Beyond providing exceptional education, top American colleges have often held their mission to include the maturing of their students; the Phillips Exeter Academy encourages its students: “Come here, boys, and become men.” H. H. Horne, a Dartmouth College English Professor of the late nineteenth century, memorably provides his take on that transformation. Though our world is different than his, his observations remain both accurate and timely, and a model of masculinity for those inclined to attempt it:
What is here written comes as the result of careful, though short, study of the Dartmouth man. He is, first of all, not capable of being quickly atomized. What is here seen is, no doubt, truly seen, yet equally without doubt, the whole has not been seen. Colleges, presenting us with different traditions, which traditions in turn make the man, naturally present us also different types of man.
Hence it is legitimate to expect a man from another college to be a specimen of another type.
This expectation is realized when one passes, for instance, from Harvard to Dartmouth. Harvard has the culture of a classic city; Dartmouth the strength of the wilderness. If Harvard is the Athens of American institutions, Dartmouth is the Sparta. If idealism is the note of one, realism is the note of the other.
Harvard is the haven of the true, Dartmouth is the haven of the useful. Harvard’s is the gospel of Matthew Arnold; Dartmouth’s of Carlyle. The one is fine and sensitive; the other is strong and efficient.
The one is the thoughtful observer of life, the other the vigorous liver of life. Harvard, with a city’s great life about it, retires from it to reflect on the on-sweeping tide of modern civilization. Dartmouth, with the quiet and solitude of the country, rushes about with the hurry of a large centre and Hanover becomes known as ‘the little city by the Connecticut.’
Each supplies from itself what the environment lacks. Harvard in the midst of affairs, produces scholars; Dartmouth, in the midst of quietude, produces statesmen.
The Harvard democracy of culture becomes the Dartmouth aristocracy of work. The classic cities beyond the New Hampshire border, especially the ‘Modern Athens,’ delight to strengthen themselves at times with Darmouth’s strong men of the North who invade them in large numbers and fill their honorable positions.
Of course we are comparing greater things with less. The transition is from the greatest of city universities with its 4000 students to the largest of the New England country colleges with its 800 students.
The looseness of one student body, the so-called ‘indifference’ that really springs from a great variety of interests, gives place to the closeness of the other where college spirit is a factor to be reckoned with.
Despite the greater difference in the numbers, the average Dartmouth man, it may be asserted, knows more of his fellows than the average Harvard man.
The advocates of the country as a site for an educational institution have never failed to point out the close companionship it engenders.
At Harvard there is almost the variety of segregated interests that an English university with its colleges show; it is quite possible, indeed common, that the Harvard man’s interest in the whole is secondary to his interest in some part of the world. At Dartmouth ‘the College’ comes first, partial interests of whatever kind second.
The loyalty of Dartmouth men is far-famed. The good things here are better than the best things elsewhere. ‘Why go to Harvard when you have Dartmouth?’ is the common alumni feeling.
Once a winter its sons return to celebrate in speech and song the praises of ‘old Dartmouth green without a peer,’ it is ‘Dartmouth Night.’ The devotion amounts to enthusiasm.
At times it would make inroads upon the quieter conventions of the city. Recently its best loved president, Dr. Tucker, when about to speak on the platform of Tremont Temple, in Boston, before the International Congregational Council in assembly there, with difficulty restrained a group of young gathered alumni from relieving the solemnity of the occasion with ‘a rouse for the College on the hill.’
In particular there are three things that belong to the Dartmouth type of man. He believes in work, he (especially to the looker-on in Hanover) disbelieves in dress, he believes in success, even as the world counts success. These three things belong to each other.
They are but aspect of the one virtue of practicality.
If the Dartmouth man had a patron philosopher, it would be Socrates. He holds by the utility of the good. He denies there is such a thing as being good without doing good. The good, he affirms, is good for something. Life is action, not thought.
He knows his own great ones. Webster and Choate, not Emerson and Lowell. The sciences, not the humanities, are his preferred course. He is a child of the modern age. Industries, not ideals, are his study.
As to his belief in work, in college he makes use of both head and hands. There may be some things he can not do; there is nothing he will not do. He knows the value of money, for he makes it.
He works at all possible things, not so much because he needs to, but because he wants to.
Recently a request was formulated that men who could afford to would not take offers of work in town and college to the exclusion of really needy men.
As to his disbelief in dress, to a usual observer he appears negligent. There is no constant society to invite it. The winters are long and severe, and protection, not appearance, is the problem. ‘What is the good,’ one says, ‘of going decent here?’ He dons his sweater and rubber boots at the approach of winter nonchalantly.
The environment naturally suggests these things; he freely chooses them. In his choice there is also present, no doubt, a handsome disregard of all that artificiality which costume fosters. He had rather be careless than foolish.
He does not know the sentiment, ‘The apparel oft proclaims the man.’ The rich and poor meet together. No body of college students presents so homogeneous an outside.
This indifference to personal appearance is a privilege all alike cherish and one to be relinquished under no slight inducement.
So noticeable is it, especially to a stranger’s eye, that it deserves to rank among the characteristics of the typical man.
The third and final mark to receive special mention is the Dartmouth man’s belief in success. Some would call this an ambition ‘of the earth earthly.’ Without attempt to estimate the fact, we are now concerned with describing it.
The Dartmouth man is ‘a lad o’parts,’ he is the epitome of Yankee shrewdness. In athletics, like Yale, he plays to win. In an equal contest, he expects his team to win. Victories are largely taken as a matter of course; defeats go hard.
‘Nothing succeeds like success,’ he repeats. It is the world’s standard. The College song embodies this sentiment: ‘The world will never have to call on Dartmouth men in vain.’
The College is not a microcosm; it is a place of preparation for the microcosm. Its great worthies were public men, jurists, statesmen, diplomats, financiers. The Dartmouth man carries continually this image in his mind’s eye. It makes of him a thoroughly sensible, uneccentric, genuine, and approachable youth.
He knows not basis for the ideal save the real. He loves no air clouds save those that rest upon his own granite hills. The Dartmouth man is thus versatile, straightforward, and capable. He is practical, forceful, and efficient. He is no idealist, especially in the Cambridge sense of the word.
But he does have a certain something finer than anything yet mentioned, which makes itself felt in his life, which redeems from what might easily become coarseness, and which is prophetic of something even better than now is.
The Dartmouth man may be ignorant of the ideal, but he is not wholly unresponsive to it. He may not be seeking the Holy Grail, preferring rather to do the day’s pressing duty, but he is not averse to its vision. This subtler something is to be named practical idealism. This alone satisfies him and to this brighter world he is glad to be allured.
He is an idealist in the sense that an American is an idealist. It is an emotional attitude toward the material. He is most encouraging to work with because of this attitude of wanting and desire to be informed of the idea.