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March 4, 2010

As part of the College’s centennial celebration of 1953-54, Alumni Office director Helen Tordt (class of 1933) collected the memories of Antiochians from vintages various and sundry. Many of those recollections made it into the files of Antiochiana under the curious heading: “Alumni Recollections.” Each and every one is a great read in some way or other, but none have the character and style of “Thirty Years Later” by Paul Stewart Harris, class of 1929. Paul did postgraduate work at Harvard and NYU in art history and fine arts, and had a long career as a museum curator in such renowned institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, The Speed Museum in Louisville, the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, and the Henry Ford Museum. He stayed true to his school, served on the alumni board, and died in 1996 at the age of 90. His papers are at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

Thirty Years Later

Six years after Horace Mann took up the presidential duties at Antioch, Yellow Springs reputedly was “one of the most fashionable and pleasant watering places in the West. The scenery of the surrounding country is impressive and pleasing, while the medicinal virtue of the water is unsurpassed by any in the United States.”

The curative waters had less appeal for us who enrolled as freshmen in 1923 than the engineer Arthur Morgan’s fashionable, practical educational experiment called the Antioch Plan. Over our first murky glass of the bitters hung vapours of parental conviction that the new blend of classroom theories and harsh realities on co-op jobs, neither liberal arts college nor narrow scientific course, in symmetrical, coeducational, six-year doses, was good for what ailed us. It was!

We soon admired the scenery and the high-spirited and comely selections of the Admissions Committee. We learned to respect local traditions of pioneers in Indian country and of the War Between the States. Thanks to “mixers” in Kelly Hall, parties in the Glen, green caps, abbreviated equipment, the large extramural campus, advice from founts of experience at Moxie’s [a local eatery] and Jazz’s [Johnson’s shoe repair shop], not to mention an excellent, conscientious faculty inspired as we were by Mr. Morgan’s ideas and ideals, and the quiet example of Horace Mann’s injunction to achieve some victories for humanity along our diverse pathways, the cure seems to have worked.

It is more than rationalization to be grateful for parental encouragement in the direction of Antioch. It may not now bask in the light of national publicity in critical journals and popular magazines to plead its cause as we knew it in 1923, but academic tests during the [1930s] and recent appraisals of college training of scholars proved objectively that the college did better than we knew, and probably better than its leaders suspected. Since I have been asked to speak for my class, I doubt if any of us in subsequent homes, business or professional work, military or public service, has failed to appreciate our early democratic training on cooperative jobs, and the high ethical, moral and intellectual standards of Antioch.

If we have character as a class, the ancient hard water from the Yellow Spring can be given less credit than the personalities and events of our time. Matriculate in peace, we graduated through an honor system and comprehensive exams, into the privileges of an incipient depression. We surmounted trenches and reveled in renovated old brick buildings, gathering together to sing the Dutch blessing before meat served by Julia Turner’s dining room Force. We saw tractions [electric light rail] and varsity athletics disappear and pedal-shift Fords and intramural sports for all arise to claim their places in Yellow Springs. Our Student Government matured into Community Government. We witnessed the Horace Mann House go down in flames, fed by the original Anchorage [the original C-Shop] and [Prof. of Industrial Relations] Iskander Hourwich’s sophisticated trappings, followed by rise of the phoenix Mann Library which freed us from congested shelves for study on the upper reaches of Main Building. The Girls’ Smoking Question waxed hot and cold; the men’s dormitories spawned “organized” halls without fraternity pins; and the [radical discussion group] League of Youth had world ideas by the tail. Omitting names of schoolmates which are evident in the yearbooks, leading lights on the campus, with Arthur E. and Lucy Griscom Morgan, included: [Prof. of Chemistry Clyde “Doc”] Adams, [Registrar Fressa] Baker, [Prof. of Literature Vivian] Bresnehan, [Prof. of Social Sciences MN] Chatterjee, [Gymnasium director] Joe Curl, the Dawsons WM [German] and JD [Mathematics], [College Physician J Rosslyn] Earp, [Instructor in Chemistry AG] Edison, [Prof. of Psychology Horace] English, Durant, [Prof. of Physics Thomas] Frayne, [Prof. of English Lincoln] Gibbs, [Dean of Women and Lecturer in Home Economics] Helen Greene, [Prof. of Journalism David “Holly”] Hanchett, [ Prof. of Business Admin Algo] Henderson, [Prof. of Biology Ondess] Inman, [Prof. of Economics William] Leiserson, [Prof. of Accounting DA] Magruder, [Director of Personnel Stanley] Mathewson, [Dean of Faculty and Prof. of Engineering Philip] Nash, [Prof of Chemistry Austin] Patterson, [Prof. of Phys Ed. Earl] Prugh, [College Physician Lester] Sontag, [Prof. of Geology Allyn] Swinnerton, Tillie, the Turners [Emily, Librarian and Julia, Porf. of Home Economics], [Prof. of Political Science Stephen F.] Weston, [Prof. of English Grace] Willett, and others. Each of us found among them admirable measures for adult life: ladies, gentlemen, and good scholars. The land, our friends and the college have endowed the academic watering place Yellow Springs, vintage about 1923, with a strong lasting flavor which tends to make other waters seem softer.

Paul Stewart Harris, class of 1929

Louisville KY Dec 1953.