|Chapter 31 Eugene Allen Noble 1911-1914. Threatened Disaster|
AT A MID-YEAR meeting of the Board, February 16, 1911, Reed stated his purpose to resign the following June, and a committee was appointed to consider a successor. At the next annual meeting, June 5, 1911, this committee unanimously recommended Eugene Allen Noble, and he was promptly elected. He was a graduate of Wesleyan University, a member of the New York East Conference, had served as head of the Hackettstown School for Women, and, at the time of his election to Dickinson College, was President of Goucher College. Dr. Morgan, Dean of the College, acted as President till the coming of Noble in September.
On Noble's coming to the College the office of President of the College was separated from that of President of the Board of Trustees. The two had been merged in 1834 to cure the handicap under which the early presidents of the College had labored in not being in close touch with the Board and frequently excluded from its councils. This situation no longer existing, the trustees petitioned the court for an amendment to the charter which was granted February 19, 1912, to the effect that the President of the
College should be a member of the Board, but should not be eligible as its President. Thereupon the Honorable Edward W. Biddle, of the Class of 1870, who had been President Judge of the County Courts, 1895-1905, was elected President of the Board and served with great fidelity and ability until June, 1931, when he tendered his resignation on account of illness. His regrettable death followed on July 4, 1931. Boyd Lee Spahr, of the Class of 1900, was elected in succession to Judge Biddle and now serves the College with high devotion.
Noble came to the College under favorable conditions. There were no factions, such as Reed had to face, and no faculty divisions. His stay was short only three years and but little change was made. The college student body declined sharply, and some changes were made in the Faculty. Prof. Super withdrew, after a service of thirty years; Prof. H. F. Whiting, after twenty years, and Prof. Crider, after two years.
Rev. E. H. Kellogg, pastor of one of the Presbyterian churches of the town, taught English Bible, 1911-1912, on the withdrawal of Prof. M. W. Prince in 1911. Arthur B. Jennings became Instructor of Music. Leonard S. Blakey, Ph.D., served as Adjunct Professor of Economics, 1912-1914. Henry D. Learned, A.B., served as Instructor in German, 1912-1913, during the absence of Professor Prettyman for financial service among alumni of the College. George F. Cole became Associate Professor of Romance Languages in 1913, on the withdrawal of Professor Super.
In 1879, George Metzger, of the college Class of 1798, had made testamentary provision for the establishment of a college for the education of young women after his decease. His financial provision for the college, unfortunately, proved inadequate, and in 1913 arrangements were made whereby the use of the college building before used as Metzger College was granted to Dickinson College for the use of its young women; and the net income from the Metzger investment was at the same time granted the College. The
College thus secured a very satisfactory woman's dormitory and some addition to its income. The Dean of Women of the College, L. J. McAnney, withdrew at this time, and Sarah K. Ege, the head of Metzger College, remained in charge of the new dormitory for women.
As stated, conditions were generally favorable on Noble's election, but to this there must be one exception. The college finances were not in good shape, and Noble was not adapted to grapple with these problems. He might have succeeded under more favorable conditions, but while Reed's development of the College materially had been phenomenal, when he left, the relation of endowment to debt was dangerous, the endowment approximating $320,000, and the debt $120,000. Financial safety required ability equal to that of Reed to keep up the student body, unless large financial aid was otherwise secured. Any considerable lessening of income meant disaster, and Noble was soon to face this danger, ever present during the three years of his administration. Noble secured no appreciable increase in endowment or funds from outside sources for current expenses, while the student body sharply declined a full 100 during his tenure. The loss of revenues from tuition and other student charges resulted in an increase of debt from $120,000 to $136,000. Even this did not tell the whole story; $14,000 worth of securities, owned by the College and not ear-marked for endowment, were sold and applied to the use of the current fund. In other words, but for this sale, the debt would have been $150,000, an increase of $10,000 per year.
Disaster was imminent, and members of the Faculty, with $4,500 due on salaries, asked the trustees to consider the probable outcome. The trustees announced that "the borrowing capacity of the College is exhausted." A conference of the Executive Committee of the trustees with the Faculty and President of the College followed a conference probably without parallel in American college history. The situation was frankly discussed for hours. All angles of the
problem were brought to the light, with the result that a meeting of the Board was called for May 16, 1914, the earliest possible legal date. The call for the meeting stated that conditions were very bad. The form of call had not been ordered by the Executive Committee which issued the call, and it was so stated by the President of the Board, when the Board met. It showed, however, how serious conditions appeared to the man who issued the call, and, perhaps, to all who knew the facts. At the meeting of the Board, thus called, President Noble tendered his resignation, and the resignation was "accepted, to take effect immediately after the close of commencement exercises in June, and in connection with such acceptance of his resignation the Board of Trustees granted a leave of absence from this date, except that it requested him to prepare for and preside at the commencement exercises in June." At the same time the Board voted "That the Dean of the College, Dr. James H. Morgan, be requested to take immediate charge of the campaign to secure students, succeeding the acceptance of Dr. Noble's resignation."