Narratives of My Years at Wilmington College, 1915-1927

By President John Edwin Jay


Self-published, 1951


Last modified 17 August,  2013. Scanned and formatted for posting on the World-Wide Web by Dr. James McNelis, Professor of English Language and Literature (2001-present). With gratitude to President Jim Reynolds (2011-present), who first called my attention to the existence of President Jay's memoirs and lent me a copy.


My goal in publishing Jay's memoirs on the Web is to provide access for those who want to learn how the College came to be in its present form, something which has largely been forgotten over recent decades. For example, to date no-one I spoke with during this project knew that Wilmington (hereafter W.C.), by way of N.N.U., has the oldest teacher-training program in Ohio; or, that W.C. had once operated the Queen City College of Pharmacy in downtown Cincinnati--which later evolved into the present-day Winkle College of Pharmacy at UC; or, that Wilmington had had its own law school.


These matters are of more than antiquarian interest. For one thing, the foundation and rationale of the College--from the takeover of the failed Lebanon Academy by the Southwestern State Normal School (later N.N.U.), to the failed foundation of Franklin College, to the Phoenix-like raising of Wilmington from Franklin's ashes by three regional quarterly Quaker meetings, to their transfer of the College's management to the subsequently founded annual meeting in Wilmington, to the eventual filing of Wilmington's state charter, to the pivotal merger of W.C. with N.N.U., and subsequent charter revisions--is the basis of its legal status as an institution (just as its modern status as a 501(3)(c) nonprofit which complies with federal EOE standards is fundamental to its present orientation and purpose).


For another, Jay's intellect, education, eloquence and coherence of thought were exceptional. His memoirs convey not only the facts, but a first-rate acuity and comprehension of their significance and consequences; he took Wilmington every bit as seriously as Yale, his graduate alma mater. Jay's purpose in writing went well beyond memorializing the personalities and events of his time: his foremost concern was always the College's prospects, and his memoirs point unblinkingly to the grave uncertainties of its future. Much can be learned even today from his assessment of the evolving higher-education market in southwestern Ohio.


With that, they also have implications for the College's present-day sense of its identity and purpose. After all: those who do not know their College's own history are not yet ready to write the next chapter of it, and with the most recent change in administration, the writing of that next chapter has begun already.


Modern American higher education is pervaded by anxiety over mission, mission statements, differentiation from other colleges, and marketing concepts taken over from Madison Avenue such as branding, "positioning," and "segmentation." But the most successful colleges know who they are, in part because they know who they already were; and that, in turn, gives them a firm foundation for who they are to become.


In Wilmington's case, its merger with N.N.U. and the resulting change in outlook and ambition in the 1920's provides much inspiration. Our institution to date has yet to fully realize the promise of those years, hindered as we were by the untimely death of President Jay's successor, Henry Williams; a Depression; a second World War; the decline of Ohio's economic and demographic prospects; the foundation of many state institutions of higher education, and the attendant saturation of extension, adult, and summer education in major metro markets; the elimination of government support for prison education; and other factors that have kept us preoccupied with the pursuit of stability and the avoidance of risk, rather than with developing a confident approach to future advancement, grounded in awareness of what we have already done and where we have already been.


I hope, then, that Wilmington readers in particular will come to see these memoirs as I do: not as a quaint recollection of days gone by, but as a timely and still-relevant call to order, focus, and resolution for what remains of the 21st century, and beyond.



There are doors I haven't opened, and windows I have yet to look through. 

Going forward may not be the answer. . . 

maybe I should go back.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         --Hive, "Ultrasonic Sound"




Note on the Text



Jay's monograph was obviously hand-typed and mimeoed for handmade publication in a limited number of copies. I have not reviewed the full set of copies stored in Watson Library, and it is possible one or more may have better legibility than the copy I scanned. If the original could ever be located, it would of course be the most preferable. These PDFs are, however, readable.





·              Front Matter and Foreword


·              Part I – Preludes. Knapsack and Baggage; Scared Rabbit; I Tip my Hat.



·              Part II – Old Foundations. Looking Through Binoculars; Thistle-weed and Clutter Spoil a Lawn; It’s Catching; Saga: Milton J. Farquhar.


·              Part III – New Foundations.  Leaving the Trails, Taking the Highways; Saga: Levi Mills; A Tree Must First Set its Roots, then Grow a Top (Establishing the Department of Education); The Fine Arts; First Long Pants (Wilmington-Lebanon Affiliation); First Early Potatoes (First Spring Termers).



·              Part IV – Civic Relations. Skating on Thin Ice (Charter Revisions of 1923); Whoop, Whoop, Hurrah! (College Fund Raising Campaigns); Saga: David B. Hunt; Look! See What We Did (College Gateway).


·              Part V – Religious Foundations. Corner Them: Make Them Listen; The Long Honor Roll: Yearly Meeting Ministers; Saga: Esther Frame.


·              Part VI – Academic Foundations. Medals: The College Faculty of My Years.


·              Part VII – Physical Education. We Want a Touchdown (Athletics); Fire! Fire! (The Old Gym); Yearly Meeting Gives a Gym; Saga: Joseph Carroll.


·              Part VIII – Political Relations. Politics: You’re In, You’re Out! (The Marshall-Hazard Bill); Bubbles: Bold New Outlook for Wilmington College.


·              Part IX – Public Relations. Stet (the Wilmington Press); Heavy on my Chest (Open Letter to the Wilmington Yearly Meeting).