Popular Science Monthly/Volume 65/May 1904/The College of the West




TO each century is granted one great discovery, and from this its highest thought and action takes its bent. In each century this discovery is never a new one. It has had its prophets and martyrs ages before—men whose lives have seemed thrown away until at last the world moves on and the caravan reaches their point of vision. The great discovery of the eighteenth century was that of the humanity of man. In action this became the spirit of democracy. The great discovery of the nineteenth century was the reality of external things. Carried out into action this means the progress of science. It is the movement of science which makes possible the varied activities of the new twentieth century.

We are gathered together this morning of the twentieth century to dedicate a new hall of science, a new temple to the worship of the truth of nature. It is erected that it may help men to know and to know what they know—to separate their knowledge of realities from their feelings, their hopes, their dreams, their traditions. All these may be beautiful, helpful, inspiring—but truth is something more than subjective satisfaction. To that part of the divine outside of ourselves which we are able to grasp we give the name of science.

In what I may try to say this morning, I shall speak freely in praise of science, of science study and science teaching. It is for this that we are gathered together. When we erect the hall of the poets, then our discourse may be on Euripides and Shakespeare, on Schiller and Browning, and some gentler tongue shall speak the fitting word. Each power of man shall be exalted in due season and no one at the expense of another. It is true that science is a late comer into the educational household, and that finding none too much room at the best, she sometimes unwittingly ventures to claim it all. But that is only for the moment. Knowledge of man and knowledge of the universe do not exclude each other. In urging the claims of science we would not deny one word ever said for training in the humanities or in any branch of these. This only would we claim. There exist forms of culture other than those which rest on the classical tripos. Other men with other powers have an equal right to training. There is no aristocracy in the human mind. Moreover, prescribed courses of study, whether classical or scientific, or whatever else there may he, must give way to the needs of individual training. Ready-made clothing, even though it take the form of heroic uniform, does not guarantee a fit. The needs of modern life demand actual fitting. The best training is that best adjusted to our own individual needs.

I am told that Colorado College is one of those which aspires to be 'only a college,' a thoroughly good college of course, but that she has no thought of becoming a university. I do not learn this from my friend, Dr. Slocum, and I know that his ambition is boundless. But whether it be true or not, I am going to oppose the idea. She will be a university before you know it. This Palmer Hall may be offered in evidence that the college period is past. Colorado College has already become a university. A university in embryo, perhaps, if you like, but still with all the marks by which the university is known—as certain to become a university in fact, as a pine seedling on your royal hills is sure some day to become a pine tree.

A university in America is a place where men find their life-work, where men think lofty thoughts, where men test for themselves that which seems to be true, where men go up to the edge of things and look outward into the great unknown.

The university does not consist of colleges and departments, deans and dignitaries, rules and regulations. It is not a cluster of professional schools, nor even a group of graduate students. Its spirit is not measured by printed theses, by elaborate examinations, by the number of the hoods of black and gold its doctors are privileged to wear. Il i> measured by the animating spirit, the spirit of intellectual enterprise, of academic devotion. This spirit will in time create for itself the brick and stone, test-tubes and microscope, book and manuscripts, all the machinery with which a university must work.

In the development of an animal there is a subtle influence, which we can not measure, always at work, and working to the end that the embryo becomes at last that which from the first it was fated to become. We call this the influence of heredity, but to name it leaves more to be explained than there was before. In like fashion, the spirit of the university, the spirit of zeal and devotion, of beauty-loving and truth-fearing which is in Colorado College to-day will make the university an accomplished fact. Truth-fearing—there is no better phrase—truth-fearing is the spirit of the university.

There is no real difference between the American college and the university, and there will never be any. The lower achievement lead to the higher ambition. Many colleges are little, or weak, or lean or narrow universities; yet even the poorest of them may he hallowed by some one's devotion, ennobled by some one's scholarship. It is scholarship and devotion which, in the long run. make (he university. Certain genuine attributes of the true university we may see clearly in Colorado College. For one thing, she is broad-minded. The hall we dedicate to-day stands as one evidence of this, her fair library is another, and still more cogent the wide sympathies and helpful achievements of her professors. I believe most firmly in the educative value of unlikeness in aim and thought. A man may be highly specialized, he must be if he would succeed as an investigator; but a university should be an all-around organism. The school of applied science, the school of literary expression, should not stand apart from each other. The engineering student is likely to become illiterate if he herds only with his kind. He learns many lessons from the finer side of life, from the student of Chaucer or Homer. The literary student tends to become a dreamer or a prig if he is in touch with literary matters only. From the fierce earnestness of the young engineer, whose whole career depends on the soundness of his individual work, the student cf the humanities gains most valuable lessons.

For the same reason I believe in the coeducation of men and women. They need not study the same things, though for the most part as beauty is beauty and truth is truth, so mental accuracy knows no distinction of sex. But the influence of wise and cultivated women works for manliness and refinement. The influence of hopeful and strenuous men gives women's work a seriousness and sanity which is a fair exchange for the other. Where coeducation is honestly and rationally tried, it is no experiment at all. In the natural order of things, and in the long run, the American university and every other real university will be a school for men and women, opening its doors to all who can use its advantages or who can share its ideals.

Wherever there is a real scholar—independent, self-reliant, truth-loving scholar—there we have a university. He gives the university uplift, the university inspiration, the university ideal. If he has but one student, that one is a university student. I do not know how many such there be in the faculty of Colorado College, but there are some I know; some peaks which catch the morning sun, and in the presence of these we have the essential element of the university.

In the American scheme of education, the college course is a period of intellectual broadening. It makes men, while the university makes scholars. The German university system admits of no college course. The college is not the American gymnasium. The rigid drill of the gymnasium, intense and narrow, gives way at once to the university when any subject can lie pursued in any fashion or no fashion at all. The gymnasium has cast iron walls. She takes no account of individual differences; she will drill but not create. The university is wide open, everything is at the student's hand: science, letters, art, lust or beer. The student chooses for himself, and the university, as an organism, is indifferent as to his choice. The American university cares for its students, unwisely sometimes in nagging or futile fashion, but still on the whole to their great advantage. She is always a cherishing mother, and as such her children love her. I have never heard a German university called Alma Mater. 'Liebes närrisches Nest,' 'dear silly nest.' This Goethe once called Jena, but Jena was held in remembrance not for her loving care, but for the fond follies she, uncaring, allowed her sons to perpetrate. The German university makes no effort to see that her students work wisely, or indeed that they work at all. They are weaned once they leave the gymnasium. There are too many of them anyhow. Most of them go to swell the 'intellectual proletariat' which, so the Germans tell us, with the military proletariat, is a national menace, and so what does it matter?

Bismarck is reported to have said that one third of the German students drink themselves to death, one third die of overwork and the rest rule Europe. In America, the college has tried to change these proportions, college professors have thrown their personal influence to induce young men to lead sane and profitable lives, to keep them from throwing away their future till the time comes to rule. In this work the faculty of Colorado College has long taken an honorable part. It has shown the value of personality; men are saved by fellowship as often as by precept or practise. By personality is built up the college atmosphere, the 'fellow feeling among free spirits,' an agency in higher education as subtle as it is effective. For this reason the value of the college depends largely on the nearness of the professors and students—'They know each one of us by name.' This has been declared as the secret of the education of old Japan. Not professors, not masters, not martinets of high or low degree, but men who were fellow students have been, the most successful teachers. The value of a teacher decreases with the increase in the square of the distance from the student. In this matter the smaller universities have a great advantage over the larger ones if they will only be as careful in the choice of teachers. Only those who are near him know that a teacher is great. There are many graduates of our strongest institutions who never in their whole four years came in contact with a professor. Not long since, the editor of an eastern magazine, an able student and a man of strong character, told me that in his college course he had a speaking acquaintance with but one professor. There were a hundred in the faculty, many of them men of high distinction, but what was that to him? His work was laid out for him in a prescribed course, long before he was born, and from young instructors he received all his guidance.

In this lies one value of the study of science. It has but one method, that of the laboratory, that of first-hand contact with the things as they are. The teacher himself is a part of that contact. He has set the problems, arranged the experiments. The teacher of science does not speak ex cathedrâ. He must come down from his chair. He must be among the things of which he speaks and to the student he must be part of them and the student knows him as he knows them—from personal contact. The strength of the colleges of England has lain not in the narrow courses of study, not in the exclusive pursuit of Latin, Greek and mathematics, but in the spirit of good fellowship which these institutions have fostered. The life of the student is a man to man life. The element of personality has been used to the utmost and with results which need not be disparaged even by those most impressed with the narrowness of the training these colleges offer. The aim of Oxford and Cambridge has been personal culture. The classical tripos of Greek, Latin and mathematics has been only a means to this end. Any other studies, Anglo-Saxon, botany and medieval history, let us say, would do as well if equally removed from the current of human activity and brought as close to living personality. Mere training of the mind was no essential part of the process. To withdraw for a space in the presence of good men and gracious thoughts is an ideal cherished in English culture. 'Sometimes to bask and ripen,' Lowell tells us, 'is, methinks, the students' wiser business.' For the maturing scholar this may be true, but as a practical matter it is surely a universal experience that to the college student 'to bask and ripen' means a period of plain idleness, and idleness soon turns to dissipation and vice. It is better for the student that demands on him be somewhat strenuous. His life is made more effective if he has once learned the value of time and the necessity of doing things when they should be done. A man who has not learned the worth of time before he is twenty-one, seldom accomplishes much afterward. As the university ideal of England is one of personal culture, that of Germany is one of personal knowledge. In the one case, thoroughness is the essential; in the other, personality. An educated German may lack culture—of this there are many conspicuous examples, just as in England a cultured gentleman may lack exactness of knowledge on all points. In America a new ideal is arising as a result of the creative needs of our strenuous and complex times. We value education for what can be made of it. Our idea is personal effectiveness. We care less and less for surface culture, less and less for mere erudition. We ask of each man not what he knows, but what can he do with his knowledge. This ideal of education has its dangers. It may lead us to sacrifice permanent values for temporary success. It may tend to tolerate boorishness and shallowness, if they present the appearance of temporary achievement. Eternal vigilance is the price of scholarship as well as of liberty and other good things. But the fact remains, the value of science lies in its relation to human conduct. The value of knowledge lies in the use we can make of it. As each thought of the mind tends to work itself out in action, so does each accession of human knowledge find its end in fitting men to live saner and stronger lives. We may, therefore, rest content with the ideal of effectiveness. The American scholar is master of the situation. He can make things go, because-he understands them and because he understands himself. He does not shrink from that which appals the men of culture. He is adequate for that which bewilders the erudite. Judged by our best products, there is no finer man on earth than the college man of America, and in proportion, in the future, he will be wiser and more forceful than he is to-day.

In mechanics we know that the force of a moving body is not measured by its substance. Its momentum or effective power is found in its weight multiplied by its speed. This illustration has been used in praise of American science. The power of science lies not in individual erudition. It lies in its striking power. American science is dynamic, it is always under way. In every branch of science, the best American workers have been those most strenuous in their personal efforts, most eager to make their work useful to the world at large. In almost every branch of utilitarian science, America already stands in the lead. This fact England has already recognized with dignified dismay. We hear much of it now, we shall hear more of it still later, for quite as remarkable as the growth of American science is the advance of American schools. Whenever I visit a department of applied science in America, I see that it has doubled its power, its staff and its equipments since the time of my last visit. My visits are not very frequent, perhaps once* in five or ten years, let us say, but what will be the end of it? To double once in fifty years is a rare thing in the universities of the old world, but even that in a few centuries would accomplish wonders.

It is one of the laws of mathematics that a geometric progression will long outrun an arithmetical progression, whatever increases by doubling will far exceed the hulk of addition. American science and scientific schools increase by doubling, and will continue to do so. Hence we measure them not by their actual achievements, hut by the certainty id a greater future, far beyond the dreams of those who, like ourselves, must be numbered always with the pioneers. To lay the Inundation of science, the foundation of knowledge, the foundation of the future commonwealth of Colorado, is the work of the pioneer. Ours then is a glorious part, for the pioneer is a noble function indeed, but the actuality for the future will surpass the brightest dreams of to-day. Let us glance at some of the varied thoughts this enterprise suggests.

A hundred miles away at the foot of the same mountain range lies your sister university, the official child of the state. It is for you and for her to work in unison, the same in final purpose, somewhat different in the way of reaching it. The most wonderful thing in educational development since Alfred founded Oxford and Charlemagne Paris, has been the rise of the state universities of America. These are schools established by the people, paid for by the people, built for their own good, limited by no tradition, but rising in power and usefulness with the rise of the common man's intelligence and wealth. Great men have built them but these were not kings, nor millionaires, nor politicians, nor priests. They were simply school teachers, with the common man behind them. The material support of the University of Colorado is the personal interest of the many. The support of Colorado College is the intensive interest of the few. The word intensive suggests the nature of her opportunities. The state university must concern itself largely with the development of the professions as a whole, the general intellectual welfare of the state. Every citizen has a stake in it, each citizen has the right to make a demand.

The independent college can make its own clientage; Colorado College is not confined to Colorado. It may be cosmopolitan. Its mission is not to raise the level of professional work or of intellectual life in Colorado. It can aim at higher results, though they be less broad, to give the exceptional man or woman an exceptional opportunity, through the use of the finest agencies within a narrower field. Along this lies the future of the privately endowed colleges and universities. We may not do all things worth doing, but we can do some things better than the state universities can, by virtue of an independent position. The superiority of the independent college must be real so far as it goes. It may lie in research, in excellence of teaching or in the loftiness of personal influence; its range may not be so broad, but it may rise higher, it may come nearer to the heart.

I could not be a son of my own fair state, a 'native son' by adoption, did I not say a word as to the glorious climate which Colorado College may add to the roll of her advantages. Here in Colorado, as in California, nature is kind to man, the weather never makes him its slave, never shuts him up to stew in over-heated prisons.

Colorado, like California, is a virile state, one of 'earth's male lands,' to adopt Browning's classification. It has, like California, the three splendid attributes of healthful air, magnificent scenery and physical and mental standing room. It breeds independent, all-around men. Colorado flows red blood. She has the out-of-doors atmosphere—freed from the narrow cramped public opinion that is made in overheated houses, the public opinion of the village of white houses and green blinds, where everybody knows everybody's business. It has the public opinion of the man who stands on his own feet, cares for his own needs, is sufficient unto himself and has the large charity which sound nerves ensure. The way of Colorado is the warrior's way—'the Bushido,' as they said in old Japan, the way of the rough rider, the way of the quick arm and the tender heart, the way of him who cares only for what men are and not at all for what men say.

Weak men who have been kept good in the east through the upbraiding of maiden aunts often fail in Colorado. Good men grow better there, for they must fight for and justify their virtue. After all that is the only kind of righteousness that counts, vast, burly, aggressive righteousness to which sin is folly; selfishness and vice are things to be avoided as contemptible, as well as shunned as wicked. The scholar in Colorado shares the largeness of his field. The dim-eyed monk, the stoop-shouldered grammarian, these are not his ideals. The scholar is the leader of enterprise, the builder of states.

The air of Colorado is charged with oxygen. It is good atmosphere in which to bring up a boy. In Colorado he becomes an out-of-door man. He expands his chest, he can do things, he becomes fearless because he is adequate. Here in the west we send our graduate students to the east, because we know that it will be well for them to know what homes their fathers came from. They need New England acquaintanceship, English culture and German methods of thought. Far more does the eastern graduate need what the west can give. The life in the foothills makes a man, if need be, of the Harvard doctor of philosophy. The world beyond the Missouri spreads his horizon and the swift oxygen in the Colorado sunshine swells the size of his heart. Some day men will go to Colorado and California for inspiration of force as poets go to Greece for the inspiration of beauty.

The new America is born where things are broad and free, and her finest inspiration where things are grand and strengthening. When the days of the emigrant are over and our people reach their equilibrium, the home of the highest education must be in the west. Whoever has known Colorado, whoever knows the great west will, all his life long, always hear it calling, and wherever he goes he will carry with him a fuller heart and a freer hand for his life in the plains or the foothills, for his life in the regions where the very heavens are cosmopolitan.

I might say a word on the field of local scientific study which Colorado offers. The problems of the local geology have been discussed by my colleague President Van Hise. A region as vast as the Mississippi valley has been crumpled and folded in the stress of the earth to make Colorado. Noble scenery is the raw material of geology. A mighty cliff is an uncovered record of primeval history. In all this history, from the earliest to the latest, Colorado has something to say. The graves of our earliest ancestors, it may be, lie in the hills of Cañon City. In these rocks at least are found the earliest traces, the earliest by a million years perhaps, of any backboned animals. From these it is a far cry indeed to the shales of Florissant, where in their day the earliest birds went out to catch the latest worm there was, and again to the Green River shales of the northwest with their extinct creatures not very different from their descendants of to-day. When we speak the magic names of Uncompahgre, Ouray, Telluride, Las Animas, Sierra Blanca, Pike's Peak, Long's Peak, Gunnison, Manitou, Saguache—I know them all and know them well—we raise a thousand memories of grand scenery, rich mines, geological problems, the crumpling of continents, the wash of great rivers.

The botany of Colorado runs rampant over all the hills, columbines and gentians, primroses and poppies; sunflowers and lilies; mountain and plain; Colorado is a land of flowers, and better than this, it is a land of problems. Where did they come from? How did they get here? How did they, why did they change? What relation had the movements of the flowers to the vanished glaciers which have left their imprint in lake and moraine, in erratic and sheep-back and furrowed rock, over so much of the surface of Colorado?

In zoology there is equal richness of forms and equal wealth of problem. How came the trout to move from river to river, changing its spots with every change of stream? How did it pass from the Missouri to the South Platte without reaching the North Platte? How from the Platte to the Arkansas with scarcely a change of any kind? How from the Arkansas to the Rio Grande with changes that every angler notices? How again from the Rio Grande to the Colorado? How from the Colorado across the main divide to the Twin Lakes of Leadville? These are problems worthy of a Sherlock Holmes, and the methods ascribed to that mythical personage are the ordinary methods of science. The same process is used, but it is turned to a higher end than the hunting down of human sins and follies. The problems of geographical distribution, their facts and the causes which lie behind them, occupy a steadily increasing place in the world of science and for the study of very many of these problems there is no field so promising as Colorado.

I can not close this address without a word in praise of the honored president of Colorado College. It is the highest duty, the noblest privilege of the president of the college to give the institution its personality. Others may give money and buildings, the state may create machinery by which the college works; it remains for him to make it a living person, an Alma Mater, an influence in the formation of character and citizenship. Sixteen years Dr. Slocum has struggled for Colorado College. Sixteen years of courage, devotion, persistence, of a type few other colleges have known. He has sought far and wide for good men, for men of his kind. He has seen richer institutions draw these men away, and then he has begun his search once more, and each time he has closed the ranks with men of the Colorado spirit. Every great university has been enriched by men drawn from Colorado College. Greater institutions have stood ready to bid for his own services, and in no mean fashion. This I know well, though not from him. But he will not leave the work of his life to begin another, simply because the other stands in a larger yard. There is gold in Colorado, there is silver, there is untold wealth in her mines. But Colorado is not made by mines. She has been made by men. She has had many red letter days. This twenty-third day of February, 1904, is not the least of them all, but none has been fraught with greater hope to the state than that day sixteen years ago, that day when William Frederick Slocum came to the presidency of Colorado College.

The building we dedicate to-day is called Palmer Hall. It is in large degree the gift of General William J. Palmer, and it rightfully bears his name. I never met General Palmer personally until yesterday, but I have long known his name as that of one of Colorado's most enlightened citizens. I trust that he may live long to see his noble gift used and appreciated.

There is no way, I believe, in which accumulated wealth can be so wisely used as in the endowment or enrichment of colleges. In no way can the present secure such pledges of the future, and no gifts are so unselfish as those made to posterity. All who help to promote scholarship, citizenship, efficiency, are patriots in the highest sense and their patriotism should be appreciated by the people.

In all the range of mean-spirited criticism there is nothing more contemptible than that which ascribes selfish aims to wealthy men who give to colleges. Sensational neurotics are constantly in fear that the rich man will force the college to teach his doctrines. Such a thing has never happened, for it requires brains to acquire wealth and this implies sense enough to understand the freedom of the university. No rich benefactor of our day has ever tried to use a university as a tool; no one ever will try. Yet the clamor having this as a burden goes up from one end of the country to the other. Over the shoulders of the college the blackmailer tries to stab at the millionaire. But he goes on his way unmindful, and if he be generous-minded, he makes his gifts just the same, sure of the results of the future, even though denied the gratitude of the present.

Here in Colorado there rules a saner spirit. Our Palmer Hall is the gift of a kind and helpful friend. As such it is received by all who are here to-day and by all true and loyal citizens of Colorado.

Finally let me say: In all plans of university building there is but one that succeeds. Those who think for themselves will inspire others to do the same. Where teachers are original investigators truth-fearing and truth-loyal men, men that can not be fatigued or discouraged, their students will be of their own kind. To find them, they will come from the ends of the earth. The investigators make the university as the teachers make the college. It is not necessary that many departments be developed to make the university real; it is said that Agassiz in 1850 was himself the sole university in America. The presence of Agassiz and Gray, Lowell and Longfellow, Holmes and Goodwin, Felton and Norton, meant a university atmosphere. Silliman and Dana meant the University of Yale. Such men are as rare as they are choice. No university faculty was ever made up wholly of university men, and no one ever had too many of them.

From such men as these the American scholar is descended. The growth of American science is his work, and of this growth he is in turn a product. That he may never grow less we hope and pray. And this with a certainty that our prayers will meet their answer. Our faith is shown by our works. With the best of these let us place our new temple dedicated to the holy life of action, to the worship of the God of things as they are, our new Palmer Hall of Colorado College.

  1. Address at the dedication of Palmer Hall, Colorado College.