his predecessor, John P.D. John, President Hillary A. Gobin was
a native Hoosier, a member of the DePauw faculty, and a very popular
figure on campus. Born in Terre Haute, he served in the Union Army
during the Civil War and graduated from Indiana Asbury in 1870.
After 10 years in the Methodist ministry he returned to his alma
mater as professor of Greek and then became president of Baker University
in Kansas in 1886. Four years later DePauw recalled him to become
dean of the School of Theology. Gobin was also named university
vice president in 1894 and served as acting president for a year
following John's resignation. In 1896 he succeeded to the presidency,
an office he filled with quiet competence for the next seven years.
mild-mannered, highly respected Gobin gave the university the conservative,
conciliatory leadership it needed after the turbulence and innovation
of the John years. He had to decree the closing of his own School
of Theology in 1898 as part of a general retrenchment and to preside
over the demise of the popular military department the next year,
when the federal government ended its support for the program during
the Spanish-American War. President Gobin gracefully accepted the
appointment of William H. Hickman as university chancellor in charge
of fund raising and worked closely and harmoniously with him in
sharing administrative authority.
In his memoir Past Perfect, Jerome Hixon recalls a story about Gobin's
presidential style told him by the latter's widow:
It happened while Dr. Gobin was president, that after a particularly
important football victory, some exuberant
students placed a donkey in the tower of East College, its distressed
braying could be heard all over campus. Everyone wondered what punishment
would be meted out to the offenders. The air in Meharry Chapel the
next day was tense.
Gobin delivered appropriate remarks about the significance of the
victory of the day before. "There was," he said, "only
one unfortunate incident connected with the occasion. In the rejoicing,
some of the students climbed up into the tower, but forgot and left
their little brother there. I would suggest that they rescue him
as soon as convenient, for he is in considerable distress.
In 1903 Gobin resigned the presidency but remained on the faculty
as professor of theology and English Bible until his retirement
in 1922 at the age of 81. He died in Greencastle the following year.
A few years after his death, plans were made for the erection of
a building bearing his name to be used by both the Methodist Church
and DePauw classes in philosophy and religion, but this project
did not materialize. Instead the neo-Gothic church constructed on
Locust Street in 1929 was named for him and remains today his chief
monument as the Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church.