P. L. JOHNSON’S "MINUTES":
A "TOWN AND GOWN" MEETING AT THE COURT HOUSE
November 23, 1898
A number of businessmen responded to the call for a meeting at the Court House Wednesday evening. Both Mr. Parmenter and Mr. J. N. Clarke were nominated for Chairman. Mr. Parmenter withdrew and Mr. Clarke was elected. Mr. Madgett was elected Secretary. Mr. Clarke then said: "We are organized for business. What is your pleasure?"
Pres. Pattison said "I don’t know how far we should go in this matter before organizing; but I think I should speak of this: You are all familiar with the matter in hand. On the day of the blizzard the business men were all shut up in their offices and places of business. I took that occasion to interview the business men in regard to the proposition which has been in the town papers" – which proposition he then read. "That was the statement under consideration the last time we met here together. As the College now stands there is not sufficient money for an institution of the grade of Hastings College. We do the grade of work of many higher institutions. We have one year of work preparatory to the Academic Department, three years in the Academic Department, and four years of College work, making an eight years’ course in all. When our students have done that work they are very well equipped for the work of life. We have won a reputation among higher institutions of learning of which we have no cause to be ashamed.
Last year, Pres. Harper in a personal interview said to me, "Your students who have enrolled with us have made excellent records, and your College has a better standing with us than many institutions of higher grade. The men you have sent us, Mr. Moritz, Mr. Norlin, and Mr. Roelkoetter, have made fine records. You can be proud to know that as far as our judgment goes, we regard your men as superior to the students of certain other institutions we have mentioned." Whether at Chicago or at Cornell or at Princeton, we have recognition of work of a higher order. While attempting to carry on the very best work, it has been under a severe strain and pressure. Ever since the College has been organized, not only has the faculty labored for small sums of money, but from these sums they have suffered cuts and deductions which have been sacrificed for the welfare of the College.
If ever we expect to put the College upon a higher basis, we must enlarge our resources. What we need is more funds upon which the College can count from year to year. To do this, we need to have an enlargement of the endowment fund and an increased attendance. Our credit should be as good as that of any business man in the city. It must be, so that people may know that the institution can meet all its obligations. To do this, it is necessary to have larger funds. The interest taken by the citizens of Hastings in this matter has been very great. When I was talking to the business men about this, one man said that it was possible not only to raise $25,000 but to raise $50,000 if we would but ‘put our hand to the plow’ and go to work." Another said "I have thought over this matter for ten years, and I have come to the conclusion that there are two things of the greatest commercial interest to Hastings: one is the College and the other is the Asylum. The College brings more commerce to Hastings than any other one thing." There are other things of interest along this line, but I have no doubt that others here will speak of the other phases of the question. We have now enrolled 140 students. This we hope to increase to 300 students. This will bring an increase of expense to the College, which must be met. I must have my time to get out on the road and do the work of the College in a general way. The proposition is that if $25,000 is raised, one-half is to be paid when we secure 200 students and the other half when we secure 300, asking for none of that until $10,000 is raised outside of the state of Nebraska. We would then have the $25,000 raised by our citizens, $10,000 raised outside the state, and with the $15,000 that we already have, would create a $50,000 endowment. This would put us in a better condition than any other college in the state, outside of the State University.
President Kerr said to me some time ago that we have great advantages over Bellevue because their territory is so covered up by other institutions. There is at Peru, the State Normal; and in the vicinity of Lincoln, there is the State University; besides Wesleyan, Cotner, Lincoln Normal, and Union. These are all competing for the students of this section of the country. They have but two students from the city of Omaha, he said, while we have four. Besides, they are just far enough from the city of Omaha to be at a great disadvantage. Every institution receives a larger percentage of its students from a small radius immediately around it; this is true even of Yale. It is also true of our own State University. More than fifty percent of their students are from Lancaster County.
Every institution, within a radius of 100 miles of its campus, will take in all its students in this area. We have around us here a rich country, one that will develop more and more – a country with rich soil for agriculture. In it the city of Hastings is benefited by having the College. So far, Hastings has not developed many manufacturing plants. In some other ways it has not developed greatly during the past. But it remains for us to take hold of this and make it a great college town. In order to make something of this, we must advertise. We must take hold of this with earnestness and enthusiasm. The other day I presented these cards to the men on Second Street. And every man who signed one of these cards will do something. Out of the forty-nine that I talked to that day forty-six signed these cards. Some said they would give certain sums. Another said, "What will be my part?"; another said, "I will be there when you go to make up the money. You write that statement across the card." Another man said "A man is blind to his own interests when he thinks that Hastings College means nothing to him." If we can double the attendance it will mean an expenditure of $30,000 a year. Now there are not a large number of business men here, but it seems to me that we should have an opinion expressed from every one of these business men.
Mr. Oliver asked if they would take a man’s note payable for one, two, or three years.
President Pattison said, "Yes, payable to this association."
Mr. Clarke said, "Talking this matter over with President Pattison, it seemed well for us to have a number of committees. That is, a committee of merchants, another to see the men of this county, and another committee to take up the matter of non-resident property holders. In these committees we must have all the elements that make up the community. With this plan the movement must win. And it will be a financial help. And another thing: manufacturing plants we can’t have, but there are many people who are no doubt thinking of moving to Hastings to educate their children. I believe our public schools here have no superior in Nebraska, not even Lincoln and Omaha excepted. From the public schools there are many who will either go on to school or go into some business; but if we increase the facilities of Hastings College, many will remain to carry on their education. To us, therefore, it is eminently fitting that we have Hastings College in our midst. In the first place, there is no man in this house who has had experience in a large institution that can measure its influence. And there is no reason why we should not make a large institution out of Hastings College. For when we get to an enrollment of 200, we can go to 300 and from that to 400. It can’t stop. We can’t measure its influence for our town. I would like to have a canvass made to see how many men and families came here originally because it was a college town.
We ought to have this house packed tonight; but I have lived in Hastings long enough to know this: there are many men who are not here tonight, who, when presented with this matter, will do a great deal to help us.
Mr. Watkins asked if it would not be a good thing to go ahead and appoint committees.
Mr. Parmenter said "It means hard enthusiastic work, in which three or four must bear the brunt of the fight. We ought to have committees and subcommittees and set them to work. The Presbyterian Church raised $25,000 in less than a year; I don’t see why we should not raise this amount."
President Pattison remarked that the constituency of the College ought to be larger than that of the church.
Mr. Clarke said, "How would it be to have a committee of three or four or five at the outside and give to that committee the power to solicit others?"
Mr. Benedict moved that a committee of five be appointed to take up the work of organization.
President Pattison suggested that this committee have a president, secretary, and treasurer. Mr. Watkins seconded the motion.
Mr. Benedict changed the motion so that the chair should appoint three to select a committee of five to take up the work of organizing and detailing this work and pushing it forward.
The motion was carried.
The Chair appointed Benedict, Buchanan, and Parmenter.
They reported a committee as follows: J. N. Clarke, President; Mr. Lanning, Treas.urer; Mr. Parmenter, Secretary; Mr. Buchanan, and Mr. G. H. Pratt.
Mr. Clarke appointed a meeting of the committee at his office at nine o’clock on Sat. night. Meeting adjourned.