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November 09, 1941 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-11-09

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T 11E M ?7,TA N DtiTY


Oratorical Association Provides $20,000 Scholarship
I,~~~~~ 9 -


Best Forum in Country
HoosPo.True blood
Outstanding Record Of Presenting Nation's Famed
Speakers To Ann Arbor Dates Back To 1854
. (Editor's Note: The Daily is deeply indebted for source .material. to the
'Ensian, Michigan Alumnus, and the Michigan Alumnae Quarterly . evIew.)4
Three decades of cultural service by the University Oratorical Associa-
tion to the students and townspeople of Ann Arbor have culminated in the
creation of a $20,000 scholarship fund for students of speech, and in an-
other outstanding entertainment season.
Prof. Carl G. Brandt,,.secretary of the Association's faculty committee,
announced Evelyn P. Kenesson, Grad., a candidate for a doctor',s degree, as
the first recipient of the Thomas C. Trueblood Scholarship, named in
honor of the Association's founder.
Prof: .Brandt explained that the Association, a non-profit University
organization, decided in its ehrly years to save any surpluses for a speech
scholarship fund. The Board of Re- --
gents, he said, in 1916 accepted the'
first installment but stipulate the
scholarship would not be given until
a $20,000 principal was accumulated, .1
which has just been accomplished.
Though only one scholarship was"
given this year, Prof. Brandt believes
that two or three may be given annu-

of $1l,400 had beeu aceinn plated by
the Association irk the j)z'CviOUS
three years, as a result of student
apathy, ascribed, in part, to "the
opening of the New Whitney The-
The Regents decided to make up
the debt from University funds, in
view of the fact that the SLA had,'
at different times, contributed over
$6,000 to various University enter-
prises; not the sum that the Orator-
ical Association is contrbuting to-
day for scholarships, to be sure, but
a sizeable sum for a student organi-
zation. G
Mt In Churches
In the early days, the meeting
places were local churches, the high
,chool, and in the fall of 1873. the
U-Hall Auditorium. Not until 1913
was the 5,000-seat Hill Auditorium
ready for use by the Oratorical Asso-
The most vigorous period of the SLA
was that before the Civil'War when
lecturing was less of a business than
a means of satisfying a widespread
Desire for self-improvement.'
The largest number of lectures were
"lay sermons" on ethical and moral
subjects. Other specific subjects of
the time were Abolition, Reconstruc-
tion, Women's Rights, Civil Service.;
the Coast Survey, the Atlantic Cable,
Arctic Exploration, Darwinism, and
Shakespearian Actors.
In its 58 years, the SLA paralleled
the great growth of the University
itself. It was almost inevitable
that such men as Mark Twain,
Thomas Nast, Oliver Wendell
Holmes and Godkin (the foun-
der of The Nation who would
only accept expense money for his
lectures here) would serve as a tre-
mendous stimulus to the intellectu-
al life of the University.
As might be expected, the Univer-
sity's central location, its reputation
and the large number of students
in attendance early in its history
made it the favorite place for the
most important deliverances of our
greatest men, and earned it the ti-
tle, "the best forum in the United
Bryan Vs. McKinley
Many statesmen, largely because
of the SLA, chose Ann Arbor to de-
clare themselves on questions of far-
reaching importance. It was here
that Congressmen William Jennings
Bryan and William. McKinley deliv-
ered opposing speeches, and it was
here that Bryan and Grover Cleve-

'Stormy Petrel"

ally in the future.
Death Of SLA
The Oratorical Association has
brought distinguished men from all
fields of learning to Ann Arbor since
1912. In that year, the Board of Re-
gents gave the Association the au-
thority to take over the duty of pre-
senting lecture programs at the Uhi-
versity. Before that time, the job
had' bee\ handled by the Students'
Lecture Association, which went out
of existence in 1912.
A glanee over the imposing list of
speakers which the Oratorical Asso-
ciation has, during its existence,
brought to the University, will show
what a powerful educational force,
it has been, Personalities like Win-
ston Churchill, present British Prime
Minister, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Jan Masaryk, former president of
Czechoslovakia, Bertrand Russell,
and Thomas Mann, to name only a
few, have spoken here in recent years.
A more extensive list, going fur-
ther back in the Association's his-
tory, would include William Jennings
Bryan, William Howard Taft, Newton
D. Baker, Wilson's Secretary of War,
and Senator William E. Borah, in the
field of politics and current affairs.
Men like John Galsworthy, John
Drinkwater, Emil Ludwig, Alfred
Noyes and Mann have contributed
their literary knowledge to the Asso-
ciation's program.
Explorers And Commentators
Every type of work, from journal-
ism to - science to exploration, has
found a place in the Association's lec-
ture calendar. Explorers like Nan-
sen, Amundsen, and Byrd, scientists
like Beebe and Chapman, and news
experts such as H. V. Kaltenborn,
Lowell Thomas, Dorothy Thompson
and John B. Kennedy have spoken
from the Association's rostrum.
Winston Spencer Churchill, thie
greatest world figure ever to have
spoken under the auspices of the
Oratorical Association, spoke to an
audience of, over 3,000 on March 1,
As quoted in The Daily for March
2, Churchill ridiculed rash schemes
of disarmament and lashed out
against communist Russia in his sec-
ond talk before an Ann Arbor' audi-
ence. He had appeared here before
the Student Lecture Association on
an American tour thirty years pre-
Although the Oatorical Association
has been bringing statesmen like
Churchill, literary figures such as
Edna St. Vincent Millay, and ,dra-
matic artists like Maurice Evans to
Ann Arbor audiences. for only thirty
years, it was preceded on campus by
a flourishing organization which per-
formed the same function until its
death in 1912. 1
The Students' Lecture Association,
known better in its time as the SLA,
was founded in 1854, part of a move-

"It would be a pity if the English
speaking peoples were the only ones
to disarm and then something
went wrong with peace . . "-Win-
ston Churchili, Ann Arbor, March
1, 1932.
Imperial Court Orchestra of Vi-
Some of the speakers showed more
ardor than logic. The editor of the
Argus commented on March 6, 1868,
after a talk by Anna E. Dickinson on
"Idiots and Women":
"Anna, with her bundle of 'no-
tions,' would be a first-rate mis-
sionary to root polygamy out of
Utah. Even the Mormon Elders
wouldn't want more than one wife
with her ,ideas."
Men like Carl Schurz and Edward
Everett Hale came to Ann Arbor to
discuss civil service reform. Thomas
Nast, the cartoonist, came to Ann
Arbor fresh from his important part
in the exposure and prosecution of
the Tweed Ring in New York City.
Nast came here at the peak of his

j;C1i:~LJ~Lif.N' (I uilit a :Uing It :;rw .itll
of( letLiring in which he is bii(I to;
have cleared $40,000.
A seven-fold classification covered
most of the lectures of the early,
period: ethics, literature, travel, his-
tory, politics and foreign affairs, hu-
mor, and science.
But the last two topics were sadly
neglected; humorists, although re-
ceived with great popularity on other
lecture circuits, were, not brought to
Ann Arbor by the SLA. with the not-
able exception of Mark Twain, who
was not too well received.
And science had not yet fully
established itself as a lecture topicy ;
deep opposition to the theory of
evolution and other new scientific
ideas is believed to have charged
the atmosphere with explosive po-
During the first 10 years of the
SLA discussion of ethical or moral
matters was emphasized; the type of
"lay sermon" made famous by Emer-
son was in vogue. The second dec-
ade of the series found the accent
more on literary subjects, and
brought to Ann Arbor Mark Twain,
and Bret Harte, as well as other lit-
erary and theatrical figures of the
time who are less well-known today,
such as James E. Murdoch and Mrs.
Mary F. Scott-Siddons.
He Was "Palmed Off"
An Ann Arborite of today would
hardly speak of a noted lecturer on
science-William Beebe, for exam-
ple-as being "palmed off" on an
unsuspecting community.
But it was in such language that
in irate Ann Arbor resident de-
scribed the English astronomer Rich-
ard A. Proctor, sixty years ago. Mr.
Proctor had given one of .the few
talks on science the Students' Lec-
ture Association sponsored in its
first decades, back in 1873-74, on
"The Sun," and talked on "The Moon1
and Its Satellites" six years later. It

Noted Dipl ill "t


was this latter lecture which got the
Inveighing. against this "arrant
astronomical humbug," a letter to
the Ann Arbor Daily Argus of Janu-
ary 30, 1880, reads:
"He was introduced to the audi-
ence as a Professor! Professor of
what? He is certainly not a pro-
fessor of the Christian religion .
. Thus Richard A. Proctor at one
fell stroke wipes out of existence
the book of Genesis-the inspired
history of the patriarchs-cart
loads of pious Christian literature."
Students provided trouble of an-
ather kind.
Witness the- Argus as it reported
on one of the Association's first lec-
tures, that by Bayard Taylor, on
March 9, 1854. Taylor was a traveler,
and poet, and by conviction anti-

temperance a;nd an t-uffk .ge.lHe
drew well-an excited crowAd (trnedi
But, as the editor of the "Argus"
put it two weeks later-"We like to
see the boys enjoy themselves, but
they should temper their demon-
strations to the occasion and
place. Stamping, whistling, and
playing on jews' harps are not ap-
propriate preludes to a lecture, and
especially in a church."
Students' conduct was not neglec-
ted by the lecturers, however; tem-
perance was a frequent subject for
discussion The greatest temperance
advocate of his time, John B. Gough.
spoke on his crusade against the evils
of drink.
Beer flowed freely in Ann Arbor
then as now-too freely, maintained
many of the visiting lecturers.
Among these crusaders was Mrs.
Susannah Evans, who spokeabefore
the SLA on temperance in 1864. But
Elihu B. Pond, the editor of the Ar-
gus, was not impressed.
"It was," he wrote on December
23," a fair school girl declamation,
and that's all truth will permit us'
to say. If Miss Susannah wishes to
benefit young men, as her intro-
duction leads us to suppose is her
object, she had better return to the
social circle and give private in-
struction. Her lecture is too tame
and commonplace to excite enthu-
siasm or awake the conscience."
Certainly the SLA will forever
loom big in University history, for
an organization which in its day
brought such men here as Presi-
dents McKinley, Cleveland and Wil-
son, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark
Twain, Horace Mann and Horace
Greely does not expire without leav-
ing a deep mark.For not only did it
attain a prominent position in stu-
dent interests, it also played a large
part in the gradual organization of
the department of oratory and pub-
lic speaking.

ment for adult education which was
growing throughout the nation.
This date is made all the more im-
.ortant, for it marked a turning point
in the popularity and meaning of lec-
Literature, politics, "readings," his-
.ory, biography, foreign affairs, hu-
mor and science-all of.:these at-
tained new force throughthe medium
of public speaking at the University.
In common with other "lyceums,"
as these centers of education by the
lecture method were known, the
SLA regarded itself as an instru-
ment for education, not as a profit-
making corporation.
It contacted prospective speakers
directly, without the medium of a
booking agency. Its resources were
not great-Ann Arbor was a small
town, and Michigan was a small Uni-
versity-but it managed to schedule
prominent speakers . from the very
start. Not every lecturer, of course,
was a nationwide authority-Univer-
sity professors were often scheduled
between visiting, speakers, without
Sixty Lecturers
During the first 10 seasons of tb
vigorous young SLA, more than 60
different lecturers delivered more
than 100 lectures under its auspices.
But then, as now, there were diffi-
culties to be overcome, financial'
troubles to be surmounted. Profes-
sors, without pay, supplied much of
the speaker material during the open-
ing years of the series.
Off to an auspicious start in the
'irst- two decades of its existence, the
students' Lecture Association con-
tinued to flourish. At its peak, over
x,000 tickets for the series were sold.
But then came its demise in 1912. Its
career won it the reputation of being
,he best and highest-priced (in
amound paid to speakers) lecture ser-
.es in the nation.
A headline in the "Michigan
Alumnus" for June, 1912: "S.L.A.
Writes 'Finis'." A story follows de-
scribing the 1 death of the "oldest
organization on the campus," which
"has come to an honorable end
after 58 years of service." A deficit





American Humorist


.<. 9 .9.





land sounded the keynotes of their
Presidential campaigns.
During the 1900-01 season, ex-
President Harrison declared his be-
lief, '1 an address that attracted
world-wide comment, that the "Con-
stitution follows the flag,"
In this season, also, Britain's
present Prime Minister, Winston
Churchill M. P., spoke here. In the
1901 'Ensian, he was described as
the "colorful soldier and war cor-
respondent." Notable also that
year was the appearance of the





NOV. 13
8:15 P.M.





The Merchants of Ann Arbor and
The Michigan Daily present.





First Women Foreign Correspondpnf to Receire Pulitzer Prize
Distinguished Member of N.Y. Times Editorial Board ,
"MT R~l Vd lN NR PE"

A fashion show fo

eYes anyou
)r you . . to be held at the MichiganTheatre, Thurs., Nov. 1
Admission Free

I I l 1l1 l i I I

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