I had never painted anything like that before. I suspect the college was hard put to get enough jobs to go around for all the people who wanted to be making some money. We didn't think of it as a federal grant program in those days, but that's practically what it was."

On social activities

"I don't recall going to the movies or dancing. They were out there to go to, but we did not have much money to spend. One thing that happened that illustrates the times, I think: I was very interested in aviation, always. And I had a young man who knew of my interests and he had taken me to an air show in Boston and the big treat was that he bought me a bottle of Coke, which cost 10 cents. But you also got a lottery ticket of a sort. And I had my first airplane trip because we won the lottery and he said, 'You've never been up, you take the ticket and go.' And that was my introduction to flying. But I think the reason I'm bringing that up is the scale of the amusements and what could be done, sometimes, on a very small amount of money."

On being a woman at the Fletcher School

"There were, in my Fletcher class, 50, I think, and four of us were women. And you were aware at Jackson that at the rest of the college about three-quarters were male. I don't recall that I ever thought that I was doing anything unusual at all. I came from a family that valued education. And not only my direct family, but also my cousins and so forth. It's just that everybody went to college. That was the thing. And I know my father would tell the story how he was approached by his supervisor, who said, 'What do you want to send your daughter to college for? All she'll do is not think anything of you after she's been there. She'll be so removed from you.' And my father said, 'Not my daughter,' and that was all he said.

I laughed since I've met some of the men who were in my [undergraduate] class, who have said, 'We didn't have anything to do with you. You and that brain trust of [Arlene] Fitch and [Francis] Mayo.' They were valedictorian and salutatorian. I'm very much amused because I did not think of myself that way at all."

Ed Coltman, E49

On studying liberal arts along with engineering

"I didn't think that engineers should be limited to science and engineering. I had been an avid reader all my life, and you need broadening. And I know that that stood me in good stead when I came to the business world, where if you meet people, which is what I was aiming at doing, you need to have broad experience."

On studying while being a parent

"Well, certainly at Stearns we had a sense of community. Our kitchen table at Stearns was a study hall for five or six of us who the weekend before an exam or maybe even the night before an exam."

On being a new father

Well, downstairs in the basement here, we have a chair that was a -- well, it was a dollar gift from my aunt, and we put it to buying that chair, and that was one of the first pieces of equipment that went into Stearns Village beside the bedroom. And then after Joan came along in October of '46, I was a sophomore now, I often sat in the living room with a book here (extends his arm, extends a hand, as though it holds an open book) and Joan on my lap with her head out there, bottle feeding her."

On Sterns Village

Eleanor contributes the following:

"The reason for Stearns Village was though to an extreme shortage of housing. That's why we had to live with my parents for the first year. Stearns Village was heaven. It was our first home. And at that time I knew the young man who was in charge of it, and they were putting clotheslines right across the front of our living room windows, and I went to them and I said, you can't do this. That's my view out there. It was a nice view. It was up to a hill with a lot of trees on it. But he thought that was ridiculous. Who in the Stearns Village housing would care about what they looked out on? But he did move them.

And speaking about the prosperous times, when we were in Stearns Village, everybody was broke. We were on -- probably we all were living on -- the GI Bill, which was adequate for tuition, but most of the guys had to have a little second job to make out. But since we were all in the same boat, and the other thing that we were doing, and this is leading into it - this was the boomer generation being born. And everybody I think had at least one child or as many as three by the time we were all in the Stearns Village. And [our neighbor] Isabelle Abbott had a six-month-old baby when I had my first baby and she helped me enormously. She would make suggestions. Our apartments' doors facing each other, and we left them open most of the time. There were as I remember six apartments in a unit. And we became very close. The godchild - the godparents for one of our children was in another building and he was a couple of years ahead of you at the engineering school.

I think it was interesting that one of the professors in some social conversation later said that it was such an interesting time to be teaching because these men who had had worldwide experience were coming into classes and I think - I don't know. . . . (maybe the students) felt an equal standing with the professors?"

Ed: "Well, not quite equal, no."

Eleanor: "But you weren't kids."

Ed: "No, we weren't, and certainly we wouldn't wear beanies (laughter) I can tell you that."