On the verge of bankruptcy for fifty years, only once, and then for a few weeks was the credit of the College exhausted. In 1879 the institution could not purchase a few dollars' worth of chemicals at a Madison drug store without cash. This situation, however, was soon remedied. Hanover College has never repudiated an obligation, nor failed to pay in full except by mutual agreement.
The story of the loss of much of the plant in the wreckage of the "Manual Labor System" has been told, as also the story of the loss of the second building undertaken, the new brick residence for the Seminary professor, by fire. This fire was the occasion for creating the first debt. Two more fires have occurred: in one the first gymnasium was lost, and in the other the first Science Hall and all of its contents were consumed. Only the spiritual forces sustaining Hanover enabled the College to rise from the apparent utter ruin left by the cyclone of 1837, or to rise again from its apparent annihilation in 1843-44. The story of the heartbreaking efforts to build Classic Hall has been told also.
But destructive elements and financial troubles were not the only, or possibly the most perplexing, difficulties to be overcome. Among the limitations which Hanover has suffered, more serious than pov- [Page 287] erty because an adverse condition in seeking endowments, are those arising out of her location. First of all is the comparative inaccessibility of the College due to the railroad facilities of Madison. This difficulty however, has been quite overcome, is the direct result of the new system of state highways and the development of the motor bus and the private automobile. The establishment of the State's largest and most attractive park at Clifty has made the immediate vicinity of Hanover the best known section of Indiana. Again, this part of the state is quite behind in economic growth. The township schools require state aid, and most of the church congregations must have assistance from their general church treasuries. Colleges not only draw their student bodies from their immediate vicinities, but, ordinarily, a large part of their resources also. The relatively low per capita of wealth of southeastern Indiana, together with the fact that the Presbyterian Church is numerically weak in this region, makes it proportionately difficult to secure needed endowments.
In company with most other small endowed colleges, not only in Indiana but throughout the country, Hanover for a time lost contact with the public schools which very rapidly during the nineties took over almost completely the elementary and secondary education of the children of the State. The tax-supported institutions were quick to sense the importance of this change, and to recognize the new spirit of high school administrators who frankly demanded that the colleges should adjust their entrance requirements to accommodate the high schools. The State colleges readily surrendered on the question of required Greek and the demand for larger election. This greatly increased their popularity with the public school men, and tended toward reducing the popularity of the endowed [Page 288] colleges which were disposed to stand out more positively for their conception of a liberal education. Hanover has a very definite conception of what a college education should comprise, and of the conditions essential. She has been unwilling to surrender on points she considers vital. For a time this lessened her appeal to high school students, and broke contact with the public school forces of the state. But there is evidence that the public mind is turning back more and more to the Hanover type of college, with the disposition to look upon her with increasing favor.
At about the same time effective contact with the church was lost. As a matter of fact the western synods of the Presbyterian Church have not until recent years assumed responsibility for adequately supporting their colleges. It is only within the last ten years that the Synod of Indiana has given the College much more than commendation and good wishes. Within the last five years Synod and the Presbytery of New Albany together have given Hanover from their treasuries endowments amounting to $75,000. But, which seems to have larger ultimate consequence, the Church is recovering somewhat the conception, lost for a time, that the denominational college is the necessary vehicle for the accomplishment of much of the church program. There is thus promise of closer cooperation in the future on the part of the church.
The problems of the last decade arise from a different source. To a very real extent, not quite appreciated by the public, the endowed colleges of Indiana have lost their former independence. This has occurred through recent legislation which limits employment in the public schools to persons who have pursued prescribed courses of study in accredited colleges and normal schools. A large proportion of Hanover students find it necessary, or desirable, to teach [Page 289] in the public schools in order to earn funds with which to meet their college expenses, or after graduation as a stepping-stone to their permanent vocation. This has always been the case. In order to protect her students, and, incidentally, hold her proper clientele, it has been necessary for Hanover, like all other institutions within the State, to put herself under the regulations presented by the law and the State Board of Education, and the supervision of State officials. This situation is not confined to Indiana. Most of the northern and western states impose practically the same requirements which the institution must accept or be denied recognition, and non-recognition means that her graduates would be excluded from employment in the schools of such states. This system is further perfected by the establishment of standardizing associations and agencies. The requirements of these associations are desirable and put a wholesome pressure on the institution. The requirements of the teacher training system, however, create a number of difficulties in the way of courses of instruction which the College would prefer not to give, in the weighting of courses, in the organization of curricula, and similar matters of detail.
In these latter days colleges are caught up into "the system of things" in many ways. Unless the institution is independent of public opinion because of great wealth and well established prestige, it cannot do as it thinks or pleases, and survive. The pressure, of prevailing practice is inexorable. Back of most of the administrative problems involving student activities, conduct, curricula, entrance and graduation problems, is the fact of prevailing practice in other reputable colleges and universities. Colleges can not escape the "Law of Usage."
But most of the tribulations of the College have [Page 290] been blessings in disguise, and out of them she has grown into established strength and power. The early faculties received small material rewards, but they trained some great men. The dignity and comfort of Classic Hall are worth all that it cost in time, money and worry. The effort to overcome the disadvantages of isolation has taught some profitable lessons. And the pressure of changing standards and conditions has urged the College to make larger provision for the work she has undertaken to do.
The first century ends in victory, thrice sweet because with such difficulty won. Hanover looks back with the satisfaction of substantial accomplishment, and forward with anticipation of the better college for which the foundations have been well laid, The nature of her situation directs that Hanover shall limit her student body to a convenient number: that in this sense she shall continue to be a small college: but that she shall hold fast to her conception of the Christian liberal arts college, and that to this end she shall provide herself with endowments and equipment which will enable her to do this type of work better than it is done anywhere else. With this program consistently followed her future is bright with great promise.