Volume XXIV · Fall 1968 · Number 1
Rochester and Chicago
--W. Allen Wallis
The following remarks were made by W. Allen Wallis, president of the University of Rochester, at a dinner in honor of University of Chicago president, George W. Beadle, given by the Women's Board and the Citizens Board of the University of Chicago, at the Pick-Congress Hotel, July 9, 1968.—The Editors
Presumably the reason I have been given the honor and pleasure of speaking about George [Beadle] this evening is that I have been long and closely associated with the University of Chicago, yet have now been far enough away (600 miles), for long enough (six years), to have something of an outsider's perspective. Certainly I do not have to vouch for George; his record over the past seven years is clearly and brilliantly established. I can congratulate the University of Chicago, not in advance, but after the fact. The academic presidency is a precarious post at times, but George has survived all the hazards and has emerged with his faith in human nature, even its younger representatives, as robust as when I first met him thirty years ago.
George spoke at Rochester five years ago, and pointed out with pride that Chicago had contributed presidents of two of the city's institutions of higher education. It is only fair tonight that I should point out that Rochester has made contributions to Chicago so important that the University of Chicago would not be here except for the activities of various Rochesterians.
It took two tries for Rochesterians to get this University of Chicago going. Albert H. Mixer, who graduated in the University of Rochester's first class in 1851 and then served as its first librarian and also taught German and Greek, left in 1858 "to open and organize the first University of Chicago"—the one which died in 1886 and is represented by the flames out of which the Phoenix arises on the present University of Chicago seal.
Two of the presidents of the old University of Chicago were Rochester graduates: Galusha Anderson, a member of Rochester Class of 1854, who was a relative of Martin Brewer Anderson, Rochester's first president; and Lemuel Moss, a Rochester graduate of 1858—a class, by the way, which I shall mention again and which the official Rochester historian claims has placed a larger proportion of its members in the Dictionary of American Biography than has any other class of any college (if he can't prove that, neither can you disprove it).
The present University of Chicago—the Phoenix of the seal, which some of my friends refer to simply as the "WGU," in an obvious adaptation of the Chicago Tribune's motto—was originated by six or eight key people, most of whom had Rochester backgrounds.
In Dick Storr's book on the beginnings of the University of Chicago published two years ago, the first five names in the cast of characters are, in order of their appearance: Thomas Wakefield Goodspeed, John Davison Rockefeller, Henry Lyman Morehouse, Frederick Taylor Gates, and Augustus Hopkins Strong.
All of these five men had Rochester connections. Rockefeller's were slight, to be sure, but they did account for his interest in founding a university. Three of the other four men graduated from the University of Rochester, and the one who did not was, from Chicago's viewpoint, a villain as well as a hero in the drama enacted from 1886 to 1890. All four of the men other than Rockefeller studied at Rochester Theological Seminary, a companion institution to the University of Rochester.
Morehouse graduated from the University of Rochester in 1858 and then enrolled at the Seminary. Goodspeed graduated from the University of Rochester in 1863 (though his first three years had been at the old University of Chicago), and from the Seminary in 1866. Gates graduated from the University of Rochester in 1877 and from the Seminary in 1880, and he was offered the presidency of the University after the first president retired in 1888. Strong was born in Rochester, graduated from Yale in 1857 and from the Seminary in 1859, and was president of the Seminary from 1872 until 1912. In the later history of the University of Chicago, another Rochester name, Wallace Buttrick, figures significantly, for he was head of the General Education Board for the first quarter-century after it was established by Rockefeller in 1902; Buttrick graduated from the Seminary in 1883.
Rockefeller's connection with Rochester was entirely through Strong. Strong was his pastor in Cleveland from 1865; their friendship continued to be close after Strong returned to Rochester in 1872; Strong's oldest son married Rockefeller's oldest daughter in 1889 ; and Strong had begun in the mid-80's to try to persuade Rockefeller to give $20 million for establishing a great national university devoted to graduate work in New York City. When Goodspeed wrote Rockefeller in 1887 proposing a college in Chicago, Rockefeller sent the letter, and a supporting letter from William Rainey Harper, to Strong for his opinion. Strong commended the Goodspeed proposal, subject to the reservation that Chicago was not New York, and then said, "You could not do a better thing than to offer a hundred thousand dollars…" We know now, of course, that Rockefeller could do a better thing and did do a better thing on that beautiful May morning two years later when, pacing with Gates on the other side of 54th Street from where the New York University Club now stands, he offered $600,000 for establishing the college in Chicago, and sixteen months after that when he gave Harper a million dollars more so that the college might be a university.
As the Chicago proposal began to wax in Rockefeller's interest and the New York one to wane, Strong became less generous; and though earlier he had praised Harper lavishly to Rockefeller, he now wrote to Rockefeller making serious charges of heresy in Harper's Baptist theology-charges that greatly distressed Harper.
Nearly thirty years later Goodspeed wrote that:
"While Dr. Strong failed to get his great university in New York, it is nevertheless true that a great university was founded by Mr. Rockefeller, founded in a great city, founded by gifts aggregating far more in the end than twenty-million dollars, founded mainly as a graduate institution, and founded under Baptist auspices. Dr. Strong's dream of a great graduate university was therefore realized… [I have] no doubt that the frequent and illuminating expositions of Dr. Strong of what a university as distinguished from a college ought to be, and his multiplied appeals to his friend to found such an institution prepared Mr. Rockefeller as nothing else could have done for his immediate response when Dr. Harper appealed to him in September, 1890, for funds for developing the college being founded in Chicago into a university."
So in the end, Strong deserves to be regarded as one of Chicago's heroic founders, along with his fellow-Rochesterians Goodspeed, Gates, Morehouse, and Buttrick.
When George Beadle was appointed president of the University of Chicago, it was remarked that Chicago had thereby become the only major university with a president who would be qualified for a full professorship on his own faculty. The choice of Beadle was in that sense reactionary—a reaction away from presidents with little academic standing other than as administrators, and a return to the tradition of scholars and scientists which had characterized the University's first four decades and first four presidents.
Before the University of Chicago had been open for a decade, a member of its faculty, one John Dewey by name, had written that "A ponderous machinery has come into existence for carrying on the multiplicity of business and quasi-business matters without which the modern university would come to a standstill…Personality counts for less than apparatus…It requires ability of a very specialized and intensified order to wield the administrative resources of a modern university."
Like other of Dewey's ideas, this one came to dominate practice about a third of a century later. No longer were universities headed by the Charles W. Eliots, G. Stanley Halls, Daniel C. Gilmans, David Starr Jordans, Andrew D. Whites, Nicholas Murray Butlers, A. Lawrence Lowells, James Rowland Angells, William Rainey Harpers, Harry Pratt Judsons, Ernest D. Burtons, Max Masons, and other giants of the intellectual and educational world whose names are still familiar. Instead, the organization men: the mediators, arbitrators, and adjusters, the men, in Dewey's words, with specialized and intensified ability to wield administrative resources, took over.
The strongest force leading to the near-extinction, before Beadle, of the scholar-scientist-intellectual species of university president was, as Dewey recognized in 1901, the need for money, and more money, and money in floods that would have staggered even old John D. himself. "The danger lies," Dewey wrote, "in the difficulty of making money adequate as a means, and yet keeping it in its place…The pressure to get the means is tending to make it an end; and this is academic materialism-the worst foe of freedom…
Even before the University opened, while a campaign was in progress to raise the $400,000 needed to get Rockefeller's $600,000, Rockefeller warned that the University should keep clear of any promises that might tie its hands. "The question of money may not be so important a factor later on," Rockefeller wrote to Gates, "as that freedom which we always want to have in the administration of the proposed university."
The surest way to see that the apparatus for raising money and for administering it does not pervert the basic intellectual and academic purposes of a university is to appoint to presidencies men of unquestioned intellectual and academic stature and courage. This is the reactionary step that the Chicago trustees took in 1960 when they appointed George Beadle. As so often in Chicago's history, the results of an unorthodox action have been conspicuously successful—so much so that not only have the Chicago trustees unhesitatingly followed their own example by appointing as Beadle's successor another outstanding scholar and intellectual, Ed Levi, but also several other boards of trustees have made moves since 1960 in the same direction.
William Rainey Harper wrote the best essay on the college presidency that I have ever read. Its tone is indicated by the following twenty-five words: concealing, lying, impossible, limitations, servant, suffering, slave, drudgery, misery, loneliness, separation, sorrow, isolations, misunderstood, misrepresented, depression, overwhelmed, difficulties, delicate, arduous, heart-engrossing, mind-disturbing, weak, sick-at-heart, dissatisfaction. But at the end of Harper's essay there is a paragraph in a different key that I want to quote in full:
"But there is," Harper concluded, "also a bright side to this picture. How can one fail to find great satisfaction in a work which brings him into close association with life confessedly higher and more ideal than ordinary life? If in any environment idealism reigns supreme, it is in that of the University. There one works for and with young manhood and womanhood; and nothing in all the world is more inspiring than work in such association. It is the period in human life of greatest inspiration, of most intense enjoyment and of loftiest aspiration. The sadness of life is for the most part a thing of the future. Ambition is the keynote; and affection is in its best and purest mood. The life of a university officer is in many respects the most ideal that exists. The minister meets everywhere sorrow and sickness and death. The lawyer struggles against dishonesty, dissipation, and fraud. The physician is almost wholly occupied with want and pain and suffering. With the college professor and the college president, it is essentially different. They have to deal with all that is uplifting in life, with the constructive and not the destructive forces of life. The satisfaction which this brings, no man can describe."