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Half-Century Annalist Letters

Class of 1918 Letter

George T. Link

Delivered: June 1, 1968

When I received from Gordon Hayes, in May 1967, notification that I had been selected by the Society of Alumni to write and deliver the half-century annalist’s letter for the Class of 1918, I was flabbergasted. To my sincere regret over the past 50 years, I have been one of the least active members of my class returning for only two reunions, and, having kept no scrapbook, I had forgotten most of the activities of our class during our four years at Hamilton. At our 45th reunion, at which I was not present, I was elected class agent, again much to my surprise. As class agent I had been working for some time on other members of our class better qualified than I to deliver this address. I immediately notified Gordon to this effect, but in the end I was not able to persuade any of my classmates to take on this job so for better or for worse, here I stand before you.

At this point, however, I must acknowledge my deep indebtedness to members of our class for most of the material which I have gathered, namely Dr. Paul D. Hasbrouck and Dr. Philip C. Jessup.

The annals of the Class of 1918 are unique. Ours was the only class completely framed by World War I, which broke out as a far distant tongue of fire the month before we arrived on the Hill and ended with our almost complete involvement in the fall after we graduated or would have graduated. In those four years, our country was catapulted from extreme isolationism to tentative internationalism.

But we did have the privilege of being educated under the leadership of two outstanding presidents of our College, namely Dr. Stryker and Dr. Ferry. Dr. Stryker’s genius and eccentricities have been ably presented to you by two previous half-century annalists, namely Lou Brockway, Class of 1917, and Jack Gardner, Class of 1916, so I shall not dwell on Dr. Stryker except for two incidents which came to my attention which I do not think have been recorded before. All of us who were acquainted with Dr. Stryker knew that he hated sham and hypocrisy. Most of all he despised mob thinking and said at one time that mob thinking is the most ominous of all dangers to a democracy. In today’s rioting and burning, we should think seriously of Dr. Stryker’s warning and do everything in our power to restore law and order. On the humorous side, one day two of our classmates were about to slide down the Hill between high snowbanks when Prexy came along homeward bound. He accepted the offered ride down the Hill, but when approaching his home one of my classmates’ feet protruded too suddenly into the snow, dumping all rather unceremoniously in front of the president’s house. The next morning Chapel service was devoted to a vehement lecture on the “Deterioration of the Art of Sledding on the Hill.”

President Ferry came to Hamilton in the difficult year 1917 when the war spirit had produced widespread restlessness and college ranks everywhere were thinning. I had a much closer relationship with Dr. Ferry than with Dr. Stryker because at the time I was a member of Pentagon and editor & chief of Hamilton Life, and Dr. Ferry consulted me personally on many of his problems. He once said to me facetiously that I was his senior and he was my freshman, and he valued my opinion in becoming better acquainted with the student body and the particular problems of the College. I would like to quote from a letter of his at that time to undergraduates.

“President Wilson’s letter of July 1 to Secretary Lane expressed his conviction that collegiate education is of particular value at this time as affording preparation for valuable services to the nation. I beg to call your attention particularly to the following paragraphs contained in the circular letter recently issued from the Department of the Interior by the United States Commission of Education, ‘When the war is over, whether in a few months or after many years, there will be such demands on this country for men and women of scientific knowledge, technical skills, and general culture as had never before come to any country. The world must be rebuilt. This country must play a far more important part than it has in the past in agriculture, manufacturing and commerce, and also in the things of cultured life, art, literature, music, scientific discovery. Therefore a right conception of patriotism should induce all students who cannot render some immediate service of great value to remain in college, concentrate their energies on their college work and thus be all the more ready and fit when their services may be needed either for this war or for the important work of reconstruction and development in our own and other countries when the war shall have ended.’”

At this time, I had also written an editorial in Hamilton Life on the same subject further advising Hamilton men not to run away and enlist since we had a draft system, but to wait until your country drafted your services. However, to show how all of us are more influenced by our emotions than by reason, about a month after I had written this editorial I enlisted and was on my way to Officers Training School at Camp Devens, Mass.

Up to this point, I have said nothing about the antics of our class during our four years in college. I feel particularly obliged to defend our position when some of us were accused of putting a cow in the Chapel on Halloween and Prexy Stryker next day shouted at us “Out, Out of the House of God.” After this occasion, there were 42 of us who signed a paper which said in part, “We the undersigned members of the Class of 1918 do hereby agree and solemnly promise that we will take uniform and concerted action in the matter of the night of November 1, 1915, and we do herewith promise to support any and all members of our Class who shall be threatened with expulsion for activity in the above mentioned matter by voluntarily sharing with him or them the penalty imposed.” Then later on November 4 there was a resolution as follows: “Whereas the Class of 1918 has been accused of willful sacrilege and intentional desecration of the College Chapel be it resolved: That the numbers of our Class hereby disavow any intention of sacrilege inasmuch as they do not commonly regard the Chapel as a House of Worship because of its use for exercises other than religious.”

At any rate, it did not become necessary to follow through on this position as Prexy Stryker only banished us from the College Chapel as a punishment for a period of one week and in our youthful minds we looked upon this rather as an award than a punishment.

Other clippings from Hamilton Life about our Class might be of interest to you:

“The Freshman measurements have just been completed. According to the Physical Director Chase, no prodigies have developed, and as a whole, the class statistics are slightly below average of the last two or three years. As regards age, Thompson is the oldest with 22 years, 7 months, while the youngest Timerman, 15 years, 5 months of age. Jessup is the tallest, being 72 inches in height, and Handanian the shortest with 61 inches. Mackie is heaviest, weight 187 pounds. Greatest chest capacity, Kelley 340 c. inches. Thompson holds the strength record of the college with 1125, breaking the record of 1123.2 made by Woolnough last year.”

Our sophomore class banquet was held at the Hotel Utica, after a successful getaway from the Hill, with Phil Jessup, class president, acting as toastmaster. Cart Schwartz responded to the title, “The Class Bum,” Timerman to “Our Perfect Gentleman,” VanAuken to “The Parlor Snake,” Jim Thompson the “T.R.” and Deacon Beach to “Our Demosthenes.” Hamilton Life stated that “all the speakers succeeded in arousing considerable enthusiasm.”

Members of the Class of 1918 in McKinney Prize Declamations: Freshman Year – First, Francis Stanley Griffin; Second, Gerard Fruin Hubbard. Sophomore Year – First, George Theron Link; Second, Charles Marshall Peck. Senior Year McKinney Prize Debate – First, Mark Lowell (affirmative); Second, Newell Timerman (negative). (Proposition: Alien laborers should not be excluded from the United States because of race.)

As I said at the beginning of this letter, I solicited help in its preparation from other members of our class, and I would at this point like to quote from one of the suggestions I received: “I have wondered whether maybe we could change the annalist requirements to something more than mere recital of class history as for instance, (1) In the form of an outlandish but of course truthful boast that 1918 is the best damn class ever to enter Hamilton and to support this boast with the buttery facts and figures not necessarily quite as truthful; (2) More than one speaker. Several of equal standing or a chief annalist calling on others for supporting viewpoints, or a chief annalist with spontaneous but well prepared vicious hecklers; (3) Advanced publicity in the form of surreptitious leaks to develop interest beyond the class itself.

I wrote this classmate that his suggestion was intriguing but it would require a script, a producer and some rehearsals if it were to be carried off properly. I wrote him that if he would attend to these details I would be glad to go on as one of the performers. I never heard anything more from him so he evidently came to the conclusion that it was too much of a job. I only mention it because it might be in order to say something in general about our class, and although I do not think honestly that it was the best damn class ever to enter Hamilton, we were an average class which points up the advantages of a Hamilton education. We were versatile in our pursuits and although most of us never accumulated great wealth or position, we are happy in our positions whatever they may be and particularly we learned the art of living from an outstanding faculty. I particularly remember Bill Shep, Little Greek, Trot Chase, Bill Squires, Stink Saunders and Cal Lewis.

I know that in our country there is a prime need for men with the basic education which Hamilton and other small colleges give our young people. Today is an age of specialization and all businesses need specialists but from personal experiences I know when one starts looking for a new president and administrator, it is very difficult to find such a man among your specialists. If he has not, before specializing, had a basic education in a liberal arts college and especially a college, which is small enough so that he can come in intimate contact with his professors, he is likely to make grievous mistakes in general management. There is a danger today that the money that is going to be spent for education will be channeled to the large universities, and the small colleges such as Hamilton will be completely overlooked, with the result that we become a nation of robots whereas we need clear thinkers to pilot us through the problems we face today. Dr. John W. Chandler, our new president, covered this need superbly in his address last year at the alumni luncheon. If you did not hear it then, it is well worth your time to look it up and read it in the Hamilton Alumni Review summer issue of 1967.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from an address delivered by Elihu Root over 52 years ago. He said:

“There is a plain old house in the hills of Oneida overlooking the valley of the Mohawk where truth and honor dwelt in my youth. When I go back, as I am about to go, to spend my declining years there, I mean to go with the feeling that I can say that I have not failed to speak and act in accordance with the lessons that I learned there from the God of my fathers.”