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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 47, November 22, 2009, Article 13

WALTER BREEN AT JOHNS HOPKINS

Max Spiegel has been doing some research on numismatic author Walter Breen and he confirmed Breen's amazing academic feat at Johns Hopkins University. -Editor

Walter Breen entered the Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 1951 and graduated only 10 months later with a degree in mathematics. I thought it would be interesting to find the 1952 Johns Hopkins yearbook — called the Hullaballoo — to see if Breen was in it. I have wondered if he really completed four years of coursework in just 10 months, but as it turns out he did indeed.

A photograph of a clean-shaven Breen appears on page 70 of the Hullaballoo, with the following text: WALTER H BREEN / 215 East University Parkway, Baltimore 18, Maryland; humanities ΦBK. (215 East University Parkway no longer exists – it was torn down to make room for the expansion of Union Memorial Hospital.) Another picture of Breen is on page 97, where there is a group photograph of the members of Phi Beta Kappa. Breen does not seem to have been involved in any campus activities.

Here's Breen's yearbook photo alongside another of him in his heyday as a numismatic author. -Editor

Walter Breen yearbook photo Breen Walter

The 100th issue (July 1995) of The Colonial Newsletter provides some interesting snippets from the correspondence between Breen and Ray Williamson, an early mentor of Breen's. A few letters were written while Breen was at Johns Hopkins, such as one dated August 21, 1951, where Williamson wrote,

"Judging by the above address listing, from the ANA Director, [‘Box 575, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore 18, MD'] You have been accepted for work at Johns Hopkins. If so, congrats and power to you. I'd be interested to know what courses you're taking and how you get along. For God's sake don't let coin collecting (or correspondence) interfere with your getting a degree. Four years isn't so long."

As mentioned above, Breen was able to get his degree in less than a year. On April 1, 1952 Breen wrote a letter to Williamson from Johns Hopkins that reveals his "light" schedule:

"…Though I have nothing that could be called a ‘spring vacation' except the Easter holidays, which I am spending in Massachusetts…I do herewith gratefully accept your invitation for the weekend of the 18th-20th. This will cause no difficultly whatever with my studies, because my schedule is light and I will miss no more than one class if I leave before Friday 3PM…I might either hitchhike or come by bus, but in either case, I'll call you as directed. Therefore, you may expect me without fail that afternoon or evening."

In a letter dated May 24, 1952, Breen wrote to Williamson, "Did I tell you, by the way, that the Maryland Alpha Chapter (JHU) of Phi Beta Kappa has elected me to membership. A most unexpected honor…." Immediately after graduation Breen went to work for Wayte Raymond, and he would later earn his master's degree at the University of California, Berkeley. CNL 100 only printed excerpts from Breen's early correspondence with Williamson, and I am curious if any letters mention Breen working with the coin collection at Evergreen House during his time at Johns Hopkins.

Walter Breen - Phi Beta Kappa

THE BOOK BAZARRE

DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE will be holding its next mail-bid auction on December 3. Featured Lot: Third and Fifth Edition Red Books Signed by R.S. Yeoman to Contributor Hubert Polzer. . For more information, see www.fanningbooks.com . To request a catalogue, e-mail dfanning@columbus.rr.com .


Wayne Homren, Editor

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