Hoover's Higher Education

Some may say sending an 11-year old boy from Iowa to Oregon after the death of his mother would be a life-changing event… and not necessarily in a good way. But going to live with his maternal uncle, a doctor in Newberg, Oregon, turned out to bring two very important things into the young orphaned Herbert Hoover's life. Timothy Walch, Executive Director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum reveals one of them:

"His Uncle John-Henry John Minthorn-obviously was concerned about Hoover's future education because he worked for his uncle in the land surveyor's office, did a fair amount of reading on his own, and when he expressed a desire to go to college it was not dismissed by Uncle John. And apparently there was a traveling recruiter from Stanford who was a Quaker himself, who convinced Uncle John that Bert could certainly attend Stanford University where he wanted to go, without losing his faith, and Bert applied, and was able to be a member of the first class."

In 1891, 17-year old Bert Hoover enrolled in Stanford determined to become a mining engineer. With just $850 from his mother's estate to supplement his education, Bert Hoover's tireless work ethic resulted in a wide variety of jobs including a paper route and a laundry business.

"I'm told at least for the first year because he had very little money to support room and board," says Timothy Walch, "that he lived in the barracks with the workmen who was constructing the campus because the campus was still under construction. So self-made, I think, is a fair statement, and that really helped shape his friendships, and his future view on life."

Hoover's senior year at Stanford brought the second very important thing into his life. It was in geology class, that he met the love of his life-Miss Lou Henry. Bert felt compelled to help the striking freshman with her studies. In his memoirs, Hoover wrote:

"And this call to duty was stimulated by her whimsical mind, her blue eyes, and a broad grinnish smile that came from an Irish ancestor. I was not long in learning that she also was born in Iowa, the same year as myself, and that she was the daughter of a hunting-fishing country banker at Monterey who had no sons and therefore had raised his daughter in the out-of-door life of a boy."

Bert graduated in 1895 with a degree in geology and quickly became a successful mining engineer in Australia. Three years later, Lou received her geology degree - making her one of the first women in America to do so. When Bert's marriage proposal came by telegram, Lou cabled back her consent. They were married on February 10, 1899, and the next day, set sail for China. Their life of travel and adventure had begun.


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