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Professors Reflect on 225 Years of F&M History in Common Hour Talk

  • Historic image of Old Main
  • From left, Goethean Hall, Old Main and Diagnothian Hall were the first three buildings erected on the Franklin & Marshall College campus. This image was taken circa 1856. (Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections)

In 1787, the year Franklin College was dedicated, its first benefactor, Benjamin Franklin, declared that the College would be an integral part of the community, and that its students would set an example as model citizens.

The dedication happened shortly before the U.S. Constitution was signed. "The College in many ways has moved forward in lockstep with the country ever since," Professor David Schuyler said during Franklin & Marshall's Common Hour Thursday, Nov. 8.

Schuyler, the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and American Studies, and fellow historian David Stameshkin, retired F&M associate dean and prefect emeritus of Bonchek College House, recounted highlights of the College's 225-year history during a talk titled "Picture This: Images and Stories of F&M's History." The talk spanned from Franklin College's first class of 114 students to its merger with prestigious Marshall College in 1853 through its physical and intellectual growth into a diverse residential liberal arts institution that draws students from across the country and around the world.

The talk coincided with a yearlong celebration of F&M's heritage, "Beyond 225: Inspired For Life," which continues throughout the academic year. Common Hour, held on Thursdays throughout the academic year, is intended to bring the entire F&M community together for culturally and academically enriching events and to promote dialog on international, national, local and institutional issues.

"This College has a long and distinguished history, and you are now part of it," Schuyler told the audience of several hundred students, faculty and staff. "I always tell students, 'You are not just passing through for four years on your way to someplace else. You have taken your place in the history of a College that goes back 225 years and now will continue to go forward.'"

History Lives On

As historic images of the College's campus, students and faculty were projected on a screen behind them, Schuyler and Stameshkin recounted how the College has grown over the years. Its first permanent buildings -- the Gothic revival trio now called Old Main, Diagnothian Hall and Goethean Hall -- emerged in a wheat field, followed by dormitories, academic centers, libraries, and centers for music, the performing arts and athletics.

Reminders of the past are everywhere on campus, Schuyler said. In 1857, for example, a professor, Thomas Conrad Porter, led his students in an effort to plant trees -- which the students purchased themselves for $1.18 each -- throughout campus. At least one of the trees still stands on the south side of Keiper Liberal Arts Building, Schuyler said.

The historians explained that before they were called the Diplomats, sports teams at F&M were known as the "Nevonians," taking their name from John Williams Nevin, the president of Marshall College and the second president of F&M. Today, alumni celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation are admitted into the Nevonian Society.

As the focus of the College shifted to include the residential experience in the late 19th century, students formed eating clubs, and a gymnasium was built in what is now Distler House and the campus bookstore.

"There were very few students living on campus, so the question was: How do you form a community?" Schuyler said.

An Expanding Campus

The year 1925 was a turning point for expansion of the physical campus. In the 1950s and 1960s, dormitories were built to compete with other residential colleges, Stameshkin said. In 1969, women again were admitted -- 182 years after the first class of students, which did include women. The year 2001 was the first year F&M enrolled more women than men.

Schuyler and Stameshkin noted that their presentation merely scratched the surface of the rich history of F&M, which continues to evolve and grow each day.

After the talk, Czarina Hutchins '15, who is considering history as a major, said she had learned a few new historical tidbits that would come in handy for her job as an admission student ambassador.

One of those facts: "It was interesting how students in the olden days had to pay for the buildings because they did not have the benefit of endowments and alumni support," she said.

Sarah Strong '14, a biology and dance joint major, said she enjoyed hearing about landmarks from the campus' early days that still remain.

"I always come to Common Hour because you never know what's going to spark your interest," Strong said. "This was a very different Common Hour. It was interesting to hear about the history of where I go to school and to learn things like that there was a building, Hartman Hall, where Hartman Green is, and that there are still two trees that were there 50 years ago."

  • Common Hour: Picture This—Images and Stories of F&M’s History (Highlights)
  • See and hear highlights of the history of F&M from two of our very own historians: David P. Schuyler, Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and American Studies and David M. Stameshkin, Prefect Emeritus. Recorded Nov. 8, 2012 in Mayser Gymnasium.

    To watch and comment on a full video of this event, please visit: http://blogs.fandm.edu/commonhour/picture-this-images-and-stories-of-fms-history/