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The Gobin administration proved to be a transitional one in many
respects. It was the last administration to make a serious effort
to enforce the traditional compulsory attendance at daily chapel
and Sunday morning church services, though students were still "expected"
to attend these functions for some time to come. Hillary Gobin himself
was also the last president to make his presence felt in the classroom
on a regular basis, continuing to carry on the old-time presidential
responsibility for the teaching of philosophy and religion. Most
appropriately, upon leaving the presidency in 1903, he returned
to teaching as professor of the English Bible as well as vice president
of the university, holding both positions until his final retirement
new breed of Methodist ministers was called to the DePauw presidency
in the early 20th century, equally devout but equipped with more
advanced theological education than their predecessors. The three
who followed Gobin in rather rapid succession were Edwin Holt Hughes
(1903-09), Francis J. McConnell (1909-12), and George R. Grose (1912-24),
all graduates of the Boston University School of Theology. There
they had come under the influence of Professor Borden Parke Bowne,
who expounded a Christian philosophy called Personalism, which soon
became a powerful school of thought among Methodist academics. This
philosophy, which was to have an especially long-lasting influence
at DePauw, stressed the unique worth of the human personality and
the working of the "divine will" in all of life.
With presidents now out of the classroom for the most part, the
person responsible for introducing this point of view into the curriculum
was William G. Seaman, a DePauw graduate with a doctorate from Boston
University who came in with Hughes in 1903 as professor of philosophy.
He and his immediate successor, Lisgar R. Eckardt, who had also
studied with Bowne at Boston University, established Personalism
as a major force in the mental and spiritual life of the university.
The most troublesome problem facing Hughes at the outset of his
presidency was student indiscipline, which had apparently been growing
at DePauw since the 1890s. Mild-mannered President Gobin, for example,
found it necessary to suspend several sorority women for attending
an off-campus party involving social dancing, a form of recreation
strictly forbidden by university regulations, together with such
activities as card playing and the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Fraternity and class rivalries burgeoned in this period, while students
also began to display a heightened interest in intercollegiate athletics.
accounting for all this may have been the rapid rise in university
enrollments, which almost doubled during Hughes' presidency, reaching
1000 by 1909, along with putative changes in the social and economic
backgrounds of the students. Formerly recruited in large part from
families of modest means and rural or small-town origins, the student
body now included a growing number of more affluent, city-bred youth,
many of whom were ready to rebel against what was perceived as a
repressive social and religious atmosphere.
At any rate the young president took firm measures to restore campus
order, even going as far as to patrol the local saloons from time to
time on the lookout for students breaking the anti-drinking rule! He
halted the practice of declaring frequent holidays from classes to
celebrate athletic victories or similar events. Using his personal
popularity with students to promote campus religious observance
without resorting to the former emphasis on compulsory attendance,
he initiated a monthly Sunday afternoon university service which
attracted a large attendance.
The Towers, on the northwest corner of Seminary and Arlington
streets, was built in 1875. It was the first president's home,
purchased by the university for President Hughes and used as well by
presidents McConnell and Grose. It was later made into
apartments for faculty, until sold by the university in the 1970s.
also spoke out strongly against the practice of celebrating Washington's
birthday on February 22 each year by the traditional freshman-sophomore
class scrap. These battles over possession of the opponents' flag
or the Columbian Boulder in front of East
College had grown increasingly violent in recent years, often
causing serious injuries to students taking part in them. He used
his presidential authority to call off the 1907 scrap and in its
place in the fall substituted a new all-campus celebration featuring
a morning chapel service, a milder version of the freshman-sophomore
confrontation, several interclass athletic contests, and in the
afternoon the Earlham-DePauw football
game. The newly organized university band played, a great bonfire
was lit after the football victory,
and Hughes himself presided over an evening of "jollification"
in Meharry Hall on this first Old Gold Day. Not long afterwards,
the women students, feeling left out of much of the Old Gold Day
activities, organized their own May Day festivities, with elaborately
costumed dancing around a May pole, the election of a Queen of the
May, tennis matches on the East
College lawn, and theatrical entertainments in the evening.
Both became annual campus events, May Day eventually giving way
to Mothers' Day Weekend and Old Gold Day surviving to the present
as alumni homecoming.
the financial side, President Hughes managed to end the annual deficits.
In effecting this he had the help of Salem B. Town, an Asbury alumnus
and former minister of the College Avenue Methodist Church whom
he persuaded to become the university's first full-time financial
officer in 1905. Town not only put the institution's books in order
but proved to be an energetic fundraiser. Methodist businessman
Melvin Campbell of South Bend also played an important role
in bringing the university back to financial stability by creating
a sustaining fund from contributions of alumni and others that brought
in about $45,000 over five years. Another $35,000 was added to the
endowment with the final settlement of the affairs of the defunct
DePauw College for Women in New Albany in 1907. During the Hughes
administration the university's total endowment more than doubled,
rising from $231,000 to $530,000.
picture of DePauw students is
labeled T.N.E., apparently a men's
club of 1901. The tradition of
appearing tough continues - note
the sticks of dynamite or large
firecrackers the students hold.
(McWhirter family photo)
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