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.
For this interview in June, 2001, Eleanor Dwyer Coltman, J37, F38, and Ed Coltman, E49, shared fond memories of Tufts, although their individual experiences were very different. I am sad to report that since I met with the Coltmans, Ed has passed away. These excerpts are offered in his memory and in gratitude to both Ed and Eleanor's genuine kindness and warm hospitality, without which these conversations, so rich with revelation, would not be possible.
- Laura Ferguson
Eleanor Dwyer Coltman, J37, F38
"I went to St. Clement High School [in Somerville] and I had a chemistry teacher there who was literally a formidable woman. She was a nun. But her comment to me was very encouraging when she knew I was applying to Tufts. She said, 'We need good women who have contacts all over the world.' And I thought, 'Great.' She must have been a feminist, now that I think back on it."
On the Depression
"I entered Tufts in the fall of 1933. These were the desperate days of the deep Depression. I was lucky enough to be an only child and my father worked for the government. So he was not out of a job, but he took a 25 percent pay cut the very year that I was starting college. Since a lot of people were doing the same thing it wasn't that bad. I don't think there was anything like 'keeping up with the Joneses' type of thinking. It was 'we're all in this together.' Some very sad things were happening. People were losing their houses because they couldn't keep up their mortgage payments."
"Some of the things that might explain the difference [between Tufts then and now] were little things. In those days the boys wore beanie caps and the girls wore big green hair ribbons. And heavens, if you were found without that, awful things were supposed to happen to you. I never found out what they were. But we also had something that would sound strange to people today, I think, compulsory chapel. It was completely non-denominational, but once a week we had to be at chapel. And I got to know a couple hymns that, to this day, I associate with Tufts and the chapel. And my friend Arlene Fitch was the organist and we didn't mind going. There wasn't anybody feeling particularly rebellious at that time. We just were getting through."
On social activities and friendships
"I think we liked Tufts. It was a small college with a beautiful campus which was handy enough for quite a few of us to be able to be day students, or not exactly day students, but living off hill. And we had an off-hill room in the basement of Richardson. And I made six friends and we have been together at least once a year every year since. And they're still amongst my closest friends. Two of them have died and one of them has moved down to Miami, but the rest of us get together at some point almost every year. One of them I met in the infirmary. We were freshmen. I had a bad cold and so did she, and we were sitting there with thermometers in our mouths and smiling at each other. So we always said that started our friendship. So there was a wonderful experience of these really close friends who have stayed close. None of us were sorority women. And sororities and fraternities were a very important part of the college at that time. So in a way we were just sort of on the outside of things, but I don't think I ever felt particularly left out that way. So with our green bows and going to chapel we got to know each other."
"The other major remembrance I have of Tufts is the wonderful, wonderful professors I had. I was a history major and Dr. Bartlett was the chairman of the History Department and I say that he truly changed and directed my life. I did stay in touch with him, I think almost until he died. He was just wonderful. I had a habit of being so taken up with everything he was saying that I would sit in the very front row, right under his nose, and proceed to answer all his rhetorical questions. [Laughter] I don't know what he must have thought now that I look back on it, but at least he knew I was pretty absorbed in what he was saying.
"Professor Roberts taught government and he was another whom I remember very fondly. And my hero was John Holmes [poet and English professor]. I felt so privileged one time after class. He and I were both leaving at the same time and I was going home to Rogers Avenue and he was walking down to Ball Square, I assume, and we both walked down Boston Avenue. I felt that I was so privileged to walk with this wonderful professor. Of course, Bob Nichols in the Geology Department. He had us keep notebooks and they were hardbound [ledgers] and I have them to this day. He always started off with a quotation from something and then he would go on. And I was not particularly interested in science and he made me love geology. I think it was strictly a matter of personality. He also loved his subject and he was able to communicate that love. He was an excellent communicator but it was more his enthusiasm for life and what a wonderful world this was and that sort of thing that I think appealed to all the students.
"Professor [Leo] Lewis, I couldn't fail to mention him. I took his Music Appreciation course and I was in the Glee Club although, frankly, I could only sing soprano. He was very encouraging in his own particular way and he had a marvelous Music Appreciation class, which I still think back to and feel he opened up the whole world of classical music and the way of understanding it that was just terrific."
On favorite places
"I used to love to walk on the campus. Although I lived at home, I lived close enough that I could spend a lot of time on the campus, both day and night. And I could be in a lot of the (academic) clubs because I could walk up, even in the evening. But speaking of living rooms -- it's funny. When my daughter first went to college I said, 'You have to have a little black dress for college teas.' [Laughter] And by that time that was an obsolete idea. But in my day, it was the History Club. And Dr. Bartlett and his wife would always entertain us in their home, in their living room. And Mrs. Bartlett, the first Mrs. Bartlett, would always provide a snack of some sort. Dean Bush was the one who had the college teas. And about once or twice a year you would be formally invited to these afternoon teas at her house. And you were on your best behavior. When I think back on it, it was a very nice idea, too. We were apt to dress up a little more formally than we usually did. And the whole atmosphere was somewhat formal, but very friendly. It was just small talk. We did learn how to preside at tea, being asked to pour at different times.
"Thinking back to the buildings, one of my most vivid memories, somehow or other, is walking across the campus, probably from Ballou to the library, through undisturbed snow. And it was about two in the afternoon and I think that was the first time I became particularly conscious of the blue shadows of the trees on the snow. And it was a time when you weren't particularly pressured. You had time to think about things like that.
"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."
"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."