Memorable moments of the past 175 years
If we had to pick the single most important moment in the life of Marietta College, it would have to be the events that took place on Feb. 14, 1835, when the state of Ohio granted us the right to confer degrees to our graduates. Establishing Marietta College was not an overnight task, but though limited in resources, its founders had an endless supply of devotion to creating an institution steeply entrenched in the liberal arts.
Had it not been for that moment, none of these subsequent great stories would have taken place:
Ten years into the life of Marietta College, the campus began a "spontaneous movement" to add a second building. A year later, the importance of having a new structure increased after a fire took out the roof of the South Hall. What started out as an effort to raise a temporary building that could house chemistry and philosophy courses turned into a $10,000 project that has, over the years, come to symbolize the historic campus. "For the College it is indebted to the citizens of Marietta and Harmar, with some aid from other parts of the country," reflected President Israel Ward Andrews during his administration.
Donations came in single dollars to the $2,000 donation from William Slocomb. One local farmer's donation is still visible and well used. The farmer, whose name is not revealed in either of the College's historical books, "donated the steps which he quarried and dressed himself and hauled by wagon a distance of several miles."
By 1850, the Chapel Building was complete. Over the years, it has been known as the Middle Building and Science Hall. In the late 1800s, after receiving a generous inheritance from Connecticut industrialist Cornelius B. Erwin, the name was changed to Erwin Hall.
Whether they were students, alumni, staff or faculty during the times America has gone into battle, every war this nation has faced has affected the campus life at Marietta College. During the Civil War, many of the College's leaders became leaders in battle. Arthur Beach dedicates many sections in his book, "A Pioneer College," to the College community's struggles during this war as well as the Spanish American War and World War I. "The number of students at Marietta was greatly reduced by the enlistments," Dr. Beach wrote about the Civil War. "Many answered the call for troops in April, 1861. Some returned at the end of their three months' service while others remained with the army until the close of the war. As long as the conflict lasted the undergraduates were constantly laying aside their books."
Even during the brief Spanish-American War, several students enlisted for battle. Verne Bovie, Class of 1898, became the captain of Company B of the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Like the Civil War, the outbreak of both World War I and II changed the life at the College.
“On Oct. 1, (1918) The College was formally declared to be an army post, and about two hundred men were inducted into the service. The oath was administered to the corps in front of the Library Building. The work of the College was rearranged to accommodate the military demands.”
Dr. Beach recalled that two barracks were established in what is today Mills Hall and in another unspecified dormitory on campus. “Soon after the organization of the unit and epidemic of Spanish influenza, then prevalent over the country, broke out and both barracks were quarantined."
During the onset of the U.S. involvement in World War II, the College became a training site for the 25th College Training Detachment (Air Crew), U.S. Army Air Corps. After the end of the war, campus had to deal with an influx of veterans returning to college.
Alumni and students from Marietta committed to serve their country during wars in Korea, Vietnam and in the Middle East—some lost their lives during this service. There is a War Dead Plaque listing the names of students who have died in service to this country from 1861 to 1975 in front of Gilman Hall. Vernon "Dan" McGrew, in his book, "In the Various Branches of Useful Knowledge," writes that one name—Charles R. Nelson '62, who fought in the Vietnam War—is not listed among the dead as his death was discovered during Mr. McGrew's preparation for the book. "The War Years" section of his book closes with a reflection by alumnus Dr. Kevin C. Sheard '43:
How does one convey to today's Marietta College students who pass this tablet that those engraved names represent the same sort of students as they—unique and priceless? Perhaps that cannot be done, but it remains true nonetheless. So long as I and others of the war classes are around, the Conraths (Benjamin G. Conrath, Jr. '43 and Paul K. Conrath '40) and others will have an existence—if only in our memories. Some of my memories may have dulled; the accuracy of my recollections is not as important as my motive: that while I live, these men who died for their country also live.
Marietta College was founded as a "distinctively religious institution, but unlike most of the colleges of that day it was intended to be broadly unsectarian," wrote Dr. Beach. Because of this religious foundation, students were expected to attend chapel services daily. During the earlier part of the 20th century, students began to resist this required worship service. Their push to end it finally was successful in the mid 1920s, leading to one of the most memorable "obituaries" to run in The Marcolian announcing the death of compulsory chapel:
“Compulsory Chapel, born February 14, 1835, died April 27, 1927, aged 92 years. Stricken with an incurable disease, student opinion, early in 1925, he grew steadily worse until the time of his death. He is survived by one son, Compulsory Student Assembly.”
From the Roaring ’20s to the depths of the Great Depression, Dr. Edward Parsons dedicated his life to securing the life of Marietta College. He may not have been the Board of Trustees first choice as president, but Dr. Parsons' contributions as the College's eighth leader led to one of Marietta's most memorable moments, which happened at the close of Commencement in 1935 during the College's 100th anniversary.
"The Centennial Celebration, a book issued by the College about the observance, described the surprising conclusion to the ceremonies. Twelve honorary degrees had just been presented, the last to William Augustus Bosworth, class of 1864, the oldest living graduate. As President Parsons turned to Dr. Bosworth to ask him for the benediction, the direction was taken from his hands. To his evident surprise, Dean Draper T. Schoonover presented him for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. The degree was conferred on the amazed Dr. Parsons by Thomas J. Summers of the Board of Trustees." A year later, Dr. Parsons retired.
In 1956, Air Force Colonel Dean Hess '41 wrote a book depicting the struggles of South Korean children orphaned by the war and donated the proceeds from the book to help fund the children's survival. The following year, the movie "Battle Hymn," which was based on portions of the book, debuted in Marietta.
Leading up to the 1957 Founders Day celebration, a mixed group of movie and campus stars mingled in the Pioneer City. During the Founders Day meeting, actor Rock Hudson, who portrayed the Rev. Hess in the movie, received an honorary degree from the College. Also receiving honorary degrees were West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood and the Korean ambassador to the United States. Hours later, the movie premiered in three Marietta movie houses.
As Erwin Hall's tower began to ring out on campus on Nov. 29, 1962, classes stopped, employees left their desks and a line began to form across what is now the Christy Mall. Operation Book Brigade was part celebration and part service work on behalf of the College. The campus community joined together to move 125,000 books from the old library to the newly built Dawes Memorial Library, which was constructed during the 125th Anniversary Campaign.
"Book carriers did not gather an armful of books and take off willy-nilly for any old place," Mr. McGrew wrote. "The plan called for coordination from the point of pick up to a specified place in the new building. The move was virtually completed by late afternoon. A good but weary time was held by all."
During the height of the civil rights movement, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made a stop at Marietta College. His speech, which focused on the future of integration, was delivered to a packed Ban Johnson Field House on March 2, 1967. It was part of the Thomas Lecture Series, which also brought such notable speakers as U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., newsman David Brinkley, and Catch-22 author Joseph Heller. Thirteen months after Dr. King spoke to thousands of students and community members, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.
One of the characteristics of this area that makes College life here so quaint is the proximity to the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. But ask any alumni who have been on campus in late winter after a massive snow meltdown and you'll hear why those rivers have earned a spot in this feature.
The great floods of 1913 and 1937 both climbed up Putnam Street. "The 1913 freshlet actually washed against the base of the monument in front of the old library, now Irvine Administration Building…The 1913 flood reached halfway up the Putnam Street hill between Fourth and Fifth Street. The 1937 wasn't far behind," wrote Mr. McGrew. Flooding in 1884, 1948, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1979, 2004 affected life on campus for brief periods of time and oftentimes cancelled at least a few days of classes.
As the spring 1974 semester eked closer to final exams, students on campus decided they needed to create a celebration in which they recharge their mental batteries and blow off some steam. Glen Mello '74 came up with the idea and, upon gaining the approval for the campus-wide festival, came up with the name. Mello's roommate Dave "Doo-Dah" Gibson served as the inspiration for the name. The festivities included spot performances by amateur musicians and singers, hula-hooping, bow-tie tying instruction from President Sherrill Cleland, rappelling from Irwin Hall's tower and, in 1980, a hot air balloon landed outside of Timblin Hall.
For a college chartered in 1835, first-times are hard to come by. But in 2000, just as the world entered the new millennium, Marietta College's glass ceiling for women was broken. The Board of Trustees, in search of a replacement for the retiring Dr. Lauren Wilson, announced that the Harvard-educated historian and long-time college administrator Dr. Jean A. Scott was elected to serve as Marietta's 17th president.
Just as the College began the moving process from the Dawes Memorial Library to temporary holding areas, an employee in Special Collections found something special tucked away in an office drawer—the deeds to Washington County.
Signed by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, the deeds, found in early 2007, conferred land to the Ohio Company. "We knew we might have these documents, but we also thought there was a chance they could be with another library or museum," said Linda Showalter '79, who works in Special Collections.