John R. Slacks

Education Faculty

Minutes of the Faculty Meeting October 4, 1954 Docket No. 504 Mr. Fred Cram read an appreciation of Mr. John Ross Slacks and moved that the following resolution be spread on the records of the Faculty and that copies be sent to Mrs. Slacks and their two sons. The motion was passed unanimously. JOHN ROSS SLACKS The history of education in Iowa follows a pattern of great personalities in challenging situations. Three generations of Midwestern people cover the development of a continental culture adapted to a rural environment. The father and mother of John R. Slacks were factors in a civilization based on idealism as it flowered among the common people. These people were clear in their thinking, clean in their living, efficient in their labor, and although they seldom used the term "philosophy," deep-seated in their religious, social, and economic patterns. Born into this remarkable environment on January 10, 1873, John Ross Slacks carried through more than eighty-one years of an active and productive life the principles on which he was nurtured as a boy. Endowed with an active, receptive, and progressive mind, he grasped with a realistic and philosophical background the educational movements of his hour. Mr. Slacks had as basic in his makeup every worthy characteristic of optimism. His Baptist training braced him for the tests of character incident to each living day. He had no doubt that the destiny of man is in the hands of Omnipotence, while the outcome of any one man's life was the sum of God's purpose and the attributions of individual experience. Like the average boy of his early years, Mr. Slacks performed the family tasks allotted to him. He received enough education to secure a teachers certificate. He followed the pattern set by most of the educational leaders in Iowa, beginning in the one-teacher school. That he did not long remain in that field is shown by his statement that local graded schools claimed him within two years. Graduating with the degree of Bachelor of Didactics at Iowa State Normal School in 1901, he passed to high school work, and by 1908 found himself elected by popular vote to the County Superintendency of Sac County, Iowa. In this position be functioned so successfully as a leader in club work for rural children that he attracted the attention of his Alma Mater. To this institution he came in 1918 as director of club work in the Department of Rural Education. From 1918 to 1943, with time out at intervals, and with study at the University of Chicago resulting in his securing the degrees of Bachelor of Philosophy and Master of Arts, John R. Slacks was one of the stalwarts who met the constantly augmenting demand that this institution provide training above average for the teachers in our country schools. He was never merely an instructor. He was a leader, a friend, and an inspiration to his students. His use of English was characterized by the short and driving sentence with a vocabulary far-reaching as his thoughts, but significantly appropriate and meaningful. The activities of this versatile and constructive mind were not limited to the Campus. He was the author of numerous magazine articles and helpful bulletins. His principal contribution as a writer was his book The Rural Teachers Work. He was a member of many organizations and was interested in professional improvement. He was a member of one of the most significant committees of the Iowa State Teachers Association, the one on The Elimination of Obsolete Material from the Elementary Course of Study. The report of this committee as published fairly revolutionized the content of text books and redefined the limits of public school accomplishment. John R. Slacks was a good man to have in a community. He was a devout Christian, and he lived as he believed. As a neighbor he was exemplary. He seemed to sense the ideal of true neighborliness--seemed to know when to speak and when to remain silent. His family life was to him a sacred situation. To see him and Mrs. Slacks at work in their garden was an inspiration of fellow-mindedness. As the father of two boys who have made a great success of life both at home and abroad, he contributed to our ongoing social order in a vital way. It has been good to know John Ross Slacks. To have worked shoulder to shoulder with him is a blessing beyond any appreciation or evaluation Mr. Chairman, we move that his epitome and these sentiments be spread upon the records of the Iowa State Teachers College, and that copies be sent to Mrs. Slacks and to each of the sons. Respectfully submitted, Albert C. Fuller Harvey A. Riebe Fred D. Cram September 13, 1954 To the Members of the Faculty: Professor John R. Slacks, Professor Emeritus of Rural Education, passed away last evening, in Tucson, Arizona, where he and Mrs. Slacks had gone to spend the winter. Mr. Slacks began his services with the college in 1918 and served faithfully and effectively over a long period of years. He retired from active teaching in 1943 and since then he and Mrs. Slacks have lived most of the time at Elmhurst, Illinois, where their son, Melvin (B. A., 1929) resides. In so far as we have been able to learn there will be no funeral service for Mr. Slacks in Cedar Falls. Sincerely yours, J. W. Maucker, President. The alumni of the last years of the fading nineteenth century will remember a country boy, grown school teacher, who came me to ISNS to get his B. Di. degree. In those days, the 2-year so-called degree, not dependent on high school graduation, was a goal to be achieved by the elect. The M. Di. "degree" was a dream that few saw fulfilled. The Bachelor's degree a far-off vision. John Ross Slacks was content with a actuality. He received his modest B. Di. and went to work. Sac County lured him from his early hunting grounds in the English River country of Iowa County. Successful as a high school teacher, he "ran" on the Republican ticket for the County Superintendency, and, John being what he was, a successful teacher, a good companion, and, withal, a Republican, he got the job--Sac County being what it was, a good, safe GOP compound. A better combination could not have been conceived. The people of Sac soon found out that their superintendent had much more than a casual interest in the success of her boys and girls. So outstanding was John's work that Macy Campbell, ever on the alert for promising talent, and deeply conscious of the expanding possibilities of club work in the ISTC "associated school", gave the tall, long-striding, and efficient county superintendent the nod, and he was back at Cedar Falls. For more than a quarter century, through club work, through classroom teaching, through rural organization, through extension services, through the use of a facile pen to express his constructive thoughts and his vivid imaginings, John worked on campus and off to further rural education. He was a successful teacher, even-tempered, versatile, conscientious, helpful, and inspiring. "I think," said a former student of his ''that Mr. Slacks was the most understanding, patient, and kind-hearted man I ever knew." John's death at Tuscon came unexpectedly following recovery from an appendectomy. He leaves a widow and two sons, with grandchildren who will "miss his kind way and his understanding heart." The writer lived next door to John and Leona Slacks for twenty-five years. They were the best of neighbors and after a quarter century of acquaintance we can only say of John, and we deem it enough, "he was a good man." (Fred Cram)