Charles H. Lawshe, Jr.
Siop President 1957-1958
A KID FROM SWAYZEE (1908-1925)
My fascination with the world of work had its genesis in the small,
rural town of Swayzee, Indiana, where I was born (May 26, 1908) and spent my first
seventeen years. As a boy, I wandered and dawdled in the streets and alleys of this town
of about 600 inhabitants, watching people engaged in "making a living." It
seemed as though almost everyone in town did interesting work - moving houses, drilling
wells, baking bread, making harness, and I watched them all.
I was awed by the two blacksmiths as they applied their skill to shoe
horses and to form red hot iron into tools and parts for farm machinery. I watched Ollie
Collins in the mill room of the lumber yard as he made windows and doors "from
scratch." Goob Berry's tin shop taught me about sheet metal fabrication - forming,
soldering, and riveting. The two automobile garages are where I learned about valves,
differentials, and clutches. There was the short-lived knife factory where I was exposed
to metal stamping and heat treating.
The local Indiana Railway and Light interurban station (people called it the
eye-are-nell) was the locus for a converter which changed alternating current into direct
current for feeding into the overhead trolley wire. Then, there were special,
one-of-a-kind events: when men excavated for the school building addition basement. And
when the crew of Italians came to town and laid the terrazzo floor for the First National
Bank of Swayzee's new building.
At the local elevator I watched farmers bring in their grain, have it
weighed, and then dump it into the pit from which it was "elevated" to the top
of the structure. That's where I first learned about "gross" and
"tare" weights. There were visits to Grandfather Lawshe's farm, usually at
butchering time or harvest time; while I wasn't a farm kid, I learned a lot about farming.
Most exciting of all, however, was the Swayzee Grey Iron Foundry. It
was on my paper route as I delivered the Marion Chronicle and the Indianapolis News. If I
timed it right I could arrive at the foundry in time for the "pour" on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays. There I would see the molten iron being poured into the sand
molds to form castings. Other days I would watch the molders and core makers at work.
While the foundry was the most exciting, it was the town print shop
that had the greatest impact on my later years. O.D. Melton was the owner, publisher,
editor, newswriter, and typesetter of the Swayze Press, the town's weekly newspaper. In
addition to printing the paper each week he also did job printing: handbills, invitations,
stationery, programs, and the like. Here I learned the printer's jargon: e.g., pica,
make-ready, pi, font, and of course, the difference between six-point type and ten-point
type. I would watch "OD" by the hour as he sat on his high stool and, without
looking at the font, pick up one type letter at a time to compose a line. And I recall
vividly when "OD" purchased a used Line-O-Type machine which rendered most hand
typesetting obsolete. At one time I kind of wanted to be a printer, or maybe a newswriter.
So, there it was - town and country - a broad spectrum of the world of
work, all fascinating and all waiting to be absorbed by an impressionable kid; no security
guards and no cyclone fences to keep an inquisitive kid from learning what work was about.
My parents naturally had a great influence on me. My mother was a very
bright woman, the daughter of a stereotype woodsman/pioneer who had little schooling but
lots of education (he learned to read and to cypher as a kid) and became a dry goods
merchant in Swayzee. Mother graduated from high school in 1904. Her early married life was
strongly influenced by my brother, Leland (three years younger than I) who was born with
club-feet. Until he was about five (and I was eight) , she was totally consumed with his
treatment - surgery, casts, and braces. I had little attention until he entered school
with his deformity totally corrected. My childhood was fairly normal for the next three
years; then the 1917 Spanish influenza epidemic (the "flu") damaged his heart
and he died soon thereafter, rendering my mother totally distraught, again leaving me on
my own. Some six or seven years later, while I was in college, she took a short course
offered by the Indiana State Library, and became librarian of the Swayzee Public Library,
a position which she held for over 30 years. She lived to see her 98th birthday.
Jim Mullins was a neighbor of ours, across the alley.
He had been a
drummer boy in the Civil War and taught a lot of kids in town "to drum." My
uncle Max Spears was one of them. He played in a dance band when he was at Wabash College,
paid his way, and made Phi Beta Kappa to boot. I always wanted to learn to drum. My mother
had many rules; one of them was that you couldn't take up any other instrument until you
had mastered the piano. We tried that; the folks bought a piano and engaged Margurite
Plackard (also my first and second grade teacher) to give Leland and me lessons. Leland
did a bit better than I but not much. One of the problems was that, when I went to Miss
Plackard's for my lesson, I had to carry the sheet music in a special case that unmistakably
contained sheet music. Of course, I couldn't let the other kids see me
carrying it ("sissy") so I had to go and come via the back alley. Miss Plackard
might have been a great pianist; I don't know, but she wasn't much of a music teacher.
Anyway, learning the piano finally petered out, and of course, I never got to the drums.
I've often thought that if it hadn't been for that confounded rule, it might have been me
instead of Gene Krupa!
My dad was the son of a country doctor (I.F. Lawshe, NED ) who earned
his degree at the Kentucky School of Medicine, a proprietary school in Louisville. Dad
graduated from Swayzee High School and went to Purdue University where he studied pharmacy
and earned the PhG (pharmaceutical graduate) degree in 1904 when most pharmacists
qualified by serving an apprenticeship. After working at a drug store in Mathews, Indiana
for a while, he purchased the Bradley Drug Store in Swayzee and operated it for 42 years.
I worked in the store from the time I was old enough to weigh a pound of epsom salts
(which I did many, many times because it and most other preparations came in bulk and had
to be packaged). I started working a few hours a week for which Dad paid me a few cents
(twenty-five cents, I think). As I grew older and became more useful, Dad increased my
hours and my salary. By the time I left for college I was working full-time as a clerk and
Dad was treasurer of the Swayzee Cooperative Telephone Company and
treasurer of the Masonic Lodge. The drug store was where people paid their phone bills and
their lodge dues; I must have written hundreds of telephone and lodge receipts for my
father. The drug store was the natural gathering place in Swayzee: school kids, college
students who returned for the holidays, and farmers when they came to town. I built radio
sets when I was a kid and remember making a "loud speaker" from an old morning
glory phonograph horn and fixing it so farmers could get the daily hog market reports from
It was Dad who saw that I got a paper route; I carried those papers from the time I
entered the seventh grade until the day before I left for college. He insisted that I save
all of my paper receipts and write checks only to the newspaper companies. About the time
I became a high school sophomore, he had a talk with me as he gave me one of my raises.
"Charles," he said, "now that you are getting this raise, I expect you to
buy your own clothes from now on. " Which I did! I also augmented my bank account
with part of my store earnings; when I entered Purdue University I had sufficient funds
for my first year and a half. My dad taught me many things; perhaps the most important
was, "Don't spend more than you earn." He died when he was 65; I took care of my
mother for 35 years.
I never heard the word "aptitude" until I got to college. The way Swayzee
folks said it was, "He's not cut out for it." When I was a kid I thought there
were an awful lot of things I wasn't cut out for. Like playing the piano and athletics.
Take tennis. A bunch of us kids built a tennis court on the vacant lot between Doc
Hawkins' house and the First National Bank of Swayzee. But I had two problems! I could
rarely get to the ball and, when I could, I couldn't hit it. Now, if you know anything
about tennis, you know that anyone with those two problems isn't cut out for tennis. So,
that's the main reason why I never became a great tennis player like Bill Tilden. Perry
Wycoff was Swayzee's undertaker. His wife, Dolly, helped him; I can remember his ads in
the Swayzee Press - "Lady attendant." Perry sang real loud in church. Besides
burying people that had died, he had another source of income - renting folding chairs,
like when they had a big banquet in Rudy's garage. Must have done all right. When they
first passed the income tax, the government posted the names of those who paid any in the
post office. Only two -Perry and the cashier of the First National Bank of Swayzee. I sort
of wondered about that. I thought about taking up banking once, but burying didn't appeal
to me. Don't think I was cut out for either one of them.
Swayzee had four churches: the Methodist Episcopal, the Methodist
Protestant, the West Church, and the Christian Church (sometimes called Campbellites).
Your pathway to salvation was different, depending on which church you belonged to. If you
were a Methodist, they sprinkled you; if you went to the Christian Church, they totally
immersed you in a special place they had fixed in the church floor with water in it. I
don't remember the West Church; it burned when I was quite young but I think they took
people to a river somewhere and submerged them.
My schooling probably wasn't world class, but it was good, solid journeyman quality. My
mother taught me to read (Miss Plackard wasn't very good at that, either). Rose Starbuck
taught me basic grammar, and Gladys Forest taught me to diagram sentences. In Swayzee
there were two grades in each room; Miss Starbuck moved me from the fifth grade side of
the room to the sixth grade side. My high school English teachers were all good: Gladys
Comstock, Raymond Pence, and Esther Godwin. Bernice Mullins (my third and fourth grade
teacher) gave me an excellent start in arithmetic which others helped polish. Curt
Sprinkle helped me master algebra and geometry. I should mention Paul Norris; he did his
best to teach me Latin (four years). It didn't take, though. I could never see the point.
It might have come in handy if I had decided to be a priest. When I was a junior, I
started a high school newspaper and served as business manager the first year. It was
called Mercury-Nuntius Scholae (suggested by Paul Norris, the Latin teacher). My interest
in journalism was evolving. I graduated in 1925. My formal schooling was bolstered by lots
of books at home. We subscribed to the National Geographic and as far back as I can
remember we had a set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Later the folks purchased
Book for my brother and me. Dad sold books at the drug store and lots of these were
brought home. We had four tiers of "Gunn Sectional Bookcases" in our living
When I was very young I was sensitive about coming from a hick town. ("Swayzee!
Never heard of it.") But as a mature adult I began to realize how really, really
lucky I was. I not only learned about the world of work and received a solid elementary
and secondary education, but I learned about people. Where else but in a small town could
an ordinary kid daily rub shoulders with the banker, the preacher, the lawyer, the doctor,
the telephone lineman, the barber, the merchants, the mechanic, the baker, etc. - and the
town drunk. They were all "just Swayzee folks" to me. I learned that most people
who did well worked hard for what they had (no such thing as a free lunch). Some people
saved; others didn't. Most Swayzee folks were genuine. But even Swayzee had a few phonies.
Like the fellow who always prayed louder and longer than anyone else in church, but
skinned everybody he could during the week. Quite young, I learned how to spot a phoney.
COMING OF AGE (1925-1929)
I do not recall that there was ever any talk around our house that
"you should go to college." Somehow or other it was a given. Nor was there any
insistence on my attending Purdue University. In fact, I almost did not go to Purdue; I
had two uncles, Max (whom I already mentioned) and Harold, only six years older than I,
who went to Wabash College, and I can remember that when I was in high school I attended
Harold's Wabash graduation ceremonies. I teetered; I almost followed them to Wabash. But
uncertainty regarding what I wanted to do led me to select a little larger school, one
that in my judgment (?) had greater prestige. My personal rationale was, "When I make
up my mind, I can transfer from here." This is how I wound up at Purdue. My parents
were no help at all, and there was no vocational guidance then (at least, not in Swayzee
High School). I can recall that my decision was not made until late summer after I had
So, on a hot September Sunday in 1925, I boarded the interurban in Swayzee and
transferred in Frankfort. I arrived at the Lafayette station about 11:30 a.m. with my
valise (given to me as a graduation present) and my check-book for the First National Bank
of Swayzee where, as I said earlier, I had enough money for my first three semesters.
Both of my Wabash uncles had been members of the Lambda Chi Alpha
fraternity and another Swayzee product, C.C. Hannah, had graduated from Purdue the
previous June and had also been a member. "CC" had arranged for me to contact
the Lambda Chi house when I arrived. The Purdue chapter house was on the "east
side" then (rather than in West Lafayette), about six blocks from the interurban
station. So I walked the six blocks (the last two of which were up South Street hill),
carrying my valise, wearing my wool graduation suit, and arrived at the chapter house, hot
and sweaty, where the brothers were assembled on the front porch (some with their
girlfriends) awaiting Sunday dinner. Someone greeted me, introduced me to several members,
and escorted me to dinner. After the meal, three upper-classmen took me to an upstairs
room and invited me to become a fraternity pledge. As I recall, there were seventeen or
eighteen in my pledge class. The Lambda Chi house became my home for the next three and
I came to Purdue looking for the most general academic program available. I enrolled in
the School of Science which was really misnamed; in any other institution it would have
been the College of Arts and Sciences because, in addition to science, it encompassed the
humanities and social sciences. The core requirements were quite minimal: something like a
year in each of the sciences, a year of mathematics, and two years of a foreign language.
From there on, it was essentially "cafeteria style." By graduation time I had
some 50 hours in English (writing and literature), courses in psychology and sociology,
and a strong sprinkling of economics and political science, I remember, particularly,
courses in "Labor Law", "Political Parties and Electoral Problems",
and "History of American Foreign Relations". Purdue did not award a BA degree at
that time so I received a BS. While my course selections may have seemed like academic
floundering at the time, in retrospect I am convinced that I received a much more solid
"general education" than many of today's undergraduates who seem to be
prematurely forced into narrow specialization of one kind or another.
About the only constant during my undergraduate days was the urge,
sometimes unconscious, to become a journalist. My writing courses included three
journalism courses (news writing, feature writing, and editorial writing) two of which
were taught by an ex-newspaperman. With my high school newspaper background, it was
natural that I "go out for" the student paper, the Exponent. I was a reporter my
freshman year and one of six assistant night editors my sophomore year; I lost the
election for appointment to junior year night editor. Then I switched to the sports staff.
I also was a member of the staff of the Debris, Purdue's student yearbook, and served as
sports editor during my junior year. Early in my undergraduate career I developed a desire
to transfer to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The rude
awakening came when I became aware that Northwestern is a private institution and that the
tuition was too stiff for my meager means; my Purdue tuition was $36 a semester.
It was during my sophomore year that I met Muriel Grace Knight through a blind date
arranged by one of her Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters. Muriel's parents lived in West
Lafayette. Her father was the first student pastor at Purdue University (and had a
semi-faculty status) and was part-time choral director at the First Christian Church. The
Rev. Robert Knight traveled a great deal to raise money for "the work", and
Muriel's mother was the stabilizing influence in the family of seven children, of which
Muriel was the eldest. Our dating was an on and off thing at the outset, but about the
middle of my junior year (her sophomore year) we started "going steady." I've
always been lucky. First, it was being raised in a small town. Second, and most important,
was meeting Muriel. She has been the most important influence of my life; starting before
we were married, she has constantly encouraged and supported me in every endeavor and,
above all, it was Muriel who built my confidence and helped me escape my early feelings of
There were no student grants when I attended Purdue; you either did it
on your own or you didn't do it. Income from summer work was extremely important. During
my first summer I published a telephone directory for the Swayzee Cooperative Telephone
Company. I sold advertising, layed out the ads, and otherwise worked with the printer to
design the directory. I was good at the editorial part but terrible when it came to
selling advertising. After I paid the printer and delivered the specified number of copies
to the telephone company, I didn't have much left for my efforts (about a hundred dollars,
as I remember).
My second college summer was spent in Glacier National Park as a common laborer. My
uncle Harold, a young speech instructor from Northwestern University, and I took the train
to Glacier Park and became members of a twelve-man trail crew. I made a little money that
summer, but the main reward was what I learned from living day in and day out with a group
of itinerant laborers, misplaced cowboys, and loggers. This is where I learned that people
have lots of different value systems, many quite different from those held by most people
The third summer was quite different. Muriel, an institution management
major, urged by her faculty advisor to "get some practical experience," got a
job as a waitress at the Beach Hotel in Charlevoix, Michigan. Her father arranged to drive
her to Charlevoix in his Model T Ford and I rode along. I was immediately hired as second
dish-washer and later promoted to bus-boy. There were 31 girls and four men, all college
students, working at the hotel. We worked like hell, but had a lot of fun. The summer was
cut short by the unexpected death of Muriel's mother. We left Charlevoix by train, and I
accompanied her as far as Chicago; she went on to Lafayette and I to Swayzee.
My summer income was still not enough. I did all kinds of jobs while I
was in school: mowing lawns, working for a laundry and dry cleaning company, and working as
a "soda squirt" (fifteen cents an hour) at the Gold and Black, a student
hang-out that sold ice cream and sandwiches.
At the start of my senior year I was employed as the "ticket taker" at the
Mars Theatre in Lafayette and worked every afternoon from 12:45 to about 3:00. Some time
around Thanksgiving, a Louisville firm purchased the theatre from local owners, totally
refurbished it and converted from silent films to sound movies. I was promoted to House
Superintendent; among other duties, I was responsible for hiring (and firing!) and
training an usher staff of 32. It was a full-time job (12:45 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.) seven
days a week. I arranged all of my final semester classes in the morning, moved out of my
fraternity house into a West Lafayette room to improve my logistics, and sometimes saw
Muriel after 11:00 p.m. for a brief while. It was a rigorous regimen, but Muriel supported
me throughout and I received my BS degree in June of 1929. Muriel completed her junior
year but, as the oldest of seven siblings, dropped out and attempted to replace her mother
in the home.
Financially, my pockets were shallow. All I could earn was still not
enough. My mother was paid $25 per month as the Swayzee Librarian. For ten months each
during my junior year and during my senior year, she regularly endorsed her check and sent
it to me (total, $500). In addition, my uncle Harold loaned me $200; Muriel and I agreed
that marriage was on the back burner until I could pay off this loan.
While I had learned financial responsibility before I left Swayzee, I
was immature in other ways. High school courses had been easy for me. My Purdue freshman
year was largely a re-run and I did not need to study; this encouraged poor study habits.
The demands of my various jobs and my involvement with the Exponent and the
with my lax study habits resulted in my being a so-so student. I tended to concentrate on
what interested me and to just get by on all else. But, I did learn (some!) and I did grow
While there were certainly deficiencies in my scholarship, they were
compensated for by my extra-curricular and out-of-school activities. My Exponent
experience during my sophomore year is representative; every Monday night I "ran the
paper." Starting at 4:00 p.m. and continuing till midnight, I decided what would be
printed, how and how much it would be edited, and then how the paper would be made-up. My
theatre experience was truly educational; it was Don Hammer, the theatre manager, who
first taught me the meaning of delegation. I remember when he told me, "Chuck, if I
find an usher chewing gum or sitting on his ass, I won't say a word to him; but I will
have something to say to you." So, as a single, twenty-one year old college graduate,
I was ready to face the world.
AN ABORTED BEGINNING: MY FIRST CAREER (1929-1931)
Today, employers seeking fresh college graduates visit Purdue
University by the hundreds; the University maintains an elaborate mechanism whereby
would-be employers and about-to-graduate seniors are scheduled for interviews. Such was
not the case in 1929. So, after I graduated, with the permission of the manager of the
Mars Theatre, I turned my duties over to my usher captain and made a four-day visit to
Chicago. I stayed (for free!) at the Northwestern University Lambda Chi house and made job
seeking visits to some twelve or fifteen companies. All cold turkey! Believe it or not, I
hit the jack-pot; R. R. Donnelly (The Lakeside Press) made a job offer. Today, the job
would be called "management trainee." I was to work in the printing plant for
two years and then move into the office for bigger things. I was to report in about ten
Euphoric, I returned to Lafayette but soon began a process of reconsideration. I was to
start at $25 per week; my current theatre job paid $21. Muriel lived in West Lafayette.
Somehow, the four dollar differential didn't seem worth it. I sent R. R. Donnelly a
telegram and declined the offer.
Lady luck has always been my handmaiden. Two days after I sent the
telegram, my theatre manager advised me of an opening as manager of the Luna Theatre at
Logansport, Indiana, an hour away by interurban. My application interview was perfunctory;
the skids were already greased. I accepted the job at $40 per week with the proviso that
for the first eight weeks it would be $30. This ten dollar per week differential was to
permit the company to recover the $80 severance pay which it gave my predecessor.
So, about the middle of June I boarded the interurban for Logansport.
The Fourth Avenue Amusement Company (of Louisville, Kentucky) operated three theatres
there; technically, I was assistant resident manager of all three and house manager of the
Luna, an old legitimate theatre converted to a sound movie house. While I had first line
supervisory experience at the Mars Theatre, I now moved into a true management role.
By now, Muriel and I were making serious marriage plans. By agreement,
however, paying off my college debt to my Uncle Harold came first. But there was a
complication; the $40 per week didn't materialize.
It was much longer than eight weeks before the company finally honored
its commitment. But, eventually, it happened. Muriel and I were married on January 30,
1930. (One of the advantages of marrying a PK is that you don't have to pay the preacher!)
We rented a furnished apartment in Logansport and began a marriage which, at this writing,
has lasted sixty years.
The winds of economic disaster were already rising. The 1929 stock
market crash had occurred less than two months before, and Fourth Avenue closed the
smallest of its three Logansport theatres. Unemployment was on the upswing and,
concomitantly, theatre attendance was on the skids. Finally, in November 1930, the Luna
Theatre was closed. I received no severance pay as did my predecessor.
So, there I was, age 22, married and no job. We packed our few
belongings, took the interurban to Swayzee and moved in with my parents. I did everything
possible to help my father in the drug store with its dwindling business. Muriel helped my
mother some in the library and, somehow, we got along.
We had saved a few dollars, all of which I spent for travel to
Indianapolis and elsewhere in unproductive efforts to reestablish myself in the theatre
business. Like many people, I believed the depression would be short lived and that the
economy would pick up.
Not so; instead everything got worse. Efforts to find any kind of
employment proved futile. Finally, in desperation, I decided to prepare myself to teach.
Throughout my undergraduate days I had always said that I did not want
to be a teacher. But, I reversed my field, borrowed a couple of hundred dollars at the
First National Bank of Swayzee, and enrolled for two terms at Marion College (now Indiana
Wesleyan University) in Marion, just twelve miles away. Without transportation,
hitch-hiking was the name of the game. I earned the credits necessary for a Secondary
Teacher's License (English and Social Studies) and completed my practice teaching at
McCullough Junior High School in Marion. It was there that my practice teaching supervisor
told me of an opening in the high school at Van Buren, another small town about a dozen
miles from Marion. Guess what; I got the job! So, in September of 1931, Muriel and I
packed our few belongings, boarded the interurban for Van Buren, and, poorer but wiser, I
started my second career - first as a public school teacher and subsequently as a school
LEARNING HOW PEOPLE LEARN: MY SECOND CAREER (1931-1941)
Starting with Van Buren, the next ten years encompassed a quantum leap
in my personal development. The process of guiding (and observing) the learning of school
children combined with the pursuit of organized graduate studies in education and
psychology provided the ideal structure for gaining true insight into the nature of human
In my first teaching months I discovered that treatment of a subject in class did not,
in any way, ensure that learning would take place. From that point forward, my teaching
was a continuous exploratory, trial and error experience; how can I arrange the classroom/
teaching process so that kids can and will learn? I realized that I needed more insight
than my Marion College courses provided, so I made application for admission to the
University of Wisconsin graduate school and was summarily rejected because of my
undergraduate grade record. (Trivia: Many, many years later the University of Wisconsin
paid me a substantial fee for presenting a seminar on the Madison campus.) I then made
application to the University of Michigan and, surprisingly, was admitted. At the close of
the school year we were out of debt and had $125 which I invested in a used 1929
Chevrolet. So, with the used car as our only asset, I borrowed $200 at the bank and Muriel
and I took off for Ann Arbor. My objective was not to obtain a master's degree but to
better understand the learning process. The summer was productive; courses in teaching
methods, mental measurement, and individual differences made me a much better teacher.
But, the economic struggle was real. My first year's salary of $1,120
was reduced to $980 the second; it seemed that I could not continue teaching. That summer,
I took my meager second year savings, went back to Logansport and, on my own, reopened the
Luna Theatre. This foolish venture lasted about four or five weeks and, broke again, we
returned to Van Buren for my third year of teaching ($1,000 for the year!).
After the theatre fiasco, it became evident that the only way to
enhance my income was to become a school principal - but that required a master's degree.
The next summer we returned to Ann Arbor and I began serious pursuit of that objective.
Initially, course concentration was in administration and school management. But there was
a graduate shift to psychology. My thesis, done under the guidance of a psychologist, Dr.
Stuart A. Courtis, was entitled, A Study of the Relationship of Certain Factors to the
Rates at which Children Learn and Forget Word Meanings as Indicated by Vocabulary Tests.
The project involved seven weekly testings of ninth grade students in one of my classes at
Rockcreek High School where I taught for one year after leaving Van Buren. it was a
carefully designed experimental study and represented my first research effort.
After three summers at the University of Michigan I was awarded the
Master of Arts degree, obtained my principal's license and moved from Rock Creek to
Liberty Center as principal of the twelve-grade Liberty Center Schools. My salary for the
year was $1,320. I thought I was on my way as a school administrator!
However, as the school year was coming to a close, my Uncle Harold who was then with
the Evansville, Indiana school system, advised me of an opening at Bosse High School for a
teacher of English and journalism. I was interviewed and got the job ($1,530). Here is
where I learned that there is more to family economics than salary; the $210 increase was
more than devoured by our increase in rent. During my two years at Bosse I taught an
American literature class, several sections of newswriting, and served as advisor for the
weekly school paper, The School Spirit. We entered the major national contests and won
them all. During this period, I collaborated with my uncle, Harold Spears, who had
previously held the journalism job, in writing a textbook, High School Journalism.
published in 1939 by the Macmillan Company. Later I participated in the preparation of the
second (1939) and the third edition (1940), then relinquished my rights to the co-author.
For years it was the leading high school text in the field with numerous subsequent
Having returned to the University of Michigan for two summers following award of my
master's degree, I had developed the "PhD bug." During my second year at Bosse,
I kept in continuous contact with my Michigan professors in an effort to obtain some kind
of appointment. I received all kinds of encouragement, but no commitment. "We can't
promise," they said, "but your chances are good." So, at age 30, I
resigned, and in June, Muriel and I packed our few belongings in our used car and headed
for Ann Arbor. Her father still lived in West Lafayette, and we stopped on the way for a
brief visit. I became bored, wandered over to the Purdue University campus and visited
with a former English professor, Dr. Herbert Creek. After I told him about my uncertain
plans, he asked, "Have you considered doing your PhD at Purdue? The president has
brought Dr. Frederic B. Knight here from Iowa and created the Division of Education and
Applied Psychology. I think things are going to move. Why not talk to him?" I did
and, to make a long story short, I came out with an appointment and never got to Ann
Arbor. My earlier exposure to psychology provided a great foundation. I was assigned to
Dr. Joseph Tiffin and began a truly in-depth study of psychology. My fellowship was funded
by the Joint Highway Research Project, a collaborative effort between the Indiana State
Highway Commission and Purdue's School of Civil Engineering. It was all F. B. Knight's
idea; my thesis was entitled Psychological Studies of Some factors Related to Driving
Speed on the Highways.
I spent an academic year and two summers on the Purdue campus, during which time I
completed my course work (augmented by my University of Michigan credits) and collected
all of the data for my thesis research. I fully expected to spend the next year on campus
but received a call from the Evansville school superintendent. He said, in effect,
"We are opening a new trade school and if you are interested in becoming its first
principal, get down here and we'll talk about it. I went, we talked, and I accepted the
appointment. My residence requirement had been satisfied and I received approval to
complete my thesis "in absentia." So, in September, 1939, Muriel and I returned
to Evansville where I became the first administrator of Mechanic Arts School, a trade
preparatory high school for junior and senior boys (no girls yet!). While at Mechanic Arts
I began to learn about industry and industrial training. I associated with industrial
managers, industrial trainers, and labor union leaders. In the school we taught five
trades: electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance, machine shop, mill-room work, and
machine drafting. For two years, each student spent half of each day in the shop of his
trade specialty and the remainder of the day in general and supporting subjects. At the
end of his two years he received a regular high school diploma from his "home"
high school. Most of our graduates moved into apprenticeship where, by agreement of the
labor management apprenticeship committees, they completed their apprenticeships in three
years instead of four. In addition to providing me with the opportunity to learn about
apprenticeship, the trades, and industrial training in general, my Mechanic Arts
experience "rounded out" my understanding of human learning. I had moved from
general academic education, to journalism instruction, then to trade education. I began to
appreciate and to understand more fully the importance of purpose for the student's
motivation to learn: the more meaningful (to the student) the activity at hand the more
likely it is that learning is self-propelled. It is no happenstance that applied
psychology became my forte.
I finished my thesis at the end of my first year at Mechanic Arts and
was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree in June of 1940. I had five publications based
upon my thesis. I spent that summer on the Purdue campus assisting a visiting professor,
Dr. Albert Harris, in the teaching of a three week course for teachers: subject, "How
to teach non-readers to read." Near the close of my second year, I was invited by Dr.
Knight to return to the campus the next year to fill a one-year vacancy created when Prof.
Russel Greenly took a year's leave to serve as training director of a steel mill. I
requested, and received, a one-year leave of absence from the Evansville schools. We moved
back to West Lafayette in June, 1941, just six months before Pearl Harbor. While I did not
know it at the time, my second career had ended. It was a case of "The Man Who Came
LADY LUCK CONTINUES TO INTERVENE:
MY THIRD CAREER (1941-1958)
When an object moves into a jet stream, the forces of nature clearly influence the
speed (and direction) at which it moves. That is the way it was with me; I was
"swooped up" by these forces. The war-time effort was gathering momentum; every
industry needed help in selecting and training employees. It was not uncommon for an
industry to double, or even triple, the size of its work force by adding farmers and
women. The University provided travel money, and I spent most of my time during the first
three years designing and implementing selection and training programs in industry. My
first year contract expired; Professor Greenly, whose budgeted positions I was filling,
was granted a second year's leave and my leave from the Evansville School System was
extended. When Professor Greenly requested, and was granted, a third year's leave of
absence, I made a request but was refused. So, for the second time, I resigned. It all
worked out, though, because when Professor Greenly asked for a fourth year, he was
refused; the budgeted position was then open, and I was hired. So, after being a
"guest professor" for three years, in 1944, I was appointed Associate Professor
With this appointment came the responsibility for all of Purdue's
elementary psychology. I had lectures at 8:00, 10:00, and 11:00 on Monday, Wednesday and
Friday. This was an extremely demanding assignment, because a part of the time we taught
three semesters a year (with no time off). Someone once said, "If you want to truly
learn a subject, teach it. " This really applied in my case. It was similar to a
"post doctoral" assignment, in that I relearned my elementary psychology in
order to be able to lecture to my 900 students each semester. I had lots of graduate
assistants, but it was still a lot of work. I carried this load for six and one-half
semesters before I was relieved.
During the war years, we all tried to join in the effort. I was turned
down twice by the Navy because of my vision. I did contribute, though, by becoming a
hearing officer for the War Labor Board. Sometimes I served as a single hearing officer
and sometimes as the chairman and public member of a tri-partite panel. All-in-all, I
tried about thirteen cases - enough that I thought I wanted to be a labor arbitrator; I
did join the American Arbitration Association, but nothing ever came of it.
During the seventeen years that I was a member of the Psychology
faculty, I attended every Midwestern Psychological Association meeting and all but one
American Psychological Association meeting. I presented papers at perhaps three-fourths of
them. I never had my expenses paid by the University. There was simply no money. Nor were
there any federal grants.
The year, 1945, was an important one. Our daughter was born, and that
was the year in which we bought our first house. The economic pinch was off, and I was on
Meanwhile, a pattern began to emerge. I discovered that I could combine
my consulting work with a grant to the University (actually the Purdue Research
Foundation). I would write a contract with the industrial client for my services, which
contract involved the client setting up a fellowship (at the going rate) through the
foundation. I would name a fellow who would accompany me on my trips to the firm. I would
then bill the client for the fellow's travel expenses. This pattern started with a single
client; at one time I had five of these. It was a busy time. I had been promoted to
Professor of Industrial Psychology in 1947 and I was, now, spending 100% of my time in
directing graduate research, conducting a graduate seminar, and teaching one course in
At this juncture it is well to point out the major factor which
contributed to our success at Purdue. The first edition of Joe Tiffin's book, Industrial
Psychology, was published by Prentice-Hall, Inc. in 1942. It was adopted by USAFI (the
United States Armed Forces Institute), published in paperback, and sent to GIs all over
the globe. So, after the war had ended, here came the GI's. They were four years older
than their peace-time counterparts, they all had the GI Bill plus a pocket full of money,
and (so it seemed) they all wanted to study under the great Joe Tiffin. We had two or
three times as many applicants as we had places for them. We set up a simple, but
effective, selection system. Everyone took the American Council mental ability test
(later, the Graduate Record). Transcripts were carefully analyzed to identify those with a
"quantitative bent." And everyone filed a personal data form which indicated
what he had done - besides go to school. This package, for each applicant, was routed to
four faculty members (Tiffin, Lawshe, Kehart, and McCormick), each of who rated the
candidate, A, B, or C. An applicant who got four A's was automatically "in", one
who received four C's was automatically "out", and those who got' a mixed vote
had their names placed on the agenda for our next Friday staff meeting. Here, they were
thoroughly discussed, and a decision was reached.
We admitted about 23-24 each September. For the last seven years I was
in the department, this contributed to a selection ratio of .3. I don't suppose that there
has ever been a more capable group of graduate students. As faculty members, we would have
had to have been complete dummies not to succeed.
Professor always write books. So, I guess some reference is necessary.
In 1948, the McGraw-Hill Book Company published the first edition of my book, Principles
of Personnel Testing. Up until that time, little attention had been given to methods of
presenting validity results, other than the coefficient of correlation. This book explored
various methods of presenting data, and laid the groundwork for my later work on
expectancy charts. My second book, The Psychology of Industrial Relations, was published,
also by the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. It had six contributing authors, all members of
a seminar in which the production of the book was a project. My third effort, Machine Shop
Operations and Setups, was a throw-back to my Mechanic Arts School days. Both of my
co-authors were students of mine and the book was based upon research conducted by one of
them. Actually it was designed to specifications identified by the research. It was
published by the American Technical Society.
In 1951 I was appointed to a four-year term on the Graduate Council, a
body which at Purdue establishes policy for all graduate work. Dean E. C. Young and I
became close friends and, at the close of my term, be appointed me Assistant Dean of the
Graduate School, a part-time position, for a three-year term. This meant that I would
serve another three years as an ex officio member of the Council. This seven year stretch
gave me a broad perspective of the University. Dean Young was a high-trust,
high-delegation executive. He literally turned the graduate work of about a third of the
University over to me with the admonition, "You run it!" And I did.
Meanwhile, back in the department, things were going extremely well. All of the
incoming students enrolled in my seminar, "An Introduction to Published Research in
Applied Psychology." This provided the opportunity for me to look over each of the
new aspirants. I literally had my pick of the litter, which had already been rigorously
chosen. They did well; I pushed them and they pushed me. I still say that the quality of a
graduate program is as much a function of the quality of the students as of the quality of
the faculty. Good students make a quality faculty better. Finally, in 1957, my colleagues
elected me President of Division 14. I gave my presidential address and turned the gavel
over to Joe Tiffin, my major professor, in September of 1958, a little less than two
months after a series of events which changed my entire life.
I was 50 years old. I was in the cat-bird seat. I had nine publications
in 1958, and several more "in print." I was President of my national society. I
received a call from President Frederic L. Hovde's secretary saying that the President
wanted to see me. Little did I realize, as I walked from the Psychology Building to the
Executive Building, that seventeen of the happiest years of my life were coming to a
close. In short, he asked me "to join his top administrative team" and to head
up the on-campus continuing education program and the four branch campuses which then were
little more than extension centers. They were under-staffed and under-funded; they were
not respected by those in the mainstream of the University. Continuing education was in a
shambles and, here, the President asks me to give up all I have and take on the rebuilding
When I told the President that I didn't know whether I could make the
emotional break or not, he said, "Oh, you can still run a seminar and keep three or
four graduate students." My answer was, "The hell I can. I have seen a good
engineer thrust into the job of Manager of Engineering. I know what can happen."
After agonizing for three or four days and talking it over with Muriel, I took the bait.
I immediately went on my scheduled vacation, went to the APA where I gave my farewell
address, and returned to the campus. I arranged to transfer all but three of my graduate
students to other faculty members.
I never went back to the Psychology Building for five years, and I
never attended another APA meeting. It was "cold turkey" all the way!
APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY IN THE REAL WORLD:
MY FOURTH CAREER (1958-1974)
So, in September of 1958, I left the Psychology Building and moved my
office to Memorial Center (now Stewart Center). I knew little about the "extension
centers" or about the continuing education program on the main campus. It was time to
roll up my sleeves and find out what was going on.
My only commission from the President was to combine the Division of
Technical Extension, the Division of Technical Institutes (both of which had reported to
Dean C.W. Beese, now deceased), and the Division of Adult Education which was under the
direction of Dr. George Davis. My first official act was to move Dean Beese's staff from
the Engineering Administration Building to Memorial Center.
Many of my professional colleagues asked me why I made the move. My
public response was, "I'll be damned if I know." Privately, I was saying to
myself, "I want to see if this stuff I've been teaching for seventeen years really
works." I had become weary from trying to push the organization decision makers into
making the right choices. Now, I was a decision maker; it was up to me. The verdict: it
really does work. During the ensuing sixteen-year period, the four extension centers
(Calumet, North Central, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis) became stand alone, degree granting
campuses. The Technical Institute, a non-collegiate level program, was transformed into
the School of Technology which, after twenty-five years, is the University's third largest
undergraduate school with its own building. The Lafayette evening class program had become
successful and the non-credit conference program served over 88,000 adults during the last
year. All of this was accomplished by applying sound psychological principles.
In the regional campuses, in sixteen years, we grew from 95 full-time
faculty members to 466. Through careful monitoring of performance we were able to
gradually upgrade the quality of our faculty.
Early decisions established a single faculty throughout the system with
academic control vested in the head of the department on the West Lafayette campus. Once
faculties had matured and quality was assured, a carefully thought-out program was
developed whereby regional campus faculty autonomy was achieved.
Initially, the extension centers offered only a sprinkling of relatively high volume
courses. Our first objective was to offer all freshmen and sophomore courses in selected
University curricula. Next, we developed master's degree programs (in Education and
Engineering) for employed professionals. And, finally, we developed complete baccalaureate
sequences in selected areas. In 1967, the Trustees of the University awarded the first
bachelor's degrees at the Calumet campus. All of this had to be arranged so as to be
supported by faculty recruitment and development.
As the programs grew, additional facilities were necessary. Hundreds of
faculty committees, over the years, contributed countless hours in defining space and
equipment needs. Long-term master plans for each campus were developed. And plans were
made for staged occupancy as the various buildings came on stream. From 1958 to 1974, over
58 million dollars was invested in new facilities.
From an organizational change perspective, the most significant event was the creation
of the School of Technology. This took about two and one-half years. By the time that the
proposal went to the Board of Trustees, formal action had been taken by the Schools of
Engineering faculty and every member of the faculty implicated in the reorganization had
signed off on the proposal. The school became operational July 1, 1964. This past year, it
celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. I served as the first dean and, in 1966 when I
was appointed a Vice President of the University, I relinquished my duties to my Associate
As I indicated at the start of this chapter, I disassociated myself
from any professional activities. The one exception was the International Association of
Applied Psychology; I did attend meetings in Rome, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Ljubljana and
Lsige. I did manage to produce the second edition of Personnel Testing with the
co-authorship of one of my former students, Mike Balma, who was then a Vice President of
Abbott Laboratories. Beyond that, I was a "professional drop-out" for sixteen
years. But it was almost like everything I had ever done had prepared me for the job. It
was truly "applied psychology in the real world."
During my tenure as a dean and a vice-president, I broadened my perspective and had a
number of "pro bono" assignments. I served for eleven years as a member of the
United States Air Force Air Training Command civilian advisory board. This was a broadly
constituted group that accepted assignment of a problem from the commanding officer each
year, studied the problem, and terminated with a report. I served as chairman of the group
during the final year. I maintained my interest in trade training when the governor of
Indiana appointed me to the State Board of Vocational and Technical Education; I served as
chairman of the Board. And, President Ford appointed me to the Advisory Board on Extension
and Continuing Education for a three-year term. All of these were enriching experiences
and I, as well as the University, profited from the assignment.
Five of my subordinates, who all served as administrative heads of my
regional campuses, eventually became college presidents.
Finally, in July 1974 I succumbed to the University's mandatory retirement policy. I
was 66. And I felt like I had jumped (or been pushed) off of a 200-foot cliff.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
MY FIFTH CAREER (1974-1990)
When I left the University I had no idea that I could re-establish my
professional career. After all, it had been sixteen years. No one could possibly be a
professional drop-out for sixteen years and re-establish himself; right? Wrong! What I had
not factored into the equation was a unique combination of circumstances which combined to
make possible the impossible.
First of all, personnel selection was fading into the background as the cutting edge
about the time that I left the psychology faculty. My contemporaries were retiring and
were replaced by young professors with other interests. Consequently, there was little
research done in the selection field. There were few graduate students trained in the
selection field. The new professors were focusing on organizational matters; in fact, it
was during this era that Division 14 changed its name to more nearly reflect what members
were doing. In short, by 1974 there were few true "experts" in the field of
Second, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had come into being
and was riding high. Generally, speaking, those companies that had been testing eliminated
all objective selection methods. The result was that, with no methods for determining
which employee or applicant was better, seniority became the sole standard for selection
or promotion. Personnel departments in industry, for the most part, became enforcers of
"equal opportunity." Things drifted for a while and then operating management
began to scream for some kind of a selection system. This first manifested itself in
maintenance areas where the quality had eroded in the face of rising personnel
requirements. Maintenance management pressed personnel departments (now called human
resource departments) into some kind of action.
My inactivity after retirement from the University didn't last long.
People found copies of my old Principles of Personnel Testing on their shelves, and then
they found me. Soon, the equal opportunity legislation had become the applied
psychologists' full employment legislation. The fact that I had, personally, managed an
operation with a $20 million annual budget certainly helped. I had all I could do.
During the past sixteen years I have installed testing programs,
evaluated existing programs, planned litigation defense strategies, given depositions,
appeared in court as an expert witness, and represented employers in arbitration cases. My
posture has been that I will not commit myself to defend a client until I have carefully
reviewed the case and concluded that it is winnable. I have been wrong only once; this was
early in the game when I still believed that judges merely interpreted the law (instead of
making the law).
Meanwhile, I picked up on my professional activities. Soon after I left
the University (October, 1974), 1 called my former student, Bob Guion, and suggested that
he assemble a small group to discuss content validity. He did. The conference was not
particularly productive, except that it provided the groundwork for a more structured
Content Validity II on July 17 and 18, 1975. 1 well remember that, after I presented my
paper, "A Quantitative Approach to Content Validity," Milt Hakel came up to me
and said, "If you will fine-tune that a little bit, I'll publish it in the next issue
of Personnel Psychology." In that conference I discovered that the concept of content
validity was so new that hardly anyone really had a handle on it. I'm glad that I could
help define it.
I write this, Im looking forward to the fifth annual SIOP Conference in
Miami, where I will participate in the program.
These last sixteen years have been rewarding, financially and
emotionally. I cant imagine my
life having been any more fulfilling than it has been.
was during this period that Purdue University conferred the honorary Doctor of
Science degree. In addition, I
received the Doctor of Laws degree from Kent State University and from the
Saginaw Valley State University. And
finally, the Trustees of Purdue University named a major building on the Calumet
Campus C. H. Lawshe Hall. (I
really didnt expect a tombstone that big.)
What makes a good applied psychologist?
I cannot answer the questions in a generic sense.
I think I can answer the question, What made me a good applied
psychologist? In addition to a
good grounding in general psychology, seven characteristics come to mind.
- Possessing a High Level of General Cognitive Ability.
is a given. Anyone who is going to
deal with psychological constructs must be able to function at a high level of
abstraction. But, there are many,
many people who have this and who are not good applied psychologists.
- Understanding the World of Work.
is a pedagogical adage: A person
cannot teach that which he does not know. So,
a person must know psychology, but he must also know industry. This is one place where I have had a great advantage over
- Distinguishing Between the Relevant and the Irrelevant.
I have had a great advantage. The
greater the breadth of ones exposure, the more he is able to develop a system
of values that help him say, This is unimportant.
The narrower the track which he pursues, the more important unimportant
- Writing Clearly and Concisely.
once said, There is no such thing as unclear writing; it is unclear
thinking. Ive always believed
that if one can think clearly and logically, he can write clearly.
- Finishing What You Start.
my first job, persistence has been my trademark.
First of all, I dont undertake everything. I subscribe to the doctrine of the possible.
When I undertake something, I stay with it until it is finished.
Much of what I have accomplished is the product of dogged persistence.
- Practicing Good Work Habits.
any of us have is time. If we
fritter it away, we never recover it. Time
management has been my forte. This
involves the effective use of secretaries and others to do what they can do as
well (or better) than I can. This,
of course, involves training and delegation, something that most individual
contributors generally do very poorly.
- Willingness to Work on Someone Elses Problems.
people are so immersed in their own agendas that they cannot, truly, accept
anothers problem. They are
always thinking, Gee, this is a good place to test an hypothesis,
regardless of whether or not it is relevant to the problem.
They tend to lead clients down pathways of confusion and obfuscation.
thats the story of my life, such as it is.
Ive liked everything I have ever done, mostly because I wasnt
looking for the perfect job. As
Dean E.C. Young once told me, There is dish-washing or manure-hauling in
every job; take the bitter with the sweet.
C. H. LAWSHE, Ph.D.,
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