Page images
PDF
EPUB

distinguished educator, presented the following preamble and resolutions:

Whereas, The long and continued services of the Hon. James S. Rollins, commencing thirty-four years ago in the introduction of a bill by him in the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of this State providing for the location of the State University, and the various measures since that time of which he has been the author and earnest and able advocate, terminating with the act passed at the last session of the Legislature making provision for the payment of the debts of the institution, enlarging its library, completing the Scientific Building, and adding to its permanent endowment, deserve a proper recognition and acknowledgment by this Board; be it therefore

Resolved, That this Board are deeply impressed with the value of the important services rendered by Hon. J. S. Rollins and other friends of education, in placing the University of Missouri upon a solid and permanent foundation, where the youth of the State may enjoy equal advantages for higher education with the youth of other States of the Union.

Second. That he has won the honorable title of "Pater Universatis Missouriensis," and that the thanks of this Board are hereby tendered to him for his great efforts to promote the prosperity, usefulness, and success of this institution.

Third. That the Secretary of this Board cause to be prepared in some suitable form a copy of the foregoing resolutions, signed by the Vice-President and the Secretary, and with the seal of the University attached, and presented to the Hon. James S. Rollins in the name of this Board.

These resolutions were recommended to the Board in earnest remarks and brief recitals of history by Prof. Wyman, the Rev. John D. Vincil, and Col. W. F. Switzler, and were carried unanimously.

But not any nor all of these official recognitions of the unique distinction of Major Rollins with respect to the University were felt to express adequately the personal gratitude, esteem, and affection with which his high desert in the matter of education had inspired the patrons of learning in all parts of the commonwealth. It was a happy thought, therefore, on the part of a number of friends both of the man and of the cause that he had made so especially his own, to present to the Board of Curators for permanent location in the University building a life-size portrait of Major Rollins, executed by that distinguished "Missouri artist," George C. Bingham. These gentlemen intrusted the matter to a committee of eleven, who directed a Letter of Presentation to the Board of Curators, through its Vice-President, the Hon. Elijah Perry, in which letter the labors of Major Rollins in behalf of the University were briefly

but impressively recounted. The Board accepted the gift by the following resolution, June 26, 1873:

Resolved, That we accept with gratitude the proposed donation, as one eminently fitting and appropriate, and as commemorative of the life and labors of a distinguished citizen who, by his eminent public services, and especially by his earnest and untiring efforts in the cause of education, has endeared himself to the masses of the people, and has deservedly commanded the highest consideration of the members of this Board.

On the same day at two P. M. the Hon. W. F. Switzler, a worthy second to Rollins in the multitude and devotion of his services to the University, pronounced the address of presentation; the response of acceptance from the Board was delivered by Mr. A. J. Conant of St. Louis, while a few well-chosen words of acknowledgment from Major Rollins himself rounded gracefully the ceremonies of this pleasing incident.

PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF CURATORS.

THE sketch in hand is not a history, much less a chronicle; the order of thought rather than of time is intentionally followed, and no apology is offered for now momentarily reverting the gaze back upon certain events anterior to some already noted. These may not be passed over wholly without remark, for their testimony is valuable to the breadth of view with which Mr. Rollins regarded the problems of public education, and to the liberal, far-sighted, and effective policy that he brought to their solution. We have seen how early he conceived the notion of forming a special class of trained professional educators who were to make teaching a lifework, to take the place of the transient throng of lawyers, preachers, physicians, and politicians in chrysalis, who follow teaching merely as a temporary makeshift, who don the didactic gown as the insect its cocoon while awaiting transfiguration into some nobler form of being. The West is even now following his far lead in this matter at a slow but accelerated pace. His interest in this elevation of teaching to the full rank and dignity of a learned (rather of the learned) profession did not abate with the establishment of a "Normal Professorship" at the University; but as Chairman of the

[merged small][ocr errors]

Committee on Education he reported a bill that called into being the State Normal Schools at Warrensburg and Kirksville-institutions that have flourished greatly in spite of inadequate support by the State, that have undoubtedly shed far and wide a beneficent influence, and that have already accomplished a work of vast moment in raising the average of fitness among the teachers in the State, however wanting it may be found even yet when weighed in the balance of our just desires.

Another act, not so much of enlightened and sagacious statecraft as of generous humanity, which illumined the close of Rollins's career as legislator, and is fit to be ranked with his earlier advocacy of a similar measure, was his vigorous and successful support of the bill establishing an Asylum for the Insane at St. Joseph. One such incident in the career of a law-maker may mean little or nothing at all; but they become full of significance and determinative when strewn thick along the whole course of conduct from beginning to end.

It was in 1869 that Governor McClurg nominated Major Rollins a Curator of the University of the State of Missouri. To him who bears in mind the facts of the University's history as already set. forth, it must be apparent that every consideration both of utility and of propriety must not only have indicated this nomination, but also have pointed to him with fixed and unerring finger as the man of all men fitted to be President of the Board of Curators, and he was indeed elected to this position in June, 1869, a position that he held continuously from that date until his resignation, enforced by ill health, on his seventy-fifth birthday, April 19, 1886. This presidency was in itself but a little thing; it was what its incumbent chose to make it. Of salary, emoluments, perquisites, of every material attraction it was bare utterly. Perhaps it did indeed clothe its occupant with honor and distinction, but the honor was entirely empty and the distinction not very generally desirable. It did not lift him aloft and conspicuous in the eyes of the people, inviting their regard and wooing their suffrages; it did not arm him with the long, keen, and flexible weapon of political influence. The President of the Board of Curators was then, and is now, to the majority of electors, more a myth than a reality; at best their notions of him are pale and formless; he has no patronage to distribute, and is wide off from the line of official promotion. Moreover, in the administration

of such an office there was ample room for choice of policy. He might choose, from love of ease or from uncertainty of conviction, from lack of clearly elaborated ideas or from want of interest in a duty unrelated to his own happiness or success in life, to discharge it in a rather perfunctory manner, to drift listlessly with the stream of events, to affect a cautious laissez faire, to make of himself a mere parliamentary convenience or even a mere machine to register and execute helplessly the will of another; and against such a worldlywise election of policy it would be difficult to make any severe criticism hold fast. On the other hand, he might take his duties altogether more seriously; he might magnify his episcopate of higher culture; he might conceive of his trust as a high and holy and most important one; he might lay all its cares close to his heart. and bind them about the neck of his memory; he might mark out distinctly a line of policy and might rack his brain daily to advance the University along it. It was natural, yea, inevitable that Major Rollins-such were his antecedents-should take this latter more earnest view of his functions, and through the half-generation of his incumbency he maintained it consistently. Perhaps no other University in the Union has ever enjoyed for so long a period uninterruptedly in its general extra-scholastic administration the assiduous fostering and nurturing care of one man so thoroughly competent and so entirely devoted; certainly no other has ever needed it more. It is the single, towering, isolated peaks, the Matterhorns, the Everests, the Chimborazos, that catch the eye, that engage the interest, that enthrall the imagination of artist, of savant, and of poet. Yet, after all, these are but small and insignificant fractions of the whole mountainrange that lifts them clearly into ether on its shoulders; the great mass of elevation lies scarcely noticed only a little below, amid nameless plateaus and countless humbler summits. In estimating the average of altitude, it is these latter that control and regulate; the glittering minarets count but little in the vast cathedral of nature. So, too, it is the lofty deeds of legislation for the University that fasten the gaze in contemplating the career of Rollins, and that transmit his name. and fame to posterity. Yet these form but the merest fraction of the grand bulk of his services, which, like the Andes, stretch broad and long through the whole history of that seminary. It is these,-the daily solicitude, the nightly watch-care, the unwearied vigilance, the

unresting concern that trod many ways in the windings of thought, the ever-wise counsel, the always ready assistance lent in plenteous measure freely and to all alike, but above all the inextinguishable ardor of devotion which consumed brain and heart,-it is these, all long since fused into one undistinguished whole, that constitute the mass of his services and that raise their general level so exceeding high. In all his manifold relations to the personnel of the University he seems to have borne himself far above all considerations of private preference, of partisan prejudice, of political or ecclesiastical affiliation. Such feelings were certainly as native to his breast as to another's; otherwise he had been more or less than human. But they were held in check and submissive to an all-dominating zeal for the advancement of the University. The relation of a man to the University was the important one that swallowed up all others. The views, political or other, of the chief members of the instructing or the governing staff might have been, and in fact sometimes were, directly counter to his own; their modes of thought and of action. might accord ever so little with those he most approved: all of these things, however, could move him not greatly nor disturb the deeper harmony of that common interest that to him was supreme. "What then?" he might say with the Apostle; " only that in some wise, whether by this or by that, the University is furthered; in this, it is, I rejoice, yea, and rejoice I will." Such a complete subjection of natural impulses to a single emotion would scarcely have been possible, even with the best intentions, to a man more zealous as a partisan, of a narrower intellectual horizon, or of less liberal mood than Rollins. The devotion, the tireless industry in the pursuit of the University's good here claimed for him was a matter of common notoriety in his lifetime; it is a possession of memory inalienable among his surviving contemporaries; it has been repeatedly recognized distinctly and impressively, officially and otherwise; and now to attempt to set it forth more clearly in evidence would be a superfluous argument, to prove at midday that the sun does shine. Let it suffice, then, to remark that both Lathrop and Read, throughout their administrations, leaned confidently upon him as upon an “unbending invincible pillar"; his home was their constant and familiar resort; and in separation their intercourse with him by mail was almost daily and of the most unreserved and intimate nature. In the case

« PreviousContinue »