Treating soldiers and students: John Doane
Doane Center was dedicated for Dr. John H. Doane and his family during homecoming weekend on Sept. 26-28, 1969. The new building was originally an infirmary for students. While Dr. Doane, who also held the rank of brigadier general in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was a remarkable figure, he came from a family of remarkable people.
John H. Doane was a native of Mansfield. He was born Aug. 16, 1887 to Prof. Joseph C. and Myra Doane. Prof. Doane taught at Mansfield State Normal School and once served as interim president of the institution. Myra worked for the Alumni Association. Young John was one of five children. He was a graduate of Mansfield High School, Mansfield Normal School in 1905, and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.
When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, Doane enlisted in the Army Medical Corps. He served at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. In the service, he held the rank of lieutenant and was promoted to captain.
Right after the war, Dr. Doane married Gertrude Allen, daughter of W.W. Allen. They had four children and passed on the family gene for achievement. Their children were Dr. John Jr., Wilton, Joseph, and Mrs. Sylvia Milne.
John came to Mansfield State Normal School as staff physician and instructor of health education in 1924 and served until 1941, when Uncle Sam again called him for duty and Dr. Joseph Johnston Moore took over. Gertrude also served on the school’s faculty. They saw the change from normal school to state teachers college in 1927. During Dr. John’s time at Mansfield he treated the wounds and diseases of the students. In addition, he trained students of the normal school to treat the same ailments of school children, since the normal school curriculum focused on teacher training.
Dr. Doane also had an interest in children’s health and education. In 1932, he gave an address to the Wellsboro Parent-Teacher Association that focused on both the health of the individual child and all of the children in the community. He also pointed out that health care at that point was focusing on prevention of sickness as much as on cures. Education, he told the PTA members, helped extend the human lifespan from a few decades in “The Dark Ages” to 58-60 years in the 1930s. Today, the average America lifespan is 77.71 years and even higher in other parts of the world. Japan’s life expectancy rate in 2006 is 81.15 years.
Doane also served on the committee for the Normal School’s nursery school in 1936. That committee also included his sisters Alice and Stella, who also worked at the teacher’s college, as well as Dr. George Retan (Retan Center), Mrs. Karl Van Norman and Mrs. John Myers. Van Norman Field and Myers band field are named for their husbands. Other members of that committee included Frederick Bauer, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Coles, Percy Coles, Mrs. Chester Feig, Mrs. Lyman Goodspeed, the Rev. David Griffiths, Wade Judge, Miss Edytha Keeney, William McCausland, Kimble Marvin, Mrs. Elizabeth Morales, Herbert Peterson, and Mrs. Morris Thompson. Emily Daly was the head teacher. Mansfield would not have a similar facility until the Sandra T. Linck Childcare Center opened in 2001.
During the Great Depression, Dr. Doane was chairman of the Emergency Child Health Program for Tioga County. The purpose of the movement, according to the Wellsboro Agitator, was to improve children’s health, which was often poor due to the economic conditions. The program was designed to examine all children during the first few days of school and examine “as often as possible” children up to age 12 during the school year. Regular monthly clinics were also held locally to treat children.
During that same period, Doane was also a leader in the county Child’s Aid Society.
Locally, he was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and the Free and Accepted Masons’ Friendship lodge. After he moved to Wilkes-Barre, he was a member of the Irem Temple and the Friendship Lodge.
His most important association, though, was commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 103rd medical regiment, 28th division. He served in that capacity in the period between the wars. The unit was deployed to Renovo in 1936 to help with flood relief efforts there. He would later recall that the unit was always at the top of inter-unit competitions.
Doane also served on the Mansfield-Richmond Township School Board from 1923 until 1941. He was originally appointed to the board and later was reelected three times. However, the outbreak of another war forced Doane to resign. A.H. Vosburg, who had been planning to retire from the board, was appointed to fill Dr. Doane’s seat and subsequently elected president of the board.
In 1941, the country again called upon Dr. Doane’s services when the United States was drawn into the Second World War. Initially he was stationed at Camp Beauregard, La. with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He later served at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Mobile, Ala. and was transferred to Philadelphia later in the war. He was promoted to full colonel during the war.
Following the war, Dr. Doane moved to Wilkes-Barre, becoming chief of hospitalization and outpatient care at the VA hospital there. He also served as college physician at Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre.
In 1954, Doane was honored by the Hq and Hq Detachment of the 83rd medical group and 911th medical company of the Pennsylvania National Guard. According to the Sept. 30, 1954 Agitator, he became one of 17 soldiers listed on the Guard Honor Roll. His photo was also hung in the Wellsboro Armory. Today, that building houses county offices. Following his retirement, he was given the honorary rank of brigadier general.
Dr. Doane passed away at the home of his son, Joseph in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Feb. 21, 1967 at the age of 79.
Two years later, the trustees of Mansfield State College voted to name the new medical center in Doane’s honor. In an unprecedented and unrepeated move, the honor was also extended to the rest of his family and for very good reason. Many members of his family, in addition to his parents, provided service to the institution and community.
Doane’s sisters, neither of whom married, were known as the Misses Doane on campus. Alice, a Latin teacher, joined the faculty in 1912 after several years of teaching school. While working at Mansfield, she also studied at Syracuse, Columbia University, New York University, and Middlebury College. She served for many years as the advisor to the student Classical Club and just before her retirement in 1942 she was chair of the student-faculty committee on correspondence with former Mansfield men in the service.
Stella Doane first joined the faculty as librarian and dean of women (preceptress) in 1917 after several years of teaching secondary school at Drexel Institute Library School and working as a librarian in the Yorksville Branch of the New York Public Library. Between 1920 and 1922, she taught at the Syracuse University Library and at Johns Hopkins University. She rejoined the faculty at Mansfield after that.
The Misses Doane retired at the same time in 1942 after many years on campus. Both were held in high regard by the students. In the 1918 yearbook, the Carontawan, the students wrote of Alice Doane: “We wish that in some way we could express to her just what she has meant to us and what high esteem we have held and will always hold her. Gentleness of manner, a brilliant intellect, and a friend to every one of us.” Of Stella Doane the students wrote in 1918: “Our preceptress! Whose wise judgment, great patience and large heartedness will always cause her to be remembered by the class of 1918. Proud may the school be who has such a woman at its head.”
John Doane’s brother Joseph was a physician in Philadelphia. Locally, he voluntarily acted as a consultant when Wellsboro built Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital. He was honored for that work in 1942.
The Doanes also had another sister, Jean, who married Charles Rose. Her obituary only says that she died suddenly in Denver, Colo. in 1964.
While Doane Center, which recognizes this remarkable family, was originally designed as a medical center, Doane Center has served a variety of purposes over the years.
Originally the building included six private rooms, a men’s ward, a women’s ward, and offices for the doctors and nurses. However, it became more cost effective to outsource medical services for students and both Laurel and Guthrie health systems have provided those services. Currently, the health center is housed in the Ground Floor of Spruce Hall. The building has variously housed public relations, graphic design, continuing education, and non-credit programs including the municipal police academy.
Campus police moved in after their old home, the old Rec Center adjacent to Straughn Auditorium, was torn down in 1999 to make way for a parking lot. After that, the campus post office and financial aid moved to Doane Center from Grant and South Hall respectively.