Chapter XXI

THE SESQUICENTENNIAL YEAR

   On a serene September day in 1958 a grappling bucket on a swinging crane bit off the roof of the east tower of Harrison Hall. After a century and a third the old Main Building was coming down. At various times it had included lodging rooms, recitation rooms , the Literary Halls, a chapel, a library chamber, the president's office, the secretary's office, a printing room, a scientific laboratory, a gymnasium room, a dining commons, an art studio and a theater. Early in 1959 foundations were laid for the second Harrison Hall, with twin towers and a portico reminiscent of the first, that eventually would house one department rather than a college. The old was giving way to new as the sesquicentennial year began.
   To observe the university's 150th anniversary, plans had been developing under the direction of Professor John Ball in a Sesquicentennial Office that looked across the new quadrangle to the old dorms and Hughes and Upham halls. A committee of alumni, headed by J. Oliver Amos and Paul S. Hinkle, both of the class of 1931, a committee of the faculty under Professor Joseph S. Seibert, '32, and numerous other groups of students, alumni, faculty and staff had arranged a year-long series of special events and observances. Already the original edition of The Miami Years, 1809-1959 had appeared, and after a national competition a Sesquicentennial medallion was issued. On one side the medal showed a Miami figure holding the lamp of learning and on the other a crisp design of buckeye leaves and an outline map of Ohio framing "150 Years of Growth and Service." Though the jurors did not know it, this prizewinner was the work of Robert B. Butler of Miami's Art Department. While pondering his design Professor Butler had been chiseling the bas-reliefs on the recently finished Hiestand Fine Arts Hall.
  The anniversary year echoed with sounds of growth. There were nearly 7,000 students on the Oxford campus, with another 3,000 enrolled at the off-campus centers in Norwood, Hamilton, Middletown, Dayton and Piqua. And more were coming. As the spring days lengthened, construction grew on Laws Hall for the School of Business Administration, the Radio-TV building to house the Miami University Broadcasting Service, Dennison Hall for freshmen men on the east campus, and Brandon and McFarland halls for upperclassmen on the onetime golfing fairway along Tallawanda Avenue. Rising on Spring Street were the Sesquicentennial Chapel, the Physics-Mathematics building to be named Culler Hall and a new wing of Gaskill Hall to accommodate the growing Audio-Visual Service.
   The year-long celebration brought to the campus a sequence of distinguished visitors and events. It began on Charter Day, February 17, with officials of the State of Ohio, members of the Board of Trustees, the presidents of the other state universities in Ohio, officers of the Alumni Association, a representative group of students, and officials of the town of Oxford gathered at a gala luncheon in the University Center. Dessert was a seventy-pound birthday cake topped with a model of the new Harrison Hall and decorated with symbols of Miami's growth and service. That afternoon an all-university convocation in Withrow Court heard the University Orchestra and the A Capella Singers perform Professor Otto Frohlich's composition "Homage to Miami." After the reading of greetings from President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States and Governor Michael DiSalle of Ohio and a congratulatory resolution from the Ohio General Assembly, President James L. Morrill of the University of Minnesota discussed "The State University: Its Opportunity and Obligation in American Higher Education." To all attending the convocation went a copy of the Sesquicentennial souvenir book; among its many photographs were the architects' drawings of six new buildings and a center spread in color of Professor Marston Hodgin's painting of "Old Main" in its last winter.
   Charter Day festivity was still in the air on February 18 when the Philadelphia Orchestra in crowded Withrow Court began a program with the Brahms "Academic Festival" Overture, written in tribute to the University of Breslau in 1881. During the intermission conductor Eugene Ormandy was awarded an honorary degree. On March 22 members of the Metropolitan Opera Company in concert with the Cincinnati Symphony, under Max Rudolf, offered an evening of operatic arias, ensembles and overtures. At year's end, on December 15, the Cincinnati Symphony and combined Miami choruses gave the final musical event of the Sesquicentennial.
   On March 22 came the first of several symposia. Discussing "The Artist in American Society Today" were Philip R. Adams, John Ciardi, Norris Houghton, Clifton Fadiman, Richard Neutra, Millard Sheets and Halsey Stevens. Early in May a two-day discussion of "Energy and the Social Implications" brought to the campus scientists from this country abroad. October 9 brought the dedication of Laws Hall and a day-long program on "Education and the Economy." Speakers at the dedication were Dean Courtney C. Brown of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and Ohio Governor DiSalle. Later in the day "New Directions in the Management of Business Enterprise" were explored by J. Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard, Mark W. Cresap, Jr., president of the Westinghouse Corporation, Dexter M. Keezer, vice-president of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company and Howard J. Morgens, president of Procter and Gamble; this panel was moderated by Dean Paul M. Green, Miami '26, of the College of Commerce and Business Administration, University of Illinois.
   On April 10, making his seventh visit to Miami, Robert Frost delighted a standing-room-only audience in Benton Hall. Before reading his poems he commented on education and self-discovery, observing that students must find out what they are before they can decide what they want to be. He paid tribute to Miami president Raymond M. Hughes, who in 1920 proposed that universities support creative writing by having "artists-in-residence." "I've spent a good deal of my life at universities as a result of President Hughes' plea for imposing poets upon the colleges," said Robert Frost, who became a resident poet at the University of Michigan in 1921. After his reading came an honorary degree, with the white hood of Humanities looped over the snowy head of the poet. President Millett's citation designated the "beloved and much honored poet laureate of America, whose writings, lectures and conversations have deepened the understanding of the poetic expression of man's experience for many generations of students." During the next three days Robert Frost was greeted on campus paths by countless students, and he held memorable conversations with groups of students and faculty. From a previous visit, he remembered walking before his evening lecture through the Fisher Hall gardens where workmen were setting out smoke pots against a threatened October freeze. When they said they were "getting ready for frost tonight," the ruminating poet said, "I'm doing that too," and went on his walk.
   Two 1959 visitors were members of President Eisenhower's Cabinet. On February 26 Fred A. Seaton, Secretary of the Interior, spoke at an assembly and was honored with a degree. On June 6, Alumni Day, visitors streamed in to Oxford, thousands of them driving with Miami red-and-white license plates; 8,400,000 Ohio plates in the university colors had been issued in April. That Alumni Day was also the first day of sale for a 12-cent Benjamin Harrison stamp, in deep Miami red, with Oxford as the place of issue. Postmaster-General Arthur E. Summerfield spoke at a luncheon in the University Center, and the Oxford Post Office, with special canceling machines and a special crew, sold 325,000 of the new stamps. Various first-day covers showed, alongside the canceled stamp, the old Harrison Hall, the new Harrison Hall, and several pictures of Benjamin Harrison.
   On that eventful Alumni Day, Representative Paul F. Schenck of the Third Ohio District presented a framed copy of a resolution of the 86th Congress congratulating Miami University on its Sesquicentennial. The resolution, approved on May 25, had been read into the Congressional Record with an accompanying sketch of Miami's history.

Miami University was the second state university in the old Northwest Territory, provided for under the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. . . . By act of May 5, 1792, the President of the United States was authorized to grant letters patent to John Cleves Symmes and his associates . . . provided that the land grant should include one complete township . . . for the purpose of establishing an academy and other public schools and seminaries of learning.
   After Ohio became a state in 1803, the State legislature assumed responsibility for making sure that John Cleves Symmes would set aside a township of land for the support of an academy. Such a law was passed by the State legislature April 15, 1803. . . . Finally, on February 17, 1809, the State legislature created Miami University and provided that one complete township in the State of Ohio in the district of Cincinnati was to be vested in Miami University for its use, benefit, and support. A commission of threemen was set up to locate the university. In 1810 the legislature provided that Miami University should be located in Butler County within a township of land to be known as Oxford Township, and empowering the trustees to lay out a town of Oxford. Miami University, Mr. Speaker, is located in beautiful Oxford, Ohio, and is a very important center of education and culture. Its achievements are legion because its graduates are known throughout the world for their accomplishments in many professional fields. Some 6,000 resident students are currently enrolled in the several schools which make up Miami University. Several additional thousands of students are enrolled in off-campus centers which are located in areas throughout the great Miami Valley. . . .
   In the fulsome language of a congratulatory resolution the Congressman declared that "it would be impossible to do justice to all the famous graduates of this great school"--though he went on to name ten of them. Several of those named were featured on Alumni Day at an alumni convocation on Miami Field. In the afternoon shadows they spoke briefly on "The Alumnus and His University"-- Ernest H. Volwiler, '14, chairman of the Abbott Laboratories; Katherine J. Densford, '14, director of the world's first university school of nursing at the University of Minnesota; John Edwin Hull, '17, former Supreme Commander of United States and United Nations forces in the Far East; Earl H. Blaik, '18, longtime West Point football coach and currently vice-president of the Avco Manufacturing Company; and Bergen Evans, '24, author, professor and TV personality.
   On Sunday morning, June 7, no traffic passed through Spring Street. In ranks of chairs on the pavement and the shaded campus beyond, under the tapering white spire of the Sesquicentennial Chapel, a Baccalaureate assembly heard the Reverend Julian Price Love, '15, describe this interfaith chapel as "a house of prayer for all nations and for all kinds of people." President Millett closed the dedication with lines from Robert Frost:

What if it should turn out eternity
Was but the steeple on our house of life
That made our house of life a house of worship.
   On the next day a new Miami tradition began with the first wedding in the chapel, the marriage of Sally Gross, '58, and Herbert Fairfield, '59.
   At the June Commencement 819 degrees were conferred. With two other graduations, in February and August, the class of 1959 numbered 1,248. It was only natural in an anniversary year to relate that to the past. The whole number of Old Miami graduates, from 1826 to 1873, was 1,085.
   The Oxford summer, somnolent in years past, was eventful during 1959. An art exhibit on the theme "The American Scene in 150 Years of American Art," borrowed from museums, galleries and private collections, drew many visitors to the gallery in Hiestand Hall. Late in June came a two-day conference on "Schools for the Future." Addresses by President Novice G. Fawcett of Ohio State University, Fred M. Heckinger of the New York Times, Paul R. Hanna of Stanford, H. Bentley Glass of Johns Hopkins, W. Lloyd Warner of the University of Chicago and Henry Steele Commager of Columbia University were followed by discussion sessions with Miami faculty and guests. The conference ended with a platform discussion by journalists, educators, editors and scientists; the panel included W. A. Hammond of the Miami class of 1914 and James H. Rodabaugh, '32.
   The year of Miami University's founding became a famous year--famous for the birth of a number of men who achieved eminence in the history of America and Europe. As a part of the Sesquicentennial observance the university presented a series of lectures on four of those men. On Lincoln Day, February 12, Charles Feinberg of Detroit, a collector of Whitman manuscripts, spoke on Abraham Lincoln as seen in the writings of Walt Whitman. In April Paul B. Sears, chairman of Yale University's conservation program, lectured on the career of Charles Darwin. A week later Harry R. Warfel of the University of Florida reviewed the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. In the final 1809 lecture Howard Mumford Jones of Harvard discussed Oliver Wendell Holmes.
   On April 17 and 18, in Oxford radiant with spring, four eminent visitors gave answers to a question posed by Woodrow Wilson in 1909--"What Is a College For?" The conference was opened by August Heckscher of the Twentieth Century Fund and Mark Van Doren of Columbia University. On the next day Robert M. Hutchins of the Fund for the Republic and Max Lerner of the New York Post outlined "The Shape of a College for the Future." In another session undergraduates from Miami, DePauw, Kenyon College and the University of Wisconsin--two of them Rhodes scholars--elect discussed "Student Needs in a Changing World." Other viewpoints in this conference, cosponsored by the Humanities Center for Liberal Education in an Industrial Society, the General Motors Corporation and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, were expressed by visiting industrialists, editors and educators. The principal papers of the conference were published, with a foreword by President Millett, under the title What's a College For?
   While educational aims, hopes and dreams were in the spring air, several new appointments were made on the Miami University staff. Four deans were named: H. Bunker Wright took charge of the growing Graduate School; C. Neale Bogner became acting dean of the School of Education; F. Glenn Macomber filled a new post as Dean of Educational Services; and Karl F. Limper succeeded retiring W. E. Alderman as dean of the College of Arts and Science. The Reverend Hardigg Sexton, Miami '18, was made director of the Chapel. Former graduate dean William E. Smith became director of the newly enlarged McGuffey Museum.
   One event of 1959 was not planned by would be remembered by all of Oxford and the university. When it was learned that Senator John F. Kennedy would visit Butler County, he was invited to Oxford and a platform was set up on Miami Field. On the morning of September 17, with the largest convocation in Miami history filling the west stands, a motorcade drove in from High Street. Out of the lead car stepped President Millett and the young Senator from Massachusetts. John F. Kennedy had a long road ahead to the Presidential nomination and election, but he was confidently running. Tall, slender, debonair, with his quick smile and a hand jabbing the air, he soon had 6,000 Miamians applauding. He spoke for twenty minutes on "The College Graduate's Responsibility in Politics." After singing the Alma Mater, students swarmed around him. No one knew that he would be President and that recent Miami visitor Robert Frost would read a poem at his inaugural under the sunlit dome of the Capitol and that in four years both would belong to history. But there was something electric in the September air. After that convocation a reporter in the Miami Student concluded: "Though not committing himself as a candidate for the presidential nomination, Kennedy gave indication that he is likely to be on the ticket in the Ohio Democratic primary." More prophetic was the Student columnist who saw in the young Senator "the patrician in politics" and sensed in him "the coiled springs of ambition and an air of mission." For both campus political clubs the Kennedy visit was vitalizing. A year later, in the fall of 1960, the Miami Young Democrats were manning a campaign post across from the Post Office on High Street, handing out ribbons, buttons and literature.
   Three years later, Friday, November 22, was a sunless day in Oxford. On that chill gray afternoon the startling word "assassination" went over the campus and people crowded around radio and television screens for news from Dallas. At four thirty, two students walking past the Bell Tower crossed the grass to the university flagpole. They put down their books and lowered the flag to half-staff. At that moment other students were filing into the chapel and the village churches for silent meditation. There was no Thank God It's Friday crowd in High Street.
   On Monday morning, November 25, 1963, while the funeral procession moved through the streets of Washington, thousands of students and faculty filled Withrow Court. In a memorial service opened by the Miami Symphony with the solemn second movement of Beethoven's "Eroica" and the Men's Chorus singing Allegri's "Misere Mei, Deus," President Millett quoted Pericles' funeral oration in Athens 2,400 years earlier, spoke briefly of President Kennedy and concluded with words form Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. At the close of the service the convocation sang the hymn "Lest We Forget," then stood in silence while a bugler played taps and from the steps outside the Air Force and Naval Reserve units fired a 21-gun salute. All that week letters and columns poured into the office of the Miami Student, which had space to print only a sampling of them.
   During the Sesquicentennial year the remains of the first president of Miami University, buried for over a century in a mounded grave in Cincinnati, were brought to the campus that he loved. Before his death at Farmers' College in Cincinnati in 1855, Robert Hamilton Bishop had directed in his will: "I give my body to the Directors of the Farmers' College, to be placed in a coffin and enclosed in a strong box and placed in a mound . . . without any artificial monument unless it be an evergreen planted upon it." He was so buried, at the edge of a deeply wooded valley; his wife, surviving him just two weeks, was buried in the mound beside him. Many of his former Miami students visited that grave. When Farmers' College closed in the 1870's its buildings were occupied by the Ohio Military Institute. In 1957 that preparatory school was closed and the sylvan property was acquired by the Cincinnati Board of Education. Planning to build a new Aiken Senior High School on the site, the Board informed President Millett of the possibility of moving the Bishop graves to Oxford.
   On June 19, 1959, when morning shadows were deep on the old burial mound, President Millett, Foster Cole, Arthur Conrad and the present writer arrived just ahead of three maintenance men and a truck from Oxford. Digging began, with as many superintendents as workmen. Legends had grown around the old mound. Staff members of the former Military school joined the circle. One said that Dr. Bishop's favorite horse was reported buried along with the coffins; another had heard that the Bishop cow was buried there. Spades cut through brush roots and into sand; work went on while the sun climbed overhead. No bones appeared, no horns or hooves or horseshoes, but at noon a spade struck something solid. Soon two boxes were uncovered, lying side by side in an east-west direction. With all men present using crowbars and shovels, one box, somewhat the larger, was levered onto the other. Then the party took off for lunch.
   Returning to the excavation, the men pried off the lid of the upper box, which was found to be lined with sheet zinc. Inside was a coffin that measured 74 inches; President Bishop had been described as a tall, lean man. Though damp, the wood was firm after 104 years underground. Inside were some shreds of fabric and an intact skeleton. A cameraman from the Cincinnati Enquirer arrived in time to focus on Dr. Millett standing above the open box--the striking photograph, said an observer, might be called "The First and Sixteenth Presidents of Miami University." The second box, somewhat shorter, contained a skeleton of lighter structure than the first, with bits of disintegrated cloth and a few rusted buttons.
   The two coffins were closed and loaded onto the university truck. A sack of earth from the mound was added, and the workmen drove back to Oxford. There each coffin was placed in a new outer box of oak sawed from a tree that had grown on the site of Culler Hall. Growth rings showed that the oak had been on the campus when President Bishop took charge of the pioneer college. The new grave was an unmarked grassy mound at the edge of the flowering gardens beyond Fisher Hall.
   One year later, on June 4, 1960, a memorial service for the first president and his wife was held in the formal gardens. In the presence of a hundred alumni and faculty and twelve members of the Bishop family, President Millett recalled the place of Robert Hamilton Bishop in Miami history. He concluded: "Once again President Bishop lies beside his beloved wife in a mound unmarked by any artificial monument and with evergreens nearby. . . . And here we have placed a marker in a boulder from the nearby creek bed which records the simple facts of birth and death and their connection with Miami University, for Robert Hamilton Bishop and Ann Ireland Bishop."
   That warm June afternoon another ceremony under the campus trees marked the dedication of the Bishop Memorial Gates. They were a Sesquicentennial gift to the university from Constance Mather Bishop as a memorial to her husband, Dr. Robert Hamilton Bishop, '03, and trustee 1918-55, the fourth bearer of that name. The gates before the looped drive through the old campus forest provided a new front entrance to the university. Through them would come an endless stream of youth to the university that President Bishop had served at its beginning.
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