Organizations Galore

Hello everyone,

This week I managed to process 3 more boxes from the Platt collection. It looks like I have about 10 more boxes to go! The semester has flown by, and it still feels like I have only just started…

In the 3 boxes this week, I came across a variety of documents. Most of the folders contained even more information regarding Platt’s involvement in organizations, such as the National Energy Foundation Board, the Lincoln Foundation, Town Hall, the Cosmos Club, the Twilight Club, the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Sigma Xi (the Scientific Research Society), and the Thacher School of Ojai, California. The folders held documents of correspondence, meeting minutes, photographs, newsletters, posters and maps, and newspaper articles. Although I know very little about these organizations, it was interesting to be able to step into the life of Platt and experience these documents with an inside-perspective.

More next week!


Photographs of some of the articles and newsletters from the organizations

Harvey Mudd College Diary

This week I looked through 2 binders titled “The Harvey Mudd College Diary” and found out a bit more about Harvey Mudd College’s beginnings. As expected, establishing a new college is not a simple thing. George Wickes, one of the original founding members of the college, documented the highs and lows of the first three years of the college. Today I want to share some excerpts from the diary.

September 20, 1957

“This morning we all had a sense that Harvey Mudd College had at last come into being… In the afternoon the College trustees made it official with a tour of inspection. Although the dust had not yet settled, they seemed as pleased with it as we are.”

September 26, 1957

“This date should go down in history as marking the formal opening of Harvey Mudd College… President Platt then turned to the future of Harvey Mudd College, inviting all present to look back from the vantage point of the year 2000 and consider what we might behold. Thus he brought it home to us that the responsibility is ours: ‘The future of Harvey Mudd College is what we make of it.'”

October 4, 1957

“We ran head-on into the solid realities of building a new college this afternoon at faculty meeting when we began to consider plans for a science building and to peer into the future generally. How many students shall we admit, how many dorms shall we build, how many classrooms and labs will we need?

October 8, 1957

“General alarm as Bill Davenport reported at faculty meeting that some of our students are discouraged about their studies, a few to the point of being panic-stricken, one even ready to bolt. Probably they suffer only from a routine case of freshman blues, but without upperclassmen to diagnose their ailment, they are understandably demoralized.”

May 20, 1958

“Already we’re beginning to celebrate anniversaries. It seems hard to believe, but a year ago we first gathered as a faculty to plan what we were going to do. Claremont was strange to us then, the college illusory, without students or buildings, the whole week rather unreal as we met briefly and exchanged ideas, only to disperse again our several ways.”

Though these are only a few pieces from a few diary entries, it shows that so much time, effort, and patience goes into something of this scale.

More next week!


Jean Platt Appreciation

Hi everyone!

Since today is International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I wanted to highlight and honor Jean Platt. Jean Ferguson Platt was born in 1922 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She attended Miami University in Ohio and graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1943, and afterward worked for the Polaroid Company as a technician. A few years later, in 1946, she married Joseph Platt and together they had two daughters.

In 1956, when Joseph Platt agreed to become the President of Harvey Mudd, the Platt family all moved to Claremont, California, to start a new life. As I have been looking through files these past few weeks, I found that Jean became active in many organizations, such as the Red Cross, Girl Scouts of America, the United Church of Christ, Campus Women, and the ARCS Foundation. She was also skilled in silver crafting and would gift a silver piece for Harvey Mudd College students when they married.

Jean established herself as an incredible wife, mother, and community member. She and Joseph were an intelligent and motivated team, and together, they created a meaningful impact on both Harvey Mudd College, and the city of Claremont.

I won’t be here next week for Spring Break, but I look forward to picking up where I left off again next time!


Starting the Harvey Mudd College Series

After wrapping up the majority of Joseph Platt’s biographic boxes, I have taken this week to adjust to the files relating to Harvey Mudd College. Trying to figure out the best way to take on this portion of the collection has been challenging, yet exciting. Platt became Harvey Mudd College’s first president in 1957, and remained as president until 1976. He then went on to become the president of the Claremont University Consortium, and returned to Harvey Mudd College in 1981.

Mixed in with these documents, I also found some of the organizations he was a part of such as the National Energy Foundation Board, the Southwest Museum, Cosmos Club, the World Affairs Council, and the National Research Council. The folders contained an abundance of correspondence, annual reports, meeting minutes, and articles. Once again, Platt shows us how busy he was. Finally, I also discovered that Platt had earned his pilot’s license in 1945. Although this is from much earlier in his life, I was surprised to find his license and certificates.

More next week!


Draft, Publish, Repeat

This week I processed more of Platt’s writings, travel files, and some of his documents from the Claremont School of Theology’s Ancient Biblical Manuscript Collection (ABMC). The ABMC files included board meeting notes and minutes, photographs of biblical manuscripts, and newspaper clippings of global events related to Theology.

Last week, I had mentioned Platt’s “Mesonic Atoms” and thought it would be good to share an example of his drafts and final product. These examples are not all from the same chapter, yet they still show Platt’s writing process. As a graduate student, I found his writing methods encouraging. As the semester progresses and due dates approach, drafting is part of my daily routine. In academia, we are all in the same boat of drafting until we are ready to share our work.

Chapter 1 Draft
Chapter 2 Draft
Example of a published chapter

I am currently wrapping up the biography portion of Joseph Platt’s collection, and am ready to dive into the Harvey Mudd College Collection next week!


Platt Updates

Wrapping up another week! It is so satisfying to organize the folders and watch everything come together. This week, I worked on Platt’s travel files and writings from when he taught at the University of Rochester. Platt traveled all over the world during his time as the president of Harvey Mudd College. From San Francisco to Paris, New York to Taiwan- Joseph Platt was on-the-go quite a bit. I was able to go through plane tickets, travel brochures, photographs of his visits, letters to colleagues all over the world, and more.

Later in the week, I went through the folders from the University of Rochester. I discovered a few chapters of his piece “Mesonic Atoms.” As someone who studies the Humanities, I know absolutely nothing of Physics. Yet, I was impressed by the depth and detail he and his co-authors went into for this project. There are multiple drafts and correspondence with editors to make this project work.

Progress this week!
More to go…

I’m hoping to wrap up the biography portion of Joseph Platt’s Collection soon, and then I will begin to work through the Harvey Mudd series.

More next week!


The Very Model Physics Doctor of Philosophy

More processing! Today I thought I would share an excerpt from one of the songs in the “School Songs” file. It appears to be a parody of the “Major-General’s Song” from the 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Platt gives us a glimpse of his sense of humor, while making fun of what it means to be an expert in physics.

I am the very model physics doctor of philosophy.

I don’t know much of X-rays, electronics or spectroscopy.

Though I’ve recently developed a lamentable proclivity

For positions and deuterons and radioactivity.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations if they’re simple, not quadratical.

I can solve a wave equation but I realize my need is

For understanding simple laws like that of Archimedes.

I can rattle out Beethoven on a freshman lab sonometer,

But I always burn the coils of a d’Arsonval galvanometer.

In short, outside of X-rays, electronics or spectroscopy,

I am the very model physics doctor of philosophy.

Well, we know Platt was indeed a very intelligent physicist, contrary to the satirical lyrics. This serves as a reminder to not take life too seriously.

More next week!


A New Start

Week 2 was a blast! I have begun processing the Platt collection, and was able to go through 3 of the boxes. Many of the documents I looked at were photographs and slides showing the construction of Harvey Mudd College. It was a real treat seeing a plot of land transform into the college that stands today. It also really makes you think of how proud Joseph Platt must have felt seeing this as it was happening.

To accompany these photographs, I read through many letters of congratulations for Platt’s new appointment to Harvey Mudd. Although many of his colleagues from the University of Rochester were sad to see him leave their institution, they were confident in his abilities to bring his intellect, wisdom, and guitar skills to the West coast. The Board of Trustees at Harvey Mudd College felt the same way. A new and challenging opportunity for Platt, but he was up to the task. In his job acceptance letter, he writes ” I am convinced Harvey Mudd College will make a contribution far beyond its size to the life of the local and national community; in short, as we realize this vision Harvey Mudd College will continue and help to expand the tradition of the Claremont Colleges.”

First Building of Harvey Mudd College. Photo taken in April 1957.
Construction of Harvey Mudd College. Photo taken in April 1957.

What else does the collection have in store? We will find out more next week!


Let’s Begin!

Hello everyone, I am looking forward to processing the documents of the incredible Joseph B. Platt this semester. Before I begin, I wanted to share a little about myself. My name is Nicole Blue, and I am a Masters student at Claremont Graduate University. In December 2021, I graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Humanities and a minor in Music. Currently, I am in my second semester in the History and Archival Studies program, with a concentration in Museum Studies.

This week has been more of an introduction as I familiarize myself with the contents of this collection. Who was Joseph Platt? I began by surveying the boxes I will process this semester. While digging through the biography portion of the collection, I was struck by all of the contents. There are photographs from his travels to Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, details of his involvements in countless diverse organizations, songs and poetry, and stunning Christmas cards. I cannot wait to discover more about him.

A few boxes relating to the biography of Joseph Platt.

Not only was he incredibly accomplished, he was deeply admired and respected by his friends, family, colleagues, and community. He, along with his wife Jean, served with dignity, dedication, and love. This is mirrored through some of the ephemera I found while surveying the boxes. A binder, titled “Sticks in the Mudd” stood out, as it includes poems and dedications to both the Platts and Harvey Mudd College after 15 successful years. It also includes farewell poems to Joseph and Jean, due to Josephs departure from HMC in 1976 to go serve as the President of the Claremont University Center. I will include photographs below.

“Stick in the Mudds” 1973. A dedication to Joseph and Jean Platt by the original staff of Harvey Mudd College.
A toast to Joseph and Jean Platt, written on a piece of “toast” 1976.

More next week!