Summer School at San Luis de Potosí (1944-1945)

Dr. Jackson Speaks in Mexico at Rotary International (1943). First encounter of Trinity VP with San Luis de Potosi University Rector.

How did it start?

In October of 1943, the Vice President of Public Relations of Trinity University, Dr. W.W. Jackson met the rector of the University of San Luis Potosi (USLP), Dr. Ignacio Morones-Prieto, during one of the international Rotary Club meetings in Monterrey Mexico. According to the Trinitonian, “The latter (Dr. Morones-Prieto) made the trip to Monterrey especially to meet Dr. Jackson and to enlist his cooperation on promoting on the part of American students visitations to the University of San Luis Potosi in the summer of 1944…”. In a Pos-Revolutionary world and in alliance with the US during WWII, Mexican institutions viewed educational relationships as a door to present a more civil society and to distance the country from its tumultuous past, especially with a city that experienced the spills of the Mexican Revolution. San Antonio made sense to the USLP and Trinity was just experiencing a fresh start after its merger with the University of San Antonio in 1942. 

That this first meeting happened in Monterrey and in the context of the Rotary Club was not coincidental. Monterrey was (and still is) the industrial hub of Mexico and international exchanges were very important before and after the Mexican Revolution. Nevertheless, in comparison to other states in the country, Monterrey was a very conservative space that took a stance against the socialist principles of the revolution. According to David Tamayo, clubs like the Rotary and Lions Club served as communities of resistance -and sometimes political opposition- to the labor and industrial reforms the revolutionary government tried to implement during the early 1940s. Although the Rotary Club chapter in Monterrey was dormant due to a violation of the Rotary International guidelines of keeping politics out of the club, another club, the Sembradores de Amistad, gathered the Rotary Club members and others to keep the social network in place. Thus, they were welcoming to the Rotary Club International meeting and took advantage of the connections to propel their agenda: “The organization’s overarching goals were to propagate hispanidad [affiliation with Spain] throughout Mexico, rekindle a Catholic-inspired social harmony, and offer a strong critique of the postrevolutionary state.” (Tamayo 85) The relationship between the USLP and Trinity, given Trinity’s affiliation with the Methodist church, would fulfill this exchange of values, business interests, and modern standards of living -particularly for Mexico’s image in the US.

First Summer School Bulletin, 1944

Classes, Faculty and Staff

The first iteration of the Summer School happened in 1944 under the theme “Where Good Neighbors Meet”. Students stayed in a beautiful mansion turned guest house owned by the archaeologist Dr. Joaquin Meade. The language in the Summer Study Bulletin seems like it is from a tourist brochure and lacks an academic mission, but the purpose of cultural exchange and exploration is plainly highlighted. The cost was $160 and it included transportation, passport, tuition, and room and board. Students were asked to cover other incidental expenses, such as field trips and meals. 

Although not mentioned in the bulletin, a small contingent of Trinity faculty and a chaperone traveled with students, including the Trinity University President and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Monroe Everett, Registrar Prof. C. H. Perea as faculty advisor, and Miss Bessie Marsh as a chaperone. Students were able to take Spanish classes such as Advanced Spanish Conversation, Mexican History, and Mexican Folklore, taught by faculty from the University of San Luis Potosi, and toward TU credits. Registration was open to not only students from Trinity but all students interested in Mexican culture. Social gatherings and field trips were also an important part of the summer school, many of them hosted by the Rotary or the Lions Club. 

In early 1945, the Trinitionian included a report in Spanish from “El Heraldo” newspaper in which, again, the Rotary Club was the place in which final conversations for the Summer School were discussed. Dr. Jackson was visiting the city and in a Rotary Club gathering he manifested his appreciation of the city and the Rotary members for hosting him and helping in the final details for the summer school. 

That summer and under the theme “At Work in Mexico” (bulletin below), the second iteration of the Summer School happened from July 16 to August 18. It followed a similar curriculum and format, but now Trinity faculty were also teaching some of the classes -though no names were mentioned in the bulletin, in a later report Dr. Robert Owens from the Modern Languages Department was mentioned as faculty and director. There was no specific total cost included, but an itemized list of the different costs of transportation, lodging, and tuition that Trinity would take care of. The Trinitonian also reported that a $50 fee would secure a spot. Not included this time was the passport transaction, which was left to each individual. 

As a public relations incentive, commemorations to the first summer school from the Rotary and Lion Clubs were included, a way to signal parents and students about the similarities between Mexico and the US and the hope for better relations between the “Niños [Kids] de Norte América” and the “Niños [Kids] de San Luis Potosí”. There were also more pictures of a stereotypical and romanticized Mexico, along with the university colonial buildings and the Vista Hermosa hotel, a very touristic strategy inside an academic endeavor. The bulletin was both promising an educational opportunity and an attractive summer trip.

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San Luis de Potosí campus, 1944

Ending of a relationship

Although the Trinitonian reported in October of 1945 that registration for the San Luis de Potosi 1946 Summer School was open, discussions of moving the school to Mexico City were happening in November. There is no reason or explanation of why these discussions were on the table and, so far, no report provides clarity. Nevertheless, in a letter exchange between Vice President Jackson and President Everett, there was an apparent financial and/or logistical disagreement between the San Luis de Potosí host and owner of Vista Hermosa, Dr. Joaquin Meade, and Trinity University. Dr. Meade asked for a payment that President Everett refused to pay due to the non-compliance of Dr. Meade on his agreement. Dr. Jackson was hesitant to come between the parties, as he resigned from Trinity in early March of 1946, but as the original contact of the initial agreement, he felt obliged to offer as arbitrator. There are no documents, so far, that provide more details on the disagreement or potential resolution. By June 1946, a new announcement in the Trinitonian confirmed the new 1946 Summer School in Mexico City.

Summer School at San Luis de Potosí (1944-1945)