Written by on February 12, 2014

Filed Again: Concluding findings in the McPhee Collection

Ben Simon is a student assistant in Special Collections & University Archives. He is working on a project to organize the papers of Cal Poly President Julian McPhee (1933-1966). This is the third in a series of posts in which he shares his experiences processing McPhee’s papers and learning more about the university’s history.

Raising hope

Ed Sullivan to Bob Neal, November 14, 1960, Robert E. Kennedy Papers, University Archives, California Polytechnic State University.

A typescript copy of entertainer Ed Sullivan’s letter to Bob Neal of Cal Poly’s Alumni Association, offering support of a fundraiser to support the survivors of the plane crash, November 14, 1960.

To this day, the 1960 Cal Poly football team plane crash remains one of the most tragic events in Cal Poly history, and the scope of its impact extended far beyond San Luis Obispo.

I discovered, in the files of President McPhee and Vice President Robert E. Kennedy, that several well-known celebrities wrote to Cal Poly to offer their help in spreading word and raising funds for the survivors and families.

Television entertainers Ed Sullivan (a mere two years before The Beatles would appear on his show) and Red Skelton wrote to offer their assistance shortly after the crash. Entertainer Bob Hope helped conceive the idea of a “Mercy Bowl” benefit game to add to the fundraising for the crash survivors and bereaved families. Los Angeles baseball commentators Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett served as broadcasters for the 1961 Mercy Bowl benefit game, held on Thanksgiving Day, 1961 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Vincent Gates to Bob Hope, November 17, 1960, Robert E. Kennedy Papers, University Archives, California Polytechnic State University.

Cal Poly Public Relations Director Vincent Gates to Bob Hope, November 17, 1960, Kennedy Papers, University Archives, Cal Poly


Plant Express Pt. 2

President McPhee to Fred S. Keating, January 24, 1951, Julian A. McPhee Papers, University Archives, Robert E. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University.

President McPhee to Fred S. Keating, 1951, regarding Mr. Monroe Kidder and the Drug and Oil Plant Project. Julian A. McPhee Papers, University Archives.

Back in August, I reported on a series of annual conferences regarding the cultivation of 514 species of herbal and beneficial plants from the United States and foreign nations which took place at Cal Poly during World War II. These conferences were hosted by one Dr. Monroe Kidder and the files ended abruptly with no explanation of what happened to the project. Interestingly, as I found out in a later file, it turns out that the project actually did end abruptly with Kidder vacating campus after several years of work! According to the correspondence, President McPhee’s efforts to track him down proved futile.

After six months of searching through the McPhee Collection, I reached the end of over one hundred boxes and next set out to examine our next Cal Poly Presidential legacy, that of Robert E. Kennedy himself. Check back to hear more!

Read more on ben simon, bob hope, cal poly, cal poly history, ed sullivan, mercy bowl, president mcphee, and special collections and archives.

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