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Wendell Lund

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

I have no doubt that it's possible to kill two birds with one stone, given some luck and a lot of practice, but even that is no match for the human imagination. I give you, as a case in point, Wendell Lund.<--break->Wendell Lund was a brand-new English instructor at Augustana College in Rock Island in 1932. Somehow, he must have found time in between grading comma splices, spelling, and subject-verb agreements on 80 or so freshman essays a week to look up and notice the ravaging effects of the Great Depression. It was hard to miss, even in the comfort of a classroom. Empty seats were growing. Fewer and fewer students could afford higher education. Students who did show up often dropped out before the end of the semester when they were lucky enough to get jobs.

Wendell noticed other problems, too. Outside the classroom, unemployment lines stretched around the block. Even businesses who needed workers could not afford to hire them. Especially hard hit were nonprofit agencies such as the Red Cross, public libraries, and the YMCAs.

At that point, Wendell's imagination went to work. He had a plan. Why not have the Federal Government pay students a stipend to attend college, in return for offering their services to the nonprofit agencies who needed them? The colleges would provide help with tuition, filling empty class space at little cost to the colleges. Putting students in the classroom would decrease the unemployment rate.

In the fall of 1932, Augustana President Gustav Andreen sent Wendell Lund off to present his idea to the new Roosevelt administration. It is an understatement to report that it was well-received. Within four months, the first dozen students were attending the spring semester under the new work-study program. Thousands of depression-era students benefitted, and others have ever since. The work-study program has become a permanent part of American education.

Unfortunately for Augustana College, President Roosevelt also had an imagination. He adopted the young English instructor's idea, and also the young English instructor. Wendell Lund joined the Roosevelt team and eventually rose to become head of the Office of Price Control during World War II.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.