Dedication of Trippet Hall

Remarks 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.

SPEAKING—You 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.

WRITING—He 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 education.

FUND RAISING—It 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 this campus.

CHARISMA—When 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 with trustees.

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 it".

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 TRIPPET HALL.