Guilford of the 1930’s, or what was old is new again

Gwen Gosney Erickson found an interesting set of documents in the college archives – minutes from the trustee meetings from the early 1930’s. As the Great Depression swept the country, the college was in some financial trouble, suffering from deficits and apparently unable to pay full salaries. Faculty proposed a salary policy – a combination of salary cuts and deferred payments – to help the college survive the crisis while ensuring basic living expenses for employees.

Here’s the report from the Faculty Committee on Finances:


Your committee held three meetings in East Parlor, Founders Hall, on Wednesday, February 18th, Thursday, February 19th, and Monday, February 22nd, respectively, with Miss Ricks, Chairman, presiding. All members were present at all meetings.

After some discussion it was felt by the committee that there were two fundamental financial problems now facing the college:

FIRST: The existing emergency which demanded some immediate action to provide relief for the present financial situation, and at the same time protect the best interests and welfare of the college and the faculty.

SECOND: Consideration of the future financial policy of the college to work out some plan whereby the college could operate within its annual budget in the future.

It was decided that intelligent consideration of the second problem would require more time and facts than were available to the committee, and
that it should be postponed until some future date.

In this connection your committee decided unanimously that the following principles should be accepted as fundamental to any financial policy that the college should adopt for the future:

(1) That the present Endowment Fund should be held intact.

(2) That all activities and improvements involving expenditures that are not absolutely necessary to the functioning of the college should be eliminated during the present emergency.

(3) That every effort should be made to retain the present faculty, thereby insuring that the standard of work shall not be lowered.

The following recommendations for the handling of the present emergency were unanimously adopted by your committee for the consideration of the faculty:

1. That 10% of the annual budget for salaries in the instructional and
administrative departments be donated by the faculty and administration to the Guilford College Centennial Fund to be used by the Directors of that Fund as they deem advisable. This 10% donation should be distributed among the faculty and administration on the following basis: Each member should have a flat exemption of $100 per month for the actual working months ($900 in some cases and $1200 in others): over and above this exempted amount each member should be assessed a percentage of his or her remaining salary necessary to produce a sum equivalent to 10% of the annual salary budget, the percentage donated to be the same for all members. Miss Gainey has figures that this percentage would amount to 17.54% of the salaries over and above the exempted amounts.

2. That provision be made by the college to pay each member of the faculty and administration three regular monthly installments on salaries on or before August 1oth, 1932.

(NOTE) Any supplies or provisions purchased from the college shall be considered as a portion of the salaries referred to just above, and shall be deducted from the salary payments due before August 10th, 1932.

3. That the last two remaining installments on salaries shall be held in abeyance until the college shall be able to take care of this obligation, with the understanding that the amount held in abeyance shall bear interest at the rate of 6% on and after August 1st, 1932.

(NOTE, All monies donated by the faculty and adminstration shall be deducted from the last two remaining salary installments halt in abeyance.)

4. In addition to the above, a further sum of 5% of the annual salary budget for the instructional and administrative departments shall be donated to the Guilford College Centennial Fund on the same basis as the first donation.
PROVIDED that friends of the college shall subscribe and pay into the college
treasury a sum equivalent to the total donation of the faculty and administration, which money shall be used to pay the salary installments held in abeyance.

It was felt by your committee that this action would give immediate relief to the extent of approximately $22,000, and permanent relief to the extent of approximately $9,500, and at the same time provide some means whereby the faculty and administration salaries might be paid within the near future.

The committee expressed itself as favoring a definite and concerted effort on the part of the student body, the faculty and the board of trustees to use their individual influence in soliciting well-prepared students for next near.

Your committee has made a conscientious effort to consider all elements of the situations and feels that the recommendations made are as equitable as could be devised, and while realizing that they call for a great sacrifice on the part of the faculty and administration, it was felt that their acceptance would, in the long run, be most beneficial to the college and the faculty.

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine Ricks, Chairman

F. C. Shepard, Acting Secretary.

February 22, 1932.

There are 32 employees listed on the books in the 1930-31 year, with President Binford making the princely sum of $3,540 in salary and $460 for “house or room.” That $4000 total is the equivalent of about $62,000 today. Miss Ricks, who was 48 years old in 1932, made $2000, including $150 for house or room and $250 for board and laundry.

The full document is attached below. There are a bunch of other interesting historical details here. It’s a little sad but also maybe also a little reassuring to see them struggling with the same issues as we are working through today – student recruitment, student quality, paying a living wage, protecting the endowment and the academic program, and donating to a college they supported and that supported them. If Miss Ricks and her colleagues could see a way through dark times, maybe we can too.

Trustee Minutes, 1930-32

One Comment

  1. Gwen Gosney Erickson

    Note that the 32 employees listed are salaried employees. There were also hourly workers that are not listed in the trustee minutes. I’m guessing part of that is due to what positions had formal contracts and expectation of trustee approval at that time. The other piece is that support staff was historically not documented in detail and likely treated as contingent workers in many cases.