A Tribute to President Eliot from the Faculty.
President Eliot entered on his office on the nineteenth day of May, 1869. It appears from the records of the College Faculty that he took his seat as its presiding officer at a meeting held on the seventh day of June.
The progress which since that time has taken place in the departments of the University under the charge of this Faculty, as well as in its other schools, is far greater than has been made in any like period since the foundation of Harvard College. That progress has been not merely a growth in numbers, wealth, and intellectual resources, not merely an advance along old and conspicuous lines; but a transformation of nature and spirit, a new birth of university life. President Eliot formed here, at his accession, many survivors of a group of men of distinguished talents and learning, who gave wide fame to the institution, and had striven in its Faculty for a generation to lift it to the higher and freer plane of activity on which alone true scholarship can be found. But in spite of all that had been accomplished at that time, and of all that was due to the well won reputation of individual professors,- to whom the faculty still look back with veneration and pride,- it is the period of the present administration that will be remembered hereafter as the epoch in which the University was first fairly able to take its place among the great seats of learning of the world, and to adopt as its foremost purpose, not simply the regulation of more or less unwilling youth in the last years of their schooling, but the nurture, discipline, and inspiration of men destined to devote their whole future to scholarship, science, philosophy, criticism, or art, and of students laying serious foundations of lifelong culture,- the leaders in the coming generation in the search for new knowledge, the establishment of new standards, and the creation of new intellectual forms.
The foundation of the progress thus made has been in the development of the elective system. That system,- feebly inaugurated more than two generations ago, and in 1869 still confined within strictly academic limits, and permitting little real play to diversities of intelectual interest,- has become what it now is through the wise and courageous policy, which assumed great risks in order to widen the field of study on every side, to multiply courses and instructors in every part of the broad domain of modern inquiry, to promote in each department, without regard to traditional rules, the methods of study and teaching found best for that department, and at last to obliterate nearly every relic of a required curriculum, and give to all study in Harvard College the essential characters of a freely chosen pursuit. In close connection with academic freedom of study stands that of conduct. The abrogation of the old undignified system of petty regulations, with their accompanying pains and penalties, and the adoption of a manly and liberal method of government, appealing to the conscience and reason of the student, are especially due to President Eliot individually; and the salutary effect of these measures on the tone and character of the University are visible to all who know it intimately and can compare its present state with that of an earlier day.
The creation of the Graduate School is the complement and neccessary outcome of the elective system; and the first movement in the direction of systematic instruction for graduates was made by President Eliot in the very first weeks after his accession to office. The Faculty bear their testimony to the strong and steady faith with which the President has supported the Graduate School from the beginning, through its long years of insignificance and of apparent failure to justify the aspirations with which it was founded; and congratulate him on the result, which now makes that School one of the most important points of relation between the University and the whole country, and better enables Harvard to take her place as a great institution of learning, engaged in advancing the limits of knowledge by the concurrent labors of teachers and taught.
Among the services of President Eliot to Harvard University, the Faculty cannot fail to mention his frank and wise recognition of the fact that Harvard could not fulfil the mission he imagined for it without both the material and the intellectual wealth, which must be brought by numbers and by popular sympathy and interest. The bold adoption of this fundamental principle of action,- accepted with difficulty by many devoted lovers of Harvard, twenty-five years ago,- has enabled the University, while gaining strenth and freedom for herself; to discharge one of her highest duties to the country, by opening her doors more widely to both students and teachers of diverse training, wherever found, helping to disseminate the influences of good learning throughtout all parts of the United States, and thus becoming a participant and prime mover in the general life of the day.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences bear their testimony also to the dignity, fairness, patience and sound judgement with which President Eliot has invariably discharged the difficult duties of the chair. In his function as moderator of debate, in the presentation of his own views, and in the appointment of committees, he has made it his constant aim to have all opinions justly represented, and to secure the consideration of every important question from all reasonable points of view. He has endured, without flinching, the most wearisome prolongations of debate. He has never left a doubt in any mind of his absolute devotion to the good of the University, of his high sense of public duty as the administrator of a great trust, or of his unstinted use of every power at his command to discharge that duty efficiently.
The members of the Faculty offer to President Eliot their congratulations on the completion of this long period of noble and devoted service. We add to those congratulations the expression of our earnest hope that he may continue to direct the destinies of Harvard for many years to come; and that these years may be as honorable, brilliant, and fortunate as those which have passed, bringing their abundant rewards, in the growing dignity and usefulness of the University, and in every happiness of private life.