The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 18.


Its Story Divides Into Four Distinct Chapters Covering a Span of 77 Years, 1859-1936

But few educational institutions in this country have made such a contribution to character, a high order of citizenship and the well being of our national life as Valparaiso university.

Thousands have enjoyed its educational privileges and advantages and acquired a higher education which through lack of financial means would have been difficult to obtain in other institutions. The solidity of its instruction and the thoroughness of its preparation in the various departments of study is shown in the notable success in life which has been achieved by many of its students.

The story of Valparaiso university might be divided into four distinct phases -- first, the humble beginning; second, the remarkable growth and expansion; third, the decline; fourth, the reconstruction.

The present complex of schools forming Valparaiso university is the achievement of patient and wisely directed efforts and the part of two men who will forever be connected with the history of the University, Henry Baker Brown and Oliver Perry Kinsey. The real history of the University starts with the advent to Valparaiso of Henry Baker Brown in 1873. But educational history had been made as early as 1859 for the institution that he shaped. In the antebellum decade the Methodist church had conceived the plan of founding in every congressional district a college under the control of the Methodist church.

Higher education in northern Indiana, and for that matter in nearly every part of the United States, was a rare accomplishment, but for that reason was highly prized by the people. Most of the early settlers in the western commonwealths of the North American Republic reflected the lack of education which is an attendant feature of the pioneer life. They felt their lack and determined to have their sons and daughters start on a higher educational level than their own had been in their younger days. Accordingly, the Methodist plan met with much favor and in its execution there was a good deal of friendly rivalry among neighboring communities.

As Porter county was one of the farming counties in Indiana, its thrifty-looking population caught the enthusiasm for higher education. Under the leadership of John N. Skinner, many times mayor of Valparaiso, the city launched upon the project fostered by the Northwestern Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, to start a co-educational college in the wooded district southeast of the public square.

At a meeting in the court house the people of Valparaiso in 1859 donated $6,000 to the board of trustees of Valparaiso Male and Female college. This was the name chosen for the educational enterprise of the Methodist Conference.

From the old Freeman estate a plot of fifteen acres was purchased. It ran north from the Pennsylvania railroad tracks and took in the top of "The Hill," being bordered by Locust, Union and Garfield streets. In this section, though, unpaved streets were laid out as the building of the college progressed, and the streets were connected with the town by a path leading through woods and fields. A wooden building was temporarily put up to house the school, where music hall now stands. This was promptly replaced by a substantial brick structure.

With varying fortunes the school started on September 21, 1859 and developed under the acting presidency of Francis D. Carley, and the presidencies successively of Rev. C. N. Sims, Rev. E. H. Staley, B. Wilson Smith, Thomas B. Wood and Aaron Gurney.

The enrollment leaped from 157 in the first year to 327 in the second year. Literary societies, college papers and other phenomena of academic life made their appearance. Some of the most successful and popular teachers of the school were Miss Delia Carley, and Professors Allen, Utler, Banta, Ruggles and Hewitt. However, the outbreak of the Civil war in 1861 checked, and its long continuance together with the disturbed conditions which usually follow in the wake of great political upheavals, ultimately wrecked the educational enterprise in Valparaiso. The administration was confronted with ever-growing financial difficulties. In 1870 the college stood vacant and the trustees were face to face with the sad problem of disposing of the college property.

The school was going fast to ruin, also physically, when Henry Baker Brown, then a young professor, twenty-six years of age, at the Northwestern Normal School of Republic, Ohio, learned of it, through a former student of Valparaiso by the name of Ira Hoops. After a personal inspection of the property and a conference with Azariah Freeman, who wished the defunct school revived in the interest of the community, Mr. Brown decided to start a normal school in Valparaiso.

He was given the use of the old college property and promised that the most necessary repairs would be made, to make the ramshackle buildings inhabitable. Several friends of Mr. Brown had decided to accompany him from Republic, Ohio, to Valparaiso, and came here in August, 1873, and started preparations for the opening of the school. The next month Mr. Brown came. He had induced Miss Mattie E. Baldwin to become the first member of his faculty.

After some judicious advertising which aroused considerable interest in the renewed effort for higher education that was being made at Valparaiso, the school opened its doors to thirty students on Tuesday, September 16, 1873.

It was planned to have three departments, the normal, music and commercial, but these had not been definitely separated. Each one of the faculty members worked at anything at which he could make himself useful. Mr. Brown traveled considerably attending teachers' conferences in the interest of the school.

The enrollment at the beginning of the second term rose to 90, at the beginning of the third term to 173. In the winter of 1887 the enrollment reached the number of 1,360 students. New departments were constantly being added and new courses of study arranged to suit the needs or conveniences of applicants. The teaching force was increased almost as rapidly as the enrollment of students. Prof. C. W. Boucher became head of the commercial department. Prof. Martin E. Bogarte started the department of public speaking and oratory. Prof. Harrison C. Carver built up the class in common law which afterward became the law school, the real founder of which was Mark L. DeMotte.

Under Dr. Yohn the first steps were taken toward the establishment of a medical school, and a school of telegraphy was started. The medical school later became a flourishing part of the institution, and at one time the university owned the American College of Medicine and the Chicago Dental college of Chicago. The school of telegraphy later became the present Dodge Radio and Telegraphy Institute.

Debating societies, literary and dramatic clubs, a normal congress, a moot court, public recitals, concerts, lectures by prominent men and performances of leading artists enlivened the academic life on "The Hill." The complex of buildings in which these various activities were housed was being added to continually as the revenues of the schools increased. As in former times, the generosity of the citizens of Valparaiso and Porter county was displayed in a splendid manner by financial aid which they gave to the university.

The enterprise started by Mr. Brown has assumed a magnitude far beyond the dreams of the most sanguine enthusiast, which by the way, Mr. Brown was not. He was an indefatigueable worker, who never spared himself, giving lavishly of his time day and night to the school, its teachers and its individual students, with all of whom he strove to establish and maintain individual contact.

The sense of duty was a very active principal in his life. He would travel all night in the most inclement weather to meet his grammar class at 6:30 in the morning. The gentle but firm touch of this extraordinary man was felt by all who came under his genial influence, and to many of them he seemed like a father because of the close and specializing interest he took in them.

In the winter of 1880 the work had grown to such proportions that Mr. Brown feared he would sink under it. The "Hill" was a beehive, humming with activity. Great numbers of students were swarming over it all day long, and the coming of each of them, together with the care of all the property of the school which Mr. Brown owned, laid an ever more exacting hand on his physical and mental resources.

Under these conditions Mr. Brown appealed to a friend of his, Prof. Oliver Perry Kinsey, at that time a member of the faculty of a college at Lebanon, Ohio, to become associated with him as part owner and responsible administrator of the phenomenal educational undertaking at Valparaiso.

Mr. Kinsey came to Valparaiso, saw and was conquered by the evident proofs of the meritoriousness and the vastness of what his friend had begun. He bought a share of the school from Mr. Brown, but before entering upon active duties at the institution took a leave of absence for nearly a year, which he devoted to travels in Europe and studies of the educational systems of other countries. His real activity at Valparaiso commenced March 25, 1881.

Mr. Kinsey appears to have been a genius in economy and resourcefulness. He took charge of the boarding and rooming facilities of the institution, and devoted his talent to the solution of the problems which confront the student of slender means. It was chiefly due to his skill as manager and food expert that Valparaiso university became known as "The Poor Man's Harvard."

Like his friend, Brown, Mr. Kinsey, too, was an incessant worker, who believed that the application of elbow grease is the most essential element of success. He also shared the genial traits of character, which endeared both these men to teachers and students, and accounts for the affection and reverence with which old alumni and alumnae of the institution still speak of these men.

Valparaiso university, under the administration of Brown and Kinsey actually became an educational wonder. Newspapers and magazine editors sent reporters to Valparaiso to study and write up the situation. Educators came to examine the system which made the school so attractive to thousands of students, and gathered for it such prestige and fame that the students of the school were even found in foreign lands. In these palmy days of the school it ranked with the foremost institutions of the country, and its graduates were found in all walks of life, and in the leading professions. Some of them have achieved marked distinction in their chosen professions as lawyers, statesmen, artists, engineers, and scientists.

What was the cause of this success? It can be expressed briefly thus: 1. The low cost of tuition, board and lodging, which was so low that some eastern papers indulged in a good deal of good-natured humor about it, and some seemed inclined to treat it as a fake; 2. The fine democratic spirit that ruled at Valparaiso, and created the social level on which all life in university circles moved. Faculty and students were more plainly here than at any other large school a social unit. There was no snobbishness, no silly claims of prerogative and superiority, and the curse of the idle and profligate rich is the one evil that has never been visited to any appreciable extent on Valparaiso university.

For this reason, too, the formation of college fraternities and sororities with their secretism, spirit of exclusiveness and partiality, which they naturally beget and foster, was never favored by Mr. Brown and Mr. Kinsey. And this, together with the reason first given may have had a great deal to do with their opposition to promiscuous dancing.

3. The fact that Valparaiso University concentrated all its energies on undergraduate work and strove to do that well, has been its most valuable educational asset. Through work in procuring of basic knowledge in every department, and the acquisition of skill and efficiency in practical pursuits rather than research work such as is done by post-graduate schools, has been the aim of the school. It tried to fit men for useful work in the quickest way and to prepare them to fill their positions with credit to themselves rather than to produce famous scientists, artists and authors.

Until about 1914 the Brown-Kinsey educational enterprise kept growing. The school numbered its students by the thousands, and these went forth to all parts of the world after their graduation with a spirit and affection and loyalty to their alma mater and their beloved leaders that is rare in educational circles. Whenever one of them would pass through Valparaiso or come close to it in his or her travels he would stop to make a visit and refresh cherished memories. The Chicago alumni -- and there were many of them -- used to make annual pilgrimages in Valparaiso and were given a fatherly welcome by the aging President Brown. New departments, like the school of pharmacy and the high school for mature students, were added, and able teachers were brought into the faculty.

Then, in quick succession, came blow after blow, under which the thriving university soon began to suffer severely. In November, 1911, Professor Bogarte, one of the most efficient teachers of the school, was stricken dead while conversing with his family after having returned from evening service at his church. His death was pronounced irreparable and irretrievable loss to Valparaiso university.

A year later, in the fall of 1912, Mr. Brown, while visiting in the city of Boston, suffered a stroke of paralysis from which he never recovered though he still lingered for five years. Mr. Kinsey became acting president after Mr. Brown's illness, and the latter's son, Henry Kinsey Brown, came from a broker's office in California where he had been employed for a number of years, to assist in the management of the university.

The dual ownership of the institution with its attendant division of executive authority, which had not proved a handicap to the school in previous years, did not immediately affect the progress of the institution, but soon became an element of weakness and a check upon the school's prosperity.

For a while the school was carried forward upon the great momentum of past efforts and achievements, and new departments were even added to it, notably that of domestic science, for which a special building was erected, and a school of agriculture, which however, was a short-lived experiment, although at the time it promised to become one of the best agricultural schools in the United States.

The enrollment of students for 1914-1915, according to Mr. Kinsey, was the largest in the history of the institution. Then came the World war, and the effect which this tragic event had upon Valparaiso University was evident. Many students were compelled to leave school because their expenses were being paid by friend and relatives in foreign countries, and upon the outbreak of the war they were unable to get money from home. Many others withdrew from the university to enter the armies and navies of their respective governments. Mr. Kinsey spent several hundred dollars for which he did not expect any return, in helping foreign students, who were severed from their usual course of support to find employment, or in paying their transportation to their homes or to a place where they might maintain themselves during the war.

But all this weakened the university, and as the decrease of students grew larger each term, it was obviously necessary to resort to some plan which would put the institution in way of supporting itself, and at the same time assure its perpetuity upon its original principles and purposes.

It has been the plan of Mr. Brown and Mr. Kinsey to bequeath the university, which had become a self-supporting institution, to a self-perpetuating board of trustees, but this plan was not carried out.

On May 1, 1919, the firm of Brown and Kinsey, proprietors of Valparaiso university, was formally dissolved. Mr. Kinsey retiring at the age of seventy, and Henry Kinsey Brown, son of the founder of the educational enterprise at Valparaiso, assuming charge of the business of the university. Under him and a number of heads of the school who succeeded him, including John E. Roessler, M. J. Bowman and Horace M. Evans, attempts were made to raise a large endowment for the school and thereby secure its continuance. But none of these proved successful. The enrollment grew smaller, teachers remained unpaid and had to leave the institution, buildings fell into decay because there was not the necessary care-taking and repair work. Soon the once-prospering university seemed hopelessly on the rocks, and the end was in sight.

H. K. Brown, on assuming the management of the school in 1919, had begun to work with a board of trustees, which had been appointed to meet requirements of the state. The business of the university was officially transacted through this board, which henceforth appointed the presidents of the school.

Various attempts were made to transfer the school to a new owner. At one time it was offered to the State of Indiana for a Normal school. Legislation was enacted and passed by the Indiana assembly for the taking over of the school, but Governor Ed Jackson vetoed the act.

At the close of the war, impetus was given the institution by the sending here by the government four hundred disabled veterans of the World war for vocational training.

Finally when it seemed like the institution would be forced to close, members of the Lutheran church of the Synod of Missouri had their attention called to the school and after inspecting the property and examining the legal status of the property rights, decided the school might be reorganized as a university, and serve the needs of the church body.

Accordingly the Lutheran University Association was organized, and incorporated under the laws of Indiana and is the holding company of all property of the university. The association conducts the university through an interlocking body, called the Valparaiso University association.

The Lutheran University association, in order to obtain the funds necessary for purchasing and operating the university, launched a financial drive among the members of the church in the fall of 1925.

An endowment of $500,000 is being created, and several hundred thousand dollars have been expended on repairs and improvements.

Changes were made in various departments to meet the requirements of educational boards, and the present indications are that the school is gradually coming back to something like its former importance in the field of education.

For about a year, John C. Baur, business manager, acted as president of the school. In 1926, Prof. W. H. T. Dan, D. D., formerly of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary at St. Louis, Mo., became the president. He served until 1929 when he resigned and was succeeded by the present head, Dr. O. C. Kreinheder, of Detroit, Mich., who was inaugurated president in 1930. Dr. Dan was honored by being elected president emeritus. At present he is living in Berkeley, Calif.

In 1929, Valparaiso university, having met the educational requirements was approved by the Indiana Board of education as standard college, and was granted membership in the North Central Association of Colleges.

At the annual commencement in June, 1935, Valparaiso University officials celebrated ten years of Lutheran control with a two-day celebration attended by more than 5,000 people.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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