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James A. Blaisdell

Excerpt from: The Beloit Daily News (November 23, 1953)
How to Have Educational Cake and Eat It, Too, Is Recipe of Former Beloiter

     How to have your educational cake and eat it, too, is described in an article in the Nov. 23 issue of Time Magazine centering around the accomplishments of Dr. James A. Blaisdell, a native of Beloit, graduate of Beloit College and former pastor of the Second Congregational Church, who later developed the Claremont group of colleges in California.

     Dr. Blaisdell, who is now 85 years old, but still active, was born in Beloit in 1867. He got his bachelor's degree at Beloit College in 1889 and his doctor of divinity degree at Hartford, Conn., Theological Seminary in 1892.

     He was ordained in the Congressional church the same year and accepted the pulpit in the Congregational church at Waukesha, Wis., where he served until 1896. In the latter year he went to Olivet, Mich., where he was minister of the Congregational Church until 1903.

     On his return to Beloit that year he began his association with education at the collegiate level and has been at it ever since.

     While in Beloit from 1903 to 1910, he was professor of biblical literature at the college; librarian, and minister of the Second Congregational Church.

     When he left here in 1910 to become president of Pomona College, a struggling liberal arts institution in southern California, he had little idea that he would gain international fame by instituting a program of educational cooperation.

     It was during the period as president of Pomona, from 1910 to 1926, that he developed his cooperative educational plan among a group of other small colleges. This group today occupies a unique position in education.

     While he was carrying on his various administrative duties, he found time to travel extensively in Japan where he studied churches and educational institutions there, to write many papers on religious subjects and education and to write several hymns.

     Since 1936, he has been president emeritus of the Claremont group of colleges. How the fame and influence of the group has spread is indicated in the following article which appeared in last week's issue of Time:

     "Through the big doorways of a white auditorium at Claremont, Calif. (pop. 7,000) one day last week, the presidents of three thriving colleges -- E. Wilson Lyon of coeducational Pomona, Fredrick Hard of Scripps College (for women) and George Benson of Claremont Men's College -- filed in solemn procession for a special ceremony. As they do every two years, the three were meeting to proclaim which of them would serve as the next provost of a fourth college, the Claremont Graduate School. This year, it happened to be president Hard's turn to take it over; but the ceremony itself involved more than exchange of titles. It was all part of an experiment that exists nowhere else in the U.S.

     "The man behind the experiment is a goateed, retired Congregational minister named James Arnold Blaisdell. Last week, at 85, he was too tired from a round of fund raising to attend the ceremony, but he was nevertheless there in spirit. As the founder of the Associated Colleges of Claremont, he still receives a steady stream of callers, still chugs about in his 1934 Plymouth to offer advice to all who seek it. 'After all these years,' says one Claremont official, 'Dr. Blaisdell is still the elder statesman of our world here.'

     "When Congregationalist Blaisdell first arrived at Claremont in 1910, he moved into a world that was anything but prosperous. Pomona College, which he took over, was a dingy, debt-ridden place with an enrollment of 300 and only five buildings.

     "Blaisdell immediately set to work writing alumni for funds. He made speeches, broadcast the name of Pomona across the state. By the end of World War I, Pomona had 750 students and more applicants than it could handle. It was then that Blaisdell made his decision: instead of allowing Pomona to grow into one big campus, he hit on an Oxford-like association of small colleges. 'There are a lot of students,' says he, 'who profit most by sitting on the other end of a log with a great teacher. But you can't have that in a large school. No college should be larger than the number of people that can dine together.'

     "In 1925 Blaisdell opened the Claremont Graduate School right next to Pomona. That year Miss Ellen Scripps, half-sister of the newspaper tycoon, became so enthusiastic about his idea that she gave him the first of many gifts ($500,000) to start a college for women. Finally, in 1947, the association opened the college for men.

     "Today the four colleges share the same auditorium, the same medical services and the same 270,000-volume library. But though students at one campus may take courses at any other, each college maintains its own character.

     "Scripps has a basic three-year humanities program in which each subject explores the same century at the same time. The graduate school stresses the social sciences ('We want to become in the social sciences,' says one oficial, 'what Cal Tech is in the physical sciences'), and the men's college puts its emphasis on government and economics. Each campus has its own endowment, and each can boast of having one-third of its faculty in Who's Who.

     "From his tiny clapboard house, old Dr. Blaisdell has watched the associated colleges grow into a community of 73 buildings. Instead of 300 students, Pomona now has 1,000; the men's college has 330, and Scripps and the graduate school have more than 200 each. But statistics are only of secondary importance to Blaisdell. 'What we have learned here,' says he, 'are all the advantages of the small school. We have our cake and eat it, too.'"

 

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