1914 Fredericton Encaenia
Address in Praise of Founders
Delivered by: Miller, Robert Barclay
"U.N.B. Closing is Largely Attended ... Professor Miller, in Address in Praise of the Founders Finds More to Praise in Work of Successors ..." The Daily Telegraph (15 May 1914): 6.
It is customary, upon this day, to commend in a brief address those staunch and hardy pioneers of New Brunswick, among whose first acts was the endowing of this institution.
A little farther south, on the shores of New England, men of the same blood, with the best of their meagre store, did endow in the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut two great institutions. How could "Fair Harvard" or that other immortal classic, "Bingo", have been written, without those two historic characters--exponents of the larger thought and broader vision--John Harvard and Elihu Yale?
It may be easy to found, but infinitely harder to foster. It is easy to plant a seed and go away and forget about it. We praise the government, which, mindful of the perils of the sea, erects the light-house on the dangerous reef to warn the mariner; we praise the hardy engineers who fight the wind and waves and plant its foundations upon the solid rock, but do we not sometimes forget the lonely man, who, year after year, keeps the great eye aglow--the keeper of the light?
So, while honoring our founders, who built more wisely and better than they knew, allow me to direct your thought for a moment to that noble body of men, recruited from colleges all over the country, whose names will found on pages eleven and twelve of the University Calendar, those men whose personality and perseverance have built into it--I refer to the former chancellors and professors of this institution.
After all, the faculty are the keepers of this light upon the hill. New faces may come and go, but the light must still burn. This institution has something back of it better than the conceptions and ideals of its founders, noble as these may have been--the personal endowment of spirit and energy which these teachers of the past have contributed out of an ever waning store, as the hair whitened, the voice lost its old ring and the step became more feeble. These men, more than the founders, would I praise today, whose rich heritage of min and memory we enjoy. Theirs is an unbroken line of kingly succession. It was their devotion to duty and to their dreams which makes this event today possible.
It is a common fact today that our most eminent men have come, originally at least, from the small college. This may be attributed, in a very large measure to the closer contact which exists there between students and teacher. No doubt all of us can look back to the influence of some one man whose enthusiasm, devotion to duty and whose high ideals dominated our earlier thought and shaped our future destiny. Why some of our great institutions adopting the preceptorial system--the placing of masters over a little group of students? Because they realize that one of the greatest factors in education is the personal element in the moulding of life and character.
In this close association between faculty and students existing in the small institution it was only natural that the students should adopt abbreviated forms of expressing when referring to their professors and these names have become almost a matter of tradition--like R. F. A. and the college observatory. I dare say some of these names would be recognized and more or less appreciated by their respective owners, if mentioned here today. While these names are hereditary, some of sensitive disposition naturally shrink from hearing them used lightly by those who, not tall enough to reach up to the walls of fame, carve their initials on the college piano.
I would suggest that it might be a help to incoming students if these shorter catechism names, applied to members of the faculty, might be inserted after their names and degrees in the Y. M. C. A. handbook. Here, along with the engineers' yell and the advice regarding attendance upon divine worship, it would greatly aid the timid student in getting on such easy terms of familiarity with the professor as to offer him a cigarette and suggest certain changes in the curriculum.
The memory of these old professors of ours lingers long after their lessons are forgotten. How well we remember them! "Hasty" Ransome, "Pat" Osborne, "Dutchy" King, "Aleck" Smith and "Papa" Kirtz,--not many of them left now. It was a tradition that "Papa" Kritz--a professor of Latin in the lower regions we called "Prepdom" had his book marked for certain jokes and that your grade was proportional to your hilarity over these jokes. Having a book used by some former student, you always knew when to expect the fireworks. Here, let me give you this bit of advice,--a professor's joke may be dog-eared, moth-eaten and covered with the blue-mold of antiquity,--but you should always laugh at it.
And yet, when you return to the old town, who is it you look up first and is always ready to call you by your first name? The college widow and the other landmarks of the institution may have been swept away, but the professor still remains to greet you. Like the poor and the naval bill,--he is always with us.
I will never forget a delightful afternoon spent with the Hon. James Stutesman, then minister to Bolivia. Whether there was any connection in the two facts or not, Jim Stutesman was from Peru, Indiana. Back to attend commencement at the old college, his first pilgrimage, after a good dinner, was out to the little town of Waveland, to pay his respects to this venerable Latin professor,--"Papa" Kirtz. I dare say that when the ancient joke appeared, his laugh had been a little louder and longer than the rest and that Latin is not much used in Bolivia,--but all the same Jim Stutesman had at last learned to appreciate true worth at its face value, and for a few hours we lived over the good old days of the past. As the sun and wind threw golden billows over the ripening wheat fields, at the close of that commencement day, we drove back very silent, each busy with his own thoughts. Bit I think one thought was uppermost in our minds--though not expressed--we realized that we had seen things in their proper perspective and that the old professor had chosen that better part which could not be taken away.
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