Installation of Dr. Draper as President of the University of Illinois, May, 1895.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The growth of an educational institution is like that of a man and cannot be accomplished in a day or in a year. There must be a period of infancy, of childhood and of boyhood before the vigor of manhood is reached. So with an institution of learning. There is the weak beginning, the early struggle, the later growth, and then the fullgrown university, and as the ultimate greatness of the man is often in proportion to his early struggles, so the final career and usefulness of an institution is frequently determined by the difficulties it surmounts in its infancy. A college or university is not simply a machine. It is not negative, but positive in character. It does more than teach algebra and Latin. It has an independent existence and makes its impression on all who come in contact with it. Its character is a force that creeps silently over the land, and by day and by night molds the sentiments of men. It is this character by which an institution is judged. The world does not care so much for the number of students but it asks what is the character of the institution? What does it stand for? Does it stand for a sturdy, stalwart, patriotic manhood, and the earnest, serious, hard work that goes with it? If yea, then great will be its influence. But if it represents only the easy-going standards of mediocrity or a dudish dilettanteism, then it will not shape the destinies of the nation. There have been colleges that were small and financially poor and were attended mostly by the sons of the poor, but they gave to their country whole constellations of great men, while others that were both
485large and rich did little more than furnish amusement for inherited wealth. The University of Illinois has passed through the stages of infancy and youth, and has arrived at a point where it should embark on a career of fullgrown and vigorous manhood. Much conscientious work has been done. The men who builded it toiled hard and laid the foundations broad and deep, and I believe that the structure which has been reared on these foundations is an enduring one, but we must broaden its influence and enlarge its work; we must bring it to the attention of our people. Few of them know of its great advantages. Few of them know that the agricultural experiment station does not constitute all that there is, but is only incidental and gives so much of an additional advantage. Few of them know that the students, without extra expense and without loss of time, have the advantage of being trained in the military art by a United States military officer. And very few of them know that we have here one of the best equipped engineering schools, particularly in the department of electrical engineering, that there is in the whole country.
As the executive of the State I feel a deep interest in all of its institutions, and I feel an especial interest in this university. The State of Illinois leads all others in point of material grandeur, in point of natural wealth. It leads all others in the energy and enterprise of its people, and it leads all others in having a most romantic and wonderful history. Illinois already stands foremost among the great States of the earth. The achievements of its people have already won the admiration of the civilized world, and we must have an educational institution that will be on the same plane of greatness and of the same high character. We have over this State numerous colleges and seminaries that are doing excellent work and we should have here a university which could offer to the graduates of those institutions higher advantages. We should have here all of the machinery, the instruments, the models, and the specimens that are necessary in modern education. I am anxious to have a university here to which our people can send their young men and their young women, instead of sending them East; a university that shall perpetuate the rugged strength and stalwart manhood which characterizes the people of the Mississippi Valley. We want an institution which shall be free from the dilettanteism that is weakening the East, and that shall inculcate those fundamental principles of liberty, of national union and supremacy, and of local self-government that have given our country its marvelous career of progress and development. We want an institution that shall be thoroughly modern in spirit and effort, and from whose halls shall go forth men and women of such strong moral fiber,
486such industry and such fervor of soul, that they will lead our people on to loftier planes and ta greater glory. We must have in this State a university that will hold aloft the flame of American civilization so that all the people in the world may be blessed by its light. We must have a university whose fame shall be co-extensive with civilization.
I trust that this occasion may prove to be more than merely an entertainment, more than a passing event that leaves only a pleasant recollection. I trust that there may go forth from this meeting a spirit that will arouse all of our people, and that all of us who are in any way connected with this institution may have renewed inspiration and may go forth with higher and nobler resolves in our efforts to make this university represent the great common people of this country; make it the friend and the helper of the toiling masses, of those people who do the work of the world, the people who lay the foundation of empires, who subdue rebellions, who fight for liberty, who build cities, railroads, churches and schools, the people who make our civilization.
We have met to install a new chief. I have told you what we want to make of this institution. We needed a man to put in charge of this work who was more than a scholar, more than an educator, more even than a general; a man who, while possessing all of these qualifications, was also thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the age, with a sense of the needs of our people; a man who was not only progressive, but aggressive. We believe we have found that man.