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One of the most popular professors ever to teach at DePauw was Francis Calvin Tilden. The Illinois native entered the DePauw Preparatory School in 1890 and graduated from the university seven years later with Phi Beta Kappa honors. While in college he played on both the varsity football and baseball teams and edited the Mirage in his junior year and the DePauw in his senior year. After earning his A.M. degree at Harvard and studying briefly at Oxford and in the British Museum, he joined the DePauw faculty in 1900 as an instructor in English literature, only the third person to teach that subject here.

Leaving DePauw in 1904, he edited the Greencastle Herald, a forerunner of the Banner, and served for two years in the Indiana General Assembly as a Democratic senator from the district comprising Putnam, Marion, Morgan, and Owen counties. Near the end of his term he was invited to deliver a series of lectures at his alma mater on the relationship between literature and life.

In 1911 he returned to DePauw as professor of comparative literature. For the next 29 years Tilden introduced students to the works of such writers as Tolstoy and Dostoievski and placed them in their social and intellectual context in his popular courses, Great Modern Writers, Social Ideals, and Religious Ideals. Much in demand on the lyceum circuit, he often delivered 15-25 public lectures each winter. During 1917-18 he traveled around Indiana lecturing on behalf of the State Council for Defense.


Professor Francis C. Tilden and his wife, the poet Ethel Arnold Tilden, taken in 1948.

It has been estimated that Professor Tilden had in his classes nearly three-quarters of all the students attending DePauw during his 33 years on the faculty. In his last year of teaching alone he had 555 students enrolled in his classes. The popular and much-admired professor retired in June 1940. He died in 1958 at the age of 85 and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery. His wife, Ethel Arnold Tilden, who preceded him in death in 1950, was a widely recognized poet as well as housewife and mother. A Greencastle native and graduate of DePauw, she was perhaps best known for writing the words to an oratorio composed for the 150th anniversary of Methodism by Van Denman Thompson, "The Evangel of the Western World."

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