THE LIBERATING ARTS
On various occasions President Upham had said: "Miami has
everything that money cannot buy." In November 1952 appeared a
volume entitled Financing Higher Education in the United
States, by John D. Millett, professor of public administration at
Columbia University and executive director of the Commission on
Financing Higher Education. The book was concerned with what
money can buy for colleges and universities.
In the winter of 1952-53 a committee of Miami trustees and faculty met repeatedly at the Queen City Club in Cincinnati. Around the table sat C. Vivian Anderson, John B. Whitlock, Hugh C. Nichols, J. Paul McNamara, Wayne L. Listerman, Larz R. Hammel, and Professors Robert F. Almy and Howard White. In consultation with them were Reuben Robertson, Jr., president of the Champion Paper and Fibre Company, and Marvin Pierce, Miami '16, president of the McCall Corporation. That spring they made their recommendation, and the Board of Trustees elected as the sixteenth president of Miami University John D. Millett. In September Lewis Place was alive with three Millett boys, a stream of callers, and a restless young president and his wife. Catherine Millett soon had the affection of both town and gown. Between the tasks of furnishing Lewis Place and getting her family settled, she studied the University directory. At the president's reception a few weeks later she seemed to know the entire staff. With her effortless warmth and charm she instantly won them all.
President Millett was a native of Indiana and an honor graduate of DePauw University, and he voiced a satisfaction on his return to the Midwest. He was just forty-one, but he had been away for twenty wide-ranging and eventful years. Upon graduation from DePauw in 1933, he had gone with his honors professor, Harold Zink, on a year-long trip around the world. "Travel," wrote Francis Bacon, "in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience." For tall young John Millett it was a part of education, permanently stretching his mind and enlarging his perspective. The Wanderjahr, a capstone to his undergraduate studies in political science, was followed by graduate study at Columbia University and an appointment to its faculty. But his training, interests and capacities led beyond the classroom. Along with some specialized teaching he served on government and educational commissions. Early in the war he was commissioned a major in the United States Army and he rose to the rank of colonel in the Army Service Forces. After the war he was assigned to the headquarters of the European Command in Germany. Returning to the Columbia faculty in 1947, he also served on the Hoover Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government, and in 1949 he was made executive director of the Commission on Financing Higher Education.
At a time when Miami was facing new problems and opportunities it was the institution's good fortune to have the leadership of a vigorous young administrator widely acquainted with the men and movements of American higher education. The simple provincialism of the Old Miami had faded into tradition. President Millett, without personal memories of the dreaming old college, could direct its development into new avenues and dimensions. Bold, impatient, always looking ahead, he respected the Miami past but he did not confuse it with its future. With the widest-ranging mind of all Miami presidents, he was equally at home in scholarship and in administration. He loved travel; his favorite cities were Peking and Rome. He liked bright red motor cars. To the president's office he brought a national point of view and an idea of a big, busy, varied university unified by a community academic life.
At his inauguration in Withrow Court on a cloudless October day in 1953 President Millett stressed the importance of broad and thorough college education. As a foundation for professional skills he wanted every student to gain a comprehension of the vast range of man's intellectual effort. A few months later he proposed a major change in the Miami curriculum. Under his chairmanship a faculty committee planned the content of a Common Curriculum, which was adopted in 1954. It laid down general requirements for students in all divisions, designed to acquaint them with "the magnificent boundaries of human knowledge and to emphasize the attributes of the humane man, whether his special interest be in the arts, in philosophy, in social organization, or in science." Though there were choices and options within the program which made the curriculum something less than common, this was a means of restoring, in an increasingly disparate university, a basic comprehension of the realm of knowledge.
In the twentieth century America had developed a belief that all must be educated and yet there was nothing in particular that an educated person must know. Now Miami was joining the movement toward a general education, a common body of knowledge and discipline which could become a basis for shared purposes and aspirations. It had been observed that the old disciplines of Rhetoric, Logic, Classical Literature, Natural and Moral Philosophy, were all but lost in the proliferating new curricula, and their absence left a vacuum quickly filled with opportunistic and vocational studies--studies designed to aid the individual as a competitor rather than as a citizen and a human being. Yet it was the discarded disciplines that had produced the modern democratic state, and without them new generations could not understand the creative principles of their own society. The Common Curriculum aimed to bring all Miami students to an awareness of the nature of the universe and of man's place in it and of his destiny.
To the enlarging Miami came an increased awareness of the role of the university in scholarly research. It was recognized that Miami's largest task is the teaching of undergraduates, and that resources did not permit the acquiring of extensive research facilities and the freeing of the faculty from a demanding classroom schedule. Yet encouragement was given to scholarly production, and certain new facilities were provided. The Pickrel Fund, the President's Fund, and funds of the Miami University Foundation and of the Alumni Association provided assistance for research programs. Grants from national institutions and foundations and from government and industry supported specific projects. In place of the older sabbatical leave--inaugurated by President Benton in order to send his faculty to Europe--there was announced a system of Service Leave, which would provide time to be devoted to fruitful scholarly projects. The post of "Research Professor" allowed a partial release from academic routine for the furthering of professional and scholarly production.
The growth of the graduate division and plans for its further development were evidenced by the creating of the Graduate School. In 1957 Professor W. E. Smith relinquished the chairmanship of the history department to become full-time dean of the Graduate School, and graduate programs, already extensive in the School of Education, were strengthened in other divisions and departments. Fifty years ago it had been agreed among the state universities of Ohio that specialized and professional training would be centered at The Ohio State University. By the 1950's it was evident that this arrangement must be changed. Ohio, in terms of its wealth and population, was lagging in production of fully-trained scholars. At Miami the Graduate Council undertook to strengthen the advanced study at the level of the master's degree and to consider extension to the Ph.D. degree level at a later date. Plans for a Miami University publication imprint, in cooperation with the Columbia University Press, were being made as the Sesquicentennial year, 1959, approached.
The growth of the University demanded a new Administration Building. Its locations as a part of the new east quadrangle moved the center of the campus into a region that had been deep forest until the twentieth century. During its construction in 1955 workmen felled a massive white oak whose rings showed it to be two hundred forty-three years old; it was a sturdy sapling when Celoron de Bienville journeyed down the Ohio River claiming the valley for Louis XV of France. Sawed into railing it became some thousands of feet of green campus fence to protect the grass from students in a hurry. Not without controversy the chimneyed and colonnadded building went up. A university with an architecture department must embrace some architectural convictions which depart from the eighteenth century designs choseen for the Miami campus. An effect of controversy was to modify certain elements in the design of the new buildings, yet the Miami architecture, generally, remained conservative, as the college has been in other ways.
The Miami of the 1950's was in a constant state of construction. On the women's campus the war-time Lodges came down and new residence halls went up. Scott and Porter halls were named for two young women of old Oxford, Caroline Scott, the wife of Benjamin Harrison, and Elizabeth Porter, the wife of David Swing. The new East Dining Hall, seating five hundred fifty, was built in the woods beyond The Pines, and near it went up the newest hall of the freshman campus. William Dennison Hall recalled a gifted man and a notable career. Graduated from Miami in 1835 and admitted to the bar in 1840, William Dennison married the daughter of William Neil of Columbus, founder of a historic stage line and famous hotel. Elected governor of Ohio in 1860, Dennison asserted strong Union leadership. He sent Ohio troops to the western counties of Virginia, which were generally opposed to secession, with the rest that thirty-four counties withdrew from the Old Dominion and entered the Union as the State of West Virginia. He served as president of the Republican National Convention that re-nominated Lincoln and he became Postmaster-General in Lincoln's cabinet. In this office he was retained by President Johnson but he resigned when Johnson began to assail the Union party. Governor Dennison then returned to his railroad and business interests in Columbus. He died in 1882, but in 1956 his name came back to the Miami campus.
That winter a centennial was celebrated at Fisher Hall. Now sharing its grounds with five other freshman residence halls housing nearly a thousand men, the old towered building had long stood alone on its spacious campus. In its past was a sequence of men and women, old and young, burdened and carefree. First were the Oxford College girls, singing their songs on the verandah and strolling the campus paths. Then for forty years the patients of the Oxford Retreat looked out barred windows at bubbling fountains on the terrace and peacocks sunning in the grass. During the years of World War II the building furnished quarters for hundreds of Naval trainees who learned radio code at rows of transmitters on plank tables in the former laundry. And now, a century old, the hall resounded with the life of Miami freshmen.
To round out the residence hall system, construction began in 1957 on spacious grounds south of the Veterans' Village of a group of buildings to provide small apartments for married students. And all the way across the town, on Tallawanda Road, where once the University had a forestry experimental planting, ground was broken for two new residence halls for upperclassmen.
Planning for the University's physical development had been for forty-five years the sustained interest and responsibility of Wallace P. Roudebush. As a boy he had walked, through rain and snow and sunshine, from a farm on the Brown Road to classes in the preparatory department. As a Miami undergraduate he was a leader in almost everything, and upon his graduation in 1911 President Hughes selected him as "secretary to the president." His first undertakings were to refurnish the two men's halls, which had but recently been equipped with electricity and running water, and to pay off the debts of the Athletic Association. Living in the house that McGuffey had built across from the old south gate of the college yard, he had a warm feeling for Miami's past, but in his mind was a constantly enlarging picture of its future. The quadrangles, the buildings, the gardens, the playing fields were all developed from the master plan in his mind. He directed the University's physical growth from ten buildings in 1911 to sixty at the time of his death. He managed the University financing that extended the residence halls from four to twenty-six. At Columbus he represented Miami with the State Legislature a big, virile, quiet-spoken man mingling with the committee members. In that smoky atmosphere men saw his shining integrity and they gave him their unreserved esteem and respect.
His sudden death in April, 1956, came at the time of the completion of the Administration Building. At the building's dedication in June Governor Frank J. Lausche paid warm tribute to Wallace Roudebush as an embodiment of the best character and aspirations of Miami University. Into his dual office of business and financial management went Foster J. Cole, business manager, and Lloyd Goggin, treasurer. And in the marble foyer of the new building was placed a memorial plaque to Wallace P. Roudebush.
A final detail of the Administration Building was a flagpole to be erected in front of the colonnade and to replace the weathered old flagstaff on the west tower of Harrison Hall. The new pole, a gift of alumni, was delivered on a bright April day in 1957. A tapered, tubular steel shaft, to be topped by a spread-winged gold eagle, it lay on the ground beside the cement base and was given two coats of paint. When a derrick arrived to raise it, on the morning of April 25th, the lawn was empty. The pole weighed 2965 pounds and was 77 feet long, but it had disappeared. President Millett, already ruffled by the fact that Northwestern University, after having lured away Miami's football coaching staff had just that week hired Miami's successful basketball coach, asked, "Northwestern get the flagpole, too?" But it was not that far away. It was found in the woods below Upham Hall, where some scores of grunting students had carried it at midnight. The pole was erected and the flag fluttered in the April sky.
In the summer of 1956 in the newly-enlarged library Professor E. W. King turned over his office to L. S. Dutton. When Mr. King came to Miami in the fall of 1922 the tree at the Library doorway was plopping ripe persimmons on the steps and the Library contained 55,000 volumes. When he left ,the persimmons were still falling but the library had grown to 305,000 volumes and each of its... and each of its two new wings was larger than the original building. In these years Mr. King added greatly to the Ohio Valley Historical Collection, he built up a famous McGuffey Collection, and he personally made a distinguished collection of children's literature which the University acquired at his retirement. The library is the heart of the university. Nowhere had Miami developed more significantly in the twentieth century than in its library.
On Alumni Day, in June 1957, while the biggest of all alumni reunions was gathering on the green below Reid Hall, another tie with the past was broken. Word passed through the crowd that Dean Brandon had died. He had come to Miami in 1898 as a young professor of Romanic languages. Since then, he had served as vice-president, dean, and acting president. He had seen Miami grow from sixty college students to nearly six thousand. His gifts to Miami, in addition to a lifetime of teaching and administration, included Brandon Field, in the new fraternity square on Tallawanda Road, and a language laboratory for more effective teaching of foreign languages.
In this year, to the recent retirement of Professors Edwards, Brill, McConnell, Beneke and Craver, was added that of Professors William E. Shideler of geology and Joseph Mayer of economics. The emeritus list was growing.
In the summer of 1957 workmen put the finishing touches on the University Center. The spacious building had required removal of the old McFarland house across from the entrance to Western College, though the dark Canadian hemlocks which Professor McFarland had planted were left to murmur in the winds. The building was opened in September, 1957, being first used for the president's reception at the beginning of the year. In the following days students and their parents streamed through the building, student organizations moved into new quarters in the west wing, and the entire academic community found new facilities for social and recreational activity. The old alumni gathering place was the big walnut tree beside the Bishop house, where "Old Bobby" called by name every visitor from years gone by. The Center would become the meeting place of Miami alumni and visitors for generations to come.
With its lighted portico inviting through the wooded campus, the University Center offered many new facilities. It had a book store, ball room, music listening room, reading room, game rooms, dining rooms and lounges--comforts that were not thought of when the students of Old Miami lounged around the college well. It contained a University Club, an idea that would have puzzled Professor McFarland lighting his way home with a lantern on moonless nights. Half a century ago the McFarland house, with its orchard, garden, and a tag of hayfield, had seemed remote from the college yard. But now it was a "Center" location, between the east campus, site of seven of the men's halls, and the spacious women's quadrangles, with residence buildings and Harvey Hiestand Hall, the new Fine Arts building, growing up beyond it. All those acres had once been cattle pasture.
Yet the aim of the college and its essential effort remained the same as in the generations past. In 1957 President Millett wrote a small book with wide horizons. Distributed to freshmen and to seniors, The Liberating Arts was both an introduction to the higher learning and an over-view of the fields of scholarship. In five brief and luminous essays it described the realm of knowledge, beginning with the Humanities, surveying the Social Sciences and the Natural Sciences, discussing Philosophy as a capstone of knowledge, and concluding with the place of Religion in the higher education.
The book was wholly in the Miami spirit and tradition. It describes the endeavor of the colleges "to give their students some sense of the scope of man's knowledge, some understanding of the exciting history of its development, some awareness of how knowledge accumulates, some appreciation for the worth of intellectual achievement, some discriminating judgment amid the conflicting claims of truth, sensitivity to the limitations of knowledge, and an intellectual devotion to the values of a good life." It viewed knowledge as a necessary technique in vocation or profession, and also as a source of personal satisfaction and of enlightenment in daily life. It saw the liberal arts as liberating arts--which first made the individual free as a person and then helped to broaden the freedom of the individual in society. It suggested that knowledge as technique and knowledge as satisfaction are not antithetical but complementary; both, indeed, are essential in our society. So it called upon the student to take up the endless quest for knowledge. One could not expect to finish that journey, to arrive at the end of the mind's seeking. But an old Spanish proverb says "The Road is always better than the Inn," and it is the nature of the scholar to travel hopefully.