Stanford Alumni Association.

Addresses delivered before the sixth annual meeting of the Alumni Association of the Leland Stanford Junior University, May 24, 1898 online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryStanford Alumni AssociationAddresses delivered before the sixth annual meeting of the Alumni Association of the Leland Stanford Junior University, May 24, 1898 → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




A =


1 m

3 =


4 =

7 =



Stanford University. Alumni


Addresses delivered before
the sixth annual meeting,..
May 24, 1898, by Jefferson
Elmore, Charles J.C. Bennett.




Addresses Delivered before the Sixth

Annual Meeting of the Alumni


Of the Leland Stanford Junior University
May 24, 1898


With an Account of the Proceedings of Alumni Day, and the
Treasurer's Report.

Published by the Alumni Association

Addresses Delivered before the Sixth

Annual Meeting of the Alumni


Of the Leland Stanford Junior University
May 24, 1898


With an Account of the Proceedings of Alumni Day, and the
Treasurer's Report.

, ,3 , , , ' , ,

Published by the Alumm Association


Press of C. A. Murdock & Co.
San Francisco.

i-^oo »-r) (^-yf j



I wish in this paper to call attention to some ways in which it
seems to me that our university influences the after-life of her
alumni. In doing so, I should like to be understood as speaking
from a purely personal standpoint. It is obvious, in the case of an
institution whose pride it is to minister to the special needs of the
individual, that every one is not affected by it in precisely the
same way ; so that my interpretation of the forces that were
brought to bear upon us, and of their relation to life, may not be

Doubtless there are general tendencies which act upon every
one that comes within the confines of these walls, and which, in
^ spite of individual differences, tend to produce certain definite
""l^ types of character. Still, I question very much if the time has
0= yet come to characterize these tendencies in general terms. A
g^ modern university, it need hardly be said, is an exceedingly com-
—^ plex institution. It brings into play forces that are not only hard
:« to measure, but that act and react upon one another in a most
g complicated manner. Moreover, in our own university, we have
to deal with special considerations. One of these* is the circum-
stances under which the teaching body performs its functions.
Not only is this body made up of men whose associations, whose
training, and whose views of life are most diverse, but it also acts in
an atmosphere of the greatest freedom. With this diversity of
character, and with liberty for each one to teach what seems to
him the truth, these trained scholars bring to bear the powerful
influence of their personalities on the young men and women that
look to them for inspiration and guidance. It must also be taken
into account that our university has existed but a short time. It
would be too much to expect, in this early period of adjustment,



lliat the forces which are at work here, and which each one of us
has felt so stroni^ly in his own Hfe, should have their general
trend clearly defined. Tliis will come when they have been
longer in operation, when their power has been made manifest in
a still greater number of human lives. In the mean time, one aid
to a determination of the common message the university has had
for us all, will be the record of what she has been to her indi-
vidual sons and tlaughters. To make a personal contribution of
this kind, in which you will no doubt find much for disagreement,
is the purpose of this paper.

If one should ask for the fundamental, distinctive influence
of the university, I should characterize it as moral, rather than
intellectual. In saying this, I do not wish to speak lightly of
the intellectual interests, but, important as they are, they do
not appear to me to be so powerful and so all-pervading as the
tendency toward right living. Even the new-comer, from his
very first day, has a distinct impression of this influence ; he
feels an impulse, not so much to study something as to do some-
thing, — something that shall give expression to the highest and
best part of his nature. Moreover, this deep sense of one's
relation to others, is as old as the university itself It used to
be said in the early days, by some who spoke without per-
sonal knowledge, that we had no atmosphere, and that we
should have one only after the laj^se of years. And yet, at that
very time, the atmosphere was here, and so distinctive that it
made us conspicuous in the academic world then as it does now.

Unmistakable as the presence of this influence is, it may seem
difficult to define so intangible a thing. And yet, in my opinion,
there is no doubt that the essence of it is a passion for humanity.
It comes from men eager to serve the welfare of others ; it stirs
in the hearts of those who come within its range the same
deep feeling, and so, by the interaction of thjse forces, it comes
about that the pre-eminent influence of our university life is an
interest in human life and a striving to make it more noble and
more fruitful.

There are many ways in which this love for humanity makes
its presence felt in the little world of student-life. We recall

especially how it manifests itself in the relations that exist
between students themselves, and between them and their
teachers. Indeed, these relations are so well known, and in a
way so famous, that I need not dwell upon them. The sympathy
and the kindly consideration from one to another have already in
the past warmed many hearts; and the affectionate interest which
the one who teaches takes in the welfare of his pupil has borne
fruit in many lives.

Another indication of this same influence is the well-marked
feeling that everybody ought to do something in the world.
Education ought to lead to action, and not merely to contempla-
tion. In fact, the man is looked upon as a practical failure, who
does not put his training to the test in the performance of some
useful work. How strong this feeling really is, is perhaps best
understood by the graduate who, having left the university and
been engaged in active life, returns for additional study. He may
do so for the very best of reasons, but the old-time cordiality
gives way to a polite indifference warranted to chill the most
sanguine nature. As to his position in the student-world, he is
not nearly of so much consequence as the rawest freshman. A
case that illustrates and confirms what I am saying has come
under my notice. A graduate of the university, who has been
called to a responsible position in a foreign country, after suc-
cessfully pursuing his vocation for a year or two, decided, for
excellent reasons, to make a change. Seeing a few months of
inactivity ahead, he thought it would be pleasant as well as profi-
table to spend the time in his old haunts at the university. The
upshot was, that he came, endured the chill for a couple of weeks,
and then packed his trunk and fled to the warmer atmosphere of
Berkeley. This tendency to action, and the consequent interest
among students in the practical affairs of the world, is hard for
people from the outside to understand. The Mayor of San
Francisco, in a recent address to the Graduate Club on the pro-
posed new charter, apologized profusely for speaking on such a
subject to those who were in the quiet shades of academic life.
He did not understand the close relation which this ideal of
action establishes between this secluded life of study and the

busy world outside. Now, whatever else may enter into this
glorification of doin^ some useful thing, it seems to me to arise
mainly from the feeling that the improvement of humanity is one
of the chief ends of life, and that he makes utter shipwreck and
failure who lets slip the opportunity to bear his part in this noble
service. Now, as in Judea of old, we must be about our Father's

It is uniier this inthience that the university sends its graduates
into the world. How much such a view of life means both for the
world and for themselves, it would not be possible to over-
estimate. In the first place, it has put the graduate into posses-
sion of one great secret of life, — perhaps the greatest one of all.
It makes him feel that the way of life is not through the seeking
of his own interests, but in devotion to those of others. He
knows, so far as mere personal survival in the fierce struggle for
existence is concerned, that the man who lives for self sets in
motion the forces of his own destruction, but that he who forgets
himself for the sake of his brother arrays on his side all the forces
of the universe that make for life. He understands, also, as so
many have not, the profound wisdom of the great Teacher, when
he says : For whosoever will save his life shall lose it ; and
whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Animated with
such a spirit, — the precious gift of his own university, — our col-
lege man finds in service for others, not only personal success, and
all the pleasant things that go with it, but also the unfolding of
his own highest life. Then, again, let us think for a moment what
the presence of this devotion to humanity means in a community.
No one can express it in words ; nay more, one who has not seen
it can hardly believe the miracles that may be wrought by
unselfish love, — the coin that passes current among all kinds and
conditions of men, women, and children. It is through the work
of teaching that the community is to be mainly affected by this
spirit. In this field, the success of Stanford men and women has
been due largely to the fact that they are dominated by a desire to
accomplish something toward the ultimate perfection of the race,
— a feeling that turns the work of the teacher from mere drud-
gery into an absorbing passion. Nowhere is the influence of the

university upon its graduates more strongly felt, and nowhere
is that influence passed on with greater power.

Another great influence which 1;he university exerts is the
religious one. In spite of the diversity of views held here in
matters of this kind, in spite of the bewilderment that sometimes
falls on the undergraduate, it has seemed to me that there is a
definite trend in a certain direction. This phase of the university's
significance has, perhaps, been more talked of than any other,
and I should say nothing about it, were it not for its absorbing
interest. In what I do say, I wish to keep in mind the fact that
many students experience in their college careers no vital change
in their religious beliefs. To these, and doubdess to many others,
there will be little or no relevance in what I have to say.

In just what terms this religious influence is to be formulated,
if it can be formulated at all, is, 6f course, a matter of individual
interpretation. Speaking for myself, I have no doubt that it
tends to a very important modification of certain beliefs gene-
rally considered as essential. In doing so, it does not leave one
who is influenced by it with no foundation to stand upon.
The statement, which is so often heard, that those who reject
accepted beliefs are at sea without anchor, is made without regard
to the facts. Indeed, a perfectly rational and satisfying theory of
life can be constructed with no reference to mediaeval dogmas.
Such a theory, I venture to think, is involved in our own religious
atmosphere. Roughly outlined, the main features, as they appear
to me, are God, a universe of law, salvation through putting
one's self in right relation to the forces that make for life, and the
uplifting of humanity through the power of love as the ultimate
end of our existence. With such a belief men can live and die ;
with it, moreover, they can transform the world

Assuming, then, that a graduate of the university, through his
own studies in an atmosphere such as we have here, has come
into some such philosophy of life, he is brought face to face with
the delicate question of his relation to the part of the community
that retains the old beliefs. His position is not at all an easy one.
For the church is an exceedingly important institution. Around
it center traditions of long standing, tender associations, and an


increasinjij ainount of social activity. Then again, the church is
sometimes not as tolerant as it might be, especially when it feels
that essential doctrines arc being called in cjuestion. What, then,
shall be the attitude of the college man toward this venerable and
powerful organization, coming, as he does, with convictions of
his own, and desiring unselfishly to help his fellows to a better
life ?

Under the circumstances, it seems to me that two courses of
action are open, one or the other of which is likely to be followed.
One of these, with no disparaging implication, I venture to call
the course of compromise. The one who holds to it sees in the
church a long-established institution which has been and is a
most important factor in our civilization, and in whose activities at
present the best men and women of every community are engaged.
He also assumes that in respect to belief the church is in a stage
of transition, and that the time will come when it will divest itself
of all traces of mediaeval dogma. In the mean time, it is the duty
of the man with university training to help along this period of
transition. His own convictions, at least so far as they conflict
with the convictions of others, are to be held somewhat in abey-
ance. If he interprets their articles of belief in one way and his
neighbor in another, if where he sees "poetry" the other sees
"science," this is not to prevent them from worshipping and
working together. In the fullness of time, through his own co-
operation and that of men like him, and through other forces that
always make for progress, the church is to be transformed, in
which great movement he will have borne an honorable part.

The other course that is open to the university man with
serious views of life is, in many respects, the opposite of this
one. The main thing about it, perhaps, is the fact that he is
perfectly honest and frank in the expression of his own beliefs.
He does not, of course, go about in a spirit of propaganda, seek-
ing to upset the cherished convictions of others. Neither does
he conceal or with specious interpretation dilute what he himself
really believes, but on all proper occasions, with tact and with
the utmost tolerance lor the opinions of others, he gives brave
and manly utterance to his own conception of the truth. From

this attitude, there results a certain isolation from the church.
Whoever assumes it must find other sources for his own religious
life, and through other instrumentalities he must chiefly accom-
plish his part in the upbuilding of huAianity.

Now this second attitude of perfect honesty and candor is the
one, in my opinion, that ought to be assumed toward the old
beliefs. If it involves, in our work, the loss of the organization
of the church with its countless possibilities of influence, it at least
saves the integrity of the individual character. No one has the
right to say anything that tends to overthrow established beliefs,
unless his own convictions are grounded on the most careful
study. But when once these convictions have been formed, it is
the highest duty of every honest man to speak out what he
actually believes. Questions of mighty import stare us all in the
face, — questions of our relation to this life and to the life beyond.
Whoever, then, has an answer to these questions different from the
answer of tradition, is bound not only for others, but also for the
sake of the integrity of his own soul, to speak out his message
without evasion and without reservation. It is this loyalty to their
conception of the truth, this unwillingness to put themselves in a
false position, that keeps many university men and women out of
the church.

And it may be after all, that, for the church, whose useful-
ness we all wish to see preserved and increased, it is just as
well, for the present at least, that this should be so. Institutions,
it is true, develop from within ; it is also true that they are
influenced from without. In the case of the church, there are no
doubt forces at work within, which in the course of time will bring
about many changes ; but it seems to me that there are serious
difficulties in the way of hastening from within the operation of
these forces. One is the difficulty which an earnest and honest
holder of the new gospel finds in identifying himself with an
organization whose fundamental beliefs he cannot accept.
Assuming that such a man is in the church by some kind of
moral legerdemain, what shall he do ? He is confronted with a
creed for the propagation of which the church mainly exists, and
by which even he himself is more or less vitally bound. For this


he would substitute his own deeper views; but if he should say a
single word against doctrines considered essential, — for example,
that of the vicarious atonement, — if he should seek to place an
interpretation upon them different from that of plain Christian
people, he would be guilty almost of an act of treachery. His
very position has tied his hands. And so under the present con-
ditions, the influences that may be brought to bear from without
for the transformation of the church are quite as important as those
from within. These influences from without will make themselves
felt especially through the younger generation. To them is to be
carried with hands unhampered the message of the new truth,
and when this is done, the object which we all desire will be within
reach. In this work it is fitting that the graduates of our uni-
versity should bear a conspicuous part.

1 wish now to turn for a moment to purely intellectual influences.
Here I shall be content with a few words; because, highly import-
ant and distinctive as these influences are, I think there is much
less likelihood of those who have been subject to them placing
different interpretations upon them.

What is to be noted is the fact that a well-defined intellectual
atmosphere is not especially noticeable. I do not mean by this
that the different subjects are not taught in the best way, or that
those who are taught are not interested in intellectual things.
What I do mean is, that no department of learning has become
so prominent as to affect the whole of the university life with an
impulse toward study in that line. It may be that there is a
tendency in this direction; that the time will come when the
influence, say, of certain departments of science will dominate
and permeate our whole intellectual spirit. In view of the vast
development of science in recent years, and of the special circum-
stances that foster the study of it here, it would not be surprising
if such were the case; but, at present, I think it may safely
be said that this state of things has not yet come about. In
fact, it may be doubted whether the conditions here are such as
to produce a strong desire for the study of any subject whatever
for its own sake, considered apart from the vocation of the


It is not to be wondered at that this atmosphere of culture,
with its keen delight in all kinds of learning for its own sake,
should not here be yet highly developed. The interests of our
people are material, and, under such' conditions, it is not to be
expected that the tastes of young men and women will be revolu-
tionized by four years of college life. Moreover, the university
itself, unlike the older institutions with their centuries of devotion
to intellectual ideals, has behind it no traditions of culture except
such as have been formed in its own short life. At best, these
traditions are of slow growth, but I think that here they are
retarded by the stress that is placed on the practical side of
education. With so much emphasis placed on the relation ot
every subject of study to vocation, and so little on its value for
the mere happiness of the one who studies, it is not surprising
that the tendency towards the appreciation of things for them-
selves, which we call culture, should be somewhat late in making
itself strongly felt.

This narrowing of education, which we see here, for the purpose
of bringing it more directly to bear on the work of life has
important effects on the graduates of the university. For one
thing, which I think is to be deplored, the interests of a man
narrowly trained are bound to be circumscribed. He is con-
fined practically to what relates to his daily toil; in that part of
his life which remains over and above this, in which he gladly
turns to other things, he is deprived of resources that would add
immensely to his happiness. Then, too, there is likely to be a
certain provincialism in his way of thinking. This usually takes
the form of a disparagement of what he himself does not under-
stand. This inability to comprehend another point of view, and
to recognize the value of what is done in other lines of activity,
is one of the most disappointing results of our system of training.
Among our many compensations for these disadvantages, it is
worth while to note, first, the quality in the training here that
forbids the student to be satisfied with himself, and that urges him
on to still greater achievement in the preparation for his life-
work. If the statistics were compiled, it would probably be
found that no institution has a greater proportion of its alumn

engajj;cil in graduate stiuly than our own. This is to say much
for the real inspiration in the work here. Moreover, what-
ever else may be said, our trainine;, with its special adaptation to
the individual, JK-ars directly on the problems of life. If it is not
in every case an adequate preparation for some useful calling, it
is such a foundation as no general course devised for purposes of
culture could give. Of this fact, the success that has already
been won in the world by Stanford's men and women is sufficient

Last, but not least, our university enriches the lives of her
alumni by giving them in herself a new object for their devotion
and their love. From the moment we leave these "stately, splen-
did, simple" walls of stone, she sits enthroned in our hearts. For
her honor we put forth our noblest efforts, and in her triumphs
we rejoice with exceeding gladness. Surely, it has fallen to the
lot of no other institution to have lavished upon it so much of
unselfish love. This love not only ennobles the lives of those
who feel it, but it also lays upon the university herself no light
burden of responsibility ; and yet we may be sure that, animated
by the spirit of our Founders, and directed by the genius of him
who both guides her and loves her, she will satisfy our aspira-
tions in the future as she has always done in the past.



The years that have gone by since the founding of our Alma
Mater are too few yet to bring back alumni old and wise, full of
years and knowledge, who will deliver addresses of instruction.
Rather must it be a group of old friends who have met to give
one another the experiences of the past year, both for entertain-
ment and benefit. What are some of the problems of life that
have come to us? What its duties? How has our university
training helped in their discharge? Any that may be mentioned
are old — as old as human learning; but to us they are new — as
new as the questions and perplexities of yesterday.

For example, last year we had ably discussed the adjustment
of the graduate to the old situations and institutions of the com-
munity. There is a conflict of soul in our effort to be sincere in
our new opinions, gathered here and there in the university, and
at the same time not commit the double fault of becoming simply
destructive critics, and hence ineffective members of society; for,
with a movement as with a man : the measure of its worth should
be in terms of its output, — its actual power to bring some worthy
thing to pass. As children first see the world in its phenomenal
aspect, and only by a larger and actual living discover the
deeper relations amongst all matter, so one of the results,
unfortunately, of having our eyes opened to the seeming, if not
actual, worthlessness of the hangings on and trappings of institu-
tions is, that we judge the whole by these, and fail to see beneath
the deep, unifying core that perpetuates life. In the older days
the astronomer settled all his questions by an appeal to Aristotle,

1 3 4

Online LibraryStanford Alumni AssociationAddresses delivered before the sixth annual meeting of the Alumni Association of the Leland Stanford Junior University, May 24, 1898 → online text (page 1 of 4)