INAUGURATION OF PRESIDENT THWING, WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

 

February 4, 1891

Cleveland, Ohio

 

Gentlemen:

 

If I shall succeed in getting off the first sentence which I have been thinking of it shall surprise my friend, Dr. Cushing. It is not what he expects to hear from me. It is that I am obliged to him for calling on me. I am glad he called on me. I wanted to be called. I should have been disappointed if I were not called. I am used to it. The truth is that I did not say all I had to say this afternoon. It was not a good occasion; it was not a suitable time to say all that was on my mind. If any of you wasted time in listening to me this afternoon you will remember that I said a college should have three things, a good administration, good equipment and a good body of students. And you will observe in discussing these three points – that these clergymen understand better than I do - and it is always a great fortune to get a subject into three points - that I dealt very gingerly with the first point, the administration. I knew that the administration had been here a little while. I did not know it had made so much progress as my friend President tell us. I was a little afraid to enter upon it. We had great hopes, but I knew the ice was thin. Indeed the figure that expresses it -- you know they have at Cincinnati a gentlemen very well known as the truly good man; he is the same man who has a wicked partner. You see them both in your minds, I am sure. He is in the habit of saying when a subject is a little questionable that a man is entering upon, “You had better go slow; tread softly; the ground under you is hollow!” And so, too, this new administration of ours. I don’t know, there are some advantages I can see very readily. From what we know of the new president he begins with advantages. You know it is said in the Scripture as to the Kingdom of Heaven -- If I don’t quote correctly please aid me--“Those who seek shall find. To him that knocks it shall be opened.” Now the Kingdom of Heaven is not at all like the presidency of this college. Those that seek do not find. To those who knock it is not opened. Dr. Haydn knows that. He knows how many have sought and how many have not found. And that is the first merit I have to think of the new president. He did not see us. We sought him. That is an advantage. He has another one, this very one that Dr. Haydn alluded to. He is a young man. I know how it is myself. The old fellow gets on the shelf so easily. Time is in favor of the young man. Time you know is a giant, and that giant is working for President Thwing. I am getting acquainted with him; you noticed this afternoon I could not pronounce his name. Perhaps you saw I got in the H. I am not at all an Englishman, but I put the h where it should not be.

 

Well, I should say something for President Haydn. He has been doing pretty well for the last three years. Why in the world he should get up here and in the face of this audience say this is a blue day for him! Why, he has been promoted. He is an ex-president now. He is the last recruit to that noble company, and he don’t seem to appreciate it. But as I say, he has been doing pretty well for the last three years. This whole notion of a university is pretty much all ex-President Haydn. He did it with his energy. President Thwing doesn’t find this institution in a broken-down condition. It is just ready for the bright young fellow to take hold of it and make something of it, and that it is just ready is due to our friend Dr. Haydn.

 

I am disposed to be complimentary to ex-presidents. They are not always well spoken of when they are presidents. They hear a great many strange facts about themselves. And I assure you it does grow better. Now ten years out of that business that he was in will make a great difference - I suspect I am a great deal more respectable than I was ten years ago. But there is nothing that delights an old codger more than to advise young people, and now I have an opportunity. Here is a young man, and here is an old fellow to advise him. I said there were three things that a great college must have. There are more than three great things that a great college must have - there is a fourth thing. A great college should be well edited, well advertised. People should hear about it, people should know about it. I wish President Eliot was here. I tell you he is the shrewdest advertiser of a great college on the continent. And how does he do it? Wherever there is a little college struggling he is ready to help it. He is seen on the street; the whole country knows him; he has been twenty-one years at the head of Harvard, and all that time he has had Harvard on the brain, and he has been ready with his eloquence and his pen - voice and pen - to tell people all about it, to make them acquainted with it. And this leads to this advice. President Thwing, let the people know you. I know you are a good fellow, if they only just find you out, that is all. Don’t be afraid to meet all the people and have them acquainted with you, even the newspaper men. Don’t be afraid of the reporter or interviewer. The interviewer doesn’t hurt anybody, unless one has done something that hurts him. When a man is doing well, when his business is such that large interests depend on his conduct, and his deportment is good, nothing is so well for him as to have it widely known. Let the world know about this university of yours. Preach in the churches every chance you get, if they call upon you, if it is a Universalist church, or a Methodist church, or any of those outside churches. I was glad to hear what you said to-day, that this was not a sectarian institution. Why, of course, it has its leanings, that is all right, But let it be so that all the good people of Cleveland can attend it, can send their sons and daughters to it. Perhaps President Eliot in all his life has done nothing better than that, to show himself; he has shown that college men and colleges are not separated from all the general interests of all the good people of the country. We are part of it, you are part of it, and I think you are beginning right, from what we can see. I did think of making a list of the good things that Dr. Haydn had done. The one that strikes me most I will mention. Here sits an old gentleman, a professor up at Hudson, Professor Seymour, who graduated at Yale College, about 1834. Now, young fellows, away over there, what do you think he told me about that college? Why, it is strange that he has lived so long, educated at such a college as that then was. He said that he had never heard a college song in that college. And here Dr. Haydn is a singing master who has taught these young fellows to sing. It is a good thing to sing; it helps a meeting go off - makes us all glad; be blue no longer. You have educated these young men to be musicians and to sing songs for us, and we all applauded them. How well they sing them! Strange they should sing well with such tuition. I am very much obliged to you for your attention.

 

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