The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Nydegger Family Papers
Collection Number: M186
Volume: 1.5 cu.ft.
Melvin Glore Nydegger was born in Parsons, Labette County, Kansas, on October 8, 1906, the son of Frank and Lena Glore Nydegger. He attended the public schools of Parsons and continued his education at Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg, Kansas, receiving a B.S. in Education from that institution on July 29, 1927. He later attended the University of Wisconsin where he received a Master's degree in Spanish and French in 1937. On June 30, 1936, Nydegger married Donna Eilene Smith, daughter of Joseph J. and Donna Meadows Smith of Abingdon, Illinois. Donna was a graduate of Abington High School and the nurses' training program at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago. They had one daughter, Donna (Dee) Lenora Nydegger.
Nydegger's early teaching positions were in high schools and military schools in Kansas, Minnesota, Alabama, and Georgia, where he taught Spanish, French, and Latin. In 1938, Nydegger became head of the Spanish Department at Allen Military Academy in Bryan, Texas, where he began a program of exchange for both students and faculty between Ramirez College in Bogata, Colombia, and Allen Academy. In 1939 he was an exchange professor in South America and began post graduate work at the National University of Colombia.
Armed conflict in Europe caused Nydegger to return to the United States in early 1940 where he sought appointment in the Army Officers Reserve Corps. He began training for the Quartermaster Corps by extension courses in Bryan, Texas, and entered active military service on April 10, 1941. Following his transfer to active status, Nydegger was ordered to the New Orleans Quartermaster Depot as assistant to the Commanding Officer: then in May he was sent to Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for additional training.
In mid-October 1941, Nydegger was sent to the Quartermaster School at Camp Lee, Virginia, where he remained for 41 months, serving as Instructor and Head of the Department of Supply Training. He authored texts and publications on supply for the Quartermaster School and was later made Executive Officer, Plans and Training Officer, and Commander later made Executive Officer, Plans and Training Officer, and Commander of a quartermaster battalion. During 1945 Nydegger spent time at Camp Shelby, Mississippi; Camp Gordon, Georgia; and Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He attended the School of Military Government in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1945, and was sent to Korea as a military supply officer for the army. Nydegger returned to the United States in June 1946, and on August 7 of that year, was honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Quartermaster Corps.
Following his return to the states and his discharge, Nydegger was appointed to the faculty of Mississippi Southern College as Director of High School Correspondence and Assistant Professor in Extension. On January 31, 1947, he was appointed Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies, based on his earlier efforts at the Allen Military Academy toward student exchanges with South American countries . Nydegger's efforts resulted in success for the Institute: enrollment increased from 30 the first year to over 400 before his death of a heart attack on January 29, 1951.
Melvin Nydegger was active in the Mississippi Modern Language Association, serving as its president in 1948; he was also active in the Masons and the Reserve Officers Association, and served as state commander of Military Order of the World Wars.
After his death, his wife Donna continued her involvement with the Institute by serving as Chairman of Student Welfare until her retirement. She was known as "Mama" by many of the Latin American students who benefitted from her efforts at making their transition to University and American culture as smooth as possible.
The Nydegger Family Papers (1905-1987) consist of the records of Melvin G. Nydegger, his wife Donna Eileen Smith, and daughter Donna (Dee). The collection includes correspondence, personal and biographical information, photographs of Latin American Institute students, and documents, genealogy, and memorabilia related to the Nydegger, Smith, and Meadows families.
Correspondence relating to Melvin Nydegger's military service and letters to his mother from 1940 through 1946 comprise the largest portion of the collection. A limited number forms and records relate to the Latin American Institute, its rules and regulations. Three folders among the family papers contain school records, correspondence, and personal materials of Donna Eilene Smith Nydegger from her elementary school years through her activities as Chairman of Student Welfare at the Latin American Institute, now the English Language Institute, at the University of Southern Mississippi. Three other folders contain genealogical materials on the Nydegger, Smith, and Meadows families.
The Nydegger Family Papers trace the personal activities and professional career of Melvin Nydegger and his wife Donna E. Smith Nydegger; they also illustrate early efforts to promote international exchange of students at the university and college level .