I'm breaking tradition here, but I dove into the archives and dug up this little piece that wasn't published in the campus newspaper. This article is about a terrible tragedy that is pretty much forgotten in Commerce. However, I still think that it is a significant event in our history that can not be forgotten. I wrote this in a style that mainly focuses on the Halladay's contributions and excellence at East Texas State University (at the time) rather than the scandal. Although, I still think that the ultimate event is certainly worth mentioning.
Suicide of the President's Wife
By: Chance A. Crane
On February 24, 1972, East Texas State University was jolted by the news that Elaine “Pat” Owings Halladay, former wife of ETSU President D. Whitney Halladay, was found dead in the presidential home garage. The Halladay’s were the first to move into the newly constructed President’s Home, south of the campus on Hwy. 50, on May 15, 1968.
Mrs. Halladay was discovered by the housemaid and was taken to the Commerce Medical and Surgical Hospital where attempts to revive her failed. At first, her cause of death was unknown and kept silent by Dr. Patrick Martin. According to The East Texan on March 1, 1972, it was Justice of the Peace Charles Walden that declared the official cause of death as “carbon monoxide poisoning from suicide.”
“Mrs. Halladay walked into the garage, closed the garage door and turned on the car engine,” former Texas A&M University - Commerce Archivist Dr. James Conrad said. “Everybody knew about it an hour after it happened.”
Mrs. Halladay was a prominent figure on campus and revered by many.
“[She] radiate[d] an atmosphere of enthusiasm for a not so enthusiastic university,” The Special said.
On June 22, 1970, Mrs. Halladay's husband was summoned by President Richard Nixon, along with 16 other college presidents, to Washington D.C. President Nixon sought advice from the group of college presidents about how to suppress student uprisings on college campuses.
“This was a very violent time,” Conrad said. “However, ETSU was barely impacted because most of the students on campus were fairly conservative.”
Conrad said that it was this trip to D.C. that possibly led to Mrs. Halladay to commit suicide two years later.
“It is said that it was in Washington D.C. where President Halladay developed a relationship with another woman,” he said. “This was probably a contributing factor to the suicide.”
On January 13, 1972, one month before the suicide, the Halladays divorced. After Mrs. Halladay’s suicide, President Halladay resigned on May 5, 1972, and became president of the new A&I University at Corpus Christi.
In Donald E. Reynolds’ book “Professor Mayo’s College: A History of East Texas State University,” it is said that the campus was stunned, “first by the death a highly regarded Pat Halladay and then the president’s resignation. The community had become sharply divided over Halladay because of his personal tragedy.”
The Halladay’s were dedicated to their work at ETSU and to the students. According to The Greenville Herald Banner, President Halladay was “a man who [was] largely responsible for the Commerce school’s emergence as a budding regional university with a growing academic repute.”
According to The Special, “the Halladays often ate in the cafeteria to ‘meet the students in their own environment.’”
“I want to meet and associate with as many students as I can,” Mrs. Halladay said. “When schools were smaller, you could know everyone personally and bring them to your home. But there’s no way we could invite over 8,000 students to the house today.”
Martha Jo McDowell, Marietta McClurg and Whitney Halladay Whitelaw, Mrs. Halladay’s daughter, said in Mrs. Halladay’s written profile that she had an interest in the welfare of animals that was “intense.”
“She could not turn away a stray, and she spent many hours trying to find homes for unwanted and abandoned animals,” they said. “A testimonial to her concern is the Commerce Humane Association, organized with funds donated…as memorial tributes upon her death.”
They also said that Mrs. Halladay had her hand in several organizations. She was a member of the Coterie Club, the Dames Club and the Methodist Church. They described her “[being] active in all of them despite a busy schedule as official hostess.”
“My life pretty well revolves around the schedule of my husband,” Mrs. Halladay said in The Special. “The University always comes first, and that doesn’t leave time for much else.”
Mrs. Halladay enjoyed being at ETSU.
“We aren’t searching for a larger or better school, because we think we have found it.”
On the day before President Halladay resigned, those who loved Mrs. Halladay paid a final tribute in
The Commerce Journal.
“Many share my opinion that today she is where the glory of her own goodness will be revealed in her,” the paid advertisement said.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
I've been slacking on my movie attendance despite desperate cravings to see Tron Legacy and True Grit. Even if I did get to go see them, it would be too late by now to review them since they have been out for awhile. Oh well...I do have something to review now and it's a video game. Now begins the video game review series called Voltage and games shall be reviewed as such: Low Voltage, Minimum Voltage and High Voltage. That's pretty easy..
Epic Mickey is High Voltage.
Photo courtesy of Google