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Busy Days in Historic Old Town of Yellow Springs

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There’s been considerable talk around the library of late concerning a certain anniversary of a certain closing of a certain college. Stacks remembers those days and would prefer not to, for the dizzying highs of 2008 were not worth its mind-numbing lows. But oh, those highs. The work that year was exhilarating, and it was fortunate in some ways that what was left of the library staff after 2007 was too focused on helping almost two whole classes graduate to notice how near the end was. Commencement 2008 may have been more bittersweet than usual that year, but it wasn’t the first time a class of Antiochians graduated to mark the end of an era in Antioch College history.

June 1921 saw the last commencement of the Antioch College first presided over by Horace Mann. Arthur Morgan’s Antioch called everything that it did the “New Antioch,” and everything that came before him the “Old Antioch.” The 1921-22 academic year would be the first conducted under the “Antioch Plan,” which today we call Coperative Education. An entire week’s worth of events led up to the graduation ceremony, beginning with traditional baccalaureate services the previous Sunday evening. The “academy” referred to in the opening paragraph of the following Dayton Daily News reprint is the high school the College operated until 1928 when it became The Antioch School. Their commencement was held two days before the College graduation exercises and the speaker, William Waddell Boyd, was president of Western College, a place made famous many years later as the training ground for volunteers participating in “Freedom Summer” in 1964. The college baccalaureate service was conducted by Frank D (not B.) Slutz, whose project-oriented Moraine Park School, a triumph of progressive education, was a direct influence on the alternating work and study plan Antioch College had adopted.

The week’s packed agenda also included open meetings of two venerable student run Literary Societies, the Star and Union, both of which would soon die out, no doubt due to the transience of Antioch students ever since. In addition, the Board of Trustees held their annual meeting at commencement time, and the budget they approved included installation of running water on campus for the first time. Morgan’s address about ants to the alumni dinner that same evening might possibly have been derived from his experience of employing thousands of laborers to build the massive dams of the Miami Conservancy District, experience he was barely a year removed from at the time. A day jam-packed with speeches was concluded on what sounds up front to be a note of eugenics by newspaper editor Edwin Gay, though he appears to speak more of schooling than of breeding. His thoughts on the prevention of war come at a time when the carnage of the just-concluded Great War was still a very fresh memory.

After all that, the College commencement finally happens, and the speaker is a heavy hitter of higher education, OSU president William Oxley Thompson. “Real Success In Life” was the topic of his discourse, which despite its never-gets-old theme “kids today!” still manages to strike a hopeful tone with allusions to pioneering, which of course Antioch was certainly doing at that moment. Thompson’s presence must be considered a significant nod to the success of Morgan’s New Antioch. The Class of 1921 numbered only five, and only one of them came from a place not called Greene County, which speaks to the desperate straights of the institution Morgan had just taken over. Though Morgan is president, he does not preside over the exercises held in Kelly Hall that day. That honor went to the acting president of the past two years, William Marcus Dawson, class of 1899.

The evening’s banquet featured (what else?) more speeches, one by a former president of the College, Hon. Simeon D. Fess, a member of Congress since 1912. No slouch in oratory, “Solon” as he was known on The Hill would go on to deliver the keynote addresses at two Republican National Conventions. Dawson pledges support for Morgan by the old faculty, as does another Antiochian on behalf of former students, which may say something about just how much change is coming at the New Antioch. Philip Nash, Morgan’s Dean of Faculty and the one who would do most of the hard work of reshaping the College, responds in kind, making reference to Jacob’s Pillow, the farm the Morgans owned in the Berkshire Mountains. They would have established a folk school on the Danish model there, but having inherited a college to remake, they sold it to modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn, whose famed dancing school operates there to this day.


from The Dayton Daily News, 18 Jun 1921


Busy Days In Historic Old Town of Yellow Springs.

YELLOW SPRINGS, O., June 18. —The past 10 days have been busy ones in the historic old town of Yellow Springs. Antioch college has celebrated its 65th commencement with interesting and fitting ceremonies. Sunday evening, June 5, marked the opening of exercises with the academy baccalaureate at which an inspiring sermon was given by Rev. Charles Ryan Adams of the Covenant Presbyterian church, Springfield. This was followed on Thursday evening, June 9, by a very interesting concert by the music department. On Friday, June 9, at 7:30 in the evening, the academy commencement was held, and President W. W. Boyd, of Western college, Oxford, Ohio, delivered a fine address. The evening of June 11 was the occasion for an anniversary meeting of the Union Literary society, at which John M. Davidson, of Xenia, was the speaker.

The college baccalaureate occurred on Sunday afternoon, June 12, Frank B. Slutz, headmaster of Moraine Park school, Dayton, Ohio, was the speaker. He chose as his subject “Education and Religion” and showed how the advances which have been made in education have been accompanied by corresponding advances in religion, and emphasized the necessity for nations to keep pace in their religious life with the broader outlook induced by constantly improving educational methods.

On Monday evening, June 13, the Star Literary society entertained a large gathering with an address by Louise Abbott, of Bethel, Ohio, and readings by Catherine Shank, of Northwestern university.

The board of trustees met on Tuesday morning, June 14, and approved a budget of $342,600 for college activities to July 1, 1922. This budget allows for improvement of college buildings, building of sewer and water systems, salaries of faculty and other items of expense.

The evening of June 14 celebrated the annual alumni and old students’ dinner in the college dining hall. About 125 people enjoyed a delightful dinner and listened to an address by Arthur E. Morgan, president of Antioch college. President Morgan called to attention the inefficiency of a swarm of ants moving a morsel of food; although industrious and hard workers, they dissipate their energy by pulling in conflicting directions. He then drew an analogy between this fact and the need for unselfish co-operation and concerted action on the part of those interested in the Antioch of the future, in order to insure real success.

At 8:15 the gathering repaired to Kelly hall and listened to a lecture by Edwin F. Gay, president of the New York Evening Post, and a trustee of the college, who spoke on “The   Improvability of the Race.” Mr. Gay touched upon the psychology of past wars and the possibilities of preventing future ones. He pointed out the tremendous economic losses of war, in addition to the injustice and inhumanities involved, and emphasized the part education must play in improving the human race to a point where disputes will be settled by intelligence rather than brute force.

Antioch college celebrated its 65th commencement at 10 a. m. Wednesday, June 15. President Morgan then introduced Dr. W. O. Thompson, president of Ohio State university, who delivered a most inspiring commencement address to an audience of about 800 which packed the hall.

 At 12:30 some 175 guests gathered in the college dining hall for commencement dinner, after which President Morgan introduced a number of speakers. Don Neal Tiffany, as spokesman for the graduates, pointed out the value of character and the importance of the right kind of college contacts in developing the character of the young men of our country. S. D. Fess reviewed the early days of Antioch college and stated as his belief “Antioch is now entering upon a period of pioneer development which promises a greater success for the college than any period in its previous history.” Professor William Dawson, in well chosen words, assured President Morgan and the men of the faculty who are comparatively newcomers, of the co-operation and support of those who have had the responsibility of directing Antioch through the past few years. Mrs. Snook, speaking for the alumni, also expressed sincere interest in and pledged complete support of the new Antioch.

President Morgan then called upon Dean Philip C. Nash, who brought out the importance of the traditions and spirit of the old Antioch in successfully working out the changes to be inaugurated next fall. Mr. Nash said, in part: “Mr. Morgan has been working on this problem for 20 years, and owns 200 acres of land in New England on which he anticipated building the type of college which he has planned here. His reasons for abandoning the original plans, and selecting Antioch as the laboratory lie almost entirely in the wonderful traditions and spirit which have been developed within these walls.”