After Dr. Angell's death, a memorandum appeared in the office of Chancellor Harry Woodburn Chase, saying that Bertha Lyons, assistant director of the Hall, was "passionately hopeful that we will not appoint another old man as Angell's successor. She is adamant that no matter how big the name we get, the money we put into it simply is not worth it."


Mrs. Lyons suggested that the Chancellor take the title of Director, "performing the necessary ceremonial and epistolary functions in that capacity and at the same time, in view of her twenty-five years of service, which she claims has covered 98% of the duties of the senile incumbents of the directorship, she be given some such title as Curator . . . and that it be made possible for her to spend more time afield raising money for the establishment and generally fostering its design."


She knew the difference between a real head and a figurehead. She also had ample support within the university from those who believed, that, to that date, all of the directors had been able "to give the enterprise little more than occasional lip and autograph service, under the guidance of the perennial assistant to the director, Mrs. Norbert Lyons, who is more efficient, knows how to handle all the ropes and is still very much on the job."


She had not wanted for on-the-job training, having begun in 1924 as Assistant to the Director, a title which in those days was equated with a six day week, a heavy briefcase, and few "perks."


She was still in that capacity when she was interviewed sixteen years later by reporter-at-large Geoffrey Hellman at the midtown offices of the Hall of Fame, the difference being that she was now running the show virtually on her own.


In his article in the New Yorker for September 21, 1940, Hellman twitted Mrs. Lyons for, after a search of the files, identifying one Evangelinus Sophocles as a person with "some connection with Harvard" who had been nominated in 1930. Why? Because "she was well known, I guess." Hellman set her straight" "Evangelinus , not Evangeline."


Evangelinus Apostolides Sophocles is not on the list of Hall of Fame finalists. However, he came by the inspiring name, some will say it is a poetic injustice to deny a place in the Colonnade to a man who, though born in Greece and therefore unqualified, became University Professor of Ancient, Byzantine, and Modern Greek at Harvard and wrote ten grammars and lexicons for students of the Greek language, without so much as an undergraduate diploma. His four academic degrees were all honorary.


The opening paragraph of Hellman's piece carried fifty percent miscalculation the number of niches in the Colonnade. The error was not his. A few weeks later Mrs. Lyons went to the Colonnade, did some counting and, fair minded lady that she was, instead of twitting Hellman in return, wrote to the NYU administration that "150 spaces for busts are not available although this number has been erroneously carried in all documents relating to the Hall of Fame since its establishment." Every now and then while the men up front were stuffing their shirts with kudos for work well done, the men and women in the second echelon to the rear were trying to keep them from biting their own tongues.


Today, the authorities might think twice before turning down Mrs. Lyons's bid without the most careful scrutiny. In 1949, they responded by approaching Dr. Ralph Sockman, one of America's best-known preachers. The Vice Chancellor wrote Dr. Sockman that he was just the man to "maintain the prestige of the Hall;" and he expressed "the need for a younger man as yourself." All predecessors had been men of great capacity and eminence, but were "past their prime, to say the least . . . You have the oomph that it takes to do the occasional platform job . . . and could do it with the least possible drain, I should think, on your well deployed talents."


In truth, they were asking Sockman to do more of the same with a few differences. He accepted at age 60, a younger man, but very much the full-time pastor of Christ Church Methodist of New York, and nationally known since 1928 for his weekly sermons over NBC radio. He was also presiding Minister of the National Radio Pulpit (Station WEAF, New York, and as many as fifty stations nationwide).


An extraordinarily good speaker, Dr. Sockman was described as one who " . . . looks like a successful lawyer and talks like the man next door." His lucid, witty sermons on such at-the-time daring subjects as companionate marriage, birth control, and the right to divorce, brought countless letters form people coast-to-coast, who looked on him not only a a minister to the faithful, but as a shepherd to the lost; and he freely counseled both. he was part father confessor and part advisor to the lovelorn and socially afflicted. He had direct lines in all directions, especially up.


He was also one of the New York University family: chaplain and member of the Council, as the University trustees were still called.


The hours he gave the Hall of Fame during his twenty-one-year tenure have not been totaled, but it is well-known that the outside demands on his time were heavy; so much so that in 1966 the curator of the Hall of Fame, Freda Hliddal, complained that, "she sees Dr. Sockman only seldom." His schedule showed that for the months of July through September of that year, he would be in New York for only short periods. "When she needs to confer with him . . . she asks for an appointment, but cannot always secure one . . . Doctor Sockman does not visit the office though it may have been placed on Fifth Avenue for his convenience originally.


The year of the first election under Sockman, the eleventh quinquennial, 1950, was a good "Untied Nations" years. The young UN was still in its pristine glory. Forty-none electors had been added to the Hall the previous year, to raise the level of radiance. Among them were Generals Eisenhower and Marshall; the former, a popular hero, on of the promising men to be watched. The latter, our military leader.


The number of electors now stood at 120; and Dr. Sockman announced that Noah Webster, Elihu Yale, Herman Melville, and Mary Baker Eddy had been nominated -- and 178 others.


Results; Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, both of whom had advocated international organizations for preservation of world peace, were sure-fire winners. To celebrate, there was a big lunch at the Hotel Pierre. Speaker Anne O'Hare McCormick praised the United Nations with the famous proclamation by Theodore Roosevelt that "there is no security like collective security."


No mention of Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick." The world was beginning to learn the lesson taught by, of all people, Rudyard Kipling, a longtime Roosevelt admirer, that "the secret of power is not the big stick. It's the liftable stick."


Joining Roosevelt and Wilson were General William Gorgas, Susan B. Anthony, and Alexander Graham Bell. Noah Webster got four votes.



Installation --Woodrow Wilson -- 1956





Sculptor Stanley Martinau, bust of Alexander Graham Bell, and Bell's grandaughter.




Professor Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity -- NYU Hall of Fame Promotional Book (Hall of Fame Archives)




Unveiling of the busts and tablets for Susan B. Anthony and Thomas Paine,


May 18, 1952




Scientists, Medical Doctors and Economists