Editor’s Note: The Collections Spotlight series will highlight small collections that provide unique glimpses of Purdue and its people.
Among the holdings of Purdue University Archives and Special Collections are many materials that belonged to Purdue students during their time in West Lafayette. Each collection is different and provides a personal view of the student and his or her college experience. In the case of the L. Murray Grant and Bernice Nelson Grant Papers, we get to glimpse two different students during their college days.
Lloyd Murray Grant graduated from Purdue with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1904. His future wife, Bernice Nelson, graduated the following year with a B.S. in Science (1905). Both Murray and Bernice were popular students who participated in many clubs and societies. They crossed paths as members of the Debris Yearbook staff, Murray as business manager and Bernice as associate editor.
Bernice attended many social events held by campus groups and kept her dance cards, which document the dances of the evening and allowed young women to record the names of their dance partners. Almost every one of her dance slots was filled. Interestingly, though most of Bernice’s seven remaining dance cards are from the 1903-1904 year, she never once listed Murray as a dance partner. Despite this absence, Grant’s senior biography in the Debris hints at a connection: “Murray holds a strength record in the Gym and also one outside. He is known as the man with the ‘strong hold’ – the ‘full Nelson.'”
Gala Week, the days leading up to graduation, was packed with activities for seniors and their families. Murray saved the programs from many of those events, including the senior class banquet, invitation to commencement, commencement program, and full list of Gala Week activities. The program for Bernice’s commencement in 1905 is also part of the collection, as is the program for a Purdue Alumni Association of New York City Annual Dinner of 1906.
The collection also includes two articles about Purdue written by Bernice Nelson and published in the Exponent. The first, simply titled “Purdue,” extols the prominent role of Purdue graduates in the world. The second, titled “The Purdue of Yesterday,” is a handwritten draft. “The Purdue of Yesterday” shares anecdotes passed along by Purdue students from earlier years, including stories about sneaking out past curfew, riding trains around campus right after the track was laid, and playing lighthearted pranks during chapel services.
After graduating with his Mechanical Engineering degree, Murray Grant found work first in New York City and then in his hometown of Spokane, Washington. Bernice Nelson moved first to Illiopolis, Illinois, then to Rawlins, Wyoming, to teach science. In 1909, the couple married in her hometown of Lowell, Indiana, then moved to Seattle, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Murray built a successful career in water works and piping, and is credited with “design[ing] and construct[ing] most of the large, continuous stave penstocks and pipe lines in the U.S” (Who’s Who in Engineering, Vol. 1, 1922-1923).
The Grants remained active in Purdue alumni organizations throughout their lives. Murray was President of the Purdue Alumni Association from 1907 to 1908, participated in local chapters everywhere he lived, and even co-founded the Spokane chapter in 1908 (Exponent, 12 December 1908). Their move to Seattle was announced in the Exponent with the note that “they will be glad to have all Purdue friends call when in Seattle” (Exponent, 18 September 1909). The Grants were often visited by Purdue’s President Winthrop Stone, an amateur mountain climber, when he traveled to the western United States and Canada to climb the Rockies. The Grant Papers include multiple letters between Stone and Grant planning their reunions during Stone’s visits.
The final item in the Grant Papers is a letter from Purdue Trustee David E. Ross, written in 1933, asking Murray Grant to meet with an international exchange student from Purdue who would be visiting the Seattle area. Nearly thirty years after graduation, Murray was still involved in the promotion of Purdue.
The L. Murray Grant and Bernice Nelson Grant Papers are available for research in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.
MSA 330, L. Murray Grant and Bernice Nelson Grant papers, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries