A Failed Coup

By Brian Brennan

As the year 1932 began, the patience of former Youngstown College President Howard Jones was sorely tried.

Recently, he had been appointed by the trustees of the Youngstown YMCA to serve as the director of Youngstown College. The same board had terminated Jones’ predecessor, Homer Nearpass, for his half-hearted approach to administration (and not because of his wife’s health, as reported to The Jambar).

All too soon, Jones himself came close to suffering the same fate as Nearpass. Instructed by the YMCA board to cut the college’s budget, Jones was accused by three trustees of insubordination by not following through.

The chairman of the board, James Wick Jr., found this to be patently untrue and came to Jones’ defense.

Nearly a victim of internal politics, Jones was spared; however, another challenge to Jones’ authority soon presented itself in the person of Garland Armor Bricker.

Bricker was a scholar who specialized in agrarian subjects. During his career, Bricker wrote several books on agricultural education and religious life in rural America.

A native of the Buckeye State, he had been on the faculty of The Ohio State University (1910-1916) and was briefly the director of Farmingdale State College in New York (1923).

In 1928, Bricker accompanied President Herbert Hoover on a visit to South America. By 1932, Bricker headed the National Speakers Association of Washington, promoting the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth through public school lectures.

While operating out of Cleveland, friends informed Bricker of trouble at Youngstown College. Seeing a potential career opportunity for himself, Bricker made his move. He wrote to James Wick Jr.

In his letter to Wick, Bricker derides the management of Youngstown College, painting a picture of an institution adrift and without leadership, then offers himself as YoCo’s potential savior.

Wick quickly replied, telling Bricker that he had been grossly misinformed and that the college was under the firm directorship of Howard Jones, the “former acting President of Hiram College.”

Undaunted, Bricker assaulted Jones’ credentials in a follow-up letter. During a visit to Hiram College, a secretary told Bricker that Jones had never been “acting president,” but only an “assistant to the president.”

This was true; however, according to a letter penned to Bricker by Hiram’s president, Kenneth. Brown, Jones assumed presidential duties between 1928 and 1930, when then President Bates had taken ill and gone on extended sick leave. Jones was president in all but name.

Thus, Wick’s reference to Howard Jones as “acting president of Hiram College” was true in practical terms.

Encountering spirited resistance, Garland Bricker gave up on his dubious quest to supplant Howard Jones as the chief executive of Youngstown College, and we may be thankful. Bricker never had a chance.

Youngstown College needed a stable hand to guide it from infancy to maturity. It found one in Howard Jones, who would retire as president in 1966.

The correspondence relating to this strange episode in YSU’s history can be found in Archives & Special Collections, Maag Library. See also Farmingdale State College’s presidential webpage (https://www.farmingdale.edu/library/college-archives/presidents.shtml)

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