The Depression and the Public Works Administration


Dr. Homer LeRoy Shantz became president of the University of Arizona, appointed by the Board of Regents at the beginning of the 1927-28 school term, but he did not take office until July 1, 1928.

Shantz developed an ambitious building plan, but two weeks after the dedication of the West Stadium in 1929, the stock market crashed. By November 12, 1929, the country had been wiped out, for all practical purposes.

Shantz had seen the need for buildings for chemistry and physics, language and literature, the social sciences, a College of Music, the Arizona State Museum, an infirmary, an auditorium, repairs to some of the old buildings on the campus and dormitories for women and men.

The Legislature ruled out new buildings, but did appropriate $90,000 for the improvement of old buildings and for the extension of the underground utility conduits - the tunnels.

The economy worsened. In 1933, Dr. Benjamin B. Moeur was elected governor of Arizona and the UA faculty received a ten per cent pay cut. Faculty members were paid in warrants, which some merchants redeemed at discount prices. Some gave full value.

The university suffered a drastic reduction in operating funds, with the total appropriated by the Legislature of only $627,690 for fiscal 1934-35, yet in the previous ten years, the enrollment at UA had been climbing steadily.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was President of the United States and he inaugurated a number of federal programs to help bring the country out of its economic mess. Among these was the Public Works Administration.

On September 3, 1934, UA President Shantz told the Board of Regents that it could get $800,000 from PWA money sources, 30 percent as an outright gift with the remainder to be repaid over the next 30 years.

Gov. Moeur was against taking funds for building, but Shantz personally lobbied the Legislature for acceptance of the federal monies. He contacted T. D. Tway, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Tway told Shantz that he thought the Senate was the stumbling block, but he thought he could sway even the staid Senate if he could personally contact the Senators who were not in session at the time. He would need money for transportation around the state.

Monte Mansfield, Tucson Ford dealer, promised Tway the use of an automobile and gave him gasoline money. So Tway went to work. He convinced both the Senate and the House that the federal money should be accepted and after Gov. Moeur said that he thought such acceptance would be unconstitutional, the Supreme Court found in the university's favor.

UA President Shantz got the money for his building program. It was the most extensive building spree the state had ever seen and it put the construction profession on its feet and many unemployed to work.

Roy Place designed 11 structures under PWA. J. J. Garfield built two buildings and the M. M. Sundt Company built nine. While his building program was in progress in 1936, Shantz resigned the UA presidency on June 30 to take charge of the Division of Wild Life Management of the National Forest Service. He had fought with the Board of Regents and the Board which appointed him had gone out of office. Part of the fight was where the new buildings were to be located.

Shantz wanted the Auditorium and the State Museum, at least, on the east side of the campus. The Board wanted the buildings on the west side. Shantz said of the new Board of Regents, "The Board tried to tear the university to pieces. I felt there was no use in staying. That finished me.”

Shantz was also disappointed in the fact that the Board had cut salaries of leading professors and voted not to pay any part of the faculty group-insurance fees. Some teachers were dismissed. With the going of Shantz, the Board made Paul S. Burgess acting university president. He had been Dean of the College of Agriculture, where his heart lay, and was a reluctant president.

In the fall of 1936, PWA provided an additional $481,818 for the campus building program. According to the College of Architecture, all the buildings designed by Roy Place, between 1935 and 1938, favored the Italian Romanesque Revival Style. "They exhibit strong similarities in the use of contrasting light and dark patterns around openings, cornices and spandrel panels," according to history graduate major Douglas Kupel, in a speech in the spring of 1985 before the Arizona Historical Society in convention.

Roy Place had worked for the east-coast architectural firm which designed Stanford University, using Romanesque Revival Style and may have been influenced by this.

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