Ray Guthrie had profound effect on education

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On June 1, 1985, with a yellow legal pad and black marker in hand, the late Vernon “Dan” McGrew began the emotionally difficult task of listing the breadth and depth of his longtime friend and colleague’s work at Marietta College.

At the top of the first page, McGrew ’49, the former College historian and administrator, wrote, “An amplification on Ray Guthrie…”

Five years earlier, it was McGrew who had written a touching speech dedicated to Emeritus Professor of Education Raymond Guthrie, and his retired educator wife, Ethel Straw Guthrie, to bestow the two with Honorary Alumni statuses during the 1980 Homecoming celebration. “The Alumni Association has co-winners for this recognition, and no wonder,” McGrew said during the awards ceremony. “Like other famous twosomes — ham and eggs, scotch and soda, Scarlett and Rhett — ours is a prize-winning pair from any perspective.”

But on that Saturday in 1985, McGrew’s musings on Ray Guthrie, who died earlier that day, were less clever, more reflective in nature.

“Ray was a colleague of a number of MC’s teaching giants: Harla Ray Eggleston, E.L. and E.B. Krause, Robert Clark, William Churchill, (William) Gerrish — a close friend — Ralph Whipple, George Chopin, Jerry Hamilton, T.D. Phillips, George ‘Herr’ Blake, Bruce Blackburn, Arthur Bender and others,” McGrew wrote. “He served under six of MC’s first 13 presidents.”

Ray Guthrie was born on Sept. 3, 1900, in Ironton, Ohio, to James Leverett and Georgia Gillette Guthrie. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Education in 1922 and Master of Arts in Education in 1927 from Ohio State University. After teaching and serving as a superintendent at West Alexandria High School and as an assistant to Dr. Boyd H. Bode in Ohio State’s Education Department, he accepted a job at Marietta College as an Assistant Professor in 1927.

At the time, the College was developing its Education Department, and Ray Guthrie was brought on board to help Marietta meet the requirements for the state of Ohio Teachers’ Certificate at the secondary level.

Just as the program was getting off the ground, Marietta College fell into the financial despair of the Great Depression. By March 1932, faculty and staff met the challenge of keeping the College open and all 48 of its employees employed by agreeing to a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut. Within months, it became clear that more needed to be done, so the Board of Trustees asked for an addition 10 percent cut in pay, which faculty ceded.

A year after the faculty’s initial offering, an announcement by President Edward Smith Parsons revealed the extent of the College’s economic distress.

“Effective June 1, 1933, all salaries shall be 50 percent of the original salary, plus an additional allowance of $200 to members who are married and have no children, and an additional allowance of $400 to those who are married and have dependent children,” Parsons said.

McGrew interviewed some of the surviving members of the faculty and staff five decades after the country rebounded from the Great Depression, asking how they felt about working for half pay and if they begrudgingly agreed because finding another job would be nearly impossible at that time.

“Professors Raymond G. Guthrie, John E. Sandt (mathematics), and R. Lee Walp (biology) and Registrar Lillian Spindler Sinclair recalled for the author the strong feeling of ‘family’ that prevailed on campus, especially during the darker times,” McGrew said. “They were unanimous in saying that the sentiment of all was for each to take less so that terminations by reason of finances could be avoided or at least minimized. They believed that nobody was literally forced to leave MC due to the cuts.” 

The sacrifices made by every employee at the College equalized the financial torrent brought on by the country’s economic collapse long enough to weather one storm.

And then World War II broke out.

An article in The Marietta Times, published during the time of Ray Guthrie’s retirement, detailed his added role as academic coordinator for the cadets on campus during the war.

“In addition to serving on and heading many faculty committees, he served as liaison man between the faculty and the Air Corps Training Detachment at MC during World War II and as director of the summer session in 1947,” the article stated.

Beyond the war and the Great Depression, Ray Guthrie continued to build and strengthen the Education Department at Marietta. By the time he retired in 1965, nearly 1,100 Marietta College graduates were certified to teach at the secondary level. At his retirement, he was named Emeritus Professor of Education.

“I will cherish the friendships with the faculty and staff members and I shall miss associating with the College, but Mrs. Guthrie and I are looking forward with pleasure to doing the things we have not had time to do,” Prof. Guthrie said.

More than a dozen years after his retirement, Ray Guthrie and his wife, Ethel, who retired as a very popular Marietta High School teacher, were given honorary alumni status for their contributions in their professions and their involvement in the development of so many students.

“Our selections can best be described by the words service in and service to education,” McGrew said. “That is what has motivated them throughout their professional lives and to contribute good works to our home community.”