Chapter XXII

MIAMI MURAL


   In the summer of 1962 on a vacation trip to the Seattle Exposition, President and Mrs. Millett and their young son, Stephen, stopped at the cottage of Professor and Mrs. Edwin Fulwider on the rim of Lake Couer d'Alene in northern Idaho. The mountain cottage was bright with western paintings, but there was another painting in President Millett's mind. After supper, while twilight colored the waters of the lake, he talked about a panorama, covering an entire wall, that would depict Miami history.
    In Oxford a new wing of the University Center, to provide added dining space, was extended eastward toward Patterson Avenue. The ground floor would become an addition to the Redskin Reservation snack bar. The second floor would provide an enlarged 1809 Room and a cafeteria with windows looking toward Western College. The third floor would become a banquet room; for the 900 square feet of its inner wall President Millett proposed a Fulwider painting that would narrate 150 years of university tradition.
   Next morning, with the Milletts on the road again, Edwin Fulwider was left to think about the problems of a painting that would dwarf the painter. Big subjects were natural to him--he had done western mining towns and windy mountain passes--but he had never worked from stepladders and staging. He began there in his summer studio, sketching figures and episodes of a pictorial narrative. In September he brought to Oxford a panel 36 inches long; it would be enlarged 24 times for the finished work.
    That fall with the new wing of the Center under construction, work on the mural began in the roomy studio of WMUB-TV behind Bonham House. On a plywood panel 68 by 13 feet the original 36-inch sketch was enlarged to a half-size drawing in pastels. Consulting university histories, photograph albums and books of architecture, costume and local history, the artist delineated the changing college. On the wall of that silent studio went students declaiming in the old Literary Halls, marching off to war, cheering their first football team, crowding lecture rooms and concert halls.
   The half-size drawing, 34 feet long and 6 feet high, was photographed in six segments by the Audio-Visual staff. Overhead film positives were then projected and enlarged on a Belgian canvas 70 by 18 1/2 feet. In three long working days Professor and Mrs. Fulwider traced the entire mural. Then came the coloring--clean, fresh colors dominated by Miami red and white--from more than two hundred jars of oil paint. The last brushstroke went on in June, and the Fulwiders headed west for the summer in Idaho.
   In September, 1963, the new wing of the Center was complete. In the WMUB studio eleven men rolled the huge canvas on a 15-foot tube and lowered it into a sling. Trucked to the Center, it was carried up to the new banquet room. There the west wall was coated with an adhesive of white lead and Venice turpentine, a formula from fifteenth-century Italy. Unrolling the canvas and pressing it to the wall was a day's work. It fitted there like a glove. That fall a student competition for the naming of the banquet hall produced a happy designation; it became the Heritage Room.
   In June of 1962 the president of the graduating class had presented the class gift--a check to provide the Miami Mural. On Homecoming Day in October of 1963 the handsome Heritage Room was dedicated. Visitors found a light, spacious, colorful banquet hall with red carpet, red chairs and white tables and with the heritage unfolded on the wide west wall. There in lively colors and lilting design were hundreds of life-size figures, a score of campus scenes and a skyline of the seasons with the roofs and towers of twenty-five college buildings. The story began with a surveyor sighting the campus boundaries in the forest; it ended with students before a classroom TV screen. On that Homecoming Day delighted visitors pointed out McGuffey at his eight-sided desk, students rolling snow into the Old Main Building, the arrival of the girls of Oxford College, Professor Stoddards's science lecture, young Ben Harrison beside bonneted Carolina Scott on a college bench, the bicyclists of the 1890's, the Centennial Commencement, the MacKaye studio in the woods, the G.I. students of Vetville after World War II, the Hiestand Gallery, the chapel spire, the timeless Tallawanda picnic twosome, the new Harrison towers against the sky. Already the class gift of 1962 was enhancing the heritage.
   To explore that panoramic painting a program of narrative, music and moving spotlight was created by Professor Paul Yeazell of the Miami broadcasting service. For scores of groups and organizations a Heritage Room dinner was followed by the narration of "The Biography of a University." One picture is worth ten thousand words. That winter after an all-day snowfall a group of students on the midnight campus reenacted the 1848 rebellion, blocking a doorway of the new Harrison Hall with a barricade of snow.
   Meanwhile the university was expanding. On the south campus on a bright September morning in 1961 Chairman E. W. Nippert of the Board of Trustees presented five buildings--McCracken, Dodds, Anderson and Stanton halls and the Harris Dining Center. They were accepted by Dean of Students R. F. Etheridge. It was the biggest dedication in Miami history.
   The old was not lost in the new. In the same month the McGuffey Museum acquired the McGuffey Collection of Miss Maude Blair of Detroit. With the addition of those three hundred volumes, including proofsheets of two editions, rare McGuffey Primers, and German and Spanish editions of the Readers, the Miami collection surpassed those of both the Ford Museum and the Library of Congress. Acquired by the university in 1960 as a gift from the Emma Gould Blocher Foundation, the historic McGuffey House, now in the midst of the expanding campus, provided a natural setting for the McGuffey Collection. In a Charter Day ceremony on February 17, 1966, the McGuffey House was designated by the National Park Service as a national historic landmark.
   During the 1961 Commencement weekend Miami athletic history was recalled at a retirement dinner for George L. Rider, who had completed forty-four years of coaching. In 1917 his first Miami football team had compiled a season score of 202 to 0. Since then George Rider had made his own name and Miami track teams known throughout the country.
   On the south campus, near the women's residence halls, a new Herron Hall for women's physical education was opened in October 1962. Speakers at the dedication were Larz Hammel and John B. Whitlock of the Board of Trustees; Cincinnati Councilman Charles P . Taft, grandson of John W. Herron, for whom the building was named; and Professor Margaret Phillips, head of Miami women's physical and health education for more than forty years.
   When Withrow Court was opened in 1930 its 3,000-seat capacity looked large enough for any Miami crowd in the next hundred years. It was outgrown long before 1966, when the gymnasium space was doubled though the central arena could not be enlarged. Visitors to the New Withrow Court dedication lingered along the trophy cases and the tradition-laden halls. There were pictures of the athletic squads of sixty-two years, of coaches and athletic directors, of individual record holders in track and field. To the Olympic games Miami had sent sprinter James Gordon, finalist at Los Angeles in 1952; Bill Mulliken, who led the world's swimmers in the 200-meter breaststroke at Rome in 1960; and Bob Schul, winner of the 5,000-meter race at Tokyo in 1964. Jay Colville, a veteran of the Miami athletic staff, went to Australia in 1956 as trainer for the United States boxing team.
   Miami's football story became national news in 1959. In that season the coaches of three of the top four teams in the country, according to the Associated Press ratings, were graduates of "little Miami." Number one was Louisiana State, coached by Paul Dietzel, '48. Number three was Army, under its veteran coach Red Blaik, '18. Next came Northwestern, coached by Ara Parseghian, '49. In professional football the leading teams of both Western and Eastern divisions were coached by Miami graduates--Paul Brown, '30, with his Cleveland Browns and Weeb Ewbank, '28, with the Baltimore Colts.
   In January, 1959, Paul Dietzel spoke at a Miami assembly in Benton Hall; that night at a New York dinner he was named Coach of the Year. In the same month Ewbank, whose team had defeated the New York Giants for the world title, was named Professional Coach of the Year. As reported in the Miami Alumnus, Ewbank's clinching victory showed "the kind of precision and determination typical of Cleveland Browns teams which had won six straight professional world championships under guidance of Paul Brown, Miami, '30, 1950 through 1955, and of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers who won the World Series under Walter (Smokey) Alston, Miami, '36, as manager."
   How does Miami do it? sportswriters were asking--how does little Miami of Ohio, where the stadium is a joke and the low-key recruiting is controlled by the rules of a small conference, consistently field fine teams and produce brilliant coaches? At the Miami All-Sports banquet of 1958 Ara Parseghian gave a wholehearted answer. "Because of its tradition, environment, athletic ability and academic standing, I am proud to be associated with Miami University," he said. "I hope you members of Miami's squad will come to realize what those things can mean."
   On October 25, 1959, the New York Sunday News ran a two-page feature on "Miami of Ohio, Whose Sons Shine," pointing out that without overemphasizing sports Miami had produced a number of outstanding coaches. "No college," it declared, "has even remotely approached the record of Miami grads in the massive assault on the top rung of the coaching profession."
   After the Purdue game in 1961 Athletic Director John L. Brickels had a letter from the manager of the Purdue Memorial Union noting that "your football squad was complimented by our foods staff as the most exemplary football players in their experience of feeding football teams." On an autumn visit to Oxford strapping Governor Frank Lausche, coming out of a convocation at Withrow Court with students swarming around him, asked, "Where is the football team?" They were not ganged up in their red and white sweaters but were scattered among the student body. At about that time Economics Professor R. E. Berry remarked in print on "the excellent impression that our athletes make here and away, the absence of strutting, arrogant campus athletes.. and the very evident fact that neither receive nor expect special consideration in academic affairs." He credited it to the general university atmosphere and the caliber of the student body. But, he added, "much of the credit must go to the coaches."
   An odd part of Miami's football tradition is that its most reverberating victories have come away from home. After a quiet Saturday afternoon in Oxford, cheers have filled the town when the final whistle sounded in some Big Ten stadium. One of those times was October 13, 1962. Chanting "Miami 10, Purdue 7," students swarmed down to empty Miami Field and tore up both the north and the south goalposts. Back up High Street they marched, raising the goalposts in the middle of High Street in front of Snyder's and the Purity. Traffic used the side streets while the October dusk came on. At ten o'clock that night 5,000 cheering students closed in on the busload of returning players. They carried Coach John Pont and his team on their shoulders to Withrow Court . Next morning a sign in front of the Deke House announced "Rose Bowl Tickets for Sale Here." Five years later Coach Pont took a team to Pasadena. After a winning season at Yale, where he was succeeded by Carmen Cozza, his Miami classmate of 1952, he led the Indiana Hoosiers to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day, 1968.
   Commenting on the term "little Miami," an editorial in the Akron Beacon-Journal observed that "a more descriptive term for Purdue's conquerors would be 'Old Miami.' Founded in 1809 the school was sixty years old when Purdue was founded. Among the ranking twenty [in national football] only the University of Maryland (1807) has a longer history than Miami's." The mellow history of Miami was not overlooked by sports reporters. A New York writer summed it up: "Far from being a football factory, Miami of Ohio is an idyll of the healthiest traditions of American campus life, where a lack of over-emphasis produces a more well-rounded man."
   By 1960 the university had outgrown Withrow Court, and a new 9,000-seat assembly hall was planned for convocations, commencements, all-university concerts and basketball games. It was to occupy Cook Field at the eastern end of the central campus. On second thought the Trustees reconsidered: a huge arena would dwarf the academic buildings and would deprive Miami of the open green, alive at all seasons with athletic practice and intra-mural sports, that made so inviting a prospect. In the summer of 1966 construction began on the former fairway at the bend of North Tallawanda Avenue.
   The final basketball game was played in Withrow Court on March 2, 1968, with 3,914 spectators crowded in. The game was lost to a nationally ranked team from Dayton, but it was a night charged with history. While the record crowd gave ovations to both teams and coaches, to the graduating seniors, to President Shriver and the women sponsors of Tribe Miami, there was an awareness of thirty-seven years of tradition--athletics, concerts, commencements, lectures, dances, carnivals and convocations--that haunted Withrow Court. When the crowd streamed out, with a quarter-moon gleaming through the bare March trees, some of them looked down Tallawanda where the dark bulk of the new assembly hall stood against the stars. On December 2 Miami would face the University of Kentucky in that arena, and new traditions would begin to gather there.
   With growing enrollment and mounting pressure for admission the university needed to make the fullest use of its facilities. After a year of study and discussion a trimester calendar was adopted; it became effective in September 1965. With fifteen-week terms between Labor Day and mid-December and between early January and late April, the third, divided term could be scheduled in late spring and summer, with a month's break before the next academic year. By shortening the final examination period a semester's work could be encompassed in a trimester. Students enrolled for three terms could complete a college program in three years; others could use the four-month interval for travel and employment. Freshmen could begin their studies with any term.
   A three-year "experiment" with the trimester plan proved both successful and disappointing. It was good to complete a term before the Christmas holidays, and the Easter recess was gladly traded for an earlier Commencement. Many of the faculty found added time for research and writing. Conferences and workshops increased in number and variety. In the summer of 1968 thirty workshops ranging from Aerospace Education to Problems of Inner-City Schools brought groups, large and small, to the campus for varying periods. Yet no marked increase in use of university facilities was realized, as a booming enrollment for fall and winter shrank to less than half capacity in the third trimester. With war enlarging in Vietnam, draft-deferred men students did not choose to accelerate their college course, and the girls had no reason to hurry through. In the new terms there was an unbroken pace of academic assignment, with no breaks for reading and term papers; one result was a lessening of student course load to fourteen or fifteen hours instead of the traditional sixteen or seventeen. With an April Commencement the spring athletic program was crippled and a new generation of students went through Miami without experiencing the magic "spring in Oxford."
   In the late 1960's calendar became a stubborn question with students, faculty and the university administration. The question was intensified when the expanded state university system was urged to adopt a common quarter calendar. Miami, jealous of its historic autonomy and dubious of the eleven-week quarter term, was not persuaded. A 1967 survey showed preponderant support, by both students and faculty, for the trimester plan. But the urging for statewide uniformity increased, and in December 1967, the Miami Trustees voted to adopt the quarter calendar beginning September 1969. In every department of the university, course offerings were reviewed and revised for conversion to a quarter system.
   Though the trimester plan had seemed a progressive innovation, it was far from new at Miami. In December 1867, the Board of Trustees "resolved that the college year should be divided into three sessions," beginning in September, January and April. That three-term schedule was in force for four years from 1868 until 1872 while enrollment dwindled; after a final two-semester year the old college closed its doors in 1873. On this "experiment," almost a century later, the trimester plan again lasted just four years.
   During the winter of 1964 President Millett served as a consultant at the U.S. Office of Education, commuting between Oxford and Washington, where he directed preparations for the operation of the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963; he was also on call at Columbus, where the newly created Board of Regents was shaping a master plan for higher education in Ohio. For thirty years the Council of State Universities had made common cause before the Ohio General Assembly. But more cooperation and far-range planning were needed. To meet those needs the Board of Regents was created, its purview to be the entire state-supported system of higher education in Ohio. The Regents would be headed by a chancellor-director.
   On February 24, 1964, Chairman Larz Hammel of the Miami Board of Trustees received from President Millett a letter that began: "It is with great regret and a genuine touch of sadness that I must hereby tender my resignation as President of Miami University." To the University Senate on March 3 he announced his departure as of June 30. On July 1 he would become Director and Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents.
   That spring both town and gown bade a reluctant farewell to the Milletts. A stag reception for the retiring president at the Oxford Country Club was followed by a dinner in the Heritage Room. Two weeks later President and Mrs. Millett were honored at a faculty dinner under a June moon on the University Center patio, where a John D. Millett Scholarship was announced as a faculty presentation. At the final Millett Commencement in a golden sunset on Miami Field, honorary degrees were awarded to three eminent Miami graduates--novelist Fletcher Knebel, '34, publisher Kenneth M. Grubb, '31, and business management professor John F. Mee, '30.
   President Millett's eleven-year tenure had brought a steady march of development to the university. Enrollment grew from 7,500 (on and off campus) to nearly 15,000. Six classroom, laboratory and administration buildings and extensive new residence facilities were added to the plant. The faculty was strengthened and enlarged. The operating budget increased from five million to fifteen million dollars.
   It was President Millett's suggestion that the new assembly building be named George Washington Hall, commemorating George Washington's signing of the Act of 1792 (amended 1794) that provided for a township to support the university, and that its main entrance might be dignified by the bronze figure of George Washington given to Miami by Samuel Spahr Laws in 1920. But upon President Millett's resignation the trustees unanimously voted that the proposed building should become the John D. Millett Assembly Hall. It would soon begin to rise at the end of Tallawanda Avenue, the site of all-university events of years to come.


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