Monday, March 9, 2015

Amanuensis Monday-Howard Matthews' Story #14-On to Wesleyan

Eclectic House - October 1924 (Second Row from Bottom-Fourth from left)
In the 14th installment of my grandfather's story he tells us about life at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

In my undergraduate days at Wesleyan, freshman and sophomores were required to take courses from a list designed to assure that they were exposed to all of the disciplines. Only in the junior and senior years were we allowed freedom in the choice of courses outside our Major.

As I said before, I continued Greek, language and literature and art, under Professor Heidle all four years. But I majored in Philosophy under Professors Andrew Campbell Armstrong and Cornelius Kruse. Armstrong and Woodrow Wilson, following their graduatation from Princeton, joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1888, and Armstrong stayed for life.

I tried to broadened my interests by taking a variety of courses. I had European and USA History under Dutcher and Wriston (Wriston later became President of Brown); Biology under Greenleaf, and a magnificent Physiology course for seniors under Schneider; Geology Religion and Ethics under Dean Chanter; Astronomy under Sitterly and Slocum; Psychology under Landis, Economics under Tuttle, German under Baerg; Philosophy of Education under President McConaughy and Logic under Kruse. In addition Physical Education was compulsory.

Annual Invitation Banquet of Phi Nu Theta - 1924
Eclectic House ca 1924

I was fortunate in my choice of Phi Nu Theta (Eclectic) as my fraternity. It was the oldest of the 12 fraternities then at Wesleyan, housed in a fine new house built in 1916, designed by Henry Bacon who designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. In addition to all of the fraternities, Eclectic was essentially a literary society, which, through its Wednesday evening meetings provided each of its members with four years of experience in the writing of essays and critiques. In addition to the critique of a brother's essay, the chair called on each member present to express his reaction to the paper. The meetings were formal, coats and stiff collars were required attire. No one had the floor unless he addressed the chair and was recognized by the chair by name. The latter was quite a task for the senior who occupied the chair at the initiation meeting in the autumn and at the annual meeting in June for these were attended by large numbers of alumni each of whom had to be addressed by name. I had the assignment for the annual meeting in my senior year. I spent the entire day at the front door of the house obtaining and memorizing the names of returning alumni. At the meeting I missed one name; that of an alumnus who arrived late!

Eclectic was usually the first, never lower than second or third, in the academic standing lists issued by the Dean's office. The upperclass brothers really worked on the freshmen and went out of their way to help them. We soon learned that it mattered not that you had been high man in your prep or high school; here practically all of the competition had that background.

My extracurricular activities at Wesleyan included singing in the college choir Sundays both for the pleasure of singing second bass in a male group as wel as for the 50 cents per week that we were paid. In those days daily and Sunday chapel attendance were required. Two proctors who sat in the balconies made note of the empty seats, which, if they were not accounted for by excuses from the Dean, merited demerits.

Jibers - Bohn, Sid, Cal & Howard
 I sang second bass in the Glee Club all four years and in the Jibers (quartette) for two years. In the latter I took the place of Wendell Phillips '26 for whom I substituted occasionally in my sophomore year, after having learned all of the songs by ear.

Next week, more about the Glee Club and how it changed his life.