The George and Helen Ralston papers, 1929-2015
Scope and Content Note:
The George and Helen Ralston papers, 1929-2015, contain numerous materials that span over fifty years and highlight the lives of two significant Wilkes alumni and administrators: George and Helen Ralston. This collection contains a variety of materials such as correspondence, photographs, photo slides, newspaper clippings, marketing materials, administrative files, student records, orientation and dormitory information, team rosters and player statistics, club listings, council and committee minutes, planning processes of the University, Navy materials, career planning, financial aid records, public safety documents, enrollment statistics, alumni correspondence, class reunion lists, student transcripts and contact information, marketing and event pamphlets and materials in collaboration with The Kresge Foundation, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Lehigh University and Regional Consortium, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. These materials detail the expansive career of George and Helen and reveal their impact in not only the athletic and theater realms but also in broader academic and administrative areas of the University. Along with this, there is a focus on correspondence connections and the importance of alumni relations highlighting the personal investment that these two had in the University.
- 1929 - 2015
Open for research. Many of the folders within the Alumni Relations series are restricted due to sensitive information regarding alumni personal addresses, phone numbers, and student records.
Biographical Sketch for George Ralston:
George Ralston was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia. From there he grew to become a graduate of Susquehanna Township High School. He was president of his class, captain of the football and baseball teams, and was an “All Dauphin County” team selection in both sports. In 1936, Ralston entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a pre-med major and lettered all four years in both football and baseball. Ralston graduated with honors in June of 1940 from the University of North Carolina. With no additional funds to support medical school Ralston was encouraged to pursue a coaching position. But, in 1941 after only one year coaching football and basketball (as well as teaching English) at Forty Fort High School, he became an early draftee into the Army during World War II. He served as an anti-aircraft artillery officer in the North African campaign, rotated back to the United States in late 1943, and then served in the Pacific Theater where he received two Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat. He was there until the war ended and he returned in February 1946. Immediately after discharge, Ralston returned to Forty Fort High School to finish the academic year. He still intended to go to medical school and that summer he took up a veteran counseling position at Wilkes. This summer marked the beginning of this man’s four-decade-long career at what began as Bucknell University Junior College, then Wilkes College, and now Wilkes University. It is due to his efforts that Wilkes is the way it is today. He began in athletics and later moved to academic and administrative positions before settling into student personnel administration for the remainder of his time. In addition to teaching responsibilities, he was the director of the initial athletic program that began in 1946, Dean of Men, Dormitory Residence Director, Student Activities Director, and part-time instructor in the Biology Department. He was referred to as a man for all seasons at Wilkes due to his extensive involvement in all facets of the school. At Wilkes, Ralston coached football for ten years, he organized the first Wilkes football team and was the only coach in those early years. Along with football he also coached baseball for four years and basketball for nine years. He was Director of Athletics for 14 years, and in addition to assigned athletic duties, he was responsible for the Wilkes Holiday Open Wrestling Tourney, “The Rose Bowl of Wrestling,” an athletic endeavor of national renown, which he chaired for 38 years. During his career, he achieved advanced degrees from both Harvard and Colombia. It was during this time that he got married to Helen Bitler Hawkins who was a member of the Wilkes music faculty. Together they had four sons who are all Wilkes graduates. As a tribute to his leadership role in athletics at Wilkes, the University in 1965 named its stadium “Ralston Field”. He is now listed in the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame for his extensive service. He died March 2, 2007, in Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre following a brief illness at the age of 89.
Biographical Sketch for Helen Ralston:
Helen Bitler Hawkins was born in August 1925 in East Mauch Chunk. She is the youngest sibling with her older sister Phyllis born five years prior. Her father worked as an engineer for the Central Railroad of New Jersey, he later moved the family to Ashley PA for work. Helen graduated from Ashley High School at the age of 16. A majority of Helen’s family enjoyed music, both her mother and father played instruments. Inspired by this, Helen became interested in music at a young age, particularly singing and playing the piano. Helen described herself as a slight introvert and music was a way for her to express herself. She began taking piano lessons when she was eleven years old and continued until she graduated high school. Two years later at the age of thirteen, she started vocal lessons under the direction of Unice Berry Dewitt, a New England Conservatory of Music graduate. When she was sixteen, Dewitt encouraged Helen and her family to join First Presbyterian Church, a much larger congregation than the family’s previous church, as a way of improving Helen’s musical experience. A year later, just as she was graduating high school she applied to be an alto soloist for a different church called Kingston Methodist Church as a position became available. She was given the soloist position and worked for over two years before a similar position opened up at her own church (First Pres) and it was there that she continued her solo work at the age of twenty. Helen continued to perform as the alto soloist at First Presbyterian for the next 70 years. That September in 1942 Helen joined Bucknell University Junior College (the campus was renamed to Wilkes College in 1947) to sing and play the piano. At the time BUJC was a two-year institution and Helen stayed for both years. On campus, she had music classes and choral on the third floor of Kirby Hall under the direction of Paul “Pop” Geis. Unice Dewitt had told Pop Geis about Helen’s musical talents when she was a junior in high school and because of this recommendation, Helen was allowed to perform in the Bach festival at the age of fifteen. During her time on campus, Helen enjoyed being a part of the choir and theater. The strongest force behind the theater program was Norma “Sanjie” Sanjulianna Tabersky who was in charge of the productions during Helen’s time. Along with being a part of the theater Norma ran etiquette-based tea parties for the female students of Chase Hall and taught arrhythmic classes and archery on the lawn outside of the Chase Theater. There were also horseback riding classes that took place up the road from campus. Helen was married in 1946, she had her first child (David) the following year in 1947 and got divorced the year after. She returned to campus in 1948 she was able to complete three semesters over the course of four years and graduated with a bachelor's in Music in 1952. That same year of her graduation Helen and George were reunited at a senior dinner dance. While both parties were familiar with each other because, in 1946, George Ralston joined First Pres church where Helen sang at. Helen recognized him from campus as George was working on a degree in medicine and was recruited by Dr. Farley to counsel veterans. The reason that Helen was at this senior dance was that she was accompanying her friend Milly Gitens to help with the ticket booth. Later that evening, they two were introduced by Herb Morris, the school's registrar and member of the couple's church. Helen and George ended up dancing together all night, began dating about two weeks after, and got married a few years later in 1956. On campus Helen performed Bach arias with Mrs. Farley who was a talented concert pianist and her two other friends teach on campus; Laila, an oboist, and Martin, a violinist. Together they performed in a barn on Mrs. Farley’s property for friends and family. During this time George became a counselor for Students and worked alongside Dr. Farley to support students. The standard that George set as a leader in student affairs was well known and made a lasting impression on the students and the university. Helen wanted to enjoy and share music and she had many opportunities to do so in her life from performing in churches, receiving an education, teaching lower schools, and performing throughout the valley. She is a mother of four sons, all Wilkes graduates. Her sons include (starting at the youngest) Jamie, Tom, John, and David.
17 boxes (7 Doc boxes, 8 Oversized Boxes, 1 Legalized Box, 1 35mm photo box)
Language of Materials
This is an artificial collection because the original order and the provenance for a good majority of the materials are unknown. Helen Ralston donated her theater materials and many of George Ralston’s materials to the Archives in 2019 but many of his administrative papers were transferred previously.
It is unclear when the George Ralston papers were donated to the Wilkes University Archives. Helen Ralston donated her theater materials in 2019.
Most of the collection is in good condition. The only area of concern are the newspaper clippings in Series II: Athletics, 1940s-1994 as the edges are worn and crumbling.
Anyone can read or obtain copies of any of the materials for research purposes.
The George and Helen Ralston Papers are arranged into three series: Series I: Administration, 1929-2005, Series II: Athletics, and Series III: Correspondence and Photographs. Series I: Administration is arranged into five distinct subseries: Subseries I: Councils and Committees and Clubs, 1970-1995, Subseries II: Academic Department Files, Subseries III: Student Affairs files, Subseries IV: Alumni Relations Files and Subseries V: Outside Organizations. Series III is arranged into four subseries: Subseries I: Correspondence 1943-2019, Subseries II: Photographs 1940s-1990s, Subseries III: Framed photographs and Awards, 1940s-1990s, and Subseries IV: Photo slides 1970s-1990s.
Series I: Administration, 1929-2005
The first series, Administration, 1929-2005, is arranged into five subseries: Subseries I: Councils and Committees and Clubs, 1970-1995, Subseries II: Academic Department Files, 1967-1993, Subseries III: Student Affairs files, 1933-2008, Subseries IV: Alumni Relations Files, 1929-2005, bulk 1970s-1990s, and Subseries V: Outside Organizations, 1962-1987. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains Wilkes administrative records, academic pamphlets, student resources such as freshman orientation and financial aid, alumni correspondence and class reunion materials, and various event pamphlets from outside organizations in conjunction with Wilkes. This series details George’s academic progress beyond the athletic department.
Subseries I: Councils, Committees, and Clubs, 1970-1995
The first subseries, Councils, Committees, and Clubs, 1970-1995, is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains various files detailing vital groups on campus and within the Greater Wilkes-Barre community. These include Wilkes administrative and presidential council minutes (Dean’s Administrative, The President’s Council), committees involving student affairs and academic standing (Academic Standing, Core New, Medical Advisory, Presidential Search, Student Affairs, Wilkes University Tenure), and University club listings focusing on the Wilkes Barre Rotary Leaders and Wyoming Valley Torch Club.
Subseries II: Academic Department files, 1967-1993
The second subseries, Academic Department files, 1967-1993, is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains files referring to various personal and academic resources. These include academic pamphlets including student counseling and coursework assistance, annual reports on administrative and academic areas, and annual planning processes of the University.
Subseries III: Student Affairs files, 1933-2008
The third subseries, Student Affairs files, 1933-2008, is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains information directly related to the Student Affairs department on campus. These materials include student resources including financial aid assistance, freshman orientation, career planning, and dormitory information. In addition there are correspondence with human resources, public safety, anti-drug and alcohol information, and statistics of the Universities enrollment and growth from 1933-1987.
Subseries IV: Alumni Relations files,1929-2005, bulk 1970s-1990s
The fourth subseries, Alumni Relations files, 1929-2005 bulk 1970s-1990s, is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains files that have originated in the Alumni Relations Office. These files include correspondence, class reunion materials, memorial service speeches and notes, newspaper clippings, student transcripts, marketing materials, student addresses and contact information, and other materials that concern Wilkes alumni. Many folders are restricted due to sensitive information contained within such as alumni contact information, student transcripts, and other personally identifiable information that is protected under FERPA.
Subseries V: Outside Organizations, 1962-1987
The fifth subseries, Outside Organizations 1962-1987, is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains correspondence, memorandums, and marketing and event visit pamphlets from outside organizations that have collaborated with Wilkes College and Wilkes University. Such organizations include The Kresge Foundation, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Lehigh University and Regional Consortium, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
Series II: Athletics, 1940s-1994
The second series, Athletics, 1940s-1994, is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains newspaper clippings, photographs, marketing materials, team rosters and individual player statistics, reports, pamphlets, and other materials that highlight Athletics at Wilkes College and Wilkes University. George Ralston was deemed “The Father of Athletics” for his leadership and coaching of many different sports from 1946 to 1992. He started the Wilkes athletic program in 1946 and the materials found within this series demonstrate his illustrious career at Wilkes within the athletic department.
Series III: Correspondence and Photographs, 1940s-2019, bulk 1950s-1990s
The third series, Correspondence and Photographs 1940s-2019 bulk 1950s-1990s, is arranged into four subseries: Subseries I: Correspondence, Subseries II: Photographs, Subseries III: Framed photographs and awards, and Subseries IV: Photo slides. Each series is arranged alphabetically by folder title and contains either correspondence to and from George and Helen Ralston in their professional and personal lives, as well as photographs at Wilkes College and Wilkes University over the years in their many roles and responsibilities. Helen Ralston was very involved in the Theater Department at Bucknell University Junior College before it became Wilkes in 1947 and continued to be involved after as well; contained within this series are many theater production photographs from her many theatrical roles that she held during her time at Wilkes. There are also many photographs of George Ralston’s sports teams, his involvement in the outer community and among the faculty and administration. Subseries III (Boxes 4 to 5) has framed photographs of the Wilkes Football teams from the 1940s through the 1960s and Subseries IV has photo slides of personal, sports, and theatrical events at Wilkes from the 1970s through the 1990s.
Subseries I: Correspondence 1943-2019
The first subseries, Correspondence 1943-2019, includes personal letters addressed to both Helen and George Ralston as well as a wedding invitation from Alice Parks, celebration materials, postcards, and handwritten letters and notes of George’s that include photographs.
Subseries II: Photographs 1940s-1990s
The second subseries, Photographs 1940s-1990s, include photographs from commencement, theater productions at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center and games at the Ralston athletic field, as well as personal photos depicting Helen and George together at various places in the Wilkes community.
Subseries III: Framed photographs and awards, 1940s-1990s
The third subseries, Framed photographs 1940s-1990s, include black and white photos taken from various wrestling tournaments. The pictures are from within a gymnasium and include coaches, players, and spectators cheering. There are also numerous awards and certificates presented to George Ralston from a variety of organizations.
Subseries IV: Photo slides 1970s-1990s
The fourth subseries, Photo Slides 1970s-1990s, is a collection of Ektachrome slides from the 70s-90s that include (in digitized order) pictures of people and children (personal and celebratory), pets, locations/scenery, theater sets, and theater productions with actors on stage.
Subseries V: Helen’s Music Department and Alumni materials, 1938-2015
Subseries V: Helen’s Music Department and Alumni materials, 1938-2015, is arranged outside organize chronologically by creation date and contains a wide assortment of newspaper clippings, pamphlets, brochures, photographs, alumni and marketing magazines, awards and honors, speeches, and anniversary materials that focus on her time at Wilkes during her BUJC years and her involvement with the Wilkes community after. These historical materials represent a wide range of events that occurred at Wilkes from Athletic/sporting events, Theater performances, Balls, Dinners, and Festivals, and honoring specific members of the Wilkes community such as Alfred S. Groh and Sam Anyoni.
Partially processed by Dwight Mitchell, Archives Work-Study, Fall, 2020. Partially processed by Trystan Griffiths, Archives Work-Study, Spring 2022. Fully processed by Juliana Lueders, Spring 2023. Supervised and edited by Suzanna Calev, Archivist, Fall, 2020.
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