of Dick Ristine 41 at Trippet Hall Dedication
October 5, 2002
Byron Kightly Trippet, our ninth
president, resigned for health reasons and left
Wabash College over 37 years ago. No one here today
under 55 years of ago knew him, but some 2500 living
alumni over 55 remember him with admiration and
affection, as did equally large numbers no longer
living. He embodied the best of this college from
his undergraduate days in the late 1920's until
his death in 1982.
He impressed students, faculty,
staff, trustees, alumni, townspeople, campus visitors
and educators nationwide. He was beloved. For some
of us, outside of our own family, Byron was our
favorite human being.
We are indebted to two alumni,
Judge Dale Eby and Ben Hur Watt, for persuading
Byron (belatedly) to come to Wabash from his home
in Princeton, Indiana, in September, 1926. He even
pledged their fraternity (as did I). Later, some
of us remember him slowly shaking his head as he
recalled how close he had come to enrolling in DePauw.
We are also indebted to President
Hopkins. After his Rhode Scholar days, Trip had
expected to enter Harvard Law School, but President
Hopkins offered him an instructorship in history,
which he accepted. (The offer was $1,200, I think
per year.) Byron served his college enthusiastically
and superbly - - as undergraduate campus leader,
instructor, professor, dean, president for nearly
a decade, and later as a trustee.
He was devoted to what he called
the educational primacy of the liberal arts, and
for four years, during his presidency, he was chairman
of the Commission on Liberal Education of the Association
of American Colleges.
Everything he did he did well.
TEACHING - - His European History, 1815-1914, was
the best course I ever had. Others said the same
about his Constitutional Law course.
SPEAKINGYou might remember
his Chance, Circumstances or God Almighty? or Caleb
Mills and The Love of God? Or - even his announcements
as Dean, at Chapel (unless you were being invited
to his office). And, like his predecessor, George
Valentine Kendall, he could stop a riot just by
showing up and without raising his voice.
WRITINGHe penned "
Wabash On My Mind' while at the University of the
Americas in Mexico, entirely without research or
notes or assistance, calling only on his remarkable
memory. Read again the insightful vignettes of Wabash
presidents, professors and trustees, the moving
presentation of his emotional attachment to Wabash,
and his conviction of the worth of -a liberal arts
FUND RAISINGIt was Byron
who secured the Ford Foundation grant -- the all-important
incentive which moved this place forward in the
60s. The Lilly Library, Martindale and Baxter Halls
were built during his presidency. He began the sabbatical
program, doubled the endowment and earned the continuing
support of Mr. Eli Lilly and Lilly Endowment. He
attracted distinguished faculty members to Wabash,
three of whom are still active, with fourteen others,
still living, who came, stayed and retired near
CHARISMAWhen he entered
a room, he was most often the center of attention.
Many women referred to him as "Beautiful Byron".
Professor Jack Charles wrote, "Byron inspired
much heart fluttering among faculty wives. Tall,
strikingly handsome in a rugged way, he was friendly
and approachable, with a lively sense of humor -
the soul of courtesy and consideration". Unquote.
I'm told he was even a better dancer than his associates
and a better ballad singer at Division III picnics.
And - he was as patient with sophomores as he was
The aforementioned attributes
were recognized far beyond the college. Herman B
Wells, then President of IU, confided to me in 1958
that if he could persuade Byron to be President
of IU, he'd retire! Blessedly, for Wabash, that
didn't occur, nor did he favorably consider other
challenging offers while he was here.
As an old development director,
I can't resist sharing a passage I've used before
from "Wabash On My Mind", and which super-class
agent Paul Mielke used last month importuning his
classmates. Wrote Byron, "If the alumni, who
are the immediate beneficiaries of what the college
has to offer do not support the college, there is
precious little reason why others should support
Looking around this magnificent
campus today, it is apparent that the alumni HAVE
heeded Trippet's admonition, and that Lilly Endowment
support HAS continued!
It is particularly pleasing to
see members of his family at our happy Homecoming
dedication. It is indeed appropriate that this handsome
building for admissions, financial aid, and for
the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts be named