Edna Jeanette Smith Cubley
1903 - 1992
Edna Cubley graduated from Walla Walla College, now University, in 1924 with a diploma in piano. She then taught at Laurelwood Academy near Portland, Oregon, for six years. She returned to WWC as a teacher in 1931, when her husband, Srauss, who had just completed a master's degree at the University of Washington, was invited to chair the business department. It was the beginning of the Great Depression and a challenging time on campus and for music, in particular. Cubley would later write:
The Great Depression was on and the music department was not doing well. Victor Johnson, who headed the department and played violin, and myself decided that if we were to have a strong department, it was important to develop a children's program. We each taught forty children fifteen-minute lessons with each child having half- hour practice periods per week with some of our advanced students. Come spring we had a recital with eighty children on the platform. There were forty violin solos and forty piano soloists. Today no one would listen, but then we had a chapel full of enthusiastic friends.
She assumed direction of the piano program in 1932 and continued to teach until her husband accepted a position at La Sierra College, now La Sierra University, in 1945. Cubley also played the organ throughout her career. While at WWC, she had played for more weddings in that college community than had anyone else.
Following eight years at LSC, the Cubleys served in the Middle East at an Adventist school in Beirut, Lebanon. They moved to Andrews University in 1955, where he chaired the business department and she assisted in the music program until they retired in 1966 and moved to Redlands, California. At the time of her death, a memorial tribute about Cubley's character and qualities during her final years was given by Helen Foreman Little:
Through more than three decades - not just moments - of suffering and declining strength, Edna never let us hear a moment of complaint, nor did she lose her gentle sense of humor. She was cheerful in the face of this decline, even to the point of her total dependence on others - even for motion. And all of this with not the slightest indulgence in deadly self-pity. Especially rare is such a response by a person who has been successful in a public career like hers.
But no moments of nobility in Edna's life serve as a sharper focus than do certain ones that occurred after she had lost her beloved Strauss and his tender care for her. Help was imperative. And she found it in a succession of three young girls who had migrated to our country and could speak no English. Did Edna complain or expostulate? No! Did she demand and monopolize their efforts for her comfort first of all? No! Ever the skillful teacher - even in this different mode of expression - she taught them English and taught it so well that they were able to advance in a culture new to them, one of them to become a licensed vocational nurse, one to serve as a clerk in a Redlands medical clinic, and the third to enter college.
Here's how she did this: she taught the first one to speak English so well that Edna decided the girl should get an education and insisted on It. The girl left to enter a nursing course. The sister of this girl then came to take her sister's place. Again Edna taught English so successfully that Edna also pushed this girl out to gain an education. So a third girl who could speak no English came and left in the same way. All three girls had become adept in helping Edna, but Edna - putting others' welfare above her own - made them leave to get an education.
A final bequest in Edna's legacy had to do with something very different, something serving as a visible monument: Edna had her Steinway grand reconditioned, at no small expense, and gave it to Walla Walla College, where it now has a place of honor and access in the spacious entry hall of the Havstad Alumni Center. Its debut [in 1992] was [a short recital] given at its dedication [during the school's centennial year festivities].
Sources: Letter from Edna Cubley to me when I was writing the 1992 centennial history about music at Walla Walla College, A Great Tradition, 7 November 1987 (Great Depression quote in the above biography); Interviews with her by me for same reason, summer 1989; career summary, WWC music department files, unknown date (mid-1980s); Helen Foreman Little, "A Memorial Tribute to Edna Cubely," 29 December 1992.