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they say, is rich with traditions.
You hear it so often from alumni, faculty, administration, trustees,
and students, you almost expect Tevye the dairyman to come dancing
from behind one of the trees near East College, leading a line of
villagers from Anatevka in the singing of the famous opening lyric
from "Fiddler on the Roof."
Perhaps all the enthusiasm's justified. Reflecting, you do find
a great many traditions that combine to make DePauw a singular and
well-loved school. In the pages of this lively history of her first
150 years you'll see the wellsprings of many of those traditions,
in an evocative array of photographs and a splendid text prepared
for the anniversary celebration by Clifton Phillips, John Baughman
and their colleagues.
So by way of introduction, let me avoid any mention whatsoever of
all of those traditions except two, which you might not discover
through pictures. They happen to be the two I believe are most responsible
for DePauw's special and lasting place in the world of American
universities, and the hearts of her graduates.
The first tradition is the university's commitment to the liberal
Now "liberal arts" is a term tossed around so freely and
so frequently at DePauw, it might be well to pin it down. In the
universities of medieval Europe, the liberal arts were seven in
number, divided in two groups. The lower, or elementary grouping,
was the trivium ("place where three roads meet"). It consisted
of grammar, rhetoric, and logic, all of which had to be mastered
for a bachelor's degree. The higher grouping was the quadrivium
("four roads"): arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and music.
These were required for the master's degree.
What is most significant is this. The liberal arts were generalized
bodies of knowledge thought to be essential for the living of any
good and useful life-and never mind the occupation of the person
doing the living. Further, the disciplines required to master the
liberal arts-hard work, reasoning, judgment-were considered just
as important as any "facts" that were presented. This
was education to improve-actually create- the adult human being.
It was not career education; not physician training, for example.
If that was to be undertaken, it could only come later. The basics
were more important.
Centuries passed, and the Indiana Methodists chartered "a seminary
of learning ... in the town or vicinity of Greencastle, in Putnam
County, and State of Indiana." When they did so, they wisely
upheld the tradition of the liberal arts-general, as opposed to
technical or vocational, education. Professor Manhart's fine two-volume
history of DePauw reports that the first 22 students enrolled in
1839-40 were offered a four-year curriculum of Latin, Greek, Mathematics
(algebra, geometry, trigonometry), History, Rhetoric, Science (including
astronomy), some sort of government course, and another course dealing
with "Moral Science" and "Evidences of Christianity."
Not bad for a religious denomination in the early 19th century;
of the original seven, only music was sacrificed, probably thought
You can clearly see that this DePauw tradition kept faith with the
sort of education long upheld as the ideal. Education to create
the whole person. To this day, the tradition continues.
Of course the statement is not pure truth. There are presently courses
very much skewed toward specific, even technical knowledge. The
Methodist founders accomplished a lot, but you can't expect them
to have predicted TV studios, or what a "manager" might
be and do. The stunning changes in modern society dictate a certain
flexibility. But the underlying tradition has never caved in. It
is the same now as it was in 1837, and it was the same in 1837 as
in the Middle Ages.
Still, I doubt DePauw could claim distinction if that tradition
was the only basis for the claim. It takes a second tradition, working
in tandem with the first, to account for the university's extraordinary
get at this second tradition, let's glance at the people instrumental
in founding the school. I find vivid and significant parallels between
the lives of some of those early Methodists and the nature of DePauw
The Methodist church, largely the creation of the English revivalist
clergyman John Wesley, was a somewhat simpler, warmer, less doctrinaire
faith than Wesley's own Church of England. It arose in parallel
with British colonialism, and its tenets seemed particularly adaptable
to, and appreciated by, those men and women living in isolation
on the North American frontier. Methodism said an intimate relationship
with God was possible even though the believer was miles and miles
from any great cathedral or priestly interpreter.
The men who spread and taught this doctrine were recognized on the
18th and 19th century frontier by what one scholar describes as
"the hair, the hat and the horse." The clergyman's hair
was usually shoulder length, his hat,a familiar black broad-rim,
and his horse very strong. Strong because the preacher was almost
always on it-" itinerating" as they called it.
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