Carey Croneis' Inaugural Address
November 11, 1944
"Scientia Vera cum Fide Pura"
The Inaugural Address
JUSTICE WICKHEM, staunch old friends, sterling new ones: I thank you all sincerely for taking the valuable time and, in these days, the real trouble, to pay homage to Beloit College on the occasion of its fifth inaugural ceremony -- a ceremony which does have sharp significance if only because it serves as a symbol of the immortality of the Liberal Arts.
After all the strong charges I have received from such high voltage persons, it may well be expected that I should make some electrifying response. I sincerely wish I might. But I can only say, in all humility, that I will ever do my best to merit the high trust you have imposed.
Our rich land this fall has produced an unparalleled yield of new college presidents. They have several points in common, notably starry-eyed naivete and youth. This has led President Pusey, of Lawrence, himself a neophyte, to observe that now-a-days only the very young are sufficiently lacking in guile as to walk into the trap of academic administration. Nevertheless, when the Beloit Trustee Committee on the selection of a new president was deliberating last May, some question arose as to my age.
"He appears a little young to me," said one comforting soul, for I have been feeling practically patriarchal among the bumper crop of nepionic presidents.
Then it was, according to the story, which possibly is apocryphal, that President Snyder, out of his vast experience, sagely observed, "Never mind, he will be 10 years older by next June."
Had Dr. Snyder been still more clairvoyant and divined the date of the inauguration, he might well have stated "10 years older by November eleventh."
Long ago, Lucian wrote, "Whom the gods hate, they make schoolmasters." For those schoolmasters who direct the destiny of colleges, the gods, operating through the devilish ingenuity of man, have designed an effective instrument of torture known as the inauguration.
Nothing in the history of liberal arts colleges so completely demonstrates their own virility, or that of their presiding officers, as the ability of both to survive the induction ceremonies. Nor for that matter is any procedure in the liberal arts college tradition quite so humorous in its timing. The academic honeymoon of president and college is over, and the period of mutual disillusionment has already set in when at long last, and possibly to forestall a separation, it is decided that a formal wedding ceremony is required.
The inauguration is a collegiate stylistic conformity which I have studied with care. The results of my researches may be briefly summarized. Like the pre-Cambrian rocks described by Beloit's late, great Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, inaugurations are "homogeneous in their heterogeneity." Despite their heterogeneities their programs are so fundamentally similar that we might with confidence set up a generic procedure for all induction ceremonies, and apply it specifically to that composite of all liberal arts colleges, "Old Libarts."
It is an academic "must" that the President's speech itself should always fall into an inflexible pattern. There is an "Introduction," supposedly humorous. Next comes, "How great thy past, O 'Libarts'." A third portion concerns "How challenging thy future, O 'Libarts'." The fourth chapter is entitled "Liberal Education at the Crossroads," and the fifth is devoted to "The Need for a Spiritual Awakening." Finally, just prior to the Inspirational Conclusion, there is developed a picture of "Libarts College" in the future -- purposefully seen through a vague Hollywood haze.
Then there is the granting of the honorary degrees, after which the audience invariably sings,
"To Old Libarts, dear Old Libarts,
Fair college on the hill,
You will ever fill our hearts,
And make our senses thrill."
Undoubtedly a few oldsters agree with the cynic who wrote, "Academic trappings, a relic of medievalism, are used to cloak with solemnity proceedings which might otherwise move even the gods to laughter." Unquestionably some youngsters, to use their own particularly lucid patois, also think the whole affair "corny."
Perhaps the inaugural ceremony and the academic procession are humorous, medieval, and "corny," but they are also the relatively rare visible evidences of a continuous invisible phenomenon, unobserved by the uninitiated critic. It is a phenomenon which stems from the almost miraculous fact that dear old "Libarts" does fill the hearts, does make the senses thrill, not only of the youngest coed, or of the oldest alumnus, but of the hard-boiled business executive, the judge, the banker, the oldest professor and the youngest staff member, as well as of the new president himself.
The ceremonies conclude at old "Libarts," whatever the year, whatever the state, with few unconstricted throats; and this is true because the most real of all realities is involved -- the reality of the intangible. The ceremonies become an affair of the spirit -- they are an expression of faith. The faith and the spirit have persisted and will persist as the intangible tangibilities of the immortality of the liberal arts colleges. Ephemeral though they be, they will remain long after the very real persons and things which have engendered them are gone.
AMERICAN colleges have been established by men who believed passionately in education, faith, and hard work. Beloit's first president, Aaron L. Chapin, was such a man. Of him it might well be sung, with apologies to his famed counterpart, Philander Chase, of Kenyon college,
He quarried stone, he asked fror brick,
He floated logs across the "crick,"
He begged at every settler's door,
And then he up and begged some more,
He built the college, built the mounds,
He milked the cow, he groomed the grounds;
He taught the classes, rang the bell,
And spanked the naughty freshmen well.
Yet Chapin also found time to devise our motto, "Scientia Vera cum Fide Pura," and he declared that the purpose "of this college is to regard them as one and to know no aim but that of extending and perpetuating their combined influence and power to the remotest ends of the earth and into the furtherest reach of time." His purpose is still ours, and mine.
The foundations of Beloit's illustrious past are deep rooted in the best liberal arts tradition. The first catalogue of the College, now nearly a century old, lists a faculty of five men. President Chapin, Professor Emerson in Languages; Professor Bushnell in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy; Professor Lathrop in Chemistry; and a tutor.
Although Scientia in Chapin's day was more or less synonymous with knowledge rather than with the natural sciences, it should be noticed that the latter were, for the times, given unusual prominence in the staff appointments.
This early and sane balance in the curriculum has ever been maintained at Beloit. As a result the arts and sciences have both flourished vigorously here and, as all too seldom is the case, have taken strength from each other.
One great scholar justifies a school's existence, but Beloit has produced not one but many. Here have been educated great scientists, dynamic educators, powerful administrators, an intrepid explorer, classicists of national fame, famous humanitarians, missionaries of strength and vision, ministers of power and persuasion, business men of large affairs and high integrity, editors and publishers of great strength and sterling character, and a disproportionately large percentage of the soldiers of four of our nation's conflicts.
The strength of the liberal arts colleges lies in the fact that most of them have had rather similar records. But with pardonable pride we like to think that Beloit, always relatively small in its enrollment, has always been unusually great in its influence.
We believe that this is so not merely because of the fine men and women who have been taught here, but because of the many diverse fields in which Beloit has pioneered. The Beloit student publication, The Round Table, with more than ninety consecutive years of operation behind it, is the second oldest in America. There is some evidence that the earliest intercollegiate debates in this country were held between Beloit and Knox, and Beloit's record in the early oratorical contests is almost fabulous.
The Beloit Olympians, as early as 1866, were one of the nation's finest baseball teams -- as late as 1940 the Beloit Relays were still unique among the athletic events sponsored by liberal arts colleges. Science was being taught at Beloit by men with the early Germanic Ph. D.'s while the site of the famed University of Chicago was still a wild onion swamp.
No other college in America has had such an outstanding record in anthropology -- it is doubtful if any school in the world has produced two men as widely known in one academic field as were Chamberlin and Salisbury in geology. Interest in art in Beloit antedates preoccupation with cultural things in Chicago, and this interest has resulted in the fact that no American school as small as Beloit has so fine an art museum. To Beloiters, the list of firsts is long and comforting -- to outsiders it is likely to be merely long. Therefore, I shall not extend it. I doubt whether the most rabidly pro-Beloit alumnus, however, takes more pride than I do in this old Beloit tradition of pioneering and success.
Our rich past is one of our greatest assets, but, alas, it is also one of our largest liabilities. It is a great asset because our past is secure and not shaky -- for it we must need rejoice and not repent. It is a large liability because we tend to forget, as the public does not, that although the tradition is ours, the glory belongs to our predecessors.
Colleges that serve their country well today have no great need for inherited tradition -- they are making their own. Glorious as has been our past, let us not become so wedded to it that we only breed the past again. To succeed, we must sire a brave new future.
THE future of Beloit College is indeed challenging -- and this is true not merely because of our local problems, but because the entire army of liberal education, of which we comprise only a small, though, I hope, goodly company, is actually drawn up at an important educational five-corners. We can partially meet our own small segment of that challenge -- we can even maneuver well to help make the right turn for the entire army -- if we strive for perfection in all things here on our own campus.
Today American colleges and universities are cursed with the absurd recruiting agent system. If there are genuine exceptions to this statement I know them not, though I have known personally the minions of some august institutions which blandly maintain that they do no recruiting.
The best I can hope for Beloit or for any liberal arts college -- is that the day will soon arrive when it is no longer necessary to recruit. I look forward to the time when Beloit will attract an excellent student body by the sheer superiority of its staff, the perfection of its curriculum, the efficiency of its equipment, and the sublimity of its spirit -- and by these legitimate lures alone. Being a realist, I am making no plans to dismiss our own very effective representatives. Being something of an idealist, too, I hope to hasten the hour when I can at last honestly refer to them as members of our student advisory staff.
The best way to assemble a student body of unparalleled excellence and, knowing full well that I am doomed to disappointment, I still want nothing less -- is to assemble and maintain a faculty of unparalleled excellence. "Ah, but," I hear you protest, "such a staff is only for some rich and powerful university." But is it? True, one might a priori suppose that the large institutions have great advantages over the small liberal arts colleges in hiring a superlatively good faculty. But the truth is that proportionately just as many academic derelicts are floating around in the professorial backwash of great universities as of small colleges.
The chief reason for this is that although many have studied William Rainey Harper's methods of building a great institution, few, whatever their resources, have really tenaciously seized upon the very core of his simple plan -- namely, to hire only great men or men with potentialities for greatness.
Today the beauties of the American college campus and its architecture owe much to the traveling -- yes to the inauguration-attending -- college presidents. These fellow worthies -- and I'll include myself -- are very much like society women who consider themselves to be in rags if they discover a rival with a new kind of outfit not represented in their own extensive wardrobes. For if President Abbot of Alpha College discovers that Omega Institute has a new student union, it matters not that good old Omega has little else to offer, he is suddenly likely to announce to his trustees that Alpha, with better buildings of all other types, has none the less no adequate structures whatsoever.
But how many visiting presidents and deans are worried because Alpha has a superior classicist, a more effective librarian, or a more erudite chemist than their own college can boast? Some administrators, of course, have been concerned in the past. I believe more will be in the future. I believe further that by building endowment and alumni support, and by resisting the urge to squander that endowment and that support on unessentials, the small college can compete with the great university in its quest for outstanding faculty men.
To do so, however, it must be prepared to pay salaries which are nearly, if not quite, commensurate in purchasing power, it must provide equal opportunities to attend professional meetings, and it must have vacation periods and research facilities not too different from those the great universities can offer. Most important of all, it must provide the instructor with a place in which he knows he can carve a career of real significance -- an environment in which he can feel at home and know he is appreciated.
Like the liberal arts, professors flourish best in an optimum professorial climate. This is found in an academic temperate zone in which a warm wind of praise blows nearly as often as the frigid blast of criticism. In the liberal arts colleges, academic men are most likely to wander into this zone. They will, moreover, find Beloit located in the very center of it; for we believe not only in the worth and dignity of the individual student but of the individual instructor as well.
But although excellent student bodies and outstanding faculties are reciprocally attractive, each is largely but neither is wholly the sine qua non of the great liberal arts college. Buildings, equipment, programs, leadership, spirit, and loyalties are required, for all of these factors are also inextricably linked in providing the best climate for the growth of true science and pure faith.
I hope that Beloit College will always be known as a builder of men and not of things. But we do need new buildings and equipment. It is not necessary to bore this audience with the which, the when or the how -- but, with the help of our constituents, we do propose to acquire these requisites, and soon.
I hope that Beloit College will always be known by its product and not by its program. This sentence should not be tortured into meaning that I do not believe in planning. Some liberal arts colleges have not planned enough. Many, however, have overplanned and overadvertised that planning. The planners, having come up with the Alpha plan or the Libarts plan, have commonly sighed with satisfaction and considered their work done. Ordinarily, however, we may be sure that it had only begun anew, and with added complications.
We are continually studying our curriculum and hope to be able to revise it constantly so that it will ever compare favorably with the best any college can offer. We propose to raise our standards, not to lower them; we hope to make the program for our Junior and Senior years more, not less, attractive. We plan to do this by retaining all that has proved to be good in the past, and by adding anything which strongly suggests success in the future.
We do not propose, however, to do anything new merely because it is novel or because others are doing it, nor do we plan to change our curriculum merely to divorce ourselves from procedures which are ancient regardless of what others do. We contend that some of the oldest educational plans are best and yet consider it no contradiction that we believe a curriculum cannot be suspended in a vacuum of antiquity and thus be kept untouched by the modern world.
The Beloit spirit is so strong, the Beloit loyalty is so deep that I have no fear regarding these essential compounding factors for success. I do worry considerably about our leadership, but I feel reassured each time I think -- as very often I do -- of the many willing, capable, and friendly hands and minds that are always available to help me.
IF liberal education actually is at the crossroads, perhaps we should I consider ourselves and the country fortunate, for some ten days ago one of America's prominent educators declared that liberal education in the United States was dead, and that it had been dead for almost half a century. He contended further that "we spend our time congratulating ourselves on our marvelous educational system, a system in spite of and not because of which our country has been rich and powerful.
"In fact, it is only because our country has been rich and powerful that it has been able to afford and to survive the educational system it has had."
Now this is reasonably good newspaper copy, coldly, and successfully, calculated to make the New York Times, but like so many attention arresting announcements, it bears no very close relationship to the unspectacular, and thus less newsworthy, facts.
The report of the death of liberal education, like that of Mark Twain, is indeed somewhat exaggerated. Liberal education is not dead in the United States; it is not really dead anywhere in this war-torn sphere, though it certainly is moribund in Axis lands. Through the centuries the liberal arts have periodically waxed and waned; as hardy educational perennials, they do repetitiously flower and wither, but they never perish. If they are sick in the United States today, it is chiefly because so many self-appointed educational gardeners have been overanxious to demonstrate the perfection of their own particular style of articulture As a result, they have smothered the liberal arts under the heavily fertilized soil of their own words.
Liberal education in the United States is far from perfect and, as a confirmed believer in constant change and progress in perpetuity, I for one, sincerely hope, yes -- and confidently expect, that it never will be. With the inevitability of gradualness it will, however, move toward perfection, and more through the quiet efforts of the many who believe in its immortality than of the few who noisily proclaim its demise. It is open to criticism now and forever, but to say that only because our country has been rich and powerful has it been able to afford and survive its educational system is the sheerest nonsense. Our liberal educational system is always expensive, sometimes illiberal, occasionally not very educational, but on the whole it has exerted a powerful liberalizing and educational influence on this country and the world.
Today -- during the twenty-four hours allotted to this November eleventh -- we will spend approximately $300,000,000 in the prosecution of the war effort. Yet in the entire 365 days of 1940, all of the normal schools, colleges, and universities in the land only expended a total of $758,000,000. In other words, although higher education in the United States is an expensive business, its total cost for the entire year 1940 was but the equivalent of the sum now required to wage the war for about sixty hours. Higher education is costly. But it is unbelievably cheap as well when compared with the crushing cost of such catastrophies as the present world conflict -- a conflict which possibly could have been averted had all other nations been as wedded to sound, unregimented universal education as we are.
IT is obvious that the world needs a strong mental, moral, and spiritual tonic. It is apparently not so generally obvious, although to me it seems self-evident, that education founded on "true science and a pure faith" is most likely to provide the requisite pharmaceuticals. But there is great and almost universal confusion as to what "true science" signifies, and at too many educational institutions a "pure faith" is merely an embarrassing anachronism. The confusion apparently has grown out of the truly planetary impact of the development of the sciences upon our international social world. Man's most challenging enigma of all time thus has become the problem of utilizing the resources of science for the human weal rather than for the common woe.
As educated men wrestle with the quandary, we are treated to some amazing spectacles, and much astounding literature. Oxford, long the inner citadel of the humanities, has just elevated its vocational work in Forestry from a "pass course" to an "Honors School." Meanwhile Purdue and the Massachusetts and the California Institutes of Technology, formerly the inner sancta of specialized scientific training, are vying with one another to see which can discover the most liberal of liberal arts approaches. If this were not confusing enough, a student of Browning, Dean Du Vane of Yale, was recently found arguing for more time in college curricula for the sciences so that they might again become truly liberal subjects, whereas, the Nobel Laureate in Physics, Dean Compton of Chicago, has become a staunch supporter of a liberal arts program which increases the emphasis on the social sciences and the humanities at the expense of the natural sciences.
This healthy scramble of some humanists and certain scientists to get one foot into the camp of the former enemy reminds one of nothing so much as a remark of Diogenes who said, "Bury me on my face, because in a little while everything will be turned upside down." But if we can continue to find humanists who would rather be correct than hyper-classical, and discover scientists who would rather be sane than ultra-scientific, perhaps we can gradually right the upside down world. We certainly won't do it by following Mark van Doren's presciption implicit in his remark, "The physical sciences are a problem for the educator because they will do their work so well. Thye must be caught up with if only to be subdued."
Now on this point I should like to make one thing crystal clear -- the sciences will never be subdued. If their impact upon man seems formidable now, it must be remembered by humanists, professional educational reformers, and certainly by scientists as well, that they are not yet mature -- they are not now even in their infancy. In a very real sense the sciences are merely in the process of being concieved. Nor will they ever become senescent because like the giant Anteus, whose stretch was redoubled with each contact with Mother Earth, every great scientific discovery merely widens the ever expanding horizon of the illimitable scientific universe.
If this be so, as I confidently believe, the world more than ever desperately needs cooperation, and not conflict, between the scientists and non-scientists. Here at Beloit we have had, and will continue to have that cooperation. In the liberal arts colleges of the Beloit type one is most likely to find it. The very solution of some of the long unsolved problems of liberal education may be discovered in such plans and practices as can be developed by the teaching staffs of these small church related colleges. Many of them have facilities which are less inclined to be colleges. Many of them have faculties which are less inclined to be militantly protagonistic for either the humanities or the sciences than are their more narrowly professional colleagues at the large universities. Thus they are more likely to be aware of the great liberating values to be found in each, and certainly are more likely to transmit this transcending awareness to their students.
I will paint for you no picture of the new Beloit, however hazy, for I consider it a little presumptuous even to guess at the great changes the future will inevitably bring to the colleges. But I am certain that all Beloiters hope, as I do, that in its second century Beloit will become nothing less than the the best liberal arts college in the land. Although such hope is cheap, and is shared by our every competitor -- for they all have similar aspirations, or should have -- the realization will be costly, and the winner will share it with none.
In the stern new rivalry for that rich prize of "Best" -- a rivalry which, for the good of liberal education, I welcome -- I am confident that Beloit's chances will be enhanced rather than diminished by her continuing belief in "True Science and Pure Faith.