“The poetry in the life of a college like Wabash is to be found in its history. It is to be found in the fact that once on this familiar campus and once in these well-known halls, students and teachers as real as ourselves worked and studied, argued and laughed and worshipped together, but are now gone, one generation vanishing after another, as surely as we shall shortly be gone. But if you listen, you can hear their songs and their cheers. As you look, you can see the torch which they handed down to us.”
Byron K. Trippet ’30
Ninth President of Wabash College
Wabash College was founded on November 21, 1832. According to early records, the next day a group of the men chosen as trustees of the College knelt in the snow and conducted a dedication service. The College would be located in the frontier town of Crawfordsville, Indiana, with the resolve “that the institution be at first a classical and English high school, rising into a college as soon as the wants of the country demand.”
The first faculty member of Wabash was Caleb Mills, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Andover Seminary, who arrived in 1833 and immediately established the character of the school. As noted by Byron Trippet, who was associated with Wabash College for 40 years as student, teacher, dean, and president, “by his ideals, his vision, and his abundant energy [Caleb Mills] gave to this College a sense of mission, which it has occasionally neglected, but has never completely lost.”
Caleb Mills later became the father of the Indiana public school system and worked tirelessly to improve education in the entire Mississippi Valley. Each fall, Caleb Mills’ bell is used to “ring in” the freshman class as students of Wabash College, and each spring the bell “rings out” that year’s class of Wabash men as they move on to new challenges.
Wabash College has always been independent and non-sectarian, although its founders and Caleb Mills were Presbyterian ministers. The school was patterned after the liberal arts colleges of New England, with their high standards. Caleb Mills declared the aims of the College to be learning, virtue, and service.