"Our horizon," wrote Henry David Thoreau, "is never quite at our
elbows." What was evident from a hut on Walden Pond is more
apparent from a college window. A university always has prospects,
new problems, new opportunities, new glimpses of expanding
knowledge and new perceptions of the role of higher learning in an
always changing world. When the Ohio Board of Regents published in
1965 the Provisional Master Plan for Public Higher Education in
Ohio, it might have been entitled Our Horizon.
The U.S. census of 1960 showed that Ohio was the 5th state in population and the 11th in per capita income. Yet in per capita support of higher education Ohio stood 39th. California spent $32 per capita on its institutions of higher learning, Texas $15.09, Illinois $14.60. Ohio spent $13.14, and its state universities charged the highest fees. "In Ohio," John D. Millett noted in 1962, "nearly half of our college students are in the state universities; our hope for excellence in higher education rests with our public institutions."
The Ohio Board of Regents, created in 1963, was charged with framing "a master plan for higher education in the state, considering the needs of the people, the needs of the state, and the role of individual public and private institutions within the state in fulfilling these needs." The plan began with the bold statement that the colleges and universities of Ohio should expand their enrollment from 242,000 in 1964 to 410,000 in 1970, to 560,000 in 1975, and to 650,000 in 1980. To accomplish all this it was projected that the state-assisted colleges, with combined enrollment of 146,000 in 1964, would have to make room for 265,000 students in 1970, 395,000 in 1975, and 470,000 in 1980. Such growth would require the creating of new institutions, including a number of community colleges, and the rapid expansion of existing universities. The recommendation for Miami: "Miami University in Oxford should be primarily a residential campus, with particular attention given to upper division instructional programs in arts and sciences, teacher education, business administration, fine arts, and applied science; to graduate programs at the Master's level in these same fields, and to Doctor's programs in selected fields of excellence." It was recommended that on its Oxford campus Miami University should give increasing attention to upper division and graduate level instruction; enrollment was projected to a maximum, in the 1970's, of 15,000 students. After the two-year program at the branch campuses in Middletown and Hamilton, qualified students could transfer to the Oxford campus. The enrollment of resident graduate students was expected to reach a total of 1,500.
As it approached the 1970's historic Miami University was more a part of a system than ever in its past. The Board of Trustees was reduced from twenty-seven to nine members; a quarter calendar was instituted throughout the state universities; a statewide formula of subsidy was based on enrollment of underclassmen, upperclassmen and candidates for Masters' and Doctors' degrees. After a long history of self-government, Miami was being drawn closer to the other state universities and to administrative agencies in Columbus.
Bigness became a new concern in the old village of Oxford, which now had parking problems, weekend traffic lines and five o'clock rush following the closing of university offices. A serenity had gone from town and campus. The old slant walk streamed with students, and on Friday afternoon High Street overflowed. While the Millett Assembly Hall was under construction the spring Commencement was held in double sessions, morning and afternoon; Withrow Court could not hold the graduating class and its guests. With 10,000 students expected in residence halls by 1972 and another 3,000 in fraternities and apartments, more growth was on the horizon.
The Master Plan for State Policy in Higher Education, published in 1966, projected a limit of 3,000 freshman residential students on the Oxford campus, one-fifth of them from states other than Ohio. Freshman and sophomore enrollment would total about 5,000, upperclassmen 7,000, graduate students some 2,000. In 1967 Miami accepted its first candidates for the Ph.D. in English, geology and botany. In 1968 doctoral programs were begun in history, political science, microbiology and psychology, with prospective programs in economics, chemistry, and personnel and guidance.
With more students Miami also was attracting better students. President Shriver reported in 1967 that the quality of the freshman class was the highest among all state-assisted institutions in Ohio and very high among all public institutions in the United States. Competition for admission had never been so keen. Three-fourths of the entering women came from the top 15 percent of their high school classes, and three-fourths of the men came from the top third. Test scores showed 79 percent of Miami freshmen ranking above the national norm for all universities. These students, better prepared than any previous generation, proved themselves in the college classroom. In 1967 more than 5,000 undergraduates were named to the Dean's List. By 1968 nearly a thousand were enrolled in Honors courses, where students met in small informal groups or in tutorial conference on an independent project. The development of Honors work was a priority of the growing university.
While the trimester schedule was in effect, 1956 to 1969, many students and faculty used the mid-April to September interval for foreign travel, study and research. Charter flights took Miami parties to Europe at minimum rates; during the summer Miamians crossed paths in cities form London to Athens, from Stockholm to Madrid. On exchange or Fulbright professorships, members of the faculty taught in England, Scotland, Nigeria, India, Japan, Iraq and Iran. Meanwhile, foreign students brought a cosmopolitan aspect to the Miami campus. In 1968 foreign enrollment totaled 102 students from 44 countries; more than half were from Asia and Africa. Twenty-eight of the number were graduate students, most of them seeking degrees in some field of science. In 1966-67 a distinguished Chinese author, Mrs. Eileen Chang Reyher, spent the year on campus as a visiting foreign scholar. During that year five students from the School of Education were doing apprentice teaching in the American school at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands; another group taught in the English language school operated in the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Still other student teachers were at schools in Rome, Athens, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris and Vienna. Meanwhile, under a grant from the Division of Foreign Studies, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Miami entered upon an exchange of both faculty and students with the University of Parana, Brazil. To the Miami curriculum were added Slavic and European studies, Latin American studies and Asian-African studies. In 1968 a Center for International Studies was established under the direction of Charles B. Fahs, formerly of the U.S. State Department. International affairs were broadening Miami's horizon.
After a year of study and planning, Miami established a study center in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. First planned for inauguration in 1969, the program found such ready response that it opened a year earlier. Under direction of Professor Warren Mason of the Political Science department, 38 students began their studies in the bilingual old city on the Moselle River. Students lived as paying guests with Luxembourg families. Courses in German and French, humanities and history, and social sciences were conducted by Professors Marcy Powell, Delbert Snider and John Romano, with special lectures offered by European scholars. Except for the language instruction, classes were taught in English. Miami students at Luxembourg enjoyed an intensive European experience combined with normal progress toward a degree. An orientation tour and a ski holiday were added attractions.
Back in Oxford, on the south campus beyond the University Center, rose the new Center for Performing Arts, with stages, halls and studios for music and theater. When the cornerstone was laid, Professor Homer Abegglen recalled, for a reunion of theater students of the past four decades, the former Towers Theatre in the original chapel room of the old Main Building.
The Miami University theater had begun in 1903, under the direction of Professor Loren Gates; in 1911 he organized Ye Merrie Players. In 1928 Professor Abegglen arrived from the Yale Drama School, and Mr. Gates had a technical director. The fall and spring plays were presented in Benton Auditorium, with the rest of the program consigned to the makeshif Towers Theatre in old Macon Hall. That theater to the chapel room of the old college, had no dressing rooms; the cast donned costumes in classrooms down the hall. It had a pair of spotlights trained on a slightly raised platform with hand-drawn curtains. For want of an exit right, players had to climb through a window and run around the building. Across the hall, in a onetime recitation room, was the workshop, cluttered with screens, old stage sets, piles of furniture and rows of paint and glue pots. The whole place, with the south sun slanting through dusty windows, was filmed with sawdust. When water was needed, a stage hand lugged it from the men's room at the far end of the hallway. All this lack of facility, Doc Abegglen recalled, sieved out the dilettantes and stimulated inventiveness. The vitality of the Towers Theatre came from within.
When the old Main Building came down in 1958, the University theater moved to Fisher Hall, then abandoned as a dormitory. With the former dining room converted to a half-round theater, and the former manager's suite used as a director's quarters and the Post Office wicket as a box office, the Fisher Hall theater soon developed a tradition of its own. Students cheerfully made the long walk for castings, rehearsals and stage chores; their reward was the experience of mutual discipline and enterprise, of working together, under direction, in an artistic endeavor. Though it included professional training, this theater was a part of education.
In 1966 the Miami University Summer Theater, under Professor Donald Rosenberg, offered its first season. People from Oxford and miles around parked their cars in the twilight, strolled through the gardens and gathered in the tiered seats of Fisher Hall for the curtain. For three seasons a repertoire of Brecht, Ibsen, Shaw, Thurber, and Rogers and Hammerstein enlivened the summer nights of Oxford.
A hundred years ago the Miami alumni gathered for an annual supper under the spreading walnut tree beside the vanished Bishop house across from present Ogden Hall. They had talks and storytelling by the light of paper lanterns, and at last they all joined hands in "Auld Lang Syne." In the 1960's Alumni Director John Dolibois began working for an Alumni House, a center for alumni records and organization, a library for alumni publications and memorabilia, a meeting place for alumni groups. A location was chosen, at the southwestern corner of the campus, on the hill overlooking Collins Run. On a bright June day in 1968 the Murstein Alumni Center and adjoining Climer Guest Lodge were dedicated. Now the university community, as well as the Alumni Association, had a handsome social center built entirely by gifts of alumni and friends. Its first formal use came with an English Department Centennial reception on April 6, 1968.
In 1966 the Alumni Loyalty Fund listed contributions of $502,000, more than one-third of the alumni participating; no other public university in the nation matched that proportion. For general excellence of its alumni program the American Alumni Council ranked Miami in the top one percent among all colleges and universities. At that time the traditional Loyalty Fund became the Miami University Fund, in recognition of increased support from nonalumni, corporations and foundations. Under Vice-President Dolibois the Office of Development anticipated growing support of university programs from sources other than the State of Ohio. Across Chestnut Street from the Alumni Center, Grey Gables had been moved to the campus corner, where it housed the Admissions Office. On the former grounds of Grey Gables rose new residence halls, named for A. K. Morris and Bertha M. Emerson, who were warmly remembered by Miamians of the second quarter of the twentieth century. These halls formed part of a projected residence quadrangle across from the broad green of Western College.
During the hard times of the 1860's the annual Miami catalogue included the statement: "Tuition and room rent must invariably be paid in advance, or no reduction or drawback is allowed; and if not paid by the student it is charged to the Faculty who are made responsible to the Board of Trustees for it." For several years the last thirteen words were italicized, though there is no record of attaching faculty salaries for unpaid student fees. In the 1960's a major project of the development program was to create scholarship funds for widespread student aid.
Half a century ago President Hughes announced annual university goals for the next year, the next decade and the next century. Some of the objectives were immediate, concerning academic schedules, buildings and fees. Others were perennial and timeless: "Encourage in every way friendliness throughout Miami. . . . Retain at all costs personal relations between students and faculty. . . . Develop small colleges within universities. . . . Work for closer understanding among state institutions." By 1924 he envisioned a student body of 1,500, which would grow in a decade to 2,500, and in the twenty-first century would reach 5,000. But change came faster than anyone could foresee. Compare the artist-in-residence for whom President Hughes provided a cabin in the campus forest with the artist-in- residence fifty years later: Percy MacKaye walked between his home on Maple Street and his rustic retreat, but pianist David Bean divided his time between Oxford and New York studio, with annual concert tours abroad. Not only in size but in problems and opportunities Miami became a university as changed from that of the 1920's as it was then different from the old college of a century ago.
Yet Miami has a certain permanence. It still shapes and characterizes its community; it is still a little removed from the swift currents of time. Though most of its buildings are modern, some old landmarks stand, and the names of Bishop, Scott, McBride, McGuffey, Elliot, Stoddard, Hepburn and McFarland are still at home on the wide spreading campus. Much of the old forest is gone, but green space remains, and every spring the redbud blooms among white sycamore trunks along the Tallawanda.
Returning to Oxford four years after graduation, a member of the Class of 1960 wrote: "I walked today in a college quadrangle, and the past came back to walk with me. As I followed the familiar paths the years gone by said 'Walk softly, walk quietly, for here are the quiet years, the learning years, the noisy years, the cynical years, the idealistic years.'" Time brings endless changes to a college campus, but youth is always confused, ardent, troubled, hopeful. Three and a half centuries ago, in times as turbulent as the 1960's, John Donne declared: "The University is a paradise; rivers of knowledge are there, arts and sciences flow from thence." That paradise is a place of discovery, and its paths are trod by an endless procession of youth. In his woodland studio where now the campus traffic flows, Percy MacKaye wrote:
Trees of Miami, beautiful trees,
What do you dream in your reveries?
. . . Truth, remembrance, youth, of these
You brood in your ancient reveries.