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   THE LAB SCHOOL STORY

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TRANSITION AND WAR



The months between mid-1940 and mid-1941 marked an era of transition both for Iowa State Teachers College and its Training School. On July 9, 1940, after surgery at the University of Iowa hospital, President Orval Ray Latham died unexpectedly at the age of fifty-four of complications from a ruptured appendix. For a dozen years Latham had provided the college with progressive and effective leadership during an era in which the nation suffered through its longest and deepest depression and social malaise. Despite a multitude of uncertainties and severe financial constraints, Latham had stayed the course refusing to yield to the example of some teachers colleges, which coped with Depression-era problems by taking ameliorative steps such as broadening undergraduate curricular offerings, introducing graduate programs, or closing their training schools because he considered them potentially threatening to the college’s fundamental commitment to excellence in teacher education. 


As the campus and community mourned the loss of Latham the State Board of Education, confronted for the first time by the death of a sitting ISTC President, moved quickly to secure new leadership and on August 7 announced the appointment of Malcom Poyer Price as O.R. Latham’s successor. Price was born in 1902 in Carroll, Iowa, and lived there until age eleven when his family moved to Newton where he graduated from high school in 1918. He then attended Cornell College, receiving a degree in chemistry, after which he enlisted in the Army completing his service as a second lieutenant. 


Following two years of work as a commercial chemist in Chicago he taught high school science at Harrisburg, South Dakota, and served as superintendent of schools for four years. While there he began attending the University of Iowa during summers and became a full-time student in Iowa City in 1927 receiving a Ph.D. in Educational Administration in 1929. His doctoral dissertation was a study of the supply and demand of Iowa teachers, focusing on the state’s rural and elementary schools. 


The state Board of Educational Examiners published a summary of his study entitled “A Census of the Public School Teaching Personnel of Iowa Public Schools For the School Year 1928-29” and the dissertation itself became one of the University of Iowa’s Studies in Education series. Price’s findings were influential in the passage of a new teacher certification law in 1934 requiring graduates of high school normal courses to also have at least twelve weeks of college work before receiving certification to teach in rural schools. Upon the completion of his doctoral work Price became assistant to the deputy superintendent of schools in Detroit and later served as superintendent of personnel there until his appointment as president of ISTC. 


The Price family arrived in Cedar Falls on September 4 and the new president assumed his responsibilities the following day. He initially moved cautiously while becoming acquainted with the circumstances and responsibilities of his new position. However, by late winter of 1941 he began to share with the campus and community his vision for the future of ISTC. His Ph.D. research had provided him with a sound understanding of the challenges and needs of the state’s system of public schools, especially those in rural areas, and he believed that raising certification standards and professionalizing teaching was a key to providing the people of Iowa with the kind of schools they wanted and deserved. 


Just as the state’s other two institutions of higher education trained students for a variety of professions, he believed ISTC should be the state’s primary professional school for teachers, and he worked with such off-campus organizations as the Iowa State Education Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation to promote this role for the college. As the state’s professional school for teachers, he considered its immediate objectives to be to raise admission standards, provide students with a quality undergraduate education, and secure funding for facilities and higher salaries to attract committed and able faculty. His vision would ultimately have significant implications for the Training School. While the college began taking steps toward the realization of these goals during the first year of Price’s administration world events soon reoriented much of the college community’s time and energy.

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