Elida Yakeley, higher education pioneer

My day job is Director of Admissions for a community college in Michigan. In that role, I’ve been a member of the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (MACRAO) for several years, and am serving as the group’s president for 2021, our 100th anniversary year. Last week, I wrote the following item for our website, celebrating the career of the association’s first president. Because she was such a pioneer for women in higher education, I thought I’d share it here as well.

Elida Yakeley

MACRAO was born in 1921 on the campus of the Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti. America’s colleges and universities were experiencing rapid change, and the college registrars were responding by expanding and modernizing their work. These challenges motivated registrars from of four of the state’s colleges to meet in person to share ideas and work on standardizing processes between institutions. Besides the hosts from Michigan State Normal (later to become Eastern Michigan University), registrars from Michigan Agricultural College (later Michigan State University), the Detroit Teachers College (which later merged with other Detroit colleges to create Wayne University, then later Wayne State University), and Kalamazoo College attended.

After discussing their shared interests, the group decided to create a formal organization. About a decade earlier, Michigan had also been the first meeting place of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars (AACR), and since that group had grown to national prominence, it seemed like a good idea to have a similar group that would deal with the specific issues of colleges in Michigan. So the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars (MACR) was born.

Of course, every good organization needs leadership, and the newly minted MACR membership turned to one of the state’s pioneers in the profession: Elida Yakeley from M.A.C.

Elida Yakeley was born on April 4, 1876, in Trenton, Michigan, but grew up in Montana. After graduating from high school in Big Sky Country, she returned to her home state to attend college at Ferris Institute in Big Rapids, where she studied business. After graduation she worked in a series of short-term positions until she was hired in 1903 as the secretary to Jonathan L. Snyder, the president of what was then known as the State Agricultural College in East Lansing.

The 1923 MACR meeting was held in East Lansing

Yakeley was a diminutive woman, so sitting behind the huge desk in the anteroom of Snyder’s office meant she had to stand to greet everyone who came in. This made her the face of the college, which in those days had only about 500 students, and she quickly came to know each of them personally and was a great resource for them. As she pointed out later in life, registering students wasn’t terribly difficult in those days, since there were so few students and only three choices for programs to follow: agriculture, engineering, and the “women’s course.”

Over the next several years, however, the school added new programs and its enrollment started to grow significantly. Soon the registration process was becoming more difficult, and Yakeley took it upon herself to come up with a way to automate the system – at least as much as it could be in an age well before computers. Recognizing her genius in setting up one of the first modern registration systems of its kind in the country, Snyder appointed her the first registrar in the college’s history in 1908, just before the institution became Michigan Agricultural College the following year. This not only made her one of the first female college administrators in Michigan, but also in the United States.

In charge of all student records, she continued to make it a point to talk to nearly every student at the school throughout her 30 years at M.A.C. She also kept in touch with alumni, taking an interest in their success after they’d left East Lansing. Students were very fond of her and thought of her as a “thoroughly just, broad-hearted friend.”

She took a 27,000-mile journey around the world in the fall of 1923 with M.A.C. history and political science professor E.H. Ryder, his wife, and home economics associate professor Anna Bayha. During the trip, they were feared to have been lost during the Great Kantō Earthquake but had left Japan just five days before the disaster. They toured Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Egypt, Palestine, France, Italy, Switerland, and England. The travelers returned safely to East Lansing in January 1924.

Yakeley was elected Vice President of AACR at their annual meeting in Seattle in April 1929. Later that year in November, she was seriously injured while attending the AACR meeting in Buffalo. According to newspaper accounts of the time, she was struck by a car and thrown into the path of another vehicle and suffered head and chest injuries. Clemens P. Steimle, another early president of MACR, reported that she was barely conscious and was unable to speak. She did recover, though, and returned to her work at the newly renamed Michigan State College of Agriculture and Science (M.S.C.).

As registrar at M.A.C./M.S.C. she was also instrumental in maintaining the early history of the college. After turning over the registrar’s duties in 1939, she continued as a historical research associate at the college until she retired in 1941 due to ill health and moved to southern California.

Elida Yakeley in 1951

In 1949, M.S.C. named a new women’s dormitory after its first registrar. Yakeley Hall is in the North Neighborhood, which at the time was all housing for female students; Yakeley is today the only remaining all-female residence hall on the MSU campus. Although the college named the building after her, they neglected to let her know about the honor! She found out during a visit to Lansing shortly after the building opened to students, reading about it in the State Journal while staying with friends.

Elida Yakeley died on April 18, 1970, in Chula Vista, California. She was 94 years old.

Back to the future

Nostalgia for the 1950s is nothing new. In the seventies, we had George Lucas’s American Graffiti, which led to ABC’s Happy Days and it’s successful spin-off Laverne & Shirley. The first Back to the Future sent Marty back to 1955. Even 70 years later, we’re still harkening back to those idyllic, simpler days of the 1950s, when Ike was president, women still wore cocktail dresses all the time and cooked a roast every night for dinner, and kids walked to school, respected their teachers, and all got above-average grades.

Which is nonsense, of course. The fifties weren’t perfect. For one thing, while Eisenhower was president from 1953 to 1961, that mean that Dick Nixon was vice president for that same period. The economy grew, but it grew a lot more if you were involved in an industry that supplied the rapidly growing Cold War military/industrial complex, the same one Ike warned us against.

1954 saw the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that overturned the Jim Crow concept of “separate but equal” and required desegregation of public schools. That didn’t happen overnight, and the battle over the racial makeup of schools continued into the 1970s – and in many ways, continues even today.

As recounted in David Halberstam’s epic 1993 book The Fifties, many other changes started in that decade, including the beginning of the fast food and tourism chains with the rise of McDonald’s and Holiday Inn, the launch of the sexual revolution that would come to fruition in the next decade with the development of an effective and affordable birth control pill, and hints of the coming counter-culture with the birth of rock and roll and the popularity of actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean, who played anti-heroes to great popular acclaim. The poetry of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (championed by the recently-departed Lawrence Ferlinghetti) suggested that American life was perhaps a bit more complex and imperfect than the dominant culture suggested.

So while many people view the changes that started in that decade as positive steps toward a more diverse and equitable American society, there are still those, embodied by the sedition wing of the the “Republican” party, who long for the mythical fifties I described earlier. The time when women, blacks, Hispanics, and pretty much everyone who isn’t white and male, knew their place – and if they didn’t, you could help them remember it through force if needed, and society, and most of the time the judicial system, would back you up.

It’s all about power, and it’s always been about power. As America’s traditional ruling class continues to watch their political authority wane due to demographic changes and more progressive societal norms, they will continue to demand that the clock be turned back to a time that really never existed except on television and in the movies.

Minimum wage mythology

Nothing beats getting lectured by White Guys in Suits about how they scrambled up the ladder by paying for college with their minimum wage jobs. Apparently they didn’t take any economics classes that might have explained inflation to them or even a math class that went over how percentages work:

Sen. Thune was born in 1961, so adjusting for inflation, his $6.00 per hour wage in the late seventies (when the minimum wage, incidentally, was around $2.90 per hour) would be about $24.00 per hour today. So a $15.00 minimum wage doesn’t even bring us close to parity with that.

As Timothy Burke notes, tuition at K-State has grown more than 11 times what it was when Sen. Marshall graduated, while the federal minimum wage has only doubled.

Some other things that have increased much faster than the minimum wage and might be considered critical parts of basic existence:

  • $500 worth of groceries in 1981 would cost about $1,400 today, an increase of nearly 190 percent.
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Port Huron, Michigan (the county seat of St. Clair County, where I live) was $150/month at the low end in 1981; today the low-end of similar apartment rents is $650/month – an increase of 433%.
  • Community college tuition in St. Clair County increased by 735% ($18.50 per contact hour in 1981 vs. $136.00 per contact hour in 2021); university tuition at Central Michigan University (my alma mater) went from $31.50 per hour in 1981 to $417.00 per hour this academic year, an increase of 1324%.
  • Admittedly, the doubling of the minimum wage has allowed consumers to keep pace with the price of some common items: gasoline prices are about 90 percent higher today than in 1981 (adjusted for inflation); new car prices are up only about 55% over the last forty years; the price of technology-related items have, in many cases, actually gone down.

My point, however, is that the cost of basic life necessities – housing, food, and education – have grown well beyond the ability of the minimum wage to keep up. The $3.35 per hour federal minimum wage that was in effect when I started college in 1981 would need to be $9.64 today. And that $9.64/hour wage would result in an annual income for an individual of $20,051.20, assuming 40 hours per week times 52 weeks. The cutoff for eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is 130 percent of the federally-established poverty guideline, which works out to $16,744. So you’re above the poverty line, you’re not eligible for SNAP or many other assistance programs, but you’re supposed to live on about $1,670 per month.

A minimum wage shouldn’t just be a “subsistence wage.” It should be significant enough to allow for a decent living standard, some savings, some room for investment in education or other self-improvement. Reducing economic insecurity would have positive impacts on many social problems, including crime.

We hear, usually from the White Guys in Suits, that raising the minimum wage would cause small businesses to cut jobs to compensate, or that the additional costs would be passed on to consumers. These effects can happen, but may also be offset by having more money in the pockets of both current and potentially new customers. Henry Ford, hardly a social progressive (to put it mildly), did have it right when he observed

The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.

Henry Ford, 1926

Why do we assume that it’s a zero-sum game? If we pay people better, doesn’t that give them more money to spend in the overall economy?

When the federal Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, the minimum wage was 25 cents per hour, and the intent was for that to be not just a “minimum” but a living wage, as described by President Roosevelt at the beginning of the Great Depression:

It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933

I’d like to be charitable and assume that Sens. Thune and Marshall are just not experts on the history of labor and compensation, but that’s why they have staff, so I’m more inclined to think that they’re being intentionally obtuse because they hope their constituents will take their “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” nonsense to heart. But nearly 60% of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage, either all at once or gradually over several years, to $15.00 per hour.

While many states and cities have their own, higher, minimum wage, the federal standard of $7.25 per hour hasn’t changed since 2009. It’s long overdue to be adjusted to an amount that reflects not just the value but the dignity of all work and all workers.

“Do not go naked into that good night”

Lawrence Ferlinghetti died on Monday at the age of 101. He was a wonderful poet in his own right, but was probably better known as the long-time proprietor of City Lights, a bookstore located in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco that was the heart of the Beat Generation’s writers and thinkers in the fifties and sixties and has endured the rise of chain bookstores in the eighties and Amazon in the 21st century.

I was introduced to his work in college, when my girlfriend, who had read some of his poems in high school, lent me Endless Life: Selected Poems, a compendium of his work through 1981. I was taking one of the best courses I took at Central Michigan University, TAI 270 Oral Interpretation of Literature, with professor Jill Taft-Kaufman. It was an alternative to the standard speech class needed to complete a graduation requirement, and since I was also considering majoring in Theater and Interpretation, it would work for that as well.

After doing some unmemorable prose piece for my first performance assignment, I pulled Ferlinghetti’s book out to find a poem for the second reading. I considered several poems as possibilities. It was difficult, because I loved so many of them, then and now, and what I really wanted to do was read the entire collection aloud, but I was pretty sure that would exceed my classmates’ reservoir of patience.

After trying out “Dog” (“The dog trots freely in the street, past puddles and babies, cats and cigars, poolrooms and policemen He doesn’t hate cops He merely has no use for them”), “Underwear” (“Underwear with spots very suspicious Underwear with bulges very shocking Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom Someone has escaped his Underwear May be naked somewhere Help! But don’t worry Everybody’s still hung up in it”), and “Autobiography” (“I have read the Reader’s Digest from cover to cover and noted the close identification of the United States and the Promised Land where every coin is marked In God We Trust but the dollar bills do not have it being gods unto themselves.”), I chose “I Am Waiting.”

“I Am Waiting” was from his 1958 collection A Coney Island of the Mind, which was intended to be performed with a jazz background and became one of the best-selling books of poetry in American history. The poem was inspired by his impending trial on obscenity charges that had been leveled against him after City Lights published Allen Ginsberg’s poem/manifesto “Howl.”

I have nothing against Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, or Edgar Allan Poe, but let’s say my presentation of Ferlinghetti surprised the class a bit. My girlfriend also chose to present some of Ferlinghetti’s work when she took the same class and got an even stronger reaction, perhaps because it was even stranger for a female student to be reading such unexpected words. (For this and many other reasons, I married her!)

Years later, when I was teaching theater arts at St. Clair County Community College, I had the chance to revive the dormant Oral Interpretation of Literature course there. I modeled the course after Dr. Taft-Kaufman’s, which I still had my notes and syllabus from. I began each semester with a performance of Ferlinghetti’s poetry, to set the bar a bit beyond the usual choices from the start.

Thanks, Lawrence, for the words and the courage and the inspiration. You not only moved me forward when I was younger but were the connection between now and then for me. I suspected you might live forever and am more than a bit disappointed to discover that you didn’t.

Here’s “I Am Waiting” read by author Abu B. Rafique:

Cardboard Tigers: Lemanczyk, Martin, Moses, and Narleski

Tenth in an occasional series. Collect ’em all! I’m working through a stack of Tigers baseball cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s, with occasional newer cards.

Wow! It’s been almost a month since my last Cardboard Tigers post. Must have been something pretty compelling happening to keep me from doing another one of these. Wonder what it was?

Anyway, today we feature four more legends of Tiger baseball. Let’s get started, shall we?

Dave Lemanczyk
Dave Lemanczyk – 1976 Topps #409

Dave Lemanczyk spent eight years in the American League with the Tigers, Blue Jays, and Angels from 1973 to 1980. Drafted in the 16th round of the 1972 amateur draft, Dave worked his way through the Tiger system, Lakeland (A) to Montgomery (AA) to Toledo (AAA) before making it – very briefly – to the show in late 1973, appearing in one game and giving up 3 earned runs over 2 1/3 innings to post a 13.50 ERA for the season. The Tigers moved their AAA affiliation to the Evansville Triplets in 1974, and Dave started the season in southern Indiana, then got called back up to Detroit. He made his first major league start on August 2, 1974, beating the Brewers 4-1 while giving up only one run over seven innings.

Dave was an original member of the Toronto Blue Jays when they launched as one of two American League expansion teams in 1977 along with the Seattle Mariners. The Jays took Dave with their 43rd pick in the expansion draft, but he turned out to be more valuable than that. He led Toronto in wins in their first season, going 13-16 with a 4.25 ERA and 11 complete games. After a down season in 1978, Dave had his best season in 1979, going 7-5 with a 3.15 ERA by mid-season and making his only All Star Game. The second half didn’t go as well as he had some arm issues, and he finished the year 8-10 with a 3.71 ERA.

He finished his career in Anaheim with the California Angels in 1980, deciding to retire when they released him after the season.

Dave runs a baseball academy in Lynbrook, New York. If you’d like to know more about him, Cooperstowners in Canada did an interview with him in 2016.

John Martin
John Martin – 1984 Topps #24

John Martin was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, and was a member of the 1976 and 1977 Mid-American Conference championship baseball teams while pitching for Eastern Michigan University. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 27th round in 1978 but didn’t make it to the bigs in his first time around with Detroit.

They traded him to St. Louis in 1980 along with Al Greene (8 for 59, .136, with 3 HRs in 1979, his only big league season) for outfielder Jim Lentine (who only appeared in 67 games for Detroit in 1980). This is what is sometimes known as a “parts trade” in baseball; three guys who had some ability but not enough for a solid major league career but who might fit into another organization’s overall plans as pitching or outfield depth, more likely at the AAA level.

John’s another guy with a 1984 Tigers Topps card who was already gone before they started the season 35-5 on their way to a wire-to-wire AL pennant and World Series championship. John spent a couple more seasons in the minors in the Detroit, Baltimore, and Minnesota systems before hanging up his spikes in 1985.

That’s a hell of an ’80s ‘stache, there, though, John.

Jerry Moses
Jerry Moses – 1975 Topps #271

Gerald Braheen Moses was a backup catcher for several teams over eleven years from 1965 to 1975. He hit .251 in 1072 at-bats with 25 home runs and 109 RBI. He broke into the bigs early, appearing as a pinch-hitter in four games for Boston and becoming the youngest Red Sox player to hit a home run when he took Jim “Mudcat” Grant of the Twins deep on May 25, 1965 when he was just 18 years and 289 days old.

Jerry had been a star athlete at Yazoo City High School in Mississippi. He was an All-State quarterback in football and a pitcher and catcher in baseball, where one of his teammates was Haley Barbour, who later became governor of Mississippi. He was good enough to get a visit from Bear Bryant, who wanted him to come to Alabama and play football, but Jerry, while extremely flattered (“Bear Bryant was the John Wayne of my era,” he noted), chose baseball.

In the years before the amateur draft, young talent was free game for any team willing to offer a contract, and Jerry was chased by no less than six teams. A recently added rule intended to limit the wealthier teams from snapping up all of the best players required that any player who received a large signing bonus had to be put on the major league roster within a year or risk being lost in what was known as the “Fall Draft” (somewhat similar to the Rule 5 Draft these days). So after one season in the minors in 1964, Jerry spent most of 1965 in Boston, though he only appeared in those four games as a pinch hitter.

Jerry made it to the majors for good in 1968 with the Red Sox, but mostly served as a backup catcher for the next two seasons. 1970 was his best year, as he hit .263 with 6 home runs and was selected for the All Star Game along with Carl Yasztremski.

After that, he bounced around for several more seasons with the Angels, Indians, Yankees, Tigers, Padres, and White Sox, before finally retiring after the 1975 season. This 1975 Topps card notes on the back that “Jerry holds the distinction of having played the last 5 seasons each with one different team in the Junior Circuit.” I’m not sure “distinction” is exactly the right word in this instance.

Jerry Moses died in 2018 at the age of 71.

Ray Narleski
Ray Narleski – 1959 Topps #442

This is another of the older cards I got from my childhood friend’s older brother’s card collection. I probably traded one of the endless duplicates of Cy Acosta or John Lowenstein I had; it felt like I got one of those guys’ cards in every pack. Somehow my friend didn’t, though, so in order to complete his 1974 collection, he traded me a number of these classic beauties.

Ray Narleski was half of a great bullpen duo in Cleveland in the mid-fifties. He was a tall (6’1″) right-hander who threw smoke and Don Mossi was an equally tall lefty who threw a sweeping curve. Between the two of them, they kept opposing hitters off-balance for five seasons from 1954 to 1958, including All Star appearances for Narleski in 1956 and 1958.

Ray was plagued with arm troubles beginning in 1956 and annually was among the leaders in pitching appearances in the American League, and combined with his preferred style of flame throwing, his arm eventually started to wear out. Traded to Detroit along with his friend and roommate Mossi before the 1959 season (with one of the players heading to Cleveland in return none other than future Tigers manager Billy Martin), Ray had his worst season, posting a 5.78 ERA in 42 games. In addition to the arm troubles, he also was suffering from a bad back that had cropped up in spring training. After spending 1960 on the disabled list, the Tigers offered to send him to AAA Denver in 1961 to rebuild his strength, but Narleski turned down the offer and he was released on March 31, 1961.

The save wasn’t an official stat in baseball before 1969. It wasn’t really needed; until Narleski and Mossi (and their manager Al Lopez) came along, relief specialists weren’t common. Generally, starters went as long as they could and the bullpen would finish the game if they tired. Retroactively, Narleski was credited with 58 saves in his six-year career, and, if the stat had existed then, he’d have led the AL in saves in 1955 with 19.

Ray Narleski died in 2012 in his home state of New Jersey at the age of 83.