Thursday, April 23, 2009

Harold Isbell

At that particular junction in the history of the settling of the American West where stockgrowing and finance meet, there came to the dusty windswept plains north of Denver three brothers from Burlington, Vermont, who in the waning days of the nineteenth century managed to set up the largest sheepgrowing operation in the state of Wyoming. About 1882, the two older brothers, John and Tom, started a herd with some seed money they'd saved running a freight line into Denver and soon built it into a vast empire running sheep on empty expanses of land spanning several states. By 1890 their brother James joined them in their sweeping enterprise, which by then had moved from early encampment with Mexican foreman Adriana Apadaca near Fort Steele, Wyoming, to headquarters closer to Rawlins.

While their sheep ranged much of the Wyoming landscape, their enterprising spirit began to do the same, as they established nearly fifty trading posts dotting the sparsely populated map. They made their first tiptoe into the waters of banking in Salt Lake City, purchasing the Commercial National Bank in 1903 and changing its name to the Continental National, which became lead bank for a chain of twenty-seven banking locations spread throughout the Rocky Mountains from the dusty roads of Idaho to the glistening streets of Denver, pioneering the concept of the chain bank in the Intermountain West.

By 1910 the herd had grown to 125,000 head and the Cosgriff Sheep Company had established itself has the preeminent sheep ranching operation in that corner of the blossoming Western new world, when the family decided to break up its partnership, leaving James E. Cosgriff the only brother remaining in the enterprise. Prior to that, the largest single shipment of wool ever had been sent out by Cosgriff Sheep Company from Fort Steele, Wyoming, to Boston, Massachusetts, a trainload of 800,000 pounds at 8 cents per pound in 1905. The Cosgriffs had established themselves as stockgrowers, landowners, businessmen and financiers. In the history of wool growing in Wyoming, there was no peer. Those sheep they didn't own personally they financed for other sheep outfits, large and small, supporting the sheepmen in four states--Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado.

Tom passed away in 1915, and John in 1917, both before reaching the age of sixty, but brother James stayed on to tend to the industry the brothers had started with that little bit of seed money all those years earlier in Denver, growing the Continental Bank and Trust Company a state away in Salt Lake City amid a banking industry dominated by the financial interests of the Mormon Church, who had introduced banking and currency to the area after Brigham Young ended his pioneering trek westward in 1847 to determine that the barren valley was indeed "the right place."

It was the right place for J. E. Cosgriff, his family and his business interests, which like the valley began to blossom like a rose. James' son Walter continued the banking business, and by 1947 the bank's assets were in excess of $34 million, and helped to finance Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's new Flamingo Hotel in a bootstrap Las Vegas. Walter purchased a stake in the Bank of Las Vegas in 1954, and sent one of his employees, E. Parry Thomas, to Nevada to see firsthand if the struggling Vegas bank needed to be closed. The bank was not closed, but flourished, and Thomas, who was promoted to President of the bank on the death of Walter Cosgriff in 1961, became one of the pre-eminent bankers financing and influencing the casino industry of Nevada, confidant of Howard Hughes and ultimately mentor to Steve Wynn. The Thomas Mack Arena in Las Vegas bears his name. The little Las Vegas bank that Walter Cosgriff invested in went from equity of $250,000 in 1954 to over $400 million at the time of its purchase by Bank of America in 1992.

Walter and Enid Cosgriff, meanwhile, became known in the Salt Lake City area not only for their industry but for their generous philanthropy, which extended from the Catholic schools and hospitals to the University of Utah, and notably, to the arts. Ballet West and the ballet program at the University of Utah both owe their existence largely to the generosity of the Cosgriff family and Mrs. Enid Cosgriff particularly, who in addition to giving patronage to the arts became, at the untimely death of her husband in an auto accident, the owner and general manager of the Salt Lake Bees baseball team, the first woman in professional baseball to do so. The family established the J. E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School and endowed funds and scholarships in the Diocese of Salt Lake and elsewhere. After her husband's death, Enid Cosgriff was invested as a Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, an honor bestowed by the late Pope John Paul II in 1988. She passed away in Salt Lake City in 1997 at the age of 84. Walter, called by TIME Magazine in 1950 "a Republican who thinks like a Democrat," had mingled with presidents and served as a member of the RFC.

Half a country away on the banks of the Mississippi River, a son of Dubuque, Iowa, who thought he might become a priest left Loras College and continued on to Notre Dame to further his studies, where he became Writer in Residence after completing his Master of Arts and joining the English faculty of St. Mary's College. It was there in the 1960's he met the daughter of Walter and Enid Cosgriff of Salt Lake City, Utah, and was married to her in Salt Lake's historic Cathedral of the Madeleine. Instead of becoming a priest, he became a banker, starting on the ground floor as a teller in his father-in-law's Continental Bank in Salt Lake City, rising ultimately to the position of Vice-President of the bank at which his mother-in-law, Enid Cosgriff, was director following her husband's death.

Like his in-laws, Harold Isbell with his wife Lyn became actively involved in supporting charitable causes and the arts in Utah, raising four children in the state before the Continental Bank interests were eventually sold and the couple moved to San Francisco, where they continue to be actively involved in philanthropic efforts.

I knew Harold Isbell as my roommate's cousin when I was living in Salt Lake City. I adored his parents, Max and Marcella Isbell, who lived near the Mississippi locks in Bellevue, Iowa, not far from the antique shops and the Maid-Rite. After Max's death, Marcy moved to Dubuque where she lived quite independently for many years, passing away in recent months at the age of 97. She was, quite literally, the little old lady from Dubuque, who read the Mayo Clinic Health Letter and The New Yorker with equal enthusiasm.

Harold M. Isbell.

Harold Isbell is best known in recent years as editor and translator for a number of Latin classics for Penguin Books, including Heroides by Ovid and The Last Poets of Imperial Rome.

It is, perhaps, lightyears away from the three brothers in Denver who started a small herd of sheep after leaving Vermont, lightyears away from the commerce and industry of stockgrowing in Wyoming, lightyears away from the bright lights of Las Vegas and the building of a banking empire in Salt Lake City, lightyears away from Dubuque.

Photograph of Continental Bank Building in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, now the Hotel Monaco.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Timothy Dolan

I received many letters of love and concern during my husband's protracted and complicated hospitalization at Mayo Clinic in the last half of 2004, but none more touching or meaningful than one which arrived in early December of that year. As summer gave way to fall, and fall to winter, the march of months seemed incomprehensible, otherworldly, an enormous weight, as we fought for a life worth saving in our frozen corner of southeastern Minnesota.

The Christmas holidays were fast approaching when someone a state away, across the rugged and beautiful Mississippi River, chose to sit down and and pen a note of unconditional prayerful support on the Feast of Juan Diego, while attending a board meeting that my husband was missing on the bluffs overlooking La Crosse. As pen to paper, it was priceless, personal, and will be forever treasured for its ability to lift my spirits at a time of enormous adversity.

Opening that letter meant the world to me. Someone out there who wasn't compelled to write the note was moved to do so, actually cared, and was reaching out, straight to the heart of our difficult battle.

That person was Tim Dolan.

Timothy Michael Dolan was born February 6, 1950, in Saint Louis, Missouri, the first of five children. He studied at Saint Louis Preparatory Seminary and Cardinal Glennon College, where he studied philosophy. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts, he ventured across the sea to Rome to continue his studies at Pontifical North American College and the Angelicum.

In June 1976, he was ordained to the priesthood, and three years later began doctoral work at Catholic University of America. He has served as secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., Vice-Rector of Cardinal Glennon Seminary, Adjunct Professor of Theology at St. Louis University, Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and teacher at Pontifical Gregorian University and the Angelicum.

He received his episcopal ordination on August 15, 2001, from Archbishop Justin Rigali in Saint Louis, after being appointed by Pope John Paul II to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Louis.

On June 25, 2002, he became the Tenth Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a position he has held honorably these past seven years as a man of courage, conviction and compassion.

A week from today, on Easter Wednesday, April 15, 2009, Timothy Michael Dolan, firstborn son of Robert and Shirley Radcliffe Dolan, will be installed in Saint Patrick's Cathedral as Tenth Archbishop of New York.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Never underestimate the power of a written note.

Ad Quem Ibimus. Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.- John 6:68

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Arthur Henry King

At the top of the hill overlooking the Smith Fieldhouse at Brigham Young University is a little faculty office building known as, well, of course, the Faculty Office Building, or FOB, a unique little building where every office has an outside view. Many students might pass by it on their way down the steep steps to the Fieldhouse to work out in the early morning hours. They might bicycle past it on their way to yet another class. If they blinked twice, they missed it.

I had the great privilege of having an office in it.

One of the singular experiences of my college life was having an assistantship with Dr. Marion J. Bentley, a well respected and very talented theater and drama professor at Brigham Young. I'd first become aware of him as one of the directors of the BYU Honors Program, in which I participated, but at the time I came to work for him, he was Dean of General Education and Honors, or as we casually called it, "GE." At that time Dr. Bentley also taught Honors Seminars in Theater, periodically directed operas and plays for the Fine Arts Department, was writing a book on period costuming, all while crafting and fine-tuning a newly devised set of General Education requirements for the university.

Down the hall from my office was the office of a snowy haired wise owl of a man, a Shakespearean scholar who'd been recruited to help in the General Education re-envisioning process. He seemed out of place, both in GE and in Utah, but certainly wouldn't have been in the enchanted halls of Cambridge. He seemed dressing for a grander stage, his own quirky version of Innocents Abroad. He was, as people are wont to say, a character. A character larger than life who in many ways shrunk to life, he made his quiet way down the hall, despite a quick wit and a golden tongue. He was articulated, measured.

One would have to wonder, really, what he was doing there. I found him quite enchanting. Like Arthur's Merlin. Luke's Yoda.

Arthur Henry King.

Dr. Arthur Henry King grew up far from the provincial campuses of Provo, in the town of Gosford, Hampshire, England, son of Quaker parents. The Society of Friends was quick to come to his aid after his father died when Arthur was only nine, making sure he got the education he might not have otherwise. As World War II was raging across the European continent, Arthur was studying in Sweden, after completing his studies at Cambridge, and was awarded his doctorate of Literature in stylistics in Lund, Sweden, before the end of the war. For his involvement in writing anti-Nazi material, he was blacklisted, yet was able to continue teaching in Sweden.

In 1966, a widowed Dr. King married a second cousin, Patricia, who happened to be of a different faith, and persuaded him to convert to hers, Mormonism, a religion as unique to America as jazz and Dixieland that reached across Atlantic shores to attract converts from the British Isles and Scandinavia in its formative years in order to populate the American West with those for a yearning for a new and different Zion amid the seagulls and sagebrush.

Eventually, it pulled him, too, and in 1971 he left an esteemed job as Assistant Director of the British Council in charge of Education, a position that had taken him throughout Europe, Persia and Pakistan in order to accept a teaching position in the English department of the LDS Church's flagship university named after Mormon prophet Brigham Young, an hour south of Salt Lake City in Provo, Utah. There he became an icon, an institution, a singular scholar in Shakespeare, a legend of linguistics.

He was twice decorated by the Queen of England for his service to crown and country, as Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and Commander of the British Empire (CBE). He was a published poet of some considerable renown, whose primary influences were claimed to include Eliot, Yeats, and primarily, Andrew Marvell. He distingished himself as a leader instituting programs teaching English as a second language abroad. He was a founding member of the Vetenkaps Society in Sweden and longtime member of the British Atheneum Club.

I think of him in his little office down the hall from mine, quoting Shakespeare. An owl in his tree.

Dr. Arthur Henry King retired from teaching at Brigham Young University in 1997 due to increasing ill health from Parkinson's disease. He died in 2000 at the age of 89.

Painting of Arthur Henry King by Nathan Florence, oil on canvas, hangs in the Humanities Reference Department, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.