PROGRESS OF THE COLLEGE - 1852 - ADMINISTRATIONS OF DR. COLLINS AND DR. JOHNSON.
ELECTION OF DR. COLLINS - PROSPERITY - CHARACTER OF
DR. COLLINS - THE FACULTY - MARKS OF PROGRESS - CHANGES IN THE FACULTY
- EFFECT OF THE WAR - HASTY GRADUATION - TREATMENT BY THE INVADERS - PEACE
- DEATH OF PROFESSOR WILSON - ELECTIVE COUR8ES - CENTENNARY ENDOWMENT -
DEATH OF DR. JOHNSON - HIS CHARACTER - HIS SUCCESSORS.
At the regular Annual Meeting, July 7, 1852, Dr. Peck persisted in his determination to withdraw from the College, and Rev. Charles Collins, D. D., President of Emory and Henry College, Va., was unanimously elected President. With this election the College entered upon an administration of marked character, to which the preceding four years formed the transition from the old. In it the College, judged by very usual criteria, enjoyed the highest prosperity it had as yet attained. The number of students reached its maximum, and the College demonstrated its capacity for the accommodation of at least two hundred and fifty students. The plans for the endowment fund succeeded so far as to give it an income, at times, above the ordinary current expenses, to be applied to general repairs and improvements. The scholarship of the graduates, there is no reason to believe, fell below that of any previous period. No better evidence of this fact can be given than that they are beginning frequently, by mistake, to be adopted by the grad-
uates of the Augustan age in their chronicles of it. The period, too, was, perhaps to a greater degree than any preceding one, a test of administrative ability. Difficulties in college administration increase, according to a very rapid ratio, with numbers. The well-regulated-family plan receives a severe strain. But besides, it succeeded. an unsuccessful attempt at discipline by mild methods, which had left its tendencies, as well as its traditions, among the students. As college generations move off of the stage rapidly, college history has a tendency to repeat itself rapidly. It is not singular that Dr. Collins, who brought order out of this chaos, and reestablished the reign of college law, should have acquired the reputation of a rigid disciplinarian. But those who knew him most intimately then, and those who were thrown in to association with him in post-graduate life, found beneath the dignified, perhaps forbidding, exterior, as warm-hearted, sympathetic, and genial a man as ever college president presented. Prompt in decision, and in action, he impressed the students as equally without weakness for their applause, or fear or hesitation in the discharge of any duty, however irksome or unpleasant, whilst he was so clear in his statements, that there was no room for misunderstandings. Added to these qualities, which made him, unquestionably, the man for the hour, were a dignified and commanding presence, ripe scholarship, indomitable energy and will, a deep interest in the cause of education, fine business qualifications, all superintended by vigorous common sense. He, perhaps, came as near to that bundle of somewhat incompatible qualifications embraced in the ideal college president, as anyone who has had charge of old Dickinson, with the exception of the remarkable man who reorganized it under its new control.
The Faculty associated with him, although wanting in some of the elements of brilliancy found in the first Faculty, was
an effective working faculty. The disciplinary details of a large and growing institution absorb time and energy that might otherwise manifest themselves in greater intellectual influence. The Professor of Ancient Languages, James W. Marshall, A. M., had graduated in the class of 1848, with high distinction, and owed his position mainly to the high estimate of his abilities and acquirements formed by Dr. M'Clintock. He was an earnest, pains-taking, conscientious teacher, with an influence for good upon the students at every point of contact with them. He resigned his position in 1862, and was appointed consul to Leeds, England, and subsequently became First Assistant Postmaster General during General Grant's administration. The chair of Mathematics was filled by Rev. Otis H. Tiffany, who, without having made the study of mathematics a specialty, had the faculty of instructing as far as the course was carried, an ability that is perhaps more frequently wanting in mathematical instructors than others. As a pulpit orator and lecturer, and on the hjgher political rostrum, he was popular, and stepped naturally out of the College into the field of the pastorate, where he has filled some of the most prominent pulpits of the denomination. The Professor of Natural Science Rev. Erastus Wentworth, was a man of no ordinary character. If he did not devote himself exclusively to the work of the department, and hardly maintained its already well-established character, he fully filled it according to the prevalent notions in regard to the place and character of natural science in a college curriculum. As a preacher, he possessed a unique power. As a magazine writer, he wielded a graceful and vigorous pen. As a professor, he may be said to have been decidedly popular. In English Literature and Philosophy, Professor Johnson was unsurpassed as a suggestive and stimulating teacher. He, to a greater extent than any other member of the faculty, taught by subjects, instead of by
pages of text-book; at one time requiring ten pages, at another forty pages, and the student, unused to this diminuendo and crescendo style of assignng recitations, was often loud in his complaints. But looking back over more than a quarter of a century intervening, the intelligent teacher appears in his apparent want of rule or method. Whilst he could hardly be said to have been popular with the students, he had what he valued more, their quiet respect and confidence in his ability as a teacher. Keen in wit and sarcasm, he at times, perhaps, impaired his influence for good by yielding to the temptation to wield it too unsparingly against some unfortunate, not, however, for the purpose of display, for which the elevation of the professor's chair affords so fine an opportunity, but from sheer inability to resist the impulse. Withal, he was kind in disposition, uniformly gentltmanly in his bearing, and earnestly interested in every young man entrusted to his care. As professor, he considered deeply the general interests of the College. The endowment plan, as has been stated, was his suggestion, and the plan as finally adopted in detail was essentially his work. It was natural that he should succeed to the administration of the College, upon the resignation of Dr. Collins, in 1860. Instruction in the modern languages was well provided for, at first under the care of Professor Charles E. Blumenthal.. A. M., M.D., and subsequently under Professor Alexander J. Schem, since so well known as Assistant Superintendent of Schools in New York city, and writer on a variety of subjects.
The resignation of Dr. Collins was due to the demands of a large and growing family, which the income from the position was inadequate properly to support. He immediately assumed charge of the Tennessee Female College, at Memphis, which he adminisered successfully and profitably for a number of years. He died at Memphis. The introduction of the
scholarship plan of endowment, extensive repairs, and improvements of East College, the purchase of the telescope, and the fitting up of the observatory, and many minor evidences of progress had marked the administration. Several changes had occurred in the Faculty. In 1854, Professor Wentworth, with one of the graduates of that year, Rev. Otis Gibson, at the call of the Church, engaged in missionary work in China. William C. Wilson, A. M., of the class of 1850, was put in charge of the department, as lecturer on Natural Science. He had been engaged in teaching in a classical school in Chester county, and brought to the position fine promise of success. Upon the retirement of Professor Tiffany, in 1857, Rev. William L. Boswell, A. M., of the class of 1848, and a successful Professor of Ancient Languages in Genesee College, was elected Professor of Mathematics, and, in 1860, was transferred to the chair of Greek and German, and Samuel D. Hillman, A. M., of the class of 1850, who had previously been principal of the Grammar School, was elected Professor of Mathematics. The work of the chair of English Literature and Philosophy, after the election of Dr. Johnson to the presidency of the College was distributed among the Faculty, and upon the retirement of Professor Marshall, in 1862, John K. Stayman, A. M., of the class of 1841, first elected adjunct-professor in 1861, was elected Professor of Latin and French.
For several years previous to the election of Dr. Johnson, the advancing tide of civil war had begun to make itself felt in the College, situated so near the border, and drawing its patronage equally from both sections. At the first outbreak of hostilities the number of students was rapidly diminished, and, a1most at the same time, the College was called upon to face the new embarrassment of a diminished revenue, by the failure in productiveness of a large part of its invested endowment fund, which remained in this condition during the greater portion of
the war. Notwithstanding all the discouraging and depressing circumstances of the period of the war, this Faculty carried on the regular work of the College without interruption. Each year, at the regular time, a class went forth with the honors of the College, that of 1863, however, rather hastily from the College chapel at an early hour on Commencement Day, the usual formalities being dispensed with, by reason of the rumored near approach of the invading army. Upon the occupation of the borough a few days afterward, not only the buildings and other property of the College were preserved from injury, but even the beautiful Campus was left unmarred by the careful occupancy of the troops in gray, the loyalty of many of them to their Alma Mater proving a more unchangeable passion than that to the flag of their country. When shells were distributed freely afterward, however, in an attack by Fitz Hugh Lee, several fell within the grounds, one entered the President's lecture-room and another passed through the roof of South College.
With the return of peace, new hope sprung up for the College, although its finances seemed hopelessly embarrassed. On he 2d of March, 1865, with the prospect of early reestablishment of the government he had so longed to see, Professor Wilson passed quietly away. At the ensuing meeting of the trustees, in June, the place thus made vacant was filled by the election of Charles F. Rimes, of the class of 1855, then resident in Germany, and for several years previously Professor of Mathematics in Troy University. The resignation of Professor Boswell occurred at the same time. During the following year, owing to the declination of the gentleman elected to the vacancy, Rev. S. L. Bowman, of the class of 1855, was temporarily appointed Professor of Greek and Hebrew, and at the ensuing meeting of the trustees, was duly elected professor. At the same time the elective Biblical course of study was given
greater prominence, and an elective Scientific course was established, extending to the Junior and Senior years. Measures were also perfected for increasing the endowment fund, by presenting the claims of the College during the centennial of American Methodism, in 1866. As a result, $100,000 were added to the productive funds.
Everything seemed to promise well. when, on the 5th of April, 1868, President Johnson was removed by death, after a brief and apparently trifling illness, in his fifty-third year. His loss at this time was a great one. A gentleman of good administrative ability, and of fine scholarship, a thorough educator, no one, perhaps, had mastered the detailed interests of Dickinson College more fully. He had adhered to the College with pertinacity of purpose and unwavering faith in its ultimate success during the darkest hours of its history, and it seemed a sad Providence that prevented the enjoyment of the more favorable conditions for its advancement just assured. I n all intercourse with him, as student and colleague, the writer had found him a thorough, uniform gentleman. The College was administered by Professor Hillman, the senior professor, as acting President, until the election of Rev. Robert L. Dashiell, D. D., of the class of 1846, in September of the same year. The latter resigned the position at the end of four years, to enter upon his duties as Missionary Secretary, to which position he had been elected by the General Conference of the Church, as the successor of Dr. Durbin. At the ensuing meeting of the trustees, the present incumbent, Rev. James A. McCauley, D. D., of the class of 1847, was elected president.