“Schooling with Uncle Sam” Opens at Special Collections Library on July 11

June 23, 2015
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For Immediate Release

Dr. Allen Dale Olson

Phone 505-400-3849



“Schooling with Uncle Sam” Opens at Special Collections Library on July 11

Exhibit Tells the Story of Schools and Students on Military Bases Across the World 

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – ABC Library‘s Special Collections Library is the venue for an upcoming exhibition, “Schooling with Uncle Sam,” focused on the history of the 181 schools for military dependents located in the U.S. and throughout the world. Less than one-third (58) of one of America’s largest school systems is located in the States; the rest are spread around the world, from the Far and Middle East to Western Europe.

The exhibit, developed by the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center, will open on Saturday, July 11 in the Main Reading Room at the Special Collections Library at Edith and Central.

The public is invited to attend an special ceremony with a ribbon-cutting, honor guard, remarks and light refreshments on Thursday, July 16 at 5 p.m.

The massive educational system has its origins in military sponsorship of the education of the sons and daughters of the armed forces that began in the mid-19th century. Today’s sprawling system came out of post WWII when it was determined that morale would increase among Occupation soldiers if their families were with them, and that the living examples of American democracy would be influential in the defeated German and Japanese populations. Another factor in new policy was the concern over stationing the now racially integrated military in the still-segregated South.

Since 1946, when the Department of Defense opened schools for military dependents in Germany and Japan, an estimated 15 million American students have received  their education/ on military installations in foreign lands. The average Department of Defense Education Agency (DODEA) student will attend four, five or even more different schools on the/ way to graduation. More than a quarter of them will enter first grade speaking a foreign language, and almost all of them will have lived in a foreign country by the time they reach the fourth grade.

With Albuquerque’s large population of active and retired military and veterans, the new exhibit will bring back memories for many area residents who themselves attended DODEA schools, or had children who attended them. The new exhibit will feature detailed information about the history and growth of the schools, anecdotes from students who attended them, and a host of artifacts that include: a 1948 report card; teachers’ guides; books on learning to speak, write and sing in the language of their new home; school flags and pennants; posters; school photos; yearbooks; athletic jackets and trophies; a high school diploma; a bison head that was worn by the varsity mascot at the Mannheim, Germany highschool; a statement from General Colin Powell, US Army, Ret.; and much more. Many of the artifacts in the exhibit are provided by the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS), based in Wichita, Kansas.

Details about one military kid stationed in Germany who decided that if the University of Maryland could offer evening classes for soldiers, they could do it for military “Brats”, too (an affectionate appellation chosen by the “Brats” themselves). Claire Schwan, daughter of Colonel William A. Schwan, convinced Major General Thorson that it was needed, and soon there was a two-year undergraduate program with 18 students! During its 55-year existence, the two-year European campus of the University of Maryland served more than 22,000 student as the only residential college for children of U.S. military and State Department personnel.

Circle your calendars and don’t miss this engaging exhibit that will provide a lot of information on the lives of military dependents, a number of smiles, and will add to our knowledge about a life few of us have experienced. The constant moves and changes of school, teachers, friends and cultures-all without their express consent-makes for a very challenging, but rewarding life. The stories of how these students adapted and thrived should be an inspiration to us all.

The exhibit is presented by The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center (MAMF), whose mission it is to collect and preserve the stories, experiences, documents, photos, and artifacts of the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, spouses, siblings, and others who have loved and supported a member of America’s military services from  Revolutionary  War times to modern times. MAMF is an all-volunteer not-for-profit online entity in quest of a permanent home in Albuquerque and is launching a capital campaign to support that quest.

Curators for “Schooling with Uncle Sam” are:

Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, ND, MAMF Executive Director, is DoD Brat, an Army wife of twenty years and mother to an active duty soldier. She taught in the overseas Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the Caribbean and currently works for the federal government. In 2002, she compiled the stories of over 150 University of Maryland, Munich, Germany alumni, resulting in two books documenting the history of that campus’ 40-year history. She has been recognized for her unique education programs in the US and abroad and has been published in Eddiciones Santillana’s Strategies for Teaching English in Puerto Rico. She has been featured in the Army Times and has been quoted in scholarly books about growing up on military bases overseas. Due to her father’s permanent stationing in Europe, she had the unusual experience of attending the same overseas DODEA school throughout her primary and secondary education. Circe belongs to the Blue Star Mothers and co-edits the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS) Quarterly newsletter.

Dr. Allen Dale “Ole” Olson, Public Affairs for MAMF, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education, a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education,  and a doctorate in General Administration from the George Washington University. Ole is a World War II-era veteran and spent most of his civilian career with the United States Defense Department assigned to the Headquarters of the U.S. Army in Europe, where he served as the Army Liaison to the DoD Dependents Schools. He also spent twelve years as an Executive Officer for the DoD schools in Europe. Following his retirement, Dr. Olson served as Dean of the Graduate School of Schiller International University and as the Executive Director of the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts. Ole co-edits the AOSHS Quarterly newsletter, and is the President of the Museum Collaborative Council of Albuquerque.

The exhibit is free to the public and available at the Special Collections Library, 423 Central Avenue NE (corner of Central and Edith). The library is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, except for Thursdays, when it opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.

The Special Collections Library of the ABC Library houses research collections on Albuquerque history and New Mexico history and culture. The 1925 Pueblo/Spanish Revival-style building is a registered Albuquerque landmark in the historic Huning Highlands neighborhood. As a research library, materials are available for in-house use only.


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 ABC Library is part of the Cultural Services Department, City of Albuquerque, Richard J. Berry, Mayor. ABC Library consists of 17 locations serving a diverse population with a variety of programs, events and services. In 2014, the library welcomed more than 2 million patrons and managed the circulation of more than 4 million materials. For more information on all of the library events and services, call 311 or visit www.abclibrary.org

 Established in 1969, the Friends for the Public Library is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization supporting the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System. For more information, please visit http://www.friendsforthelibrary.org/

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Leaving Panama (1941)

by Hudson PhillipsChristmas 1941_Ft Davis Panama Canal_Ann_Bill_HudsonOur evacuation from the Panama Canal was a terribly sad and sudden thing.  As we approached the time that we were to leave, my father’s demeanor changed to a terse and commanding presence. It was time to be soldiers.  When I think back now, it explains why he acted this way. A barrage balloon hovered over the house, tethered not far away.  Piles of sand were placed near our back door to help extinguish fire from incendiary bombs. The entire family was issued gas masks. I was informed of a stash of emergency items in a compartment in the kitchen (in case my parents were out of the house during an attack.) Read the rest of this entry »

MAMF to Create New Exhibit, “Schooling with Uncle Sam”

by Circe Olson Woessner, Executive Director , Museum of the American Military Family

Over 17, 100 people visited our last exhibit, Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family over the summer—please help us showcase our unique schooling experiences!As we continue to gather quotes and short memory pieces for our new exhibit, “Schooling With Uncle Sam”, we periodically post a topic for your collaboration—

Do you have short stories or memories you’d care to add to our exhibit panels?

  •  If you attended a DODDS Boarding school when and where was it?
  • Was your DoD school unusual in the sense it was in a repurposed building, like a tobacco warehouse, a Quonset hut, or a hotel? If so, what was it?

Please post below or email us at militaryfamilymuseum@comcast.net. Thank you!

We are also on Facebook!

First Press Release About our Upcoming Exhibit in May 2014

Sacrifice & Service

Life With Doc

By Allen Dale Olson

One Sunday afternoon, I heard the doorbell as well as my wife hustling to answer it. She opened the door, let out a shriek, and just before she shut it, I saw a man hurrying down the stair case calling up to her that he’d be back for dinner tomorrow. She was holding a canvas bag containing a newly-shot pheasant and said it was Dr. Mason who had been hunting and brought the pheasant for dinner tomorrow evening.

Such was life in Karlsruhe, Germany, with Dr. Joseph A. Mason, Director of the United States Dependents Schools, European Area (USDESEA) in the mid-1960s till his death in 1979. You just never knew what to expect next. Probably no one got to know “Doc” (as we called him so he would have a title like the military officers with whom we worked) better than I did during those years. For most of his tenure, USDESEA was the tenth largest American school system with an enrollment roughly the size of that of St. Louis. Its 200 schools covered an area two-and-a-half times the size of the Continental United States, extending from the Persian Gulf to Sub-Saharan Africa to Scotland and Norway, to Spain and Sicily, and throughout Germany. Read the rest of this entry »

How I Started the University of Maryland in Munich

This is from the book, Bavarian Creme: Memories of Munich Campus

I arrived in Germany in 1949. At that time there were still remnants of  bombed buildings in Munich and its surroundings. The Cold War was in high gear. Barbed wire surrounded McGraw Kaserne and police dogs helped MPs patrol the area. In 1950 the barbed wire was replaced with guards at both entrances and military passes and IDs had to be shown in order to get into the Kaserne. Security was tight. There were no immediate houses around the Kaserne. The nearest community was Harlaching, which the Germans called “Little America” because the Americans who lived there tried to make it more like America than Germany. Many of the Bavarians still wore Dirndls and Lederhosen. Soldiers wore uniforms all the time. The majority of the Germans did not speak English.

My father was  Colonel William A. Swan, Southern Area Commander, whose headquarters  was McGraw  Kaserne.  Realizing  that  I  had to learn German  before I could attend college, I enrolled in the “Auslander” course at the University of  Munich. I was the only English-speaking person in the class. Herr Doctor Nagles spoke only German to us for eight hours a day. This was not the college education my father had in mind for me. He became concerned because I spent all day learning German, and was not getting any instruction in English.  He wanted me to go Stateside and enroll in an American college.  I had fallen in love with the German people and did not want to go back home. It occurred to me that the only solution to my dilemma was to start an American University in Munich. I know that sounds presumptuous, but it seemed logical to me at the time. Read the rest of this entry »