One of my high school teachers had sold me on the idea of going to a business school. Business schools were in their first flush of popularity then; they were new. As the University of Illinois had the outstanding one in the Midwest at that time, I chose to go to Champaign. Other considerations such as fees and transportation did not loom large. Out-of-state fees were low enough to be of little comparative consequence in those days, and I could go by train to Champaign from either Crawfordsville or Jamestown.
The summer before I left for college I had traveled to Whitestown daily to run a little country bank that had been organized there in opposition to the established bank. My income was rather good for a teenager, and in four months I had saved quite a bit of money for college. Later, at the end of my sophomore year in college, the bank offered me a permanent job at two hundred dollars a month, which to me seemed like so much money that I tried to persuade my father to let me leave college to accept the job. In those days even college graduates were not being paid as much as that on their first jobs. My father was unyielding.
A friend from Lebanon, Paul Fletcher, went to Illinois with me. We found a room with a family named Keller. There were few if any dormitories then, and people with large houses and a spare room or two customarily rented their extra space to students. The Kellers had a daughter and two sons, one of whom later became a prominent judge, following in his father’s footsteps, but when we lived with them Mr. Keller was a court reporter. The Kellers treated Paul and me and another freshman roomer, from Illinois, like members of their family. Even so, I was wretchedly homesick.
The campus was large, impersonal, and a little stifling to me. Social life was dominated by the Chicago crowd. Paul and I knew no one at Illinois when we went there, we ate in student hangouts and restaurants bordering the campus, and the friendships we made were with students in our classes as lost as we were.
My circle of acquaintances was somewhat enlarged by two activities I entered: I tried out successfully for the concert band, and I served on the staff of the Daily Illini, in time being placed in charge of its advertising copy desk. The director of the band, A. A. Harding, had already won recognition for his masterly direction, and later he became famous. I valued my work with him and maintained contact with him for many years afterward. In midyear I was invited to join a fraternity, but by that time I had determined to leave Illinois and I thought it inappropriate to pledge there.
Paul and I rather regularly attended programs and meetings at the Wesley Foundation. It was the leading campus religious group at Illinois and was the most successful of the Wesley Foundations nationally. The Foundation and the Methodist church are located right on the campus. It was very much a university church, a beautiful structure, and later attracted the fine young minister Benjamin Garrison to it from the Methodist church here in Bloomington.
Athletics were an important part of campus life—football games attracted huge crowds—but my participation was limited to the band. I had come to Illinois with keen awareness of the longtime effort my parents had made to enable me to have a college education and of the high expectations my father held for my success. The desire not to disappoint him and to prove worthy of their struggle for me, intensified by freshman qualms, probably made me a more serious student than some who came to the university with the idea that football was inseparable from collegiate life.
I was extraordinarily lucky to have, as a mere freshman, four professors who were among the most noted Illinois had in its commerce college. Charles Thompson, the dean, was a dynamic, driving individual who brought the college along rapidly and demonstrated his business skills by amassing large landholdings on the side. Ernest L. Bogart, a Princeton man who had taught at Indiana University at the turn of the century, was my teacher in beginning economics. He was distinguished in appearance, sported a goatee, and dressed rather formally in the manner of professors of an earlier time. His lectures were well prepared and well delivered. My accounting teacher, Hiram Scovill, headed his department, and my other teacher was Simon Litman, son of a Lithuanian emigré.
All my courses were in the commerce college, of which economics was an integral part. The college offered a four-year program and admitted freshmen directly into the program. That arrangement was one of the reasons that I was attracted to Illinois. But psychologically I was never quite at home there. The place had the atmospher of a mass operation—as many as five hundred students were enrolled in some of my lecture sections—and it lacked color and excitement.
Although I did well in my studies and enjoyed myself probably as much as the average freshman at Illinois, I decided to transfer to Indiana University. Its business school was beginning to move forward and, since I expected to spend my life in Indiana, I thought that my Indiana University associations would be useful in the future. Also, many of my friends were in Bloomington. Father objected to this move; he thought that, as the business school of Illinois was better established, I should stay there. But I finally won him over and came to Indiana University for my sophomore year.
From the very beginning I fell in love with Indiana University (and the romance has continued to this day). It was a simple place in those days, with not yet three thousand students, but it had great charm and appeal for me. The campus was, as it is today, wooded and delightfully informal. All the buildings except the gymnasium were contained in the crescent extending from the old library—now the Student Services Building—to what is now Swain East. Within this arc was the beautiful wooded area that we now refer to as the Old Campus. The paths, where they existed, were of brick or boards, and an unpaved roadway entered the campus at Kirkwood and Indiana streets, passing in front of the old College Row buildings where now there is a wide walk. William Lowe Bryan, then president, used to come by horse and buggy from his home on North College Avenue and tie his horse outside Maxwell Hall, where the president’s office was located. The university had no dormitories then, and the only group housing available was in fraternities and sororities or in privately maintained rooming and boarding houses. Many of the rooming houses became somewhat legendary because of the people who lived there or because of the particular accommodations furnished by the owners. The fraternities and sororities housed a fairly small proportion of the student body. At that time only two houses had been built to be fraternity houses, those of Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Kappa Psi, and even they would be considered seriously inadequate by present standards. The other Greek-letter houses had all been large, private residences that were converted to fraternity use, and most of them had become ramshackle places.
The student body was a mixture of youngsters just out of high school and veterans returning from World War I, and yet they had enough in common to be congenial. The whole air of the place was friendly and relaxed, and for some reason that I cannot explain it nurtured individuality and creativity.
One event that contributed to the unique atmosphere on the Bloomington campus was the freshman induction ceremony at the beginning of the academic year. It was held in front of the Student Building at 7:30 on the Monday morning of the first classes in September. The band played prior to the beginning of the ceremony in order to attract to the affair as many students and other members of the university family as possible. Since all Greek-letter freshmen were required to attend, a considerable crowd was always assembled. The participants in the ceremony gathered in the main room under the clock tower of the Student Building, donned academic regalia, and were put in order by the redoubtable George Schlafer, who considered the running of this annual ceremony one of his most important extracurricular activities. The officers of the university and such faculty members as would turn out were lined up in two rows inside the building, and as the clock struck 7:30 they marched out of the front doors and to each side of the south steps of the Student Building under the clock tower. The last person to emerge from the building was a highly regarded coed draped in classical white folds to represent the Spirit of Indiana. She opened the program with lines written by Professor Lee Norvelle, and then the president stepped to the microphone and administered the induction oath to the incoming students. The brief rite ended with the singing of the Alma Mater, accompanied by the band.
When as a student I first witnessed this ceremony, the colorful regalia, the beautiful ritual, the excitement of starting another school year combined to make the moment memorable. I always enjoyed participating in the annual event as a faculty member and later as president. I regret that it has been dropped from university tradition. Because the ritual impressed me, I have included in the Appendix (B) the message of the Spirit of Indiana and the oath administered by the president.
A wonderfully stimulating, exciting spirit pervaded the campus during the 1920s, and everywhere there was great interest in and beyond the issues of the day. Here and elsewhere students were so actively concerned by what they perceived as the special problems that had grown acute in their time that, I believe, the campus became one of the spawning grounds of the Roosevelt New Deal. At the emergence of the New Deal, it was from the Indiana campus and others that young men and women were drawn to forge the greatest of all governmental social efforts for reform and progress that I have known in my lifetime.
Yet campus life was so informal and unstructured that students fashioned their own fun for the most part and turned their ideas into enterprises. In this simple, unsophisticated, tolerant climate were bred the talents of a singular number of students who later won fame and fortune on the national scene. A flourishing literary magazine called the Vagabond was developed by the students themselves under the vigorous leadership of Philip Rice, later a distinguished professor of philosophy at Kenyon College. Hoagy Carmichael, Wad Allen, Bill Wright, and other talented students who before many more years became luminaries in the musical and theatrical worlds enlivened the local scene. Men such as Charles Halleck, Al Cast, and Dick Heller rose to leadership in student politics, later becoming prominent political figures. An editor of the Daily Student, Nelson Poynter, in time came to be one of the nation’s most respected publishers, as well as a generous university benefactor.
Since there was not yet a union building or its equivalent, extracurricular activities centered in a campus hangout known as the Book Nook, later called the Gables. In my day it was the hub of all student activity; here student political action was plotted, organizations were formed, ideas and theories were exchanged among students from various disciplines and from different sections of the campus. For most of this period the Book Nook was presided over by something of a genius, Peter Costas, a young Greek immigrant who transformed a campus hangout into a remarkably fertile cultural and political breeding place in the manner of the famous English coffeehouses. All in all it was a lively, exhilarating place. Again, I was fortunate in many of my teachers. I had the great good fortune to have such teachers as J. E. Moffat and Lionel D. Edie in economics, U. G. Weatherly in sociology, William A. Rawles in corporation finance, William E. Jenkins in English, John L. “Jack” Geiger in music appreciation, and many others who stimulated me. Moreover, the atmosphere of the Indiana University campus in those days seemed to nurture creativity—a heady atmosphere for one of college age. I found an opportunity for development in extracurricular activities such as the YMCA, Red Book, Daily Student, Union Board, and the University Band. I was able to qualify for the concert band as a baritone player, but Archie Warner, the conductor, named me manager of the University Band in my junior year, and thereafter I devoted most of my time to that function rather than to playing the baritone.
My principal job was to try to finagle enough money by one means or another to get us to an out-of-town football game or so, which I did by various economies and money-raising schemes. For instance, when the game was at Purdue and we were going there by the Monon train, we would stuff as many people as we could between the seats by turning the seats back to back, making a place underneath for a person. The train conductor, wise but sympathetic, ignored the teeming spaces beneath the arches of the back-to-back seats. In that way we were able to pay fewer fares and could cut down on the expense.
I achieved a couple of firsts in that job. I was able to negotiate with Walter “Pop” Myers, the longtime manager of the Indianapolis 500, a contract for the band to play for the race. When I went back the second year to negotiate a return engagement, he expressed satisfaction with our performance the previous year and we readily reached an agreement. As I rose to leave he said with a twinkle in his eye, “This year don’t try to bootleg all your fraternity brothers and friends into the race.” My other first was to get our band’s first contract to play for the Kentucky Derby in Louisville. These were desirable and delightful outings for the band members and made the arduous work of playing for Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) drills and parades and for other university functions more palatable.
In my senior year I played once with the band in a formal concert in old Assembly Hall. It was in the springtime toward the end of the academic year. I put my baritone back in the wings after the concert, then told a freshman brother in the Sigma Nu house to see that it was put in my room at the house and promptly forgot all about it. When I next needed the horn it could not be located and the loss ended my active musical career.
My college fraternity at Indiana University afforded me many opportunities. I suppose I had a natural affinity for fraternity life, and my experience in Sigma Nu was a very happy one. As an only child I found the fellowship of the fraternity family an especially pleasing and satisfying experience. From the very beginning I devoted myself to fraternity activities, running the whole gamut of typical fraternity committee responsibilities until, at the end of my junior year, although having been pledged as a sophomore and although having been a member for only two years, I was elected Eminent Commander for my senior year. This position proved to be not only a challenging experience but also one of great value to me in later life. It was an excellent training course in leadership and the acceptance of responsibility. I think that the office taught me more than any course in the university could have about those qualities, and throughout my life I have been grateful for that lesson. It presented the problems and potentialities in microcosm that I later faced in full scale as dean and as president.
The Sigma Nu House was located on the southwest comer of Kirkwood and Grant streets in an old stone building that is now used for offices. It had one great feature—a large front porch on which we could sit and watch the girls go by between town and campus. Most of the fraternities and a few of the sororities at that time were located in the blocks between town and campus. But our house was woefully small and crowded. The veterans from World War I were returning and we were figuratively bursting at the seams, very much in need of an addition. Our alumni were poorly organized and opposed to a building program, so the active chapter took the matter into its own hands. Under my direction we laid out a plan for an addition and took it to Ward Biddle, who was then our faculty advisor. He reluctantly assented but warned that it was up to us to raise the money. In the summer between my junior and senior years I traveled throughout the state, raising money from our Sigma Nu alumni to help pay for the addition to the chapter house; subsequently I was active in arranging for the loan to finance the unmet remainder. This effort gave me my first introduction to the highways and byways of the state, which I later came to know even more intimately in other capacities. My fraternity brothers, during the years I lived in the house as an undergraduate and later when I was back for my master’s degree and lived nearby, were for the most part the closest friends I had in my youth.
Even though I grew up in a small town, I had a remarkable opportunity to experience the best in the legitimate theater during my days in high school and college. In those days Indianapolis had two theaters that regularly presented the very best of stage fare: both straight drama and musical comedy and revues, in which America excelled in the 1920s. When I look over the list of plays and the actors that appeared during those years I am astonished by the richness of the fare. At that period the top actors and actresses toured regularly and typically played Indianapolis. It was one of the standard stops on a national tour. They would play a split week or a full week depending upon the popularity of the offering. The legitimate plays usually were at the English Theatre on Monument Circle whereas the larger musicals played at the Murat Theatre, which had more seats. The Ziegfeld Follies came regularly with such stars as Leon Errol, Bert Williams, and Ed Wynn. Other perennials such as George White’s Scandals, George M. Cohan’s revues, and Earl Carroll’s Vanities played each year. Among the renowned I saw were William Faversham, Maxine Elliott, Sarah Bernhardt, Mrs. Patrick Campbell in her great role in Pygmalion, Margaret Anglin in Lady Windemere’s Fan, George Arliss in the Forsyte plays, David Warfield, John Drew, Jane Cowl, William Gillette, Helen Hayes, May Robson, Marie Dressler, Ina Claire, Ethel Waters, the Barrymores—Lionel, Ethel, and John—Otis Skinner and his daughter, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and a host of others.
In addition to the English Theatre, there were B. F. Keith’s, the Lyric, and the Lyceum with excellent vaudeville. Also in the summer a good resident company performed important plays. Shakespeare was not neglected. During that time famous actors such as Robert Mantell, noted for their Shakespearean roles, performed. All the great romantic musicals of the period—for instance, Sigmund Romberg’s Student Prince, Blossom Time, Desert Song, and The New Moon—visited Indianapolis. The Duncan sisters came in Topsy and Eva. The Music Box Review made regular stands with stars such as Fannie Brice, Bea Lillie, Bobby Clark, and Charlotte Greenwood. All in all it was a great period of the American theater in musical comedy, musical revue, operetta, and legitimate theater, and I had an opportunity to benefit from it all.
Indianapolis had less to offer in the way of music. Not yet having a symphony orchestra of its own, the city had to rely on occasional, single-performance visits by the major symphony orchestras of other cities. Soloists—Madame Schumann-Heink, Fritz Kreisler, Jose Iturbi—made guest appearances with the orchestras or performed alone, and the San Carlos Opera Company provided us with live opera in the traditional vein.
Following my graduation from Indiana University in 1924, I returned to Lebanon and to a position as assistant cashier in the First National Bank. I had always thought I should like to be associated with my father in the bank and make small-town banking my career. I learned a great deal from this experience, but it lacked the challenge and opportunity that I had anticipated. At the end of two years my proposal to return to school for further academic work met with my parents’ approval. I should mention, however, that from my banking experience I had become acutely aware of the agricultural depression and the resulting widespread failure of country banks. Country bank failures, their causes and methods of prevention, were to become an important part of my graduate study. When I returned to Indiana University in 1926 for graduate work, I enrolled in the Department of Economics, even though my father had wanted me to go to law school. It was Christmastime before he discovered that I was working on a master’s degree in economics, a fact he accepted gracefully since law was his interest rather than mine. I had close contact with Moffat, Weatherly, and Edie, all outstanding scholars and teachers. I made a study of country bank earnings under the direction of Edie. The essence of my thesis was published in the magazine Hoosier Banker, was favorably received by the banks, and undoubtedly led the Indiana Bankers Association (IBA) to offer me the position of field secretary a few years later.
When I finished my master’s degree, Weatherly and Moffat suggested that I apply for an assistantship at Cornell, at Wisconsin, and at Illinois. Each school responded with an offer, but I early decided to accept the one from William H. Kiekhofer, chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin. He offered me two sections in money and banking and one in general economics in return for a salary of $750 and the remission of out-of-state fees. At that time Wisconsin had remarkable faculties of economics and sociology. It was world famous. Richard Ely had just left but his influence was still there. Besides Kiekhofer, there were William A. Scott, John R. Commons, E. A. Ross, and Selig Perlman, the greatest labor scholar in the country. Weatherly and Moffat both encouraged me to accept the Wisconsin bid.
Not long before I went to Wisconsin to work on my doctorate, so my mother often recounted, a conversation took place on our front porch in Lebanon. I have no recollection of my reported comment then: that I thought I should like to be president of a small college and have plenty of time to read and write and do as I please. My parents were rather amused at the idea of my being president of any college, and I am amused now that I had such a distorted view of the life of a president. The remark must have been a passing thought because I am sure I did not hold such an ambition consciously or unconsciously for long. Later, when the Indiana University presidency was offered to me, I felt no desire or eagerness for it, nor had I planned for or thought of the possibility in advance.
Wisconsin had distinguished men in my field of study, I knew, but in addition the atmosphere of the place was exciting. Like Indiana, it was one of the seminal spots—the departments of Economics, Sociology, Philosophy, and Political Science and the Law School—producing men and women who later were to staff the New Deal.
Wisconsin was a much larger school than Indiana was in those days, and about a third of the undergraduate student body was from out of state. Its graduate school, of course, was cosmopolitan, as graduate schools typically are. With its scholarly reputation, its strong research programs, and its steady production of Ph.D.’s, Wisconsin had become the preferred school for a certain class of Chicagoans and Easterners to attend. Sophisticated and from families of social position and wealth, these young men lent an air to student life that was almost Princetonian, and at the same time the campus had a strong La Follette-Progressive political cast. The interaction of these forces, egalitarianism and liberalism on the one hand and elegance and affluence on the other, curiously enough was salutary. Living side by side, tolerating each other, students with these divergent views somehow thrived on the mixture.
I lived at the University Club, an agreeable residential arrangement, built like a large city club with bedrooms, dining rooms, library, recreational facilities, and similar conveniences. Many of the bedrooms were rented to teaching assistants and some to bachelor professors. Three or four of us from the economics department had quarters there. It was quite a gathering place. Occasionally I joined the Sigma Nus for dinner at their house. The chapter had been a leading one on campus, with many boys from Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, and with a house near the lake. Fraternities generally, and the Sigma Nu chapter in particular, were in a decline, though, by the time I went to Wisconsin.
Economics was a topflight department. Scott was the head of its money and banking division. He was a conservative, oldtime money man, the great apostle of the gold standard. I was taught by him to believe that the economy of the world would be destroyed if the gold standard were ever tinkered with in any way. Scott was a dynamic lecturer. His classes were large, and I was assigned as a teaching assistant (TA) to two of his quiz sections, made up of juniors and seniors. Their age presented something of a problem, for I was not much older than they, but I solved it in a way that would be no solution today—by growing a mustache.
Another section to which I was assigned as a TA was general economics, taught by Kiekhofer. He was one of the great showmen in the field of economics and so popular that hundreds of students took the course as an elective simply to hear him. He had 1,800 in his lecture sections. A meticulous teacher, he was equally meticulous with his TAS , whom he drilled before each session. Because of this careful training for which Kiekhofer was noted, he came to be known as the father of college economics teachers. Scott, on the other hand, gave little guidance to his assistants, a lack that handicapped me less than it did my fellow TAS because of my banking experience. Kiekhofer not only was author of one of the very popular textbooks in the field but also was in great public demand as a lecturer. He went all over the country giving popular lectures in economics and using a variety of devices for audience appeal that stood me, in turn, in good stead later when I lectured to students. John R. Commons was the opposite of Kiekhofer. Since Commons’ lectures were unplanned, his teaching had the air of spontaneity. I was in his advanced seminar both semesters and had the rare opportunity of seeing a great mind evolve a whole new theory of value. The value theory is central in economics. Lost in the process of working out the facets of his theory, a highly creative act, Commons would wander into the seminar of forty doctoral students and simply begin thinking aloud about the subject that had been occupying him in his study moments before. When he left us he was preoccupied, as if continuing his line of thought but in silence. For those classroom hours we were audience to a creative mind at work. Students often complain about teachers whose lectures are unstructured as Commons’ invariably were, but I found them exciting and I regarded him with admiration and awe. He was unquestionably one of the great figures of American economic thought. Later, after his retirement, he would stop by in Bloomington to see me on his way to Florida each year.
Among my close associates at Wisconsin were William Neiswanger, who subsequently made a name for himself at the University of Illinois; Guy Morrison, who taught at Indiana University and then became an insurance executive in Indianapolis; Walter Morton, successor to Scott at Wisconsin; and Jacob Perlman, Professor Selig Perlman’s brother.
Mother and Father drove up to Madison to visit me while I was a TA there. They were very proud of the new Chevrolet that they had bought not long before and proud, too, that their son was starting on a doctorate. They also enjoyed the drive around the beautiful city of Madison and the university, which was more beautiful then than it is now. I did not have a car at the time; in fact, I did not have a car until I became field secretary for the IBA, when a car became a necessity to do my work. Contrary to the vivid recollections of fellow alumni, who have a great propensity for remembering things that were not so, I had neither a Stutz Bearcat nor a coonskin coat in my undergraduate days. I had not learned to drive an automobile as yet, much less own one, and a coonskin coat or anything approaching it was a luxury beyond my means. Corduroy suits were then in vogue and I did have a corduroy suit.
After a year at Wisconsin, the IBA persuaded me to accept, for what I thought would be an assignment of only a year or so, the job of field secretary. I have the lingering memory that my father was rather reluctant for me to leave my graduate work at Wisconsin to take the position although he was pleased and proud for me to have this promising recognition so young in life. However, he was fearful that I would not return to complete the degree. His fear turned out to be well founded.