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Half-Century Annalist Letters

Class of 1893 Letter

Alexander Wouters

Delivered: June 1943

To every alumnus and friend of our College, a thousand cheerios!

This gay class of the gay nineties was here again in 1943, nine in person and six more in vital loyalty, though absent. We were practically in continued classical assembly from our supper on Saturday evening to our reunion dinner on Sunday afternoon.

To us it was no momentary anniversary, even though it was notable as being golden. We had anew the natural realization that we were again in college. We quickly began the battle of good stories. We did not hesitate to refer to each other’s idiosyncrasies, as we bantered upon each other’s good nature as of yore. But there was also that cultured refinement for which we had set sure expectations. That surviving unity of spirit which was welded into the lasting integrity of our scholastic fellowship was a thing that for us no other group of humans could fabricate. We did not have too much of the social development program in our day, but we found it in the long years that had flown by, and shared it with each other in the stronger comradeship it had secretly evolved among us all, when we came back home.

We attended as a body every function of the College in its Alumni Society meeting, and the Baccalaureate and Commencement programs. Our own Reunion class dinner concluded our visit, and we enjoyed Dr. Cowley’s presence as our guest and speaker. In his honor we passed this resolution:

The excellent climax of our distinctive class reunion dinner with you as our guest, was yourself. Your inspiring message revealed to us your inner mind and heart. In response, we herewith would note. We salute you now as “Our Own President,” the guardian of our “Noble Breed” as Hamilton College men. You have magnetized us by your own heroism of spirit. As a body, somewhat anniversarized, but not superannuated, we accredit you as the champion of the higher Hamilton College culture, and of the value of every truly American College to this our nation. We believe with you in the urgent renaissance, even now already in man’s thoughts and also reaching for his will. Our advancing age must ever be led by men of great soul power. We are footloose in our hopes and faith. EN T ΩI MEΔΔONTI ZΩMEN. That translation was and is engraved upon our hearts. We pledge to you our ablest support, as well as our affectionate esteem.

And now just an impression or two! What a striking contrast was the campus of today with that of our time! We saw some minor changes made during those years. But now, added to that unimpeachable beauty as a college campus, that identical spot stands so gracefully compact and unified with architectural symmetry. Here nature, too, by dint of a half century of silent stretchings of growth, has wrought out a greater landscape. Yours and ours is a beautiful eminence she has attained, our Mother-on-that-Hill!

I choose, however, to use the annalist’s measure this year. It better fits our own class morale. This class professional grouping is: two doctors, two educators, six lawyers, four ministers and two social service experts. Every one of these has chosen a calling for his life’s energies and talents, committed to definite obligations as a benefactor to man and trustee of man’s most sacred interests. To have lived these years at our best yields a crowning satisfaction of soul, particularly if one has given wholly of his disciplined talents and loyalties; for these are the marks of a greater manhood. I venture to quote these lines I found years ago, from whose wisdom I would not part.

Spirits of old that bore me,
Between great deeds before me,
And deeds as great behind;
Knowing humanity my star,
As forth of old I ride,
Help me to wear with every scar,
Honor at eventide.

And one word more, of prophetic hope! Why should we not, by virtue of having failed to complete the victory of our previous world war, and of being beset by the subtle deceptions and hypocrisies of the same foe, take knowledge of the fact that our College is already in this war; that education has not been disrupted, but corrupted in Germany itself, and that, all education under such a victor would stifle all freedoms of any kind anywhere. A ruined Europe cries in its utter helplessness and we, with our allies, are already yonder, knowing the things we are fighting for!

Then hail to the new heroism that shall rescue the nations of our one world from every tyrant power.

So the great Tennyson cried out:
Ring in the valiant man and free
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land;
Ring in the Christ that is to be!