Saturday, March 12, 2016

*399. A Tireless Thomasite: DR. ADAM C. DERKUM

Division Superintendent of Schools. Dated March 13, 1925.
The American contribution to Philippine education began with the arrival of Thomasites – a band of American teachers who came to our shores in 1901, lured by a sense of adventure, prospects of employment in the exotic Far East. and a genuine will to serve and build a new nation.

Of the thousands that were sent to help establish a modern public school system were the Derkums, from Richmond, Wayne, Indiana. The Derkum family, however, traces their beginnings in Wales, before becoming Hoosiers in America. Born in 1874, Adam C. Derkum studied and graduated from the University of Southern California. He was appointed to the civil service on 30 December 1903.

On 1 March  1906,  Dr. Adam Derkum, together with his wife Agnes, were assigned to Mexico, Pampanga. Alan became a supervising teacher, while Mrs. Derkum was put in charge of the intermediate school. In the years that followed, Dr. Derkum assumed a more prominent role as a Division Superintendent of schools in Zambales and Tarlac. He acquired a driver’s license in Manila so he could be more mobile as he attended to his duties in the region, often attending commencement exercises and giving addresses and speeches.

 On 31 March 1915, for example, he was at the evening graduation ceremonies of Iba central School in Zambales, where he awarded certificates and gave an inspirational talk to the class .  "The clear and distinct singing and speaking of the small boys and girls have won my heart”, Dr. Derkum said, “I believe that Zambales will be the first English speaking division of all the divisions in the Philippine Islands. Thus, it means that the larger part of the future young leaders and assembly men will be from Zambales”.  Hi address was met with deafening applause, as expected.

In the meanwhile, fellow Thomasite Frank Russell White,  had opened the first Philippine public high school building in Tarlac on September 1902. By 1915, the Tarlac Provincial High School had incurred much damage wrought by usage and time. Dr. Derkum, who had become the Division Superintendent of Tarlac schools, had a new building erected at a new location.  Wife Agnes Derkum became a teacher at this school and was the adviser of the 1918 pioneer graduating class.

In fact, at this first annual commencement exercises of the Tarlac High held on 27 March 1918, Dr. Derkum was in attendance as a guest speaker. He was there, along with Tarlac governor Ernesto Gardiner and principal Matthew D. Ashe to award diplomas and medals to class members, led by the valedictorian, Luciano Salak.

On 1 August 1925, he accompanied Mr. George R. Summers of the General Office  on a visit to Pampanga Agricultural School in Magalang.Both spent the whole day at this school observing academic classes and inspecting the nursery gardens and students’ farm reports.

Dr. Derkum took the lead in organizing various training programs for students,  through teacher camps and educational missions held in different provinces. He also looked into the conduct and performances of teachers ( for example, the status of a certain Miss Gilmer was investigated by his office).  As part of the American effort to promote physical education and national fitness, Dr. Derkum took part in the creation of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, and became one of its founding members, that also included Manuel L. Quezon, Camilo Osias, Regino R. Ylanan and Jorge R. Vargas.

On a lighter note,  Dr. Derkum found much enjoyment when he attended the week-long "Pampanga Carnival and Provincial Fair", held from 20-26 February, 1925.  All the 22 municipalities of the province—including Camp Stotsenburg—participated in this exposition began with a parade of town floats presided by a princess-elect from the same. The fair was opened to the public by Princess Floridablanca, Eloisa Wolfert, after the speeches of Dr. Derkum and Gov. Sotero Baluyut.  

The next year, Dr. Derkum was chosen as President  and Chairman of the Executive Committee tasked with organizing the 1926 Pampanga Fair and Provincial Garden Day, This was to be one of  his last major activities as division superintendent of schools. Later in the year, the Derkums---with their four Philippine-born children in tow—returned to America where they would spend rest of their lives in California, even as the results of their life works in education continue to be enjoyed by a grateful Philippine citizenry.

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