In the early 20th century, men were often in the majority in co-ed colleges. In my grandfather’s graduating class of 1919 however, he was the only man. This unusual situation was due to world events of the time.
Frank F. Jordan was a young man from Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. His family had lived in the area from the time of his ancestor Henry Jordan’s settlement there, after serving first as a Hessian mercenary, then as a soldier fighting for the American colonies in the Revolutionary war. Frank’s goal of becoming a physician began in 1915 when he enrolled in Geneva College, still located today in Beaver Falls, PA. Although Frank’s freshman class included a typical contingent of male students, World War I intervened and the men volunteered for military service. Some didn’t survive the war, and life events prevented other soldiers from finishing their degree by 1919, but Frank was able to return to Geneva and graduate on time.
The college yearbook described the situation:
“Commencement day this year will bring to our eyes a most unusual spectacle, and to our hearts a most unusual emotion. For as far back as we can force our memory, we cannot recall a single year when Geneva College graduated a class whose roll boasted of but a single boy. The circumstance is indeed a novel one and is but another vivid and forceful reminder of the chaos in which the world has rocked and rolled during the four years of our college career… Novel as is our experience, however, and much as we regret it, we can at least partially console ourselves with the thought that ours is not the only institution in the same plight. Nor is the condition confined to our own country and contingent, but is spread over the entire world. Everywhere, in universities and colleges, where classes are being graduated this year, they are composed mostly of women.”
As difficult as this time was for the young people of Geneva College, they were able to see the lighter side of their demographic situation. Beside Frank’s senior yearbook portrait was written
“We are inclined to believe sometimes that Jordan does get desperate with so many girls to smile at. This “Rose among Thorns”, as he so modestly terms himself, is going to be a doctor… He is a thorough student, serious – when he isn’t smiling at one of us – and conscientious in everything. We are proud to have him represent us on the debating team, and glad that he was released from the Army just in time to become the man of the class of 1919.”
Frank F. Jordan did indeed go on to medical school at Case Western Reserve, and became a successful obstetrician in Cleveland, Ohio. He married a young nurse of his acquaintance, and had three daughters, leaving him again in the male minority.
- Geneva College Archives, McCartney Library