11
winter
2013
arches
ings [South Hall]. It was several weeks before
an important test. Shelmidine asked how many
in the class had read all of the assigned reading
material. Sixty or 70 of the students raised their
hands. He then asked how many had read the
suggested supplemental reading material. This
time, only about 30 raised their hands. Fixing
the class with his trademark deadpan stare, he
asked us how we intended to pass the test. “Are
you going to sit on your texts and assimilate it
by
ass-
mosis?”
On rare occasions, the tables were turned.
Don Droettboom ’58 attended CPS under the
GI Bill. He remembers taking Shelmidine’s
world history course in that same old classroom.
It was a warm, early-fall day, and the windows
were open. Droettboom and several of his
friends had survived the Korean War and were
more interested in enjoying the beautiful weath-
er than listening to a lecture. When Shelmidine
turned away for a moment, Droettboom and his
buddies bailed out through the open windows.
If Shelmidine realized they were gone, he never
admitted it.
He was an imaginative, lifelong practical
joker who purchased outlandish Christmas gifts
for his friends and family members at the local
thrift store. After his death, his faculty colleague
John Regester Hon
.
’87 remembered, “On the
phone he could convincingly impersonate an
IRS agent, a customs collector, or an unexpected
cousin who had just arrived at the bus station
from Denmark. His particular specialty was to
Though his given name was Lyle, Shelmidine
was universally known as “Stan” to his friends
and associates—and even to some of his stu-
dents—although few would have dared to refer
to him that way in public. In return, he invari-
ably addressed his students by their last names,
preceded by “Mister” or “Miss”—all very profes-
sional, but somewhat intimidating at the same
time.
Shelmidine was an acknowledged expert on
Turkey, the Middle East, and Islam, but he was
also a student of modern British history. Indeed
at one time or another he taught almost every
type of history. He spoke Turkish, French, and
German, and possessed moderate fluency in nu-
merous dialects of Arabic.
In class he favored well-worn
tweed jackets and slacks, button-
down shirts, and a tie. When at ease,
he skipped the tie. He would pace in
front of his class as he lectured, or sit
at his desk, where, in a characteristic
move, he would lean forward on
his elbows and peer at his students
through heavy-framed glasses, ex-
tending his fingertips as they flexed
against each other like an arrow
pointing toward the sky.
Grace Swan Austin ’60 told me:
“He did not use notes, but rather the
information came from recollection.
I was intrigued as to whether his
memory was accurate with regard
to historic happenings, facts, dates,
and sequences of events he men-
tioned in class. So I decided to com-
pare the facts from our textbook and other read-
ings to my notes from his lectures. Sure enough,
I found he was correct in all aspects.”
His standards of scholarship were high, both
for himself and for his students—particularly
his better students. Learning—and, more im-
portant,
understanding what you learned
—was
his ultimate teaching goal.
His generally reserved demeanor masked
a razor-sharp wit, a dry sense of humor, and a
mastery of the pointed barb that could skewer
a recipient with deadly accuracy. The latter was
an experience few enjoyed or ever wanted to
encounter again, whether they were a student
or a faculty colleague. I vividly remember a day
when he was teaching the world history survey
course, in one of the old war-surplus build-
call his unsuspecting victim late at night, speak-
ing in some foreign language or with a heavy
accent, to ask for some favor.” Not even CPS
President R. Franklin Thompson was exempt
from the late-night calls.
A lifelong bachelor, Shelmidine first lived
in an apartment in Tacoma’s Old Town neigh-
borhood, but in 1953 he moved to a larger
apartment in the former Rust Mansion at 1001
North I Street. The home had been built in
1905 for copper-smelting magnate William
Rust, for whom the town of Ruston is named.
Shelmidine’s second-floor apartment included
the former ballroom, which he converted into
a library that contained thousands of books.
The entrance was marked by a Quran resting
on its ornate wooden carved stand.
Scores of oriental rugs, photographs,
artworks, and other mementos of his
travels to the Middle East filled the
rest of the rooms. As a student it was
a great honor to be invited there for
a drink and conversation that often
lasted long into the night. It was not
unknown for a student to leave in the
early-morning hours with the gift of a
rare book from Shelmidine’s library.
Hugh McMillan ’50 remembers, “It
was in his Old Town apartment that
he introduced me to Khachaturian’s
Gayne Suite,
which, although I’ve
been a music nut all my life, I’d never
heard before. He encouraged me to
believe that maybe I had some talents
after all. After graduation and some
graduate school at UC-Berkeley and
the University of Washington, I wound up in
the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington,
D.C., with my wife, Janice ’52, for some training
before heading overseas. Stan came back to do
some research work at the Library of Congress
and the National Archives and spent a couple
of nights with us in our condo. On one of these
nights, after Janice had gone to bed, Stan and I
sat cross-legged on the living room floor solv-
ing all the problems of the world until 6:15
a.m., soothing our erudition with a full bottle of
Armagnac brandy that he’d brought.
“My last visit with Stan was in 1966, while
on home leave out of New Delhi, India, en route
to my [new] assignment in Alexandria, Egypt.
We spent another long session correcting the ills
of the Middle East over dinner at the Harbor
In Shelmidine’s apartment in the old Rust Mansion on I Street,
he converted the former ballroom into a library.