The morning in July of 1918 witnessed the Quaker Pilgrim alone, on a great train speeding eastward over desert wastes and rugged mountains, through fruitful valleys and extended plains with well kept fields of corn and refined grain, of meadows and pasture lands where feed the sheep, the cattle, the swine and the horses - the very best of blood of their kind, while here and there were neat spacious homes, the homes of the princes and the queens of American aristocracy, and about these dwellings were well constructed and ample barns and granaries and sheds, to care for all that blooded herds and fertile acres would produce. There was peace and plenty, but other thoughts filled the mind of the traveler who had already crossed over country many, many times.
These thoughts clustered about two centers and these centers were 2,000 miles apart and he was rapidly spanning that distance. The past was past for right or wrong it now was past. What of the future - it too may be right or wrong, - could he help make it right?
The great war still carried on and had brought its serious questions, national, social, domestic, economic, educational, moral and spiritual. What lies ahead? It may be well he did not know. He did know he was going to be president of a College - on a new campus with new and good buildings for the "old College building on the old campus" had burned to the ground two and a half years before, but he was going back to the spirit of the old College with its sacred memories and holy traditions. He was to ally himself with devout men and women of faith and Quaker background to steadily build with them the mental strength and spiritual qualities so essential to every enterprise in every generation. He was going back to his native state of Iowa in many respects the most resourceful and dependable agricultural state in the union, in the production of grain and fine stock and in the production of genuine untainted citizens - the boys and the girls of wholesome farming communities, he was going back to the Iowa Friends Yearly Meeting in which he found the way of life as a young man, in which he served in Young Peoples work - in which he was "recorded as a minister" and did his first pastoral work, but primarily he was going back to the old College, there to help other young people to "seek the truth" and to square their lives by it. That was his purpose - let us hope that was what he did. His beloved daughter Marion came as had been planned and they enjoyed a suite of rooms in the dormitory and boarded in the dining room for the coming two years.
Yes, it is well we cannot always know what awaits us. For this new College President the future skies were hung with foreboding shadows and overwhelming clouds of impossible indebtedness - such things as need not be lived over again. It may be said that not without struggle and anguish of soul and not without help from many sources and in many ways his first year there witnessed the raising in absolute money - $100,000 - and all but two donors were from Iowa Yearly Meeting, were members of the Alumni - the one living in Chicago and the other in South Dakota.
The story of this campaign might be of interest to many but it need not be reviewed nor recorded here. It was the first of a ten year period of progress which saw the financial situation improved every year, which saw completion of the campus landscaping and planting, the building of the beautiful chapel - The Spencer Memorial, with installation of the pipe organ and the great day of dedication, a period too of the largest enrollment in Penn College, before or since that time and the largest graduating classes of her history.
Two or three most significant events in the life of the president of this Quaker College should be noted in completing the story of these years.
First of all it was war time when this work was undertaken and there was much anticipation concerning the Quaker attitude of this new man. These were tense times when men of faith and convictions must "do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God." His attitude was not that of aloofness but of profound interest in the welfare of young people and an endeavor to live a consistent life on the Quaker highway. When it came to a question of compromise - there was no compromise but there was no disregard for the flag nor deprecation of country.
When others felt sure the College should yield to the demand to install the Students Army Training Corps and train soldiers on the campus, the president calmly replied, "You could change things out here to make a movement like that consistent, but you must first remove the College and the campus from its connection with the Friends, change its name and its whole policy then do with it just as you please, but so long as it bears the name of William Penn and is known to the world as a Friends College it will be inconsistent and impossible to train soldiers here." That closed the discussion. Within sixty days the President was complimented by many college presidents of the state, that Penn had escaped some conditions they were compelled to endure. During the early days following this decision there were some who did not fully understand who somewhat resented the college attitude but this feeling was of brief duration and while some Penn Young Men seemed compelled to go to another institution to carry on their studies and take the soldier's training, they practically all returned to Penn to finish in their respective classes, and some to enthusiastically commend Penn for her position.
On the 11th of November came news of the armistice - and what a day of celebration and rejoicing.
During the first year many helpful contacts had been made and former friendships had been revived and Old Oskaloosa brought to the College President a home feeling. The College year closed, the President closed his office for a little more than a month and was off for Whittier, California to spend a month with the lonely one left behind. The reunion at the home of Lewis and Anna Burdg was mutually happy - but not unmixed with disappointment for there certainly were no evidences of improved conditions. The sister's care and ministry had been perfect but it was clear there was no immediate prospect of removal to Iowa.
The situation at Penn College more than ever demanded the early return of the president for important matters must be shaped up for Yearly Meeting.
This required some running about during the remaining summer months to visit meetings, interview members of the Board of Trustees, and to see possible contributors and prospective students. On the afternoon of perhaps August 21, 1919 he chanced to be in the friendly home of Earl and Blanche Kellogg in Des Moines, when the telephone relayed a telegram sent to Oskaloosa from Milo Hunt of Whittier, California, to the effect that Edith McGrew was in serious condition and under the immediate care of Dr. Homer Rosenberger and nurses.
There was just time to catch the Rock Island eastbound afternoon train to Grinnell where Marion was visiting at the home of E.J. Hadley. After contacting her, there was ample time to take the evening M.& St.L. train for Oskaloosa.
On reaching the College they learned no further news had arrived, so they began preparations for a probable trip to the coast. Late that night, before retiring, the evening prayer was as usual except the commitment of one far away into the Heavenly Father's special care. That could not be spoken - for - as later reports revealed, she was as never before, in His immediate care and presence. The morning brought the telegram. A little hasty packing - and prompt arrangement for tickets and for reservations and evening time found the Father and Daughter well on their way westward.
Strange and interesting as it may seem, this train was the very last to cross the prairies and the deserts and the mountains in a whole weeks time on account of a great Railway Strike. How slow and uncertain was this train and finally at Las Vegas, Nevada there was a long, long wait. Workmen from R.R. yards and ships took charge of a switch engine, uncoupled the train, swung one car out on a side track, filled with what they termed "Scabs" - or men who had come out from the east to help break the strike. This car was left on the sidetrack where another car stood similarly filled, doors locked and windows watched, with food and water furnished until some eastbound train would attach the cars and take the men back where they would be more welcome. Expressions of authority in form of police stars and of violence in form of all kinds of guns were in great evidence so one felt he was in the midst of good natured warfare, and the uncertainty resulting was most exasperating under the circumstances, but finally on they went - still wondering.
The next town of considerable size was San Bernardino and the dusty creaking train lined up on the track in front of the spacious station with set brakes. "How long do we stop here?" asked one anxious passenger to the much questioned porter, and he answered, "We ah here - an thats jis all I know about it." Soon the somewhat worried conductor came through with the information, "You who have tickets and reservations beyond this point, please know this car is at your service until you reach your destination, but this train goes no further tonight, nor can I tell you when it will go on."
At 7 o'clock in a strange city, fifty miles from your destination, weary and grimy from travel with a compelling urge and sense of "oughtness" to go on, is a novel and not to be coveted experience.
As he stood meditating on the platform, a strange gentleman in this strange land approached the Quaker with the question, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" The situation was briefly related in answer to his question, with the closing remark, that if this had occurred in Riverside, there was a boyhood friend there, Harry Hammond, who would care for him and his daughter. "Well," said the gentleman, "while my home is not in Riverside I can drive that way with a few extra miles and I know your friend and if you and your daughter will get into my car I will take you to his home - at no cost to you and it will be my pleasure." Within an hours time after a refreshing cross country drive through the orange groves and meadows, with expressions of profound appreciation their destination was reached. Here every hospitality was offered but a few requests seemed sufficient - first, bath facilities, second a little nourishment - no, not a dinner now - third, telephone contact with Milo Hunt at Whittier by which a program and place of meeting of two cars - one from Whittier and one from Riverside - and forth, that the meeting place might be approached.
At Ontario within five minutes of the arrival of the first car, the second car with Milo Hunt and his lovely son Wendell, came in and at once the journey was renewed.
At two o'clock in the home of Milo and Emma Hunt in Whittier, the lights were turned out and two weary guests renewed their strength and courage in refreshing slumber.
It was learned, as was expected, that all arrangements for the last rest had been made by relatives as the Burdg family and the Wares and by the multitude of loving and devoted friends. Only a few questions were to be answered and certain approvals to be given and decisions to be made, then a day or two of carefree rest. The steamer trunk, in which were those features of clothing most desired, was in San Bernardino where it remained for it was checked to Los Angeles but with borrowing from friends here and there the two were commendably fitted out.
A fitting service was held in the church auditorium under the guidance of Dr. Charles Tebbets and the necessary rites were performed at that beautiful spot known as Rose Hills - on the very choice portion called Violet Lawn. It was her birthday - August 27, 1919. Life that had in it so much of struggle in its quest had come - not to defeat but to a Christian's Victory.
The following memorial was prepared and read at the Church service by Eliza Armstrong Cox.
[Note: memorial is missing]
Following a few quiet days the father and daughter returned to their suite of rooms at the Women's Residence building on the Penn Campus. It was Marion's Senior year and was filled with many things of interest to both - in so many respects a good year.
As commencement time approached the daughter said one day, "Father, I think thee needs me next year and I'm willing to change my plans and remain with thee." The answer was, "Nothing would please me more than to have thee with me but I shall not consent to any change of thy plans on my account. No stupid old father should expect that sort of thing."
Then came the statement that she had plans to be married shortly after Commencement and this plan was carried out and the father returned to still more lonely dormitory life, moving into smaller and more cozy quarters. This indeed promised to be rather a quiet, lonely and uneventful year - but again one may remark with assurance - how little we know what the future may have in Store for us, - "of marvel or surprise."