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In the crisis President John found little support among the trustees, divided and virtually leaderless since W.C DePauw's death. The aging Bishop Bowman, who served as both university chancellor and president of the board of trustees, proved unable to control the infighting among various factions, such as the one led by Evansville businessman J.D. Iglehart. Finally, discontent with John's leadership rose to the point where an attempt was made to replace Bowman with an active chancellor charged with managing the university's financial affairs.

The person chosen for this task was Charles N. Sims, an Asbury alumnus and prominent Methodist minister who as chancellor of Syracuse University had rescued that institution from financial distress. After Sims and John had tried but failed to reach agreement on a plan to share administrative responsibilities, John retaining the educational initiative and Sims handling the financial side, the latter withdrew his name from consideration. John, feeling he had lost the board's confidence, submitted his resignation, which was reluctantly accepted. The retired mathematics professor and president spent the rest of his life in Greencastle, sallying forth frequently to propound his views from the lecture platform around the country.



Once again the trustees turned to the ranks of the faculty in their search for a president, naming Hillary A. Gobin to that position in 1896. Terre Haute-born Gobin was an Indiana Asbury graduate and Civil War veteran who had taught briefly at his alma mater before becoming president of Baker University in Kansas. Returning to DePauw in 1890 as dean of the School of Theology, he was appointed vice president in 1894 and was acting president in 1895-96. The quiet, self-effacing Gobin was a good choice to guide the university through the less strenuous years that followed the rather tumultuous, innovative first decade of the reorganized institution. It was a time of partial retrenchment and of rethinking the shape and goals of the university.




One of the new president's first major decisions was to dismantle his own School of Theology in 1898 after several years of declining enrollments. Undergraduate interests were also shifting rapidly, as indicated in a survey of alumni occupations made at the turn of the century and published in the annual college catalogues. It showed that the ministry had slipped to third place after education and the law. The next three professions listed in order of their numerical representation among DePauw graduates were business, medicine, and journalism.


Dr. John Poucher was professor of theology from 1886-98. 
He also served as university treasurer from 1886-87 and
1894-98.  The DePauw University safe is shown in the
background of Poucher's office, which was probably
located in East College.


Unlike the Civil War, the Spanish-American War of 1898 brought little disruption to the campus. A group of cadets traveled to Indianapolis to volunteer their services but returned to Greencastle after being informed that their services were not needed at the moment. The campus newspaper, the Palladium, congratulated the student body on the "absence of the cheap patriotism and jingoism which have been so prevalent at many other institutions." Falling victim to the crisis, however, was the military department of the university when the U.S. War Department recalled its commandant along with all the federally supplied armament, including two artillery pieces so often wheeled out and fired off to celebrate grand academic occasions. The next year, after failing to regain government support for the program, the board of trustees voted to abolish the department, thus ending 20 proud years of student military training at Indiana Asbury-DePauw University.

While the national economy experienced a gradual recovery from the financial panic of 1893, the university itself continued to post small annual deficits for a time. The board of trustees, now headed by Newland T. DePauw, decided to revert to the earlier scheme of naming a special administrator to organize efforts to raise money both for current expenses and endowment. Accordingly William H. Hickman, an Asbury graduate and Methodist minister with a successful record as a fund-raiser for Clark College in Georgia, was appointed to the post of vice chancellor in 1897 and was made chancellor two years later when Bishop Bowman assumed the honorific title of chancellor emeritus.

Hickman, who seems to have worked harmoniously with President Gobin, managed to raise nearly $100,000 for an endowment fund before launching in 1899 a more ambitious campaign to add $550,000 to that amount. The first major gift came from South Bend buggy manufacturer and DePauw trustee Clement Studebaker, whose $5,000 "saved the university," Hickman gratefully acknowledged. In December 1901 the new chancellor resigned suddenly, however, leaving the campaign far from complete and relations with the trustees strained.



While Hickman never fulfilled all the hopes engendered by his appointment, he was able to strengthen the university's endowment considerably and to announce a gift of $50,000 from Terre Haute industrialist D.W. Minshall for the construction of much-needed laboratory facilities for the physical sciences. Minshall Laboratory, designed by D.A. Bohlen and Sons of Indianapolis, was erected in 1901-02 on Center Campus near East College but facing College Avenue. The three-story, U-shaped, red brick and limestone structure departed from the utilitarian style hitherto employed, chiefly in its rather ornate doorway, flanked by classical columns.





Minshall's children later added $26,000 for an endowment for the building. The chemistry department occupied its northern wing, while the physics department shared the southern wing with mathematics. Professor of Chemistry Philip S. Baker, an Asbury graduate who had taught at his alma mater since 1874 and helped plan the construction of the laboratory, did not live to see the building completed, dying in 1901. A chemistry library in Minshall Laboratory was named in his memory.

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