Dottie Stone

Madison High School graduate Dottie Stone, who earned her doctorate degree while studying the plight of German Jewish refugees in South Africa in the 1930s and 40s, just completed a year of research at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in New York.

MANSFIELD -- When Dottie Stone graduated from Madison High School in 1966, it's unlikely she envisioned the historical turns her life would take.

The former Plymouth High School teacher, who also taught at Pioneer Career & Technology Center, just completed a year of research as the Morganthau Holocaust Fellow at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Though she never started out to become an expert on the Holocaust, the 70-year-old Stone has turned the exploration of genocide of European Jews by Nazi Germany into a large segment of her life's work.

"When I was in college (at Ohio Northern University), we never had a (specific) course on the Holocaust," Stone said during a visit to Richland Source on Monday, just before heading back home to South Carolina.

After graduating from ONU in 1970, Stone returned home to teach in Richland County. She moved to Summerville, S.C., with her family, including three children, in 1984 to escape the cold weather and continued her teaching career.

BEYOND TEACHING:  While there, and late into her teaching career, she learned about a master's degree program in Holocaust and genocide studies at the West Chester University of Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

"While I was there, my adviser got some information from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, about their (doctoral) program. I wasn't going to apply and my adviser said, 'Yes, you are.' So I did apply and a got a full fellowship to work on my PhD."

Changing states from Ohio to South Carolina negatively impacted her teacher retirement situation, making the doctoral work even more attractive.

"I couldn't see myself in the classroom at age 65," she said.

Stone began her studies at Clark in 2002 and earned her doctorate in eight years.

"It took awhile to get my dissertation ('Seeking refuge: German Jewish refugees in South Africa') done. I had three years of classwork and then a year of research in South Africa," Stone said.

After earning her doctorate, Stone did interim work at the Holocaust and Humanity Museum in Cincinnati and the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center in Hollywood, Fla.

Stone returned home to Summerville and began work at the nearby Middleton Place, a historic site named for Henry Middleton, who presided over the first Continental Congress, and his son, Arthur, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

She works there as a historian, researcher and genealogist. But she jumped at the chance to travel to New York for the year-long research fellowship named for Henry Morganthau, secretary of the treasury in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations from Jan. 1, 1934, until July 22, 1945.

ROOSEVELT STUDIES: Stone said there is much debate regarding Roosevelt's actions and/or inaction during the 1930s and 1940s as German Jews began fleeing Hitler and his Nazi party.

The president was hamstrung by the Immigration Act of 1924, which set limits and quotas on who could enter the country. Stone said many anti-Semitic legislators, especially those in the South and Midwest, opposed allowing the Jewish refugees to come to the United States.

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Morganthau, who was Jewish, lobbied hard within the administration during the 1930s and early 1940s to do more to provide shelter to the Jewish refugees.

"Once the war started, Roosevelt was just tied up," Stone said. "The attitude was win the war and then we will save the people."

Morganthau and others finally convinced Roosevelt to start the War Refugee Board in 1944. The board streamlined the work of private relief agencies, helping them send money and resources into neutral and enemy territory. They also placed American representatives in neutral nations to supervise projects and pressure those countries to welcome refugees.

Stone said she came away from her research with a great deal of respect for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt ("She pushed and pushed and pushed") and U.S. ambassadors to nations neutral during World War II for their work in finding places for refugees.

"(The ambassadors) are the unsung heroes. They did so much," Stone said.

HOME AGAIN: After a week-long visit with family and friends in Mansfield, Stone left Monday morning for South Carolina, returning to the Middleton Place.

She has written one article already on Eleanor Roosevelt, based on her research, that will be used in a book. She isn't sure what the next step will be from her year's worth of studies.

"An article ... or maybe a book," she said. "(Writing) is a tedious process. It's not easy. You have to get your mind focused and there are some days your brain just won't work ... at least mine won't. Those are the days you work on research."

Regardless of how she reproduces the lessons she learned, it's clear Stone has traveled a path far unexpected from the student who graduated from Madison with just a goal of teaching history in mind.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"