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to each other. The last duty has been far the more difficult. The past decade has witnessed the culmination of a struggle between the scholastic systems two centuries old, and the new demands of modern times. While the enthusiasm of the "new education " idea has modified the popular estimation of the value and importance of scientific knowledge, there is more work to be accomplished. It is one thing to recognize this importance of science,be it ever so grudgingly given, but it is quite another to fasten its position in the world of knowledge. What are called the " learned professions/' do not embrace that of the scientific man, and whatever distinction of superiority that may have existed in times past, exists no longer, if utilitarian considerations are entitled to any weight. It is true that the heretofore sacred ties of learned professions, like old wine, have had the flavor of age to commend them, and appealing as they do with traditional force to the comprehension of the mass of society, and intimately associated with the whole network of social life, society has acted but a natural part in elevating to a pre-eminence what it best could understand. But the times have changed, and men have learned that there is very little nutriment in the polite mustiness of antiquity, and that it should be administered in the new era of education in homoeopathic doses.
The last half century has seen science raised in all its vast ramifications to a distinct profession, and among its devotees may be found as much intellectual wealth, sound learning and untiring industry, as can be found in any other calling. If bettering the material condition of society, if increasing its comforts, if developing its sources and avenues of wealth, if teaching it how to live, is any criterion of learning, then I say that science should have the highest seat in men's estimation. If nobility of work is asked for, for admission to the coveted eminence, then I ask can man be engaged in a more ennobling work than the study and application of the laws and forces of nature; to wring from nature her secrets, and divert them to the benefit and elevation of the human race. Science is more felt than heard; it dwells upon deeds rather than words. Its subtle influence pervades civilization, and its privileges are enjoyed day after day, without a thoughf; given to "whence it comes or whither it goes." The labor of years develops a necessity which becomes part of our daily lives. Who, for instance, realizes the study, labor and research, that has brought our railways into existence, and has been perfecting them ever since?
England thought Stevenson worthy of a tomb in Westminister Abbey, and she has knighted her prominent men of science, recognizing them as benefactors to the race. Some such recognition we must strive for in this country, in our own American way. While we do not bestow orders on the men that rise above the mass of their fellows, we have been conferring honorary degrees upon men of letters, the law, and clergy. Why not upon men of science? Our colleges have been so profuse in hastening to recognize this expression of pre-eminence in a scholastic direction, that the number of complimentary degrees given out at every annual commencement, is legion. They have cheapened their honors, until the whole intent and purpose has been virtually lost. Honorary degrees of this character cease to be a compliment, and I only refer to them in this place to emphasize the idea previously expressed, regarding work yet to be done, and indicating one method for science to assist itself. While men's estimate of themselves or their calling, does not always accord with the judgment of their fellows, it is as certainly true, that unless they assist themselves, others will not do it for them. Scientific schools, in this country at least, do not give special or complimentary degrees, and it well becomes the Rensselaer Institute, the oldest and best known institution of its class, to initiate the system. If the honor was used sparingly and critically, it would be a coveted prize for the deserving, and a mark of accomplishment,that would still further elevate the profession of the scientific man in the estimation of society. It is high time for science to assert itself in every legitimate direction, and demand a seat on the Olympian Height, so long occupied by law, medicine, and theology. I would further present for your consideration, the matter of incorporating the Alumni element in the governance of this institution. This seems to me worthy of discussion, for many reasons, and has been found of value in such colleges as have adopted the principle. No one knows, better than the graduate of practical experience, the shortcomings of our Alma Mater, and it is eminently proper that he should be consulted in matters of systems and policy. In an age of such wondrous activity as the one we are passing through, to stand still is to be left behind, and to be left behind is a lingering death. Competition is a tireless rider, forever spurring on all who enter for the race. Striving for perfection, unattainable though it be, is characteristic of the age, whether toward things good or towards things bad. Radicalism and conservatism are the two great conflicting social forces, each one tempering the other, yielding a resultant of real progress. Separate them and we have communism on the one hand, and medievalism on the other. The Rensselaer Institute stands alone, as a purely scientific school, no longer. The demands of the ." new education " have created, I must say, almost beyond present requirements, technical and scientific schools in almost every important State in the Union, either on their own basis, or as adjuncts to established institutions of learning. These schools are for the most part well endowed, and present inducements that this Institute cannot hold out. Thus far, despite all these aspirants for popular favor, the R. P. I. has held its ground, if the number of students may be taken as an index of prosperity. Even with its limited facilities, and higher tuition fees than any other similar school, there are more names now upon its register than ever before. This is easily accounted for from the fact that its age has given it a reputation through its graduates, not yet reached by its young and vigorous competitors, and its reputation is further advanced by a knowledge of the rigidity of its graduating requirements. This disparity must lessen year by year, until the newer schools occupy the same vantage ground, having in addition thereto, the attractions growing out of material prosperity. The position of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is to-day largely due to the comprehensive mind of B. Franklin Greene, former Director, as I think will be generally admitted. His report, made in 1850, to the Board of Trustees, and adopted by them at that time, as the basis of the Institute system, showed an appreciation of the subject far in advance of the time. The Institute then, as it does now, needed a large endowment, and the prospects then were about as good as they are now—possibly better. The interval of twenty years has done nothing for us, and we must make up for a slender purse, as was done by Director Greene, by still furthering its educational usefulness. The Alumni comparatively have nothing to give; they are too few in number, and as a rule their riches are not in excess of what usually falls to the lot of scientific men. But if they can not give of worldly possessions, they can counsel through ripened experience and sympathy. The professors are more or less "book men," and hard-working and painstaking though they be, they cannot always estimate truly the value of their systems, as to the effect upon the after life of the student. It was evidently some such feeling that prompted the Board of Trustees to appoint a peculiarly able committee in the Spring of 1870, to investigate the educational system of the Institute. That committee made a careful investigation and report, so complete and encyclopaedic in its information, as to claim for it a high position in the literature of technical education. It was expected at the time by many of the Alumni that steps would be taken to adopt its recommendations, in part at least, and that the time had come when the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute would make another stride forward. So far as I can learn, and from causes that do not appear, this document has exerted no influence as yet upon the Institute system. Giving full credit to the dead weight of impecuniosity, the bete noir that springs up at every turn, the Institute can do more than she is now doing, at least so it appears to many of its graduates. Far be it from me to cast reflection on any one of its faculty, for a harder-working or more painstaking body of men it would be difficult to find. Year by year they have raised the standard of scholarship, and their courses have been filled out and extended. There is no human institution under the sun that does not run in a groove unless carefully watched, and the pruning knife is essential to a healthy advance. The work of the Institute being to prepare young men for certain professional duties, it certainly seems reasonable that those young men in after years should have a voice as to the kind of preparation those coming after should receive. While this Association of Graduates has no competence to pass any measures affecting the character of the Institute system, or the mode of its government, it certainly has the right of petition, and could exercise that right in no better way than requesting an alumni representation among the Board of Trustees.
Another matter occurs to me as one in which the influence of the Alumni Association can be wholesomely exerted, and that is, in discountenancing the tendency of the undergraduates to affect the class names of distinctive collegiate institutions. It must sound strange to an old graduate, on visiting the scenes of his youth, to hear Division A spoken of as the "Senior Class," or Division D as "Freshman.'* The divisional names were given originally to make a marked distinction that the present race of students do not appear to understand. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute pretends to no parallel with the American colleges, but theoretically stands on a higher plane, to enjoy the full benefits of which a preparatory college course is necessary, and it is falsifying its true position before the public, in attaching to it the college nomenclature. Inasmuch as the Institute is a special school, to train its students for special work in life, its educational position is alongside of other professional schools, such as Law, or Medicine. General literature, or miscellaneous cultivation, forms no part of the system of special schools, while it is the whole aim of the college course, and it would be much better for the special schools, if it were possible, to insist upon a previous college training. High aims alone produce high results, and it