The Story of the University of Chicago

Chapter 7 Students Apply And A Faculty Is Secured

Thomas W. Goodspeed

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THE men most interested in founding the University were enthusiasts, dreamers of dreams. But their dreams and visions fell far short of the reality. I wrote to Mr. Rockefeller in January, 1887: "Of all places in the world this is the location plainly designated by nature for a great university."
Dr. Harper, then a professor in Yale, in indorsing this letter, wrote: "It is safe to make the prediction that in ten years such a university would have more students, if rightly conducted, than Yale or Harvard has today." At that time, 1887, Harvard had 1,688 students in all departments, and Yale had 1,245. Dr. Harper's prophecy, had it been made public at the time it was written, would have been regarded as the dream of an enthusiast. The number of students in Yale and Harvard was regarded as wonderful, and quite unapproachable by other institutions. They had reached their great attendance only after some two centuries of history. It is an interesting commentary on Dr. Harper's prophecy that in its fourth year the University of Chicago enrolled 1,850 students, or 127

(77) more than were enrolled at Harvard in 1886-87. If Dr. Harper had written: "In ten years such a university will have nearly three times as many students as Harvard now has, and nearly four times as many as Yale now has," he would have been a true prophet. But it is also true that if he had made such a prophecy he would have been looked upon as something worse than an irresponsible enthusiast and dreamer.

No effort was made to secure the students for the first year. The first students gathered themselves. For some reason the project of a new institution of learning in Chicago had made a remarkable impression on the imagination of the public. This impression was as widespread as ít was pronounced. Ordinarily the students of institutions come, for the most part, from their immediate vicinity. But the first year's students of the University of Chicago, like those of every succeeding year, came from every part of the United States and from many foreign countries. When the enrolment for the first year was made up it was found that thirty-three states were represented and fifteen foreign states and provinces.

It is worthy of record that the first mention of inquiries from students occurs in a letter written in September, 1890, less than four months after the first subscription had been completed, and more than two years before the University opened its doors. On October 5, 1890, I wrote, "We get the name of a new

(78) candidate for admission every day." And this was no temporary outbreak of student correspondence. It not only continued, but began gradually to increase. In January, 1891, the inquiries from possible students were two or three every day. By July 1, 1891, the number amounted to about three hundred. In the autumn of that year, W. B. Owen, then a student in the Theological Seminary at Morgan Park, afterward a member of the University faculties, and still later principal of the Chicago Normal School, gathered about him nearly one hundred pupils whom he was preparing for the University. Meantime, inquiring students continued to report to my office in increasing numbers. There were twenty on February 28, 1892, the largest number heard from in any one day up to that time. It was found in the end that two things saved the University from being overwhelmed by numbers the first year. These were the high standard fixed and the requirement that all first-year entering students must pass an examination. Very many expected to be admitted on certificates from high schools and academies. When they found they could not do this, and read the requirements for admission in Official Bulletin Νο. 2, they decided to go elsewhere, or to defer their entrance until they were prepared to take the examination. Correspondence was had with nearly 3,000 young men and women who expressed a desire to enter.


This is the story of the gathering of the students of the first year. As was said at the beginning, they gathered themselves. They were not sought. They came of their own motion. Had they not been discouraged or absolutely shut out by the severe examination tests the attendance of the first year would have been doubled. It amounted to 742.

The gathering of the first faculty is another story. The members of the teaching staff had to be looked for, and by patient inquiry found. The new University had made such an appeal to the imagination of teachers as well as of the public that there were, naturally enough, many applicants for positions, but with the exception of a few very desirable men these applications were not treated seriously. President Harper aimed high and from the outset fixed his mind on professors in the leading universities of the country. As a matter of course these men were the very ones—it may perhaps be said, the only ones—who were almost immovable. Why should such men move? They had positions for life, into which they had grown, where they had every possible tie to hold them—homes, libraries, laboratories, friends. They were, for the most part, in old, great, famous institutions, in whose distinction they participated. Why should they change? Particularly, why should eminent teachers, thus situated, enter on a "hazard of new fortunes" by going to a new institution, organized on a new edu-

(80) -cational plan, "launched upon uncharted seas and with new methods of navigation," an institution whose financial basis was wholly out of proportion to the vastness of the educational scheme, and whose future, therefore, was uncertain? It seems strange that many of the best men in the country, notwithstanding the fact that all these things were true, were moved by President Harper's approaches. There was a strong power of appeal in the plan and in the young president himself. But no sooner did it become known that professors had been approached and were thinking of Chicago than every influence was brought to bear to hold them ín their places and set them against the new institution. Chicago was declared to be a "bubble." Its funds were ridiculed as totally inadequate. It was prophesied that salaries would not be paid. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that serious difficulties were encountered in securing the men Dr. Harper wanted. But he was eminently fitted to overcome these difficulties and secure the sort of teachers he had set his heart on. He had high ideals of what a university professor should be. He must be a teacher, but first and foremost he must be a scholar, in love with learning, with a passion for research, an investigator who could produce, and, if what he produced was worthy, would wish to publish. President Harper was endowed with a kind of intuitive recognition of a scholar, which enabled him to select a faculty of schol-

(81) -ars. He had, moreover, a singularly judicial mind, and in considering possible teachers he weighed the evidence on both sides with insight and justice. In dealing with those he wanted to engage for his faculty he manifested a consideration of their interests, a friendliness and sympathy that disarmed opposition, a personal charm, a power to make his theme interesting, and a contagious enthusiasm, that won even the reluctant. As a result of these unusual qualities, President Harper made few mistakes in his first faculty.

I cannot here even mention the names of all its members. But there were some appointments which are of special interest and cannot well be passed over. Early in 1892 Harry Pratt Judson, later president of the University, but at that time a professor in the University of Minnesota, was persuaded to accept a professorship in History and the deanship of the colleges and to begin his work the first of June. He came at that time to assist President Harper in the tremendous task of organizing the work of the University in preparation for the opening in October.

The first heads of departments, secured after a long and hard struggle, were William Gardner Hale and J. Laurence Laughlin, both of Cornell. Mr. Hale became head professor of Latin and Mr. Laughlin of Political Economy. With these men secured, difficulties began to disappear. Under Mr. Laughlin's ad-

(82) -vice Adolf C. Miller, since distinguished in public life, also of Cornell, was almost immediately added to his department.

One of the first men approached by Dr. Harper was Dr. Albion W. Small, president of Colby University. Fourteen months after the negotiation began, President Small was appointed head professor of Sociology and accepted. At the same time, January 29, 1892, the first considerable number of other appointments was made, among them James H. Tufts, later vice-president of the University, in Philosophy; William D. MacClintock, in English; George S. Goodspeed, in Comparative Religion and Ancient History; Starr W. Cutting, later head of his department, in German; A. A. Stagg, director of Physical Culture and Athletics; Frank J. Miller, in Latin; Carl D. Buck, later head of the department, in Sanskrit and Comparative Philology.

On February 4, 1892, four notable appointments were made: Hermann Ε. von Hoist, head professor of History; Richard Green Moulton, University Extension professor of English Literature; Emil G. Hirsch, professor of Rabbinical Literature and Philosophy; and Ezekiel G. Robinson, professor in Apologetics and Christian Ethics. Mr. von Holst, author of a well-known constitutional history of the United States, was a professor in the University of Freiburg in Baden, Germany, and his acquisition was regarded

(83) by the president with great satisfaction. Mr. Terry, professor in History, had aided in securing him. Mr. Hirsch was the able and popular rabbi of the Sinai Congregation of Chicago and most generously contributed such services as his duties to his congregation and the public permitted. Mr. Robinson had been president of the Rochester Theological Seminary and later of Brown University, and came to give the closing years of a distinguished career to the new University. Mr. Moulton had come, in 1890, on a temporary visit to the United States, to enlist interest in the University Extension movement. He met Dr. Harper in Christmas week in Washington and in a single conversation was induced to promise a year's work in the new University. His one year became a life-engagement. Nathaniel Butler, once a member of the faculty of the Old University, was brought from the University of Illinois and became acting director of University Extension.

At a meeting of the trustees held March 19, 1892, Ε. Hastings Moore, of Northwestern University, was elected professor of Mathematics and later became head of his department. At the same meeting the first incident of an interesting story occurred. Charles O. Whitman, of Clark University, was elected head professor of Biology. An exceptionally able group of scientific professors was gathered at Clark and it transpired that, owing to unsatisfactory internal con-

(84) -ditions, they wished to leave and accept favorable openings elsewhere. The opportunity to make the scientific departments equal to those of the leading universities of the country was irresistible. Mr. Whitman drove a hard bargain with President Harper in the things he required in the way of buildings, equipment, and running expenses. That distinguished physicist A. A. Michelson, who was one of the acquisitions from Clark, with that modesty which has always characterized him, made no terms. In this group of professors were Nef, Donaldson, Mall, Jacques Loeb, and others.

In making these fifteen appointments the president was tempted beyond what he was able to bear and beyond what his resources could bear. But, his power of resistance having broken down before this splendid temptation, he was left quite helpless before one which immediately followed. He learned that Thomas C. Chamberlin, president of the University of Wisconsin, having, during his five years at Madison, accomplished the task of reorganization he had set for himself and doubled the number of students, was weary of administrative work, which, indeed, he had undertaken reluctantly, and would, perhaps, welcome a call to the headship of a Department of Geology, and that his professor of Geology at Madison, Rollin D. Salisbury, who had already been recommended in the highest terms, would follow his chief.

(85) George C. Walker, one of the trustees, had agreed to provide a museum building which might be used also as the laboratory of Geology, and the president warmly urging action, President Chamberlin on May 4, 1892, was appointed, the appointment of Mr. Salisbury following in June. These appointments from Clark and Wisconsin established the reputation of the scientific departments and added greatly to the prestige of the new University. They fixed its place in the public mind as the peer of the best institutions in the country.

Professor E. D. Burton, who subsequently became president of the University, was one of the late appointments. He was a professor in Newton Theological Institution. The president had long been urging him to take the chair of New Testament, but could get no encouragement. What appeared to be a final refusal in March, 1892, greatly discouraged him. But he had an extraordinary gift of persistence and persuasion. The negotiation was renewed and in the end Professor Burton was secured.

One of the happy appointments of the first year was that of Charles R. Henderson ín Social Science, later University chaplain, a position in which he won all hearts.

There were nine women in the first faculty. Alice Freeman Palmer, former president of Wellesley was, after long negotiation, secured as dean of women

(86) and with her was associated Marion Talbot, who became Mrs. Palmer's successor.

One rather extraordinary fact about President Harper's labors in securing a faculty must be mentioned. He sought big men. He wanted the very best and ablest, the most distinguished scholars and teachers he could find. The more eminent they were the more he wanted them. He made every effort to secure Remsen, of Johns Hopkins, but in this case his own university could not let him go and made him its next president. It was because he believed von Holst was a great man and because he had an international reputation that President Harper wanted him ín his faculty. Because he wanted the best he did not hesitate to try for the presidents of colleges and universities. It is not known just how many of these he attempted to bring into the first faculty. It is known that he failed with some whom he made extraordinary efforts to get. As the first faculty was finally constituted nine of its members had been presidents of higher institutions: Ezekiel G. Robinson, Brown; George W. Northrup, Baptist Union Theological Seminary; Galusha Anderson, the Old University of Chicago and Denison; Albion W. Small, Colby; Thomas C. Chamberlin, Wisconsin; Franklin Johnson, Ottawa; Alice Freeman Palmer, Wellesley; and Howard B. Grose, South Dakota. To these names was soon added that of John M. Coulter, Lake Forest. His friends were

(87) never able to detect the slightest trace of jealousy in President Harper. He rejoiced in the growing reputation of members of the faculty as though ít were his own. Every distinction they received gave him pleasure. Every book they published was a source of satisfaction, and the greater the book the greater was his satisfaction. He was proud of the honors they received and he watched the development of growing scholars with joy and pride.

By the first of June, 1892, we had about reached the limits of our resources for appointments and, understanding that very few more would be made, as secretary of the board I wrote for publication:

The last gift of one million dollars, made by Mr. Rockefeller in February, has made ít possible for the University to organize its faculties in a somewhat complete way. In all departments sixty instructors have now been elected. The number will be increased by ten or twelve additional names, and then, so far as the faculties are concerned, the University will be ready to receive its students.

In my simplicity I thought I was giving out authoritative information. I was, as it turned out, only announcing the number of instructors for whom financial provision had been made. The president, feeling driven by necessity, recommended, and the trustees, under the same spur, appointed, not ten or twelve more, but sixty. Appointments continued to be made at almost every meeting until October 25, nearly a

(88) month after the University opened. Instead of the seventy-two I had stated would complete the faculty of the first year, when the appointments were ended, the number, including all ranks, was found to be 120. It was a great venture of faith. It was probably the largest faculty with which a university ever began its work. It was certainly one of the best. His first faculty gave the president great satisfaction. It was a body of scholars, teachers, and investigators. As September, 1892, drew to a close its members came together in Chicago. On October 1, its first meeting was held and a general policy of work outlined. Thus the good ship was manned, passengers were on board, and it was under way. May it have a prosperous voyage!


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