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Boise Junior College During World War II (1939-1945)

Boise Junior College During World War II (1939-1945)

During the war years of 1939-1945, Boise Junior College experienced many changes including the physical campus expansion, curriculum changes, and faculty and students who left school to help their country both overseas and locally.

Men pose with a line of trucks. The men are holding paint guns and hammers; they are most likely students of the vocational program. Behind the line of trucks is a repurposed World War II barracks building.

Men pose with a line of trucks. The men are holding paint guns and hammers; they are most likely students of the vocational program. Behind the line of trucks is a repurposed World War II barracks building.

Originally at St. Margaret’s Hall, the campus moved to the current site in 1940, when the first buildings were constructed. The first four buildings were: the Administration Building (1940), the Heating Plant (1940), the Auditorium (1941, now the Hemingway Building), and the Student Union Building (1942, now the Communications Building). The Administration Building housed classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, the library, and student gathering spaces. Prior to a dedicated student union, students met in President Eugene Chaffee’s home or a room in the Administration building social events. The Auditorium was originally known as the Assembly Hall. BJC graduations were held there every spring from 1942 until 1955. The Heating Plant was a welcome addition as it brought warmth to campus buildings. The Heating Plant was built by the Work Projects Administration and utilized coal and diesel fuels.

Enrollment dropped as faculty and students left to serve their country, including: President Eugene B. Chaffee (BJC President), Professor Norman B. Adkison (Psychology), Professor Barton McMath (Business), and many others. Many feared the college might close, including Acting President Francis Haines. He stepped down, believing he could not properly lead the college in the absence of Chaffee.

The Board of Trustees did all in their power to see that the college remained open. They acknowledged the need to change to meet current needs. They changed the curriculum and introduced classes that aided students in a time of war. They cut programs such as Forestry, and strengthened their Pre-Medic and Pre-Nursing programs. They also strengthened their Education programs to raise the attendance of local woman. Classes such as personnel management, cost accounting, and classes on aviation classes were added.  The Board realized that faculty should hold higher degrees of learning than just a Baccalaureate, and hired more faculty that held Masters and Doctorate degrees. The number of faculty members fluctuated from 33-37.

Students formed clubs that help in the war effort: Minute Maids, Pegasus, Civil Aeronautics Authority, and the Future Officers Club. These clubs were designed to help students to prepare to enter the war as soldiers and pilots. They also helped raise money and supplies for the troops overseas.

As the war ended and troops came home enrollment for BJC climbed. The fear that the college would close subsided, and the students and faculty eased back into their everyday lives.

Sources:
Glen Barrett. Boise State University: Searching for Excellence, 1932-1984. Boise, ID: Boise State University, 1984.
Boise Junior College Catalogs, 1937-1945
Eugene B. Chaffee. Boise College: An Idea Grows. Boise, ID: Syms-York Co., 1970.
Les Bois Yearbooks, 1940-1944.

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