Delivered: June 1897
Fifty years of service in the duties, conflicts, triumphs, and defeats of active life quite effectively dispel the illusion of youth and abate the fiery zeal of manhood’s ambitions, mellowing down the glow of ability to will and to do into the fading sunset of life’s departing day. With waning powers of body and flagging grasp of intellect, the 50-year journey from Commencement day brings us to the rounded-out completion of life’s “three score and ten” and put us on borrowed time. For us the workday of life is practically over, and the aftermath only remains to be harvested. Memory now comes to the forefront with reproduced pictures of youthful experiences when bounding life; exuberant vigor and unhampered hope roseated the present and gilded the future with abounding promises. The scenes brought to view are varied, and the experiences reawakened are touches of life reproduced, and so the aftermath is radiant with the sunset glow of morning colors simulated. No doubt this sunset review of life’s past, of which youth and early manhood formed so important a part, is well, though it cannot erase a single error, or retrieve a single failure, or change a single feature of life’s lights and shadows, for who knows if the lessons thus learned may be of use somewhere in the vast reaches yet to be traversed in the eternity beyond.
And so the close of 50 years we enter upon the retrospective history of the Class of 1847. It was not my good fortune to be a part of the class during the freshman year, as I did not enter college until the beginning of the sophomore year. Of freshman experience I know nothing aside from hearsay. This lack of experience was, undoubtedly, a serious loss, inasmuch as Professor Avery said that the freshman was like a young tree — busy taking in sap for future growth. And as I had not thus taken in the requisite quantity of sap for after use, not much could be expected of me in the way of growth. However, I rattled around as though I was of some importance, and made up in show what I lacked in reality.
On the first day of my college life the epithet of “rusty sophomore” was hurled at me by a freshman who had not shed even the first blush of greenness; and my dignity was hurt. Why call me rusty? I had not been in college sufficiently long enough to gather any rust, even if that were the chief business of college life. I was a newly fledged sophomore, it was true, with the dew of rustic life still fresh upon me, but I was a sophomore nevertheless, had been for several hours, and was trying to carry myself with the becoming dignity of my exalted station. Hence my reply was, “You verdant freshman, dry up.” He opened his mouth again and began to say tauntingly, “Putting on airs, ain’t…” I did not wait for the completion of the sentence before making a rush in his direction, but lo, he was gone, and from around the back corner came the refrain, “Oh, rusty sophomore, why don’t you scour off the rust and shine?” Well, I did — afterwards.
There had been a long standing a custom of “ringing off the rust,” as it was called, when the freshman class had completed its year’s work, passed the required examination, and been moved up one class grade. This was a memorable event and was celebrated by ringing the Chapel bell all night, accompanied by other indescribable noises. Our class, ambitious to equal, if not excel, any class that had preceded it, and loyal to all college customs and traditions, had made all necessary arrangements for the coming event. It had done its work faithfully for a year, passed its examinations creditably, was duly elevated to the high place of sophomoric wisdom, and went forth, at the appointed hour, to make sleep a fugitive and rest sigh for deliverance. Every member of the class was on hand, and in a body they sallied forth, brave hearted, full of fun, resolved to carry out to the last clause the usual program of the occasion, with a few extras added.
It should be here stated — in parenthesis — that the Class of 1847 regarded itself as the brainiest, wittiest, shrewdest, most remarkable class that had ever graced the halls of Hamilton College; and it may be allowable and safe to make this statement now, inasmuch as its predecessors are beyond recall for refutation. Of course, therefore, when the class burst its freshmen shell, it went forth in all the supposed wisdom of the newly-fledged sophomores, to vindicate its standing on the vibrant wings of the night air and in the presence of admiring stars. But, alas! The faculty had experienced a change of mind. By some unknown process of moral reasoning the faculty had arrived at the conclusion that ringing off the rust was conducive neither to education, morals, nor the reputation of the College; and consequently, should be prohibited. When, therefore, the class outnumbered the faculty ten to one, and in physical contest; it was highly moral; a willful disobedience on the part of the class would lead to an equally willful exercise of authority on the part of the faculty, and the result would be a rustication, which no bell-ringer could scour off. The test, therefore, was unequal from the start. The faculty held exclusively the innings and easily won by more than a length, and as the faculty remained on guard all night long, there was nothing open to the class except an all-night’s meditation upon the uncertainty and mutability of all things earthly.
In the morning the class join with Wordsworth in saying:
Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.
Thus the Class of 1847 came to be known as “rusty sophomores.” Was the class to be blamed? Its intentions were good. It also had the “faculty” of executive ability; but unfortunately the “faculty” and the good intentions were at variance, and the “faculty,” though fewer in numbers, were greatly superior in authority and easily won. It was clearly a case of too much “faculty.”
At the beginning of the following college year, when members of our class began to put the new freshmen through the traditional paces. They were met with the reviling epithets of “Rusty sophomores,” “Good little boys afraid of the faculty,” and other opprobrious terms far more pleasing to the speaker than the hearer. To say that all this was galling to us sophomores is putting it mildly, and several of us resolved, if possible, to get even with these croaking taunters. Our plans were laid in secret and confided to the participators only, lest knowledge of them might leak out and thereby failures accrue. To be thwarted a second time would be mortifying in the extreme. There must be no failure at this time. The yelping freshmen must be compelled to eat crow, and eat it raw.
Thus the college year wore away, while the freshmen reviled us and loudly boasted of the way they would “ring off the rust,” and a few of us smiled significantly. On the morning of the third day before the freshman class would burst the freshman chrysalis and develop into the sophomoric butterfly, the Chapel bell failed to sound forth its morning summons. Faculty and students alike were on the alert. What was the matter? Was the bell ringer sick? Had he been spirited away? Why was not that bell rung? Investigation followed. The bell ringer was found in his room, but there was no bell in the belfry for him to ring.
Thus the freshmen found themselves in an unexpected fix. How could they ring off the rust without a bell? The bell must be found, at any cost or trouble, and they set themselves diligently at the task of finding it. Search was made in every byway and highway, field and building within three miles of the college, but the search — and it was a thorough one — was fruitless. No trace of the bell could be found, and no bell was rung until the beginning of the next year. However, it should be said that the disappointed freshmen sought to retrieve their misfortune by stealing a small bell from a female seminary in the village, but were prevented from using it. Thus another class became rusty — not from interference by the faculty, but in consequence of too free use of their tongues in taunting their superiors with the epithet of “rusty.”
The history of the disappearance of that bell has never been written, and it may not be out of place that, after 50years of silence, the details of the event should be given: years of silence, and details of the event should be given:
Justice Doolittle was the bell ringer at the time and roomed in the bell tower, directly under the bell. The only approach to the bell, therefore, was through his room. Hence it was necessary to have Mr. Doolittle away from his room before the bell could be tampered with. At first it was thought that he might be bribed to be conveniently absent, but more careful consideration of his character and sense of responsibility in the position he occupied led to the abandonment of this idea, and the manner of securing his absence was delegated to me. Before entering college I had become quite expert in mesmerism, now known as hypnotism, and continued to practice the art during my college course. I had found Mr. Doolittle a very impressible subject and had been able to perform some wonderful feats with him. The rumor of this had gone abroad, and we were occasionally invited out for exhibition. The young ladies near the family with which I boarded were desirous of seeing a display of hypnotic power, and I had promised to gratify them. Here, then, was my opportune time to redeem my promise and make a count for my own purpose. So making arrangements with my landlady, I invited Mr. Doolittle to take tea with me, on the fourth night preceding the one for rust-ringing. He readily accepted, with the understanding that after a tea, a séance should be held.
Well, the set night came, Mr. Doolittle was on hand, supper was dispatched, a company of young ladies came by invitation, Mr. Doolittle was put into the hypnotic state and kept there until ten o’clock at night. In the meantime, under lead of Joe Hawley, assisted by three other members of the class, whose names I fail to recall or ascertain, the bell ringer’s room was entered by means of a key surreptitiously obtained, the belfry climbed, the bell unyoked and brought down to a side room at the Chapel entrance.
At midnight I met this group of bell snatchers at the Chapel door, from whence we bore the bell to a neighboring field, in which was an immense pile of cobblestone. Excavating a hollow in the top of this stone heap, we put the bell, mouth upward, into the excavation, put back the stones and left the stone heap, in appearance, as though it had not been disturbed. In great self-complacency, we retired to our rooms, and slept the sleep of the innocent. The bell slept also until awakened by the faculty in the succeeding vacation, having been found and brought back to usefulness under instructions, specifically detailed, in an anonymous letter sent to the president.
A portion of the Class of 1847 was the embodiment of fun. There was nothing malicious in the fun this portion of the class enjoyed, but the fun, at times, went on fast and furious. There were few pranks of any importance that transpired in those days, about the college, of which some in our class could not have given an intelligent account; and yet there was nothing meanly disobedient to college rules indulged in, nor any set purpose of giving the faculty unnecessary trouble; but a stray cow on the campus which might be housed in the fourth-story hall, or the carriage of a lover of the college carpenter’s daughter, left standing unsheltered, when there was abundant for it in a fourth-story room in South college, and a host of similar things were too suggestive to be passed without proper notice.
Hence, careful attention was bestowed upon all such cases by a self-styled band of regulators, of which the Class of 1847 furnished the greater part. These fun-loving students, however, were not wholly given over to fun. They did not make merriment their chief mental pabulum; they were diligent scholars, standing in the front rank of scholarship. At that period of College history there were no class honors other than those of standing in the class. Owing to some serious occurrences which had grown out of rivalry in a previous class the faculty had deemed it best to dispense with distinctive honors, which will account for the fact that the Class of 1847 had no salutatorian, no valedictorian, no anything except plain A.B. Had there been honors to be distributed, our class would have gone forth with liberal decorations; for no class had stood higher in scholarship previously, and few, if any, have stood higher since; and so it came to pass that records of fame were deprived of glories which might have been, while the Class of 1847 has been forced to content itself with the sad refrain of Maud Muller:
Of all the sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: It might have been.
Before leaving this part of our class annals, there is one more incident worthy of record: The burning of Tacitus. This book finished our Latin course, and we thought so notable an event deserved befitting commemoration. We had read of funeral pyres for the disposal of the dead — and surely Tacitus was dead to us from that time, henceforth, and forever more — and what could be more appropriate for our last Latin antagonist overcome than cremation? And so up in flames it was resolved Tacitus should go. Due preparations were accordingly made. I had the honor of being the funeral orator, I forgot who was to deliver the poem, and Hawley was to furnish the music; torches lighted, and the funeral march began. From the front of the Chapel down to the highway the procession moved with solemn step, to the strains of doleful music, with the bier borne by four bearers, draped in proper mourning, and reverently approached the funeral pyre. This pyre was a pile of fagots, soaked with oil, and made very combustible. On the pyre the bier was solemnly placed, encircled by the class, the funeral oration pronounced, the poem read, the torch applied, and a wild chain dance extemporized, to the music of Hawley’s “fiddle.” In the midst of the ceremony President North appeared upon the scene, and stood with folded arms, looking on, erect as a pine tree, and with eyes that fairly blazed. For he said nothing; but as the fire grew furious he stepped up to Hawley and said, “Mr. Hawley, go to your room,” said the president in emphatic tones. “Pretty soon,” replied Hawley, fiddling on as serenely as ever. Not desiring unduly exasperate the president, however, for we all greatly respected him, we cast our torches upon the burning pyre and dispersed.
Up to this point, no disorder had been intended, but the turbulent spirit had been aroused in some, who went to their rooms, disguised themselves and came forth to make the night hideous with their noise. They tried various ways to bring the president again upon the scene of action, but all in vain. Of course we all awaited the morrow as a day of reckoning, and resolved to stand by each other. If one was rusticated or expelled, all would go; but none went. The president was too wise to involve himself or the class in such difficulty, and affairs moved on as smoothly as though no Tacitus had been cremated. That President North, in consequence, rose several degrees in our estimation, goes without need of affirmation; and that he occupied a warm place in our regard was equally evident.
The Class of 1847 stood well with the faculty, and the faculty stood well with the class. If we were not at all times a mutual admiration society, there was always a friendly, and even cordial relation existing between us. We respected and honored the faculty, and the faculty respected and honored the class; thus our college days are full of pleasant remembrances. President North, tall, erect, dignified, gentlemanly, with a piercing black eye, was highly regarded for his manly qualities and for his courteous treatments for all the students. He was a respector of pretreatment of all the students. He was no respector of persons, and if he had special preferences, he concealed the fact under the most urbane, kindly and impartial demeanor toward all. I never knew a man more choice in expression, more careful in the selection of the right word for use, or more clear or definite in statement. At times he would hesitate in calling up the precise word needed to express his idea — hesitate embarrassingly long — but when the word came — as it always did — it was the very word wanted, choice, definite, exactly appropriate. He was too kindly dignified, too courteously elegant, too stuffly cordial, to render a student at ease in his presence, but he was greatly respected and honored as a man and as a college president.
Professor Catlin was an altogether different man. He was approachable, unostentatious, obliging, though a man of few words. What he did say carried a flavor of mathematical certainty. He was master of mathematics, clear in thought and expression, quick of perception, and somewhat impatient with a dullard. When a student puzzled too long over an intricate problem, he was accustomed to remark, “It’s perfectly obvious, sir, perfectly obvious,” and so it was to him, though, perfectly oblivious to the student.
Exacting in class work, he was never overhard in the tasks given of perception, and somewhat impatient with a dullard.
Honest, faithful application he did demand, and always smiled approvingly at work well done. His sense of humor was keen, and he could heartily appreciate a funny incident. One day a member of our class — I omit his name — who entered at the beginning of junior year, and had been in the class for only a short time, thought to gain a point on the professor by neglecting to learn his lesson. The new student had noticed that it was very rare that the same student was called upon to recite two days in succession, and therein thought he saw a way of easement of his labor, by omitting the learning of his lesson the day after he had recited. The day of which I speak was one of his off days, and to his utter surprise his name was called for recitation. Whether this was an oversight on the part of the professor or an intentional test of this student’s diligence was never made manifest, but it forced this student to answer, “Unprepared.” This answer was not an infrequent occurrence, and led to nothing more serious than the mark zero for that recitation. The student, therefore, would have been marked zero and there the matter would have ended, had he not thought it wise to put himself right with the professor and so, on his way out of the close of the recitation, approaching the professor, said: “Professor, you called on me yesterday, and I didn’t expect you would call me today, and, therefore, didn’t get my lesson.” The statement was unquestionably true; the professor instantly caught the ludicrousness of the unsophisticated confession, lay back in his chair and shook like “a pot full of jelly,” with his characteristic laugh — a broad grin, stretching his mouth from ear to ear, without the emission of sound — while the class burst into a horse laugh that filled the room and might well have shaken the rafters.
The professor could take a joke, and give one, too, when the occasion was befitting. I can testify to that from personal experience it was on this wise: As I did not enter college until the beginning of my sophomore year, my entrance examination was before individual members of the faculty. Having been examined in Latin and Greek, I was sent with a note to Professor Catlin to be examined in mathematics. He took the note, read it, asked one question and said, “You are admitted.” I looked up at him in utter surprise, put on one of his expressive smiles, and said: “One question significantly put will show whether a man knows anything. Good day, sir.” And I walked forth a full-fledged sophomore, feeling that I had been the victim of the greatest joke of the season. However, I lived to learn that Professor Catlin had the peculiar faculty of weighing, estimating, and marking off the value of a student at a glance. He was profound. What he did not know about mathematics was not worth knowing — at least, we thought so then, and the thought still lingers with us.
Professor Avery was genial, easy-going, indulgent, patient and nearsighted. Of all these qualities the students took advantage, more or less, and especially of this nearsightedness. When any of them were too indolent or too busy to properly prepare for a recitation, they would bring a textbook into class, and, if called to recite, would open the textbook, screen it behind the student sitting in front, and coolly read the answers. This was shameful treatment of the nearsighted professor, though, at the time, the students deemed it cunningly shrewd and skillfully artful. Experience and wider observation, however, have taught us that this kind of smartness eventually turns into sneaking recreancy, and memory recalls our part in it with a blush of shame.
Too often Professor Avery’s good nature was imposed on, and yet I never saw him indignant except once: One of the students threw an explosive chemical into a mixture the professor was preparing. It was a dastardly act and dangerous; for the mixture flew in every direction, and would have produced serious results had it fallen upon the face into the eyes of anyone. For a moment that speech of the professor was emphatic and to the point, while every member of the class stood aghast, and the culprit was filled with confusion; and then everything settled down into the placid tenor of usual routine. The professor was too kind-hearted to cherish ill will, and two easy to make us adepts in chemical knowledge, but his name has been fragrant in our memories all these years.
Professor Mandeville was more original than deeply versed in scholastic lore. He was simple as a child in many things, fond of perpetrating a joke, though destitute of real wit, and therefore, often became a joke to the class. In a recitation on “beauty,” he asked, “What was the most beautiful thing any of you have ever seen?” “A beautiful woman,” said one; “a beautiful horse,” said another; “a dollar when my purse was empty,” said still another; and so the question went round the class, eliciting a great variety of answers, given more in fun than in earnestness. Then the professor put on the climax by saying: “The most beautiful thing I ever saw was a sucking pig about four weeks old,” and he leaned back in his chair and laughed like a boy, while the class applauded to the echo and carried away the pig illustration for a standing joke. In reading and oratory, however, he was strong, original, and never surpassed. His system of elocution, in manner of tone, inflection, modulation, gesticulation, and accent has in it the elements of ease, grace, effectiveness, naturalness, which give charm and attractiveness to delivery. Hamilton College could do no more appropriate act than to erect a monument to him who has made her alumni famous the world over for their graceful and effective oratory. I sat by a stranger in a strange assembly, listening to an eloquent and impressive sermon. At the close of the sermon I turned to the stranger and asked, “Will you kindly tell me the name of the gentleman to whom we have been listening?” “I do not know, sir,” he replied. “Are you a graduate of Hamilton College?” I asked. “No,” said he, “I never saw the college, but I have heard a number of speakers it has sent forth; and I know Hamilton College stands without a rival in training men for oratory.”
Professor Edward North was the youngest of the professors — both in years and in length of service. He was a thorough student, especially proficient in Greek, a gentleman by nature, genial, courteous, obliging, and skillful in dealing with young men who thought themselves to be more brainy, more brilliant, more capable every way than any of their forefathers. And what was more, he could take a joke without frowning, fuming or feeling insulted. An incident in our sophomore year illustrated this latter fact when the advent of his first child was an expected occurrence. The class came to the knowledge of this approaching event, and made due preparations for it. A bundle of flannels and other things supposed to be useful for an infant wear was procured, and on that morning when the announcement came that the expected arrival had taken place in the professor’s home, a happy addition to his family, and that congratulations were in order, this bundle of infant goods was placed on the professor’s desk just before the hour of recitation. Our class then bolted the recitation, gathered on the green in front of the recitation room, and awaited developments. At the usual time for professor came up the walk, looking neither to the right nor to the left, apparently oblivious to him, either not seeing or not caring to notice the class assembled on the green, passed on into the building and entered the recitation room. He found the room empty, swept and garnished, with a neatly prepared bundle laying on his desk, bearing an appropriate note of congratulation over the event which had occurred at his home during the night previous and respectfully excusing him from recitation this morning. What the professor thought at that time has never been revealed, but what he did was plainly evident, and the action part was what the class awaited; nor did they wait long. After an absence of not more than five minutes the professor reappeared with a bundle on his arm, a broad smile upon his face, and an unmistakable appreciation of the whole affair. As he passed down the walk he bowed his thanks, and the class responded with the vocal part of cheer upon cheer. Our intercourse with the professor was always equally pleasant with this affair, and our respect for him of the highest order. His knowledge of Greek was profound, and regarded him as par excellence in the extraction of Greek roots. If we did not turn out to be proficient Greek scholars, the blame cannot be justly laid upon the professor, for he was an eminently qualified and faithful instructor in the Greek language; and long may he be spared to be one of the brightest lights in Hamilton College.
Among the tutors to be kindly remembered were T.T. Bradford, Theodore W. Dwight and Anson J. Upson. Tutor Bradford was genial, good-natured, easily entreated, lenient with the boys, and highly respected. When we appeared in class minus our lessons, his advice to us was: “Young men, recite from general knowledge” — as though we possessed a fund of general knowledge upon which we could draw in an emergency. Knowledge was the very article of which we were deficient, but the tutor so much disliked to mark one zero that he was willing to help the student through in any possible manner. Hence his “general knowledge” scheme was invented to induce the student to answer something and so save his class standing. A kind-hearted, scholarly gentleman; may the angel of peace watch over his ashes.
Tutor Dwight was a large-souled, genial, lovable young man, who led us through political economy and kindred subjects, with tact and grace, making himself popular and solid with the boys. He was not far enough away from his college days, and could accordingly overlook and excuse what older men would feel called upon to criticize and discipline. His memory is still fragrant, with us who have watched his career with interest, all the way from those college days until he stepped from the golden stair into the unseen. In all his successes we took pride, because he seemed like one of our own. I never saw him angered but once, and that was when asked Hawley: “What is the cause of so many deaths in the thickly populated countries of Europe?” As Hawley had not studied his lesson that day he could not give the book answer, and so, acting on Tutor Bradford’s advice, fell back on general knowledge and replied: “For want of breath, I suppose.” Instantly the tutor replied, with flushed face and quick breath: “None of your impudence, Mr. Hawley!” Hawley looked surprised; for it has never entered his though to be impudent. But the whole affair was over in a moment, and everything moved on as usual.
Tutor Upson polished us in elocution and finished us up in the art of oratory. Graceful in manner, sweet in voice tone, smooth of accent, and rhythmic in inflection, he was emphatically the man for the place he occupied, and all who received instruction at his hand, bear him in grateful remembrance. Gentle in nature, he universally won friends. His wit, of which he was a frequent dispenser, was as gentle as his nature and never hurt. Speaking, one day, of originality, he said that the most original man was he who could make the best selections and skillfully join them together in connected discourse — a definition which many of his pupils undoubtedly, have religiously and rigidly, if not skillfully, put into practice.
In our time there were two literary societies in college, respectively named, the Union and the Phoenix; between which the contest for members was sharp, especially at the beginning of the college year, and the rivalry almost bitter, all the year through. Each had its room for literary exercises, its large and well-selected library, its debates, essays and drills, and sought to outdo the other. Really it would have been difficult to decide between the merits of the two, so well was each equipped and conducted, though the partisans of each were loud in their claims of superiority. Both were good and of great practical benefit to their respective members. In learning the art of debate, in acquiring fluency of speech, in attaining clearness of expression, in cultivating quickness of thought, in becoming proficient speakers, those societies were efficient aids, and rendered valuable assistance. I can but think the college suffered a serious loss in appliances for the training and development of practical men when these societies were permitted to go down.
Of the Greek letter societies, the principal ones were four: Alpha Delta Phi, the Sigma Phi, the Psi Upsilon, and Chi Psi; others came in afterward. These societies were strong in rivalry, and yet were distinctive in the selection of membership. Alpha Delta Phi laid stress on scholarship; Sigma Phi measured the size of the pocket-book, the style of dress and general good appearance; Psi Upsilon sought men of generous hearts, companionable ways, and fraternal spirits; Chi Psi sheltered the high flyers who were heard as well as seen. And yet each was proud, with demonstration, when among its membership were numbered men of genius, scholars, poets, and orators.
The inner workings of these societies were profound secrets to the outside world. Candidates for membership were sought with as much secrecy and skill as one would exercise in gaining a recruit from a wily enemy, and the time and place of initiation were covered, not only with the darkness of night, but with every possible precaution against detection. Had it been the commission of a crime, no greater secrecy would have been maintained. Indeed, the members were highly mortified in feeling if, by any mishap, it became known that a man was an initiate before he “swung out,” that is, appeared in the Chapel wearing his society badge. Much of this boyishness has disappeared since the day of chapter houses, and the distinctive characteristics of which I have spoken, have been greatly modified. Fifty years bring changes, create new ideals, and move on to different, if not, higher planes. Time also has removed one misconception of a half a century ago: The idea of the outside world that all bright young men, scholars, geniuses, were gathered out like wheat from the chaff and garnered in these societies. They do have bright men, scholars, geniuses, but not all of them. Often the most valuable of intellectual and scholarly diamonds, and the ranks of great men in the world have a full complement of those who never “swung out” with a Greek letter. However, Greek letter societies are valuable to those who are in them, and less harmful than formerly to those out of them.
The education the Class of 1847 received was sound, healthy, practical, a befitting preparation for the duties of actual life. It included no baseball team, no football team, no regatta crew, no development of muscle at the expense of brain, no outside attraction to abstract our attention from legitimate college work and to deplete our pocket money through betting and attendant carousals. We occasionally indulged in a class ride, or bolted class work for a day to make an excursion to Trenton Falls, or cut a recitation for the purpose for which we were in college — the storing up of useful knowledge, the development and training of intellectual powers, the acquiring of habits of studiousness and application, and the laying of a strong foundation for life’s future building. And surely, if results justify the means or methods, the standing of the Class of 1847, both in class work and in after-life work, amply justifies the old-style education it received.
If modern methods can show any decided improvements of or advance beyond the old methods of training men for practical life, they must be marvels indeed. The old was good and with it were content. If the new is better, we will rejoice thereat, even though we continue to sing the praises of the past. The college training of our class has brought forth most excellent fruitage in the succeeding years; and, without boasting, we can point with pride to the records made by the men of the Class of 1847, and challenge all the classes which they have done honor to our alma mater to stand up for comparative measurement.
"Professor Catlin was approachable, unostentatious, obliging, though a man of few words. What he did say carried a flavor of mathematical certainty. He was master of mathematics, clear in thought and expression, quick of perception, and somewhat impatient with a dullard. When a student puzzled too long over an intricate problem, he was accustomed to remark, 'It’s perfectly obvious, sir, perfectly obvious,' and so it was to him, though, perfectly oblivious to the student…. I lived to learn that Professor Catlin had the peculiar faculty of weighing, estimating, and marking off the value of a student at a glance. He was profound. What he did not know about mathematics was not worth knowing."