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14
arches
winter
2013
asked, ‘Miss Dalke, how do
you
know about the
Blue Mosque?’”
Frightened, she told him that a friend at the
University of Idaho had showed her pictures of
the various mosques in Istanbul, and the Blue
Mosque had been one of them.
“All I was asking for was information. To
put it bluntly, Dr. Shelmidine frightened me,
but I listened intently as he took the rest of that
period to explain more about the St. Sophia and
the Blue mosques.”
He enjoyed mentoring promising students.
Winifred Hertzog Sihon ’60 said, “In 1960, as I
applied to become a teacher for the American
Board in Istanbul, I was scheduled for an in-
terview with Dr. Shelmidine. Why? Because he
had been a teacher in Turkey who stayed on to
actually serve on the staff of Atatürk. No
won-
der
he knew and taught so much about Turkey.
The school I was going to was in Üsküdar, and
Shelmidine sang the song to me that tells of a
girl going to Üsküdar.”
Richard Wiest ’63 told me how much
Shelmidine valued his friendship with [Turkish
President] Ismet Inönü. “Shelmidine’s contacts
remained good enough that he said he could get
me a job at the school in Tarsus or Izmir after
UPS, and looking back I sometimes wish I had
done that instead of going to graduate school.”
A number of Shelmidine’s former students
confirmed the importance of his high standards
of scholarship. Robert Keller ’57, now a retired
history professor and the author/editor of five
books, believes that Shelmidine determined the
course of his career. “In graduate school at the
University of Chicago I silently thanked him
again and again for what he had taught me. His
classes operated beyond the usual survey level,
teaching one how to think carefully, how to
in-
quire
, how the study of the past must be rigorous
and demanding, how to see connections. His
classes also took students into the history of
the Near East, a subject usually neglected at the
time. For the first [time], I learned details about
the creation of modern Israel, information,
questions, and interpretations that 50 years later
inform my understanding of the Arab world.”
But as much as his teaching, his friendships,
and his community activities occupied his time,
Stan Shelmidine remained a lonely man. Some
of his isolation was self-inflicted. Most of his
family lived in the Midwest, and he didn’t see
them often. As his siblings grew older, there was
less and less contact among them. His mother
passed away in 1955, as did a favorite brother-
in-law, William Heathcote, in 1963. His nephew,
Barrie Heathcote, remembers a summer trip
back to Iowa in Stan’s pride and joy—a sporty
Studebaker Golden Hawk. “For the most part,
Stan’s attitude was that if the relatives wanted
to see him, they could come to Tacoma.” Letters
from friends during this period often contain a
comment wishing that he would write to them
more often.
Shelmidine was something of a hypochon-
driac. A candid tribute written after his death for
the 1966
Tamanawas
by Dean John D. Regester
noted that Shelmidine suffered from “chronic di-
gestive troubles,” and that “his diets, yogurt, and
shelves of drugs were objects of friendly humor.”
He became increasingly despondent and began
to dwell upon his own mortality to the point
where alcohol became a major part of his life.
On the night of May 5, 1966, alone in his apart-
ment and talking to a student on the telephone,
his end of the line went dead. He had suffered a
massive heart attack. He was only 59 years old.
Stan Shelmidine’s death was both a sur-
prise and a cause for reflection for his friends.
Regester’s tribute to him admitted that “we did
not perhaps understand his moods as much
as we might have, or help him as much as we
should have, but whether he was in a serious or
playful mood or in high or low spirits he had
always a secure place in the hearts of his
associates.”
Stan Shelmidine left his mark on the
University of Puget Sound through the excel-
lence of his teaching and in the career of his
protégé, Walter Lowrie ’58, who joined Stan on
the history faculty in 1961. He certainly influ-
enced my life and career and is enshrined in the
memories of many of his other students.
After his death, a sale of his rare books,
rugs, and other belongings was held, and along
with gifts from friends and faculty associates,
the proceeds established the Lyle S. Shelmidine
Scholarship. Some of his prize possessions were
set aside at the time of the sale and now deco-
rate the Shelmidine rare book room in Collins
Library. His private and university papers, aug-
mented by contributions from family members
and others, are housed in the library’s archives.
C. Mark Smith managed economic development
organizations at the local, state, and federal levels
for more than 40 years. He was a history major at
UPS and a trustee of the university from 1979 to
1985. He is the author of a well-received biography
of former Tacoma mayor and U.S. Senator Harry
P. Cain, which was published in 2011, and is hard
at work on his second book. Mark and his wife,
Elsa Lindberg Smith ’65, live in Richland, Wash.
Pages from Shelmidine’s journal of a dangerous two-week horseback trip into the mountains of
central Turkey, where he visited and sketched historic churches and mosques.
.
.
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