College Anniversaries Through the Years
Marietta College has a long tradition of observing its founding and its heritage.
Beginning in June of 1860 and extending more than a century, observances of important milestones have become integral to the history of the institution.
Here are some highlights of those celebrations:
With some sixty alumni in attendance, Marietta College’s silver anniversary was held on June 27, 1860. Nearly all graduating classes, except for three, were in attendance. Representatives from sister institutions Harvard, Yale, Middlebury and Kenyon were present for the celebration. Governor Dennison made remarks honoring the sentiment he felt towards his native state.
A procession was assembled under the sweltering afternoon sun. Faculty, staff, alumni, students and guests marched down Putnam Street and up Front Street to the Lecture Room.
A dinner occurred that evening in which two members of the original faculty, Rev. Dr. Allen, of Lane Seminary, and Prof. Samuel Maxwell, of Marietta, were present. According to the Marietta Intelligencer, “[The remarks] were full of wit and humor, and called forth round after round of applause. There were many gems thrown out, worthy of more lasting preservation than the memories of those who heard them, and we trust they may sometime be collected. It was indeed a glorious time, with nothing to mar the enjoyment from beginning to end.”
After leaving the dinner, most of the audience attended a reception given by Mr. Douglas Putnam, one of the founders of the College, at his residence in Harmar. An evening concert by the Menter’s Band also took place at the Congregational Church.
The semi-centennial of Marietta College was observed June 28 to July 1, 1885. The celebration, which was largely attended, included Governor George Hoadly as a guest. President Andrews delivered a "Historical Discourse" reflecting on the history and growth of the College since its beginning.
The Rev. Charles E. Linsely, class of 1840 and son of the first president of Marietta College, cited a poem to the audience. In "The Old and the New, or Changes of Half a Century" he wrote these lines:
The cannon that roared around Sumter's walls,
Flashed luridly into the college halls.
Close up the books, lay down the pen;
March with thy patriot countrymen;
The gown unto the sword must yield,
When duty summons to the field.
It was proper that the thoughts of all should be turned back to the Marietta men who had risen so whole-heartedly to meet the national crisis. The Civil War had overshadowed the early years of the quarter-century, and had deeply affected the life of the College.
The celebration ended with the close of President Andrews' presidency serving Marietta College for forty-seven years. He was a tutor for one year, professor for sixteen years, and thirty years was president. He reflected: "A life less eventful could hardly be found. Serving under trustees for whom I had the highest respect, and whose plans is was my earnest desire to carry out, and associated in instruction with men of ability and fidelity with whom it has been a joy to work, these forty-seven years have passed quietly and pleasantly, almost imperceptibly."
The celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the college connected with the annual commencement exercises from June 12-16, 1910. The citizens of Marietta held a Homecoming at the same time, and a large number of alumni and former residents returned for the occasion. President William Howard Taft was the notable figure and Ohio Governor Judson Harmon also honored the city and College by his presence. President Taft received an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law as well addressed the audience. Mr. and Mrs. Williams W. Mills gave a luncheon for President Taft.
The birth of Muskingum Academy in 1797 was commemorated in the addresses as the beginning of higher education in the Northwest Territory and also of Marietta College. Speakers included Professor Edwin A. Grosvenor of Amherst College, Professor Henry E. Bourne of Western Reserve University, and President William O. Thompson of The Ohio State University.
Miss Muriel Dyar, class of 1897, composed an historical ode for the celebration. She prefaced her anniversary ode with the following dedication:
"Written in honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Marietta College, and in memory of the founders of the town of Marietta, of those soldiers of the revolution, who venturing into the wilderness in 1788, brought with them their books from New England, by this act laying, even as the first homes were planted in the Northwest Territory, the spiritual foundations of the Territory's first college, and of later western schools."
In the first half of 1935 Marietta College celebrated its 100th birthday with a series of events beginning on February 14, the actual "birth" date in 1835, and ending with the commencement exercises on June 5. Opening the celebration were two events on Founders day, February 14: A luncheon at the Betsey Mills Club where President George W. Rightmire of The Ohio State University delivered an address and at the First Congregational Church was the main speaker the Hon. Vernon Bartlett, editor of the London News Chronicle.
June 1-5 was jam packed with a schedule of events. Campus instructional buildings offered visitors exhibits, collections, and laboratory demonstrations to illustrate the growth of education at the College. 700 MC Greek alumni attended fraternity and sorority banquets and the centennial luncheon drew 500 guests at the Betsey Mills Club. Twenty-four houses in the city were opened to visit along with two MC dormitories and several Greek houses. Internationally acclaimed Marietta-born violinist Frances Macmillen performed for attendees. While a natural amphitheater on the grounds of Dorothy Webster Hall was the stage for the theatrical production The Rivals.
Less formal events were held including the varsity baseball team defeating the alumni team 4-2 as well as the tennis team defeating Oberlin College, with Pioneer Henry Dawes Hoyt, class of 1936, winning the Ohio Conference singles championship. Nearly 1,500 people rode an observation train to watch the MC crew team, only in their fifth year of competition, race on the Ohio River taking third place.
President Edward S. Parsons remarked that "The student of 50 years from now will find that the things talked about in his day were the themes of today, that the values of 1860 and 1885 and 1935 are still the values of 1985. And it will be true then as now, that to the degree that Marietta College treasures these values and embodies them in its life will that life be a worthy continuation and flowering of the institution's great past."
The 150th year celebration opened in fall of 1984 with a convocation. Speakers were former MC president Frank E. Duddy, Jr., President Edward H. Jennings of Ohio State University, and Marietta Mayor Nancy Putnam Hollister.
February 14, 1985, the actual 150th birthday of the College, was observed with a quiet Founders-Scholars Day program in Ban Johnson Field House. A blizzard that day had caused one of the few (perhaps the only) meeting cancellations in the history of the Board of Trustees. Just how much this held down attendance will never be known.
The robed faculty was front and center, joined by students and townspeople. "Happy Birthday" was played by Bellmaster John E. Sandt on the Erwin Hall chimes. Robert A. Goldwin, director of constitutional studies of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research of Washington, gave the address. He stated, "An institution proves itself by surviving and thriving for so long (as MC). Only the hardiest live so long. The things of mortals are mortal, but our institutions can be made to live longer than we do. Celebrations such as this give us a taste of immortality."