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!


Joseph Platt Papers: Quick Update

As of today, I have processed approximately 16 boxes of the collection. I have handled materials from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the China Foundation, the United Nations (UNESCO), the National Science Foundation, the National Science Council, the ESSO Education Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Lincoln Foundation, the Southern California Industry Education Council, the American Institute of Physics, and Analytic Services Incorporated. Platt was a busy man! What was his secret? I could take a hint.

I will be out-of-state next week visiting family for the holidays. When I return on December 19th, I will process the three remaining boxes of material related to government organizations. Once those are processed, I plan to start processing the boxes of materials related to HMC and CUC (now TCCS).

I look forward to processing more of the collection upon my return.

I leave you with a funny: “What did one uranium-238 nucleus say to the other?

Gotta split!

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

Processing the “Joseph Platt Papers”

I officially began processing the “Joseph Platt Papers” this week! Developing a processing plan for approximately 60 boxes of material is no easy task. Reflecting on my time in various archives as a researcher, I must admit: I am spoiled. Prior to working in Special Collections, I had a very limited idea of what it is that archivists actually do.

As an archivist you imagine how a researcher might approach a particular collection or a set of materials generally speaking. You try to organize the collection in a way that is efficient for a researcher without presuming all possible connections. I prefer thematic organization ordered chronologically.

I processed the United States Atomic Energy Commission materials on Tuesday and Thursday and materials related to the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture on Friday. These are subseries within a larger series of government organizations.

I am looking forward to processing the UNESCO materials early next week!

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

An Envelope Titled “Dedication”

As I was making my through a box of Harvey Mudd College ephemera, I came across a tattered envelope titled “Dedication.” The envelope contained an invitation to the dedication of the Harvey Mudd College Campus Center (and to a dinner meeting with Dr. Lee A. Dubridge) that would take place on Monday, November 25, 1963. The Campus Center, an “app-purpose center, which has 31,500 sq. ft. of floor space provides a dining hall, lounge and recreation areas,” was dedicated to Joseph B. Platt. In addition to the invitation, the envelope contained newspaper clippings documenting the event, letters written to Jean and Joe, a record of The Claremont Congregational Church’s Thanksgiving Service, a blueprint of the cornerstone with the words “Joseph B. Platt Campus Center 1963” to be engraved, and a group function order form among other things. For those of you wondering what was on the menu… lamb, mashed potatoes, green vegetables (peas), hot bread, and salad. YUM! Oh, and how could I forget… ice cream (sherbet) for dessert.

As I began reading the letters and newspaper articles I noticed a somber tone. Then it dawned on me. November 22, 1963 was the day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The dedication was postponed until Monday, December 9, 1963. Several of the letters reflect on this tragedy. In his letter to Jean and Joe, Walter E. Hastings wrote, “I’m sure you had the pall of sadness in Claremont as we did in Rochester today. Almost all places of business were closed down and I have never seen such sadness on the faces of the people you met. These have been the three longest days of my life and I’m sure that it will [be] some little time before we recover from the shocks of the last 72 hours. I didn’t vote for him [(Walt scratched out the word him and inserted JFK)] but I realize now what a magnificent man he was.” People make misjudgments, but its not everyday that we admit and reflect on them. As we approach the holiday season and gather with friends and loved ones let’s not forget to practice intellectual, moral, and personal humility. Surely, we aren’t always right.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
― Criss Jami

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

“All I want for Christmas is my 2.0”

Lyrics by Joe Platt

I came across this song will drafting my processing plan. Since we are half way through the semester, I found the sentiment fitting.

Chorus: All I want for Christmas is my 2.0/ My 2.0, my 2.0/ All I want for Christmas is my 2.0/ So I could wish you “Merry Christmas”

Seems so long since I could say/”I’ll beat the draft, at HMC I’ll stay.”/Gosh oh gee how happy I’d be/ If I could only pass

Chorus: All I want for Christmas is my 2.0/ My 2.0, my 2.0/ All I want for Christmas is my 2.0/ So I could wish you “Merry Christmas”

Everybody stops me and stares at me/ My grade point average is as low as it can be/ I don’t know just who to blame/ For this catastrophe/ But my only wish for Christmas Eve/ Is as plain as it can be

Chorus: All I want for Christmas is my 2.0/ My 2.0, my 2.0/ All I want for Christmas is my 2.0/ So I could wish you “Merry Christmas”

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

From Surveying to Transdisciplinary Thinking

I would like to preface this week’s blog post with a brief professional bio. My name is Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta and I am a PhD student in the Cultural Studies Department at Claremont Graduate University. I received a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Urban Studies from Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts. I also earned an M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey.  I am interested in  the ways nationalism shapes the intertwined processes of aestheticization, historicization, and securitization.

Box 43 (Folders 25 and 26)

This is the first time that I am prompted to pause and reflect on this collection. Box 43 contains 28 folders. Folder 25 is titled “The Nuclear War Business” (a speech by Dr. Platt at Claremont U.C.C. Congregational on March 17, 1985 as reported by Felix Manley and corroborated by Platt) and folder 26 is titled “Thoughts on Man’s Purpose in Life” (a speech by Admiral H.G. Rickover at a luncheon meeting of the San Diego Rotary Club on February 10, 1977). I couldn’t help but read the documents contained within each in full. If you are unaware of current nuclear war news, see the Federation of American Scientists (FAC) Nuclear Information Project in the News ( In 1985, Dr. Platt noted that “the prevention of a nuclear Holocaust is the most urgent business on the human agenda.” Something, that then-and-now concerns everyone.

Moving to Admiral H.G. Rickover’s speech, he identified five principles of existence: responsibility, perseverance, excellence, creativity, courage, and the development of standards of ethical and moral conduct. He argued that “a cause of many of our mistakes and problems is ignorance – an overwhelming national ignorance of the facts about the rest of the world.” The remedy to such ignorance: reading and writing — the most significant of all human efforts, according to Rickover — matched with action.

What is the time of responsibility?

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

Joseph Platt – Physicist, President, and Prominent American

Joseph Platt graduated from Cornell University in 1942 with a PhD in Physics. His dissertation focused on the structure of metallic potassium. To be honest, I have no idea what that means. What I vaguely recall from a high school chemistry class is that potassium = K on the periodic table of elements. One of the perks of being a CCEPS Fellow: you learn new things all the time. Did you know that “potassium  is the seventh most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust (2.4% by mass)?” I certainly didn’t! Thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Platt served as President of Harvey Mudd College from 1956 to 1976. In a 1962 article, the Progress-Bulletin described him as “the world’s only ballad-singing college president.” I hope to find and share some of his songs as I make my way through the remaining boxes.

In the spring of 1975, just a year before stepping down as President, Joseph Platt was notified of his election to membership (through 1977) to the National Register of Prominent Americans and International Notables. He would have been 60 years old at the time. Cheers to Platt! Where do see yourself in five, ten, twenty years?

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta