1931 Class Annalist's Letter
A Tryst with Carissima
Jefferson F. Meagher, Class of 1931
Delivered: Reunions 1981
When I spoke from this podium 50 years ago, it was in Latin as salutatorian. I had then to speak in a dead language to fulfill an ancient Hamilton tradition. When corralled into serving as 50-year annalist for our class, I asked whether I could now, at long last, speak in English, and I was assured that tradition this time mandated I was speaking in a living tongue.
Such is the stuff of tradition in these and other hallowed halls. I did discover that, although each Hamilton graduating class still must have a salutatorian, he no longer has to speak in Latin. In fact, he no longer has to speak at all. I also discovered that since 1968 even our diplomas are written in English. "Sic transit gloria mundi," as "Trot" Chase used to exclaim.
Whatever skills I have in either tongue, I owe to Hamilton College. We, her sons, grow old and totter about, while the College, our alma mater (there goes the Latin again) survives and grows younger and more chipper with the passing years, mothering as she does these days not only "loyal" sons but "steadfast" daughters as well.
It is not too fanciful to envision one of these daughters of this year's graduating class standing here on this platform in all her grace, charm and beauty 50 years from today to deliver her 50-year annalist letter for the Class of 1981.
The great, central tap root of all great institutions that survive from generation to generation is tradition. One of the most venerable of college traditions is that of the 50-year annalist. Every year the nation's colleges and universities totter out some old, spavined, septuagenarian member of their current 50-year class to revive memories of halcyon days on campus a half century before. These recollection sessions, which have been occurring at Hamilton ever since the 1860s, now constitute a century-old tradition in remembering what James Whitcomb Riley has called the "golden, olden glory of the days gone by."
Given the vast number of colleges and universities in the land, each with its own 50-year annalist emerging every 12 months, it has been suggested that if all these 50-year annalists were laid end to end, it would be a damn good thing.
In the meantime, rally round while we hymn the memories and conjure up nostalgic recollections of those far-away years when our youth, energy and zest vitalized this hilltop.
Our class straddled one of the great water-sheds in American history. We began our four years here with one foot on the prosperity side of the 1929 crash and ended up in 1931 with the other foot deep in the depths of the Great Depression. Never did a class ride off the Hill to take places in the starting gate of life under worse economic conditions.
When we appeared on the Hill, the tradition was still vigorously alive which treated us as a disenfranchised minority—a bunch of fresh refugees landing on the shores of the College community. We were dubbed "Slimers," compelled to wear green "beanies" on our heads, to walk only on the red shale paths while others strolled at will over the broad green carpet of the campus, and we could only speak when spoken to. Whatever the motivations for this treatment, it was demeaning and dehumanizing and the consequence was to drive us into a close cohesive unity that spurred us to vent to our sense of corporate humiliation by winning the annual tug-of-war with the sophomore class "Rusties." We hauled them, soaked and dripping, through the campus foundation.
We came to a college nestled atop one of the loveliest of all hilltops, green with lawns and arched with grand old trees, commanding vistas across verdant valleys to rolling hills beyond. Idyllic, sylvan and pastoral as the campus setting was in spring and fall, rigorous, stark and spartan as it was in the winter, the chief distinction of the Hill was its faculty, headed by Dr. Frederick Carlos Ferry, who had come from Williams and already served 10 of his 20 years as Hamilton's president by the time of our arrival. Courtly, aloof, reserved, dignified and stately, no man ever looked more like a college president than "Prexy."
He was a precise, terse, no-nonsense man, as a mathematician should be. I recall mounting this platform one morning of our senior year on my way to my seat in the Choir. I saw "Prexy" flex his index finger at me and stopped beside him.
"Meagher," he said, "The clapper to the Chapel bell is missing." This cryptic sentence was all he said. He looked at me, then a member of Pentagon, and nodded his head. This hot-line communication set Pentagon's CIA mechanism into high-gear operation, and ended, to everyone's surprise, with prompt recovery of the missing hardware. I've often wondered how his successor handled the case of the purloined statue of Alexander Hamilton when it vanished one night from its pedestal in front of the Chapel, and in particular, how many words it took to send Pentagon into action on that occasion. In a college where public speaking and rhetoric were a hallmark, the president spoke like a Williams man. Just imagine, for contrast, how the tempestuous Dr. Melancthon Woolsey Stryker would have delivered the clarion call to find that missing clapper, to say nothing of the culprit who had committed the crime.
Flashback: Remember "Prexy" hauling his old red wooden sled up the hill on his way to work on winter mornings, and the incongruous Grandma Moses picture he made in late afternoon as he, oft times with his secretary, Mollie Roberts, also on board, zoomed past us down the Hill to his home, with his fur hat jammed firmly on his head and his red scarf flying out in the wind behind him.
When I wrote the class soliciting recollections of our years on the Hill, the one great common central theme struck by the replies was uniform acknowledgement of the great debt everyone felt they individually owed to our small 44-man faculty. These letters not only radiated regard and respect but positively glowed with affection for these unusual men and the part they played in moulding our lives.
In these days of specialization and career-oriented research, teacher-scholars are the fashion. Our faculty was not plagued with the distractions of research and publication. It had its share of scholars, but luckily for us its prime acknowledged role was teaching in the classroom, and we were unwitting beneficiaries of this happy circumstance.
The very life and soul of a college is its faculty. Libraries, labs, playing fields, gyms and endowments are all essential tools in education, but professors are the lifeblood of the process. Our profound sense of obligation to the faculty of our day certainly did not arise from any distant, scholarly isolation on the faculty's part. One of the startling things about our faculty was its accessibility, its friendliness and a certain sense of camaraderie with those of us in its charge. This atmosphere and attitude may well explain the wealth of nicknames with which so many of them were tagged and known by us all. I've never known a comparable group with so many soubriquets.
We had "Trot" Chase, "Stink" Saunders, "Smut" Fancher, "Chubby" Ristine, "Bobo" Rudd, "Little Greek," "Digger" Graves, "Fi-Fi" Gordon, "Rocksy" Dale, "GiGi" Wisewell, "Baldy" Wood, Bill "Shep" to name a few, and those who escaped nicknames were all reduced to the status of "Bill" Squires, "Cal" Lewis, "Art" Winters, "Al" Prettyman, and on and on. We were all one little happy family.
I can't recall a nickname for Milledge Louis Bonham, Jr., a professor of history — that tall, dignified, bearded Southern gentleman who loved maps and notebooks bedight with bright colors — the more colors the better the grade. By and large, it was a strong faculty. Rudd and Ristine, totally unlike in character and performance, represented a first-rate English Department. No one has ever revealed the charms of Restoration comedies better than "Bobo," and the stimulation of "Chubby" has given some of us a lifetime of pleasure reading and re-reading Hazlitt, Lamb and old Shakespeare. "Stink" Saunders, bearded and clad in tweed knickers, not only taught chemistry, following his arrival in 1890; for some he opened the door to the vast mysteries of astronomy through the eye of his private telescope, which he used to set up on starry nights on the golf course, followed by candied apples at his home. He opened the door for still others to the charms of chamber music he created in his living room with himself playing one of the violins. He opened the door for still others to the joys of horticulture and flower breeding, with his highly professional work with peonies.
English composition was a freshman requirement demanding weekly 300-word themes, which were actually read and corrected, graded and criticized by "Smut" Fancher and his assistants. Worldly, suave, sophisticated, sporting an Adolph Menjou neat, waxed mustache, "Smut" exacted correct grammar, spelling and sentence structure from every man, with acerbic marginal comments and low grades for inattention to these basic disciplines. He lent his talents to coaching the Charlatans and conducting and training the College Choir. Under his aegis, both organizations approached professional status. The 55-man choir made sorties off the Hill, singing at Vassar and Wells, in New York at the Town Hall and Guild Theater, on Long Island, in Connecticut and New Jersey, all before enthusiastic audiences, hyped up to no small extent by the public relations drum-beating of Alexander Woollcott, who lured the theater and musical world of Manhattan to hear us, from the Lunts and Marc Connelly to Otto H. Kahn and Deems Taylor. The music critics of the Times, Tribune and the world all gave these Metropolitan performances happy, positive reviews.
Under Fancher's direction, R.C. Sherriff's play Journey's End received its off-Broadway production on the Hill in June 1929, all made possible by Woollcott's securing the author's permission over the trans-Atlantic telephone. Johnny Jones and Charlie Symmonds starred in this first amateur production and were the biggest smash hit of that dramatic season, both in London and on Broadway. The production was pronounced "superb" both by Woollcott and the Hamilton Life reviewer. Charlie and Johnny repeated their success in the revival production of the play during our senior year. Johnny served as president of the Charlatans and when we all left the Hill, only he remained behind temporarily, as a member of the faculty.
The Art Department in our time consisted of a six-week course given by Edward Wales Root, whose home is now the Root Gallery. Root was an avid collector of Native American art, and a contagious communicator of what he liked, whether it was a Charles E. Burchfield watercolor, a John Sloan oil or a New Yorker magazine cover. His enthusiastic collecting actually made him a golden patron of many struggling artists, who later became famous, but who in those days relied on his early patronage of their work for economic survival. When he died, his collection was given a show at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which his brother Elihu was a director. This collection, termed the finest private collection in its field, was what some of us had fortunately been exposed to in our days on the Hill, under the quiet, subtle mentorship of Edward Root himself. If the Art Department was skimpy, it was long on quality and even impelled some of us to become collectors on our own, so as to experience the pleasures and joy that art had so exhilaratingly afforded Mr. Root.
Many of us recall with pleasure attending as alumni the galas which Edward Root and his wife Grace used to throw on Commencement weekends, in the setting of their spacious lawn and gardens. These affairs were known as "Black Velvet" parties and constituted one of the happiest social traditions on the Hill.
Flashback: Bill Squires, stiffly erect, striding across the snow-white campus, wearing his black bowler hat and long black dress coat, his eyes flashing under bushy eyebrows, whose luxuriousness only J.L. Lewis could match; Bill seating incoming freshmen by telling second-generation men in which seat their fathers had sat before them; Bill welcoming and seating by name incoming sophomores to his classes, all from memory.
Flashback: Campus dogs on the platform at morning chapel, howling along with us singing the daily hymns. Alarm clocks, hidden in the organ pipes, set to go off in stages during morning chapel. Conspiracy, by pre-arrangement, that "Swampy" Marsh would be left in chapel singing solo, with everyone else suddenly silent on cue.
Flashback: Super at the blackboard, starting his message at the left bottom, graduating through top center, and ending up in the upper right corner. "GiGi" Wisewell setting down recitation marks in his little black book; handsome and cadaverous "Bill" Shep, clicking and clacking out his classic French through mobile dentures; mustachioed "Papa" Gelas, evoking earlier centuries through the sabre and epee artistry of his fencing teams.
Of all the traditions on Hill in our time, none was more venerable than dealing with public speaking. "Rhetoric and oratory" had made a reputation for the College for over 100 years. Dr. Melancthon Woolsey Stryker's influence still prevailed 10 years after his retirement. In 1928, Hamilton Life conducted a strenuous campaign to relax the compulsory requirements for the upper classes. One year later Life came out with a banner headline "Agreement Reached on Public Speaking," and reported a victory comprised of new courses in extempore speaking and a cutting down of the number of courses required for juniors and seniors.
Over the subsequent years there were periodic efforts further to relax and even abandon aspects of this program, conducted in our day by "Cal" Lewis and "Swampy" Marsh. I can recall my amazement, while serving on the Alumni Council and later on the Board of Trustees, hearing some of our contemporaries who had been most vociferous in griping about public speaking during their undergraduate days become the loudest frontrunners in defense of retaining the program. They contended that nothing they had learned in College had so helped them in their life as the training they had been forced to experience, starting with the freshman declamation sessions before "Swampy" Marsh, Fran Mineka and Win Tolles, and running right on through the senior requirements. This ability to communicate with effectiveness and distinction they wanted to be given to incoming classes through continual exposure to the discipline at which they themselves had bridled and balked.
The 50-year annalist for the Class of 1881, who performed his duties the year we were graduated, was Clinton Scollard, a well-known poet. His performance was memorable in that he delivered his letter in the form of a poem. Our class has no such talent and no such luck or we wouldn't be stuck here with my pedestrian prose.
Scollard wrote, 50 years ago:
"Dear recollections crown about us here
In this our Fiftieth Anniversary year…
Beneath this self-same roof — remember how
With shaking knees we made our virgin bow."
I have never forgotten a declamation contest I attended "beneath this self-same roof" and watched the first speaker mount this platform, turn to the audience and commence his speech. Dr. Stryker, who had by that time become very deaf, was in the audience, and all of a sudden, in loud, stentorian tones, his whisper boomed out from the gallery, "Why doesn't he bow?" Sometime during the intervening years since Dr. Stryker's retirement, the old tradition died out. The poor speaker was struck dumb, forgot his lines, couldn't go on, and really bowed — right out of the competition.
"Trot" Chase conducted a one-man Latin department, and what a wonderful department it was. He, too, used to direct the Choir which he had taken over one year when "Trot" was on sabbatical; when Chase came back he never got the Choir back. "Trot" also produced plays, but only in Latin, with this students playing the roles. In our time he produced the old classical comedy of Plautus called Menaecchmi and took it on the road to Hunter College and Princeton, where it played to enthusiastic audiences, as large as 1,500 at Hunter. Hamilton was still fostering the classics when other schools had begun offering courses in babysitting, horseshoeing and hotel management. Fran Crowley, Al Knox and Bob Kerr survived the tryouts and made the cast. Fran and Al starred in the production, playing the twin hero roles. I always found it fascinating that a varsity star second baseman and star halfback, who was brilliant on the diamond and gridiron as well as a scholar in the classroom, should also star as brilliantly on the stage in a Latin classic. On the day Hamilton Life reported on the New York and Princeton triumphs, Fran was elected captain of the football team. He was truly the Renaissance man of our class and it was one of the war's cruelest tragedies that he and his promising career were lost to us all when he became a casualty of that conflict.
Mox Weber, Art Winters, Walter Hess, Earl Butcher and Walter Laves came in with our class, Mox and Art in sports, Hess and Butcher in biology, and Laves in Poli Sci. For years Mox or Art, and sometimes both, joined us at our various reunion get-togethers, so closely were they identified with '31. We were not the world's greatest athletes, but under their coaching, the College began to turn out winning teams in track, basketball, baseball and football, reversing decades of ill-fortune in these sports. We beat Union twice on the gridiron, 8-6 and 7-6, in our four years, and had stunning track and baseball seasons, all thanks to the leadership of these great coaches. "Al" Prettyman's hockey teams had always turned in sterling performances, and Bob Wilson, Al Redmond, Babe Corwin, Matty Stevens and others continued the high victory standards set under his coaching.
Flashback: Remember the 1928 football season — the best in 13 years. We defeated Union 8-6 on Alexander Field for the first time in over 23 years, as the climax to Coach Winter's second season. Risky Morris was quarterback, and although one of the smallest signal-callers of all the nation's 500 college teams at 5'3" and only 137 pounds, in contrast to the previous year's 208-pound captain, Bob Carpenter, Risky was one of the best, maybe because you could never see him in a huddle. Elected captain, he was unable to play our senior year due to a physical disability. A natural-born leader, he served as class president senior year. We all miss him today, but are delighted that his wife Van is here with us on this occasion.
Flashback: In 1930 the Continental team enjoyed its most successful season in 16 years, under Coach Winters.
Flashback: Johnny Rodger was the first recipient of the Richard S. Fowler football award in 1930. Fran Crowley was the 1931 recipient.
Flashback: The Buff and Blue beat Union at hockey in 1930, 4-3, with Captain Bob Wilson scoring the winning goal in the closing minutes of play and giving Coach Al Prettyman another successful season in the enviable string of strong seasons since he came to the Hill in 1917.
Flashback: In 1930, the entire College marched around campus behind the College Band to the giant bonfire where Union went up in flaming effigy at a stirring football rally on the eve of the 38th traditional game with our archrivals. Next day, to a man, the College traveled to Alexander Field to watch the game played in mire and mud. Late in the final quarter, Johnny Rienzo passed to Fran Crowley, who scampered over to tie the score. Johnny's stunning kick through the uprights gave us a 7-6 victory over Union, the second in our four years on the Hill. Those were the days!
One of the most heartening themes struck by the class in its letters to me was the life-long enriching influence of the musical exposure they experienced from the efforts of Professors Berrian Shute and "Smut" Fancher, and from the concerts sponsored by the Musical Arts Society. Especially recalled was the gala performance of pianist Jose Iturbi. The Iturbi recital in this very Chapel was the first exposure many of us ever had a brilliant artist in solo performance, and the memory of this occasion for some has survived over 50 years as one of the stellar cultural highlights of our time on campus.
Speaking of music, how many can recall in fond recollection the fall and spring house parties when the Hill was invaded by bevies of young beauties with their bobbed hair and short skirts, all eager to jazz the Charleston, the shag and the bunny hop, under the watchful eyes of the chaperon mixed couples on duty patrol in each fraternity house. Social life for Scollard's Class of 1881 took place off the Hill amid lemonade, laughter and the formality of the waltz at the ladies' seminaries then thriving in Clinton at the foot of the Hill, and moved that 50-year annalist to exclaim in rhapsodic reverie:
"Where are the girls, those fascinating girls, who wore their hair in braids, or bangs, or curls?"
Some of the "fascinating girls" from our day and time are here with us this weekend. Their orchidaceous beauty has impelled many an objective observer to wonder how come every one in the Class of '31 apparently has managed to marry a child bride.
In our time Hamilton was predominantly a fraternity college. The majority of underclassmen belonged to national and local fraternities. Residence in the fraternity houses contributed to solving the housing shortage on the Hill. One of the traditions, which arose out of the fraternity system in our day, was "Hell Week," that span of seven days when the freshmen were conditioned for induction into the various fraternities to which we had pledged. American campuses have developed some strange institutions in their time, but none more extraordinary than "Hell Week."
This satanic tradition at Hamilton reached its peak in 1927 and in a real sense we of '31 are its last survivors. With our class, a reaction set in, sparked by a rebellion against the conviction that the only way to test a gentleman was through the rigors of a seven-day- and-night ordeal. No torture seemed too great, no anguish too intense if it gave access to those mystic brotherhoods, their passwords, fraternity pins and secret handclasps. The tradition had had a long life, but we pallbearers finally caught up with it and began the process of lowering it six feet into the past.
Let me recall some of the ingenious indignities many of us were subjected to, starting on a February Sunday evening to the accompaniment of the slow, doleful strains of Chopin's Funeral March, whose mournful dirge never ceased for the whole week. Many of us, like sacrifices in some ancient pagan rite, and not unlike the recent Iranian hostages, were blindfolded and carted off the Hill and dropped by the side of the snow-drifted road in the country and invited back for breakfast "if we could take it." Eight miles on foot in the night over wintry country roads in zero weather with snow swirling in the wind over open meadows can take something out of you. Wilmer Bresee and Johnny Rienzo one night were dumped out near Whitesboro. Trying to discover where they were, Johnny climbed a pole with a sign on it. When he got close enough to read it, the sign said "Wet Paint."
The meals of "Hell Week" were disasters — soup spiced with pepper and wild seasonings that tore out your throat to even trickle it down — toast burned so black it crumbled in the mouth and tasted like ashes. This was our diet for the entire week, supplemented by lots of water. In fact, every time a freshman smiled, he had to down another glass.
The technique of torture is a succession of deprivations just when the mind and body look forward to the anticipated resumption of normal daily routine. I recall Monday night when around one o'clock our Deke delegation staggered slumping into our beds; we were turned out 15 minutes later, told to dress, were supplied with shovels and ordered to open paths across the campus through four feet of snow. That night I remember wondering why the good Lord, who had opened up the Red Sea for the Israelites, couldn't turn a little of his influence our way. In the morning, when the College awoke, there lay great channels across the campus that had mysteriously opened up during the night.
The next night we were each given a slip of paper with a name on it and two matches apiece and ordered to locate a desolate cemetery six miles out in the hills, each to find the stone bearing the name written on our individual slip and copy down the balance of the epitaph — or else. Again, blindfolded, we were trucked off into the middle of the night and dropped out to make our grisly inventory.
The unflagging genius of our seniors rose to the occasion each night of that horrible week. So it was that Saturday finally came when, exhausted and unstrung, mentally, emotionally and physically, we were initiated into the brotherhood — out on our feet. That was "Hell Week" in a tradition long since happily dead.
It is true that we were not a very mobile society on campus, since only seniors could have a car on the Hill, and very few could afford such a luxury in any event. We had to walk up and down the Hill to the "Toonerville Trolley" in Clinton to reach New Hartford or Utica. The press and radio were the only media, and it is difficult now to believe that in 1930 there were only 10 million homes with radio sets, with a national audience of a mere 40 million listeners, and gas was 25 cents per gallon.
Flashback: Speaking of radio: Sev Bourne broadcast the first live report of a Hamilton-Union game directly from the playing field on the Hill over the facilities of the Utica radio station WIBX.
Flashback: Johnny Rienzo, his senior year, had a Model T, but the only way he could make the Hill was to drive it up backwards. Our real sport was Sev Bourne whose Packard wheels were the envy of us all, accompanied as the car always was with some of the prettiest girls to invade the hilltop. Johnny Guyton brought back a Model A his junior year and garaged it outside the limits of Clinton, thinking thus to conform to the ban against anyone having a car except seniors. One day he was summoned to Dr. Ferry's office. "John," the president said, "it is rumored that you are keeping a car in the vicinity of Clinton. Now I know the rumor must be false, but if there is any substance to it, please see the matter is resolved." That afternoon, Johnny moved the car to Utica, savoring another example of Dr. Ferry's suavely discreet and succinct high diplomacy.
Of all Hamilton's traditions the finest has been its devotion to excellence. Sir Richard Livingston maintained that the quality of a civilization depends upon "its standards, its sense of values, its ideas of what is first rate and what is not." Our 300-word freshman themes, that were only read, but criticized and marked for grammar, spelling and content, and the multiple drilling required for all freshman declarations quickly established standards for individual high performance not only in writing and speaking but in all other studies and disciplines on the Hill, not excluding athletics and other extracurricular activities like Choir, the Charlatans, the debating teams and campus publications. Some of us thought when we arrived on the Hill that we knew how to write and speak fairly well, until "Smut" Fancher handed back our corrected themes and "Cal" Lewis and "Swampy" Marsh worked us over in public speaking drills. Correction of deficiencies in these fields of communication were reinforced by the rest of the faculty in their classrooms, all with the aim of demanding excellence in performance, whatever the subject or activity. A high sense of morality, implicit in compulsory chapel and jurisdiction of the Honor Court, reinforced these standards, so that intellectual and spiritual integrity were alive and well on the Hill.
In our day, the faculty labored to give us, in the phrase of Professor Alfred N. Whitehead of Harvard, an "habituated vision of greatness" — a basic essential to all education — the ability to see and recognize what is first-rate, both in the past and in the world around us. Johann Eckermann, Goethe's Boswell and man-Friday, asked in 1831, 100 years before we became alumni, "In what does barbarism consist, if not in failure to appreciate what is excellent?" Next to the achievement of excellence itself is the appreciation of it. Hamilton and her faculty strove to give us this sense of appreciation and in addition challenged us to strive for excellence in whatever we did. Coupled with and sustained by intellectual thrust was the emphasis on broad, general knowledge and the necessity to see things and the world about us in perspective.
We were exposed by our faculty to ideas, classical and modern; we were challenged to think about them, speak about them, write about them and recognize among them the top-flight and the first-rate and to distinguish the second-rate, the shoddy, the ignoble and the base.
In the years since our graduation, fidelity to the commitment to excellence and the transmission of the benefits of general, liberal education has suffered erosion, happily not here on the Hill to the extent apostasy has prevailed elsewhere. Walter Lippmann complained that "we have established a system of education in which we insist that everyone must be educated. Yet there is nothing in particular that an educated man should know." Lippmann stressed that while graduates were expected to form a civilized community, it was no surprise that they shared no common purpose, since they had not been transmitted a common culture. The quality of a civilization depends upon this shared inheritance, this sense of what is first-rate.
Mr. Justice Felix Frankfurter has put it well: "The ultimate formation of a free society is the binding tie of a cohesive sentiment. Such a sentiment is fostered by all those agencies of the mind and spirit which may serve to gather up the traditions of a people, transmit them from generation to generation, and thereby create that continuity of a treasured common life which constitutes a civilization." A nation as diverse and pluralistic as ours needs this "cohesive sentiment" which only our colleges and universities can nurture.
Paul Vincent Carroll, the playwright, in his great play Shadow and Substance, has eloquently described this development as the "decline and decay of the great classic ideals and the steady vulgarization of our life by that tributaried stream of barbarians who have taken all that was royal in conception and given nothing but their own vulgar deluge in return… they have vulgarized our reading, our music, our art, our very privacy… and they deal with a whitewash brush in terms of the Divine."
May Hamilton always protect and defend against the forces of barbarism, and honor, preserve and transmit the values implicit in the great liberal arts humane traditions. May we, her sons, and now, her young daughters, be worthy of this heritage, so that, 50 years from today, in 2031, the annalist for that year will be able to report from this podium that the gentle gong of the humanities is still sounding and that this superb intellectual legacy of mind and spirit is still enriching the on-going Hamilton generations of the 21st century.
Hamilton is the only college I know of whose alma mater is the creation of one of its presidents. Dr. Stryker composed ours and christened it with the dearest of all Latin words Carissima. This composition has a truly liturgical quality. I never hear Carissima sung without being reminded of that old cry of the Church — "sursam corda"— lift up your hearts.
In closing, I wish to paraphrase the final four lines in Clinton Scollard's 50-year annalist letter, delivered as a poem from this platform in 1931. They are part of the seamless web of memory and affection that, over the span of a century, still binds us all together as "loyal" sons and "steadfast" men, returned once more to our "homestead, glade and glen."
"To those who have already kissed the Grail
Across the tides of time, we send our hail;
To all the living sons of Thirty-one
Our loyal love — and love to Hamilton."
To Carissima, now and forever, in loyalty and love, we of '31 lift up our hearts.
Jefferson F. Meagher, Class of 1931
Jefferson Frederick Meagher came to Hamilton from Binghamton (N.Y.) Central High School. A member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, he became editor-in-chief of Hamilton Life, was elected president of the journalism and forensic honoraries Pi Delta Epsilon and Delta Sigma Rho, won the McKinney Prize for declamation and was tapped for Pentagon. Despite all those activities, he paid sufficient attention to studies to gain election to Phi Beta Kappa and earn the right to deliver the Latin salutatory. After his graduation with honors in political science and public speaking, Jeff entered Yale Law School, obtaining his LL.B. degree and joined his father in the practice of law in Binghamton, forming the firm of Meagher & Meagher.
In subsequent years Jeff Meagher served as president of the Broome County Historical Society, the Humane Society, the Association for Retarded Children (ARC), the Binghamton Civic Forum and the Community Symphony Society. He also served as president of the Broome County Bar Association and the Federation of Bar Associations of the Sixth Judicial District.
A past president of the Southern New York Alumni Association, he chaired the Alumni Council in 1944-45 and was president of the Alumni Association in 1956-57. In addition, he served the College as an alumni trustee from 1946 to 1951.