William Alfred Millis,
The History of Hanover College
From 1827 to 1927

(Hanover, Indiana: Hanover College, 1927).

Hanover Historical Texts Project

Scanned and proofread by Sadiye Amcaoglu, Nida Khan,
Julie Merkel, Jonathan Perry, Faiza Shah, and Cory Sims in November 2000.

Chapter XIII
The Faculty

[Page 208] THE methods of instruction employed in the College have changed in some significant respects during the hundred years. During the first third of the period the attitude of the professors was authoritative and somewhat dictatorial, particularly in the earlier years. The recitation and lecture methods were combined. In the languages the student first mastered the grammar, and then proceeded to read the classics which every educated man was expected to know, with more or less close drill on constructions, and with some considerable practice in original composition in the Latin and Greek. The method was military in spirit, and is in little favor with pedagogists, but it was effective of results. The mathematical subjects seem to have been taught in much the same manlier. The courses in history, chemistry astronomy botany and other "branches of natural history" were confined as to subject matter to the contents of the adopted textbooks, and the class procedure consisted in transferring their contents to the minds of the students. The ipse dixit of the textbook, ordinarily, was final. When the lecture was employed it consisted in a summary presentation of accepted facts in the same authoritative fashion. No use was made of the library as a supplement to the textbook. The library was for the use of the professor in preparing his lecture material, and for independent reading on the part of the [Page 209] student, who was rather disposed to use the literary society libraries instead. The acquisition of the largest mass of information was the object, and little thought was given to teaching for inspiration, or for training. Memory was king.

From 1860 on one perceives evidence of more dynamic teaching. It must not be inferred, however, that there was not inspiring teaching before this. Professor S. H. Thompson must have been a masterful teacher. Dr. H. W. Wiley, writing of the College as he knew it during and immediately following the Civil War, says: "In regard to the stimulation in the direction of science which characterized a large percentage of the meager attendance at Hanover in that war-harried period, I think the chief credit must be given to Dr. Scott and Professor Thompson. All of the professors were stimulating, but these were stimulating particularly in the field of science." Professor Thompson was a scholar bf ability, and his enthusiasm was infectious. He had the power to kindle the imaginations of his students. Dr. Scott belonged to the same generation of scholars but bad come to Hanover much later than Thompson. His fame rests upon the fact that his daughter became mistress of the White House, but his real distinction is in sending the students of his day outdoors to find Nature. He aroused in them the spirit of investigation. To his stimulation, more than to any one else, we are indebted for the introduction of real science instruction in Hanover, which spread up state through the labors of Wiley, the Coulters and Young to meet the spirit of Cornell brought west by Jordan.

Dr. Wiley's characterization of the quality of teaching which he received deserves to be reproduced in full.

[Page 210] "My first instruction in Latin and Greek was strictly of the textbook character. I was assigned certain lessons which I studied thoroughly and made very rapid progress. At the end of three months I passed my examinations for the Freshman class. In the College all the instructions were predominantly textbook instructions in all branches. All our professors, however, interjected constant and luminous discussions of interesting points. These were the elements of instruction by lecture; but in every instance our lessons were given us from textbooks.

"In the so-called 'Natural Sciences' we came near having the modern system of lecture instruction in the person of Dr. Scott. He gave us a real lecture instruction in experimental chemistry, of which he was a master. In those days we had a very small faculty. Dr. Wood was president. He gave us many interesting lectures on the Bible, the principles of philosophy and the evidences of Christianity. Still, we had textbooks on all these questions and on history, interspersed with explanatory lectures or parts of lectures. Professor Thompson taught us astronomy and ouranography; the latter on clear nights was the most illuminating talks about the constellations. Our examinations were both oral and written and were very searching and thorough. I received thoroughly fundamental instruction in every branch I studied at Hanover.

"In the recitation room the number of pupils was always small. Each one of us was asked to stand up and read a part of the translation assigned to us for the day. When this was accomplished a general discussion among the pupils in which the professors joined in final decision was indulged in. This discussion had a wide range. It involved principles of construction, hidden meanings of terms, the use of the subjunctive and why, with even a discussion of the Latinity and the eminence of the author. This same [Page 211] method was employed by Dr. Garritt in our Greek recitations.

"Our mathematics was the most solemn of all our lessons. Professor Thompson was an extremely quiet, solemn, impressive character. Each member of the class was asked every day to go to the blackboard and solve some mathematical problems previously assigned to us. This disclosed whether or not the pupil was simply going by rote or whether he understood the mathematical principles involved. Discussion of these problems was then indulged in, as was the case with the classics. By far the most popular professor, however, was Dr. Scott. He was a man who always had his little joke. We also were glad when he sometimes had the morning prayers, especially if we had a difficult recitation the rest of the morning hour. His was an all-embracing prayer. Nothing was left out either of cis-cerulean or trans-cerulean interest. I have known him to use over thirty minutes getting everybody cared for; but his recitation room was quite a different atmosphere. I consider Dr. Scott the most successful experimentalist, considering that he had but a broken glass tube or a saucer for his apparatus, that ever I have heard.

"Subsequently I had the honor of being a pupil of the great Hoffman, of the University of Berlin, who was considered at that time the prince of experimenters. He had at his disposal everything in the world an experimenter should ask for in the way of apparatus, mechanical contrivances and materials; but he was no better experimenter than Dr. Scott."

Upon Dr. Scott's resignation from the Faculty, Mr. Bradley, who had previously been employed by the Trustees to collect a mineralogical museum, was elected to the vacant chair. He was a Yale man, and thoroughly imbued with the new spirit of field work in the Natural Sciences. He gave place after two years to Professor Nelson who had just received his doctor's [Page 212] degree upon completion of his studies in the Yale graduate school. Nelson not only brought to Hanover the ideal of scientific scholarship but also the conception of the new scientific method.

Professor Stanley Coulter says of Bradley and Nelson:

"The first real scientist, modern in outlook and methods, who came to Hanover was Frank Bradley. He was a Yale man and a very distinguished geologist. His knowledge and enthusiasm and field work impressed the students immensely. He was something unique, apparently believing that knowledge was something to be achieved, not memorized. He was not a tactful mail and was soon at loggerheads -with !he Board of Trustees because of his frank and rather contemptuous unbelief in the Mosaic account of creation. I think he stayed but a year, though perhaps it was two. When lie left he joined the staff of Hayden's Geological Survey, taking with him as his assistant, J. M. Coulter.

"Professor Bradley was succeeded by Dr. E. T. Nelson, also a Yale graduate. Dr. Nelson was a young man, smooth-faced (a rare thing in those days) so boyish looking that he was frequently mistaken for a student. Primarily he was a zoologist, but was also greatly interested in Botany, of which he had a fair if not expert knowledge. I had these subjects under him and it was from him very largely that I was turned to science. He used the lecture system and I still have my carefully copied notes of his lectures in Zoology. He was a fascinating lecturer on the subject. His work was thoroughly organized, clearly stated and abundantly illustrated. Many years later, when it fell to my lot to give a series of lectures on Zoology, I resurrected my notes of Dr. Nelson's lectures and was amazed at the breadth and clarity of the knowledge that must have served as their foundation. So perfect [Page 213] was his organization of the subject that in my lectures I followed the outline he had given us in his first year of teaching at Hanover.

"I do not recall his lectures in Botany, but I do recall how Young and I, closest of his followers, used to collect plants and take them to his rooms in the evening and work long hours over their determination.

"He was young enough to have the student point of view; he did not take himself nor his work as seriously as did most of the others of the Faculty, was genial, approachable and, I think, looking back, an exceptionally stimulating and inspiring teacher. It was his influence that sent Dr. Young to Sheffield Scientific School for further training and certainly gave me the determination to stay with scientific work through life. I was only under his teaching for one year, but that one year really determined my life work."

Nelson was shortly succeeded by John Coulter whose study of the local flora provided much of the material for his books on botany. Professor Young came after Coulter, and has the distinction of introducing into Indiana the practice of teaching chemistry by the laboratory method. His laboratory was the first in which the students had an opportunity to do individual experimentation. Harvey Young was a great teacher, and breathed deeply the spirit of scientific inquiry. His characteristic classroom admonition, "It is your privilege to investigate," reveals a sound pedagogy and the truly scientific spirit. The union of the scientific attitude with the most consistent loyalty to his Christ made Dr. A. H. Young one of the notable teachers of his day.

The development of the scientific subjects, and the employment of the method of laboratory experimentation and field study in their presentation, inevitably reacted upon -and strengthened the, teaching in all de- [Page 214] partments. Hanover experienced the same stimulation from the enthusiasm, energy and emphasis of method in science teaching that was felt in all American colleges since 1810, a reaction which has resulted quite largely in a new type of education.

A very good conception of the quality of teaching in the eighties is given in the rather intimate pictures from the pen of Dr. William Chalmers Covert, a discerning student of that period. One gets a cross section of the Faculty: "Professor Morse was careful of his students' feelings, but merciless when egotism or indifference prevented his explanations being accepted. By reason of constant traversing of the field, in addition to a keen Yankee mind trained in the old canons of study at Colby, Professor Morse was perfectly at home in integral and differential calculus and other branches of abstract mathematics. He used the blackboard expertly, sprawling numerals and awkward but quickly drawn figures, pointing and talking vivaciously in a dried-up voice. His whiskers were a source of embarrassment and were constantly carressed and at times of meditation held with a tight grip." Dr. Fisher's teaching was "specially effective in metaphysics, moral philosophy, and Christian ethics. He took the students in alphabetical order, and one never knew at what angle he was to be approached. As a teacher, he labored with his students on behalf of clear-cut expression of their thought, tediously holding the student in the grip of his torturing questioning till he was satisfied that the point ,vas clear or entirely beyond the obfuscated mind of the floundering freshman." Professor Garritt was relentless as to the Greek grammar and drilled hard on the conjugation of the baleful irregular verbs. His scanning of Homer before the class was in a singsong chanting voice which I hear across the wide intervals of the -years as though [Page 215] it was yesterday I sat in the bookish, musty odors of his classroom." Again, "His teaching was of the old school type, confined closely to the text with grammatical construction, literary interpretation, and historical setting of the passages. As a teacher he was bigger than any teaching method that he employed. His impress on students was the impact of character." Of John F. Baird, Professor of Latin, he says: "He loved to grill a heedless student and knew how to hold up a slacker to scorn. He seemed to know his Virgil and Horace by heart. Amidst the most painstaking analysis of the construction and tedious practice of parsing, he amazed us by keeping everything in his mind. He was a nervous man and confinement at his desk became intolerable. He would walk the floor in front of the class tossing a bunch of keys to the ceiling and catching them as successfully as he caught a lagging student who had ridden his 'pony' too hard for his intellectual good, The grammar was a heroic bit of sheer memory work. It seldom seemed to have anything to do with the reading matter in hand." No better characterization of Professor Young has been written than this: "The buoyant, bubbling personality of 'Banty' in my college days was the most cheering and contagious feature in Hanover. His gift of conversation was almost phenomenal and -not even increasing age or infirmities could subdue his love of conversation. A great human heart was its generating source. It made his teaching an illuminating experience. His geniality in no wise prevented him from the most cutting sarcasm when the occasion called for it. He sat generally on a high stool, amidst the jars, test tubes, and odorous apparatus in his miserably equipped chemical department and used a work- table for his desk. He was deeply interested in the slowly developing uses of electricity. His disc generator and [Page 216] Leyden jars were about as far along as anyone had yet gone. Dynamos were yet to be, and incandescent lamps were not practicable until 1892-93. Geology was his forte in those days. He seldom looked at his textbook during recitations, knowing his field perfectly. Had he been privileged to specialize in geology, he would have ranked with the greatest of his contemporaries as a research student as well as preceptor. Our tramps with hammer and bag over the hills of Jefferson County under the leadership of Professor Young lecturing, commenting explaining in a constant stream of instruction, are memorable experiences of my life. His botany was just as thrilling a subject to him as geology. He was the peer of John Coulter and they made a great pair of scientists of which any university might well be proud."

The picture of the library by the same writer reveals clearly a very significant change which has developed during the last thirty years:

"The library in the period, 1881-1885, was most meager and unscientifically handled. During the next decade it moved into a commodious room and Lelia Garrett put it into the life of the college. The two literary societies had creditable libraries that opened on Friday afternoons. But classroom and library had not yet correlated as at present. Magazines were so few that no particular one impressed my memory. The old Cincinnati Gazette was the most cosmopolitan paper that reached us, but we depended on the Madison Daily Courier for steady news diet."

The changes in teaching methods which characterize the last third of the century are due to the extension of the laboratory and field study methods of the science courses to other departments of instruction, and to the larger use of the library. In modern cortege work the library is the center of organization of in- [Page 217] struction, and the conception prevails that the proper college teaching process is a process of student investigation and solution of real problems; that the student should acquire opinions of his own rather than those of other people; that he should be brought into personal contact with reality rather than with what someone has said about it. The method is analytic-synthetic in process, concrete and realistic as to the subject matter, and looking to the acquisition of knowledge with which the individual may more efficiently live in the several relationships which as a human being he must sustain. Thus modern college teaching tends toward being more scientific and more socialized. It is more ethical in the social sense of that term. In this pedagogical development Hanover has shared with other standard colleges.

The nature of this development is better seen in the character of instruction now given in various departments other than physics, chemistry and geology. Formerly the course in literature comprised a hasty review of English and American authors, consisting of a scanty biography of each, a technical characterization of his style, the list of his titles, with possibly an excerpt of a pace or two from one of his works, presented as a sample. The study of literature now consists of reading the masterpieces extensively, not a textbook maker's opinion of them; in class discussion of the literary values involved, historical connections and settings, period characteristics and problems, and the like, with the attempt on the part of the student under the teacher's guidance to organize his findings into a set of principles of literary progress. The professor of history sends his classes to the library to read quantities of source materials, and devotes the class period to the organization of this information into a set of social insights which will give the future [Page 218] citizens intelligent guidance. The professor of social science not only uses the library for source materials, but sends his students into government reports, takes them on field trips to prisons, courts, hospitals and shops. The class in psychology undertakes to learn the facts of human nature by a study of human beings in the original; they have clinics in the hospital for the insane, and in schools for backward children; they study the problems of adolescent crime, crime waves, mob excitement, fads and fashions, going into the newspapers, police court records, and on the street for data. They search for facts as a surveyor hunts for a cornerstone, and for the same reason. The teacher of philosophy takes his class through the ideas of Plato and the atoms of Democritus searching for the alphabet with which to read with proper interpretation the philosophies of the present moment, while the professor of ethics has little time for the metaphysics of conduct, so intent is he upon leading his students up to a Mount of Transfiguration from which they may look down with seeing eyes upon the inescapable relationships of home, church, government and industry, and helping them to find a measuring stick with which to lay out their own lives. Naturally enough the subject matter and methodology of mathematics and the languages have not undergone so great change, yet in these departments one may see the effort to make the student a discoverer. The methods employed in the College at the present time are a combination of textbook study, library research, field study, laboratory experimentation, lectures, seminars, and drills.

A survey of the textbooks used in the College reveals that for the most part Hanover students have had access to the best books available. The long standing rule relating to the selection of textbooks provides that they shall be chosen by the members of the Faculty for their respective departments, subject to the approval of the President. In practice, however, the professors are given entire freedom in the matter.

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