A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Our Hero Stages Himself as a Cinderella in the Academic Ashes

IN 1890 Amherst College took Calvin Coolidge mentally cast in the granite walls that circumscribe Vermont. Of course he was callow, no prodigy here; an average high school boy with an average high school record and an average capacity for acquiring more or less useful information in a college course. Amherst merely developed him, filled him with its fire, made him come alive and turned him from youth into manhood, finished and ready for life.

Now for Amherst and its influence upon the youth from Plymouth Notch: Amherst in the early nineties was more than a hundred years old, one of a dozen New England colleges of its type with a student body of four hundred when he entered and nearly five hundred when he left. It was fairly well endowed, paying faculty members from two thousand to four thousand a year, having one member of the faculty for every ten students. Amherst College was founded by the Congregationalists, and a succession of Congregational doctors of divinity had been its presidents. The college was set in a small town of between four and five thousand people. It was a hundred miles from Plymouth, and less than seven miles from Northampton where Calvin Coolidge was destined to live thirty-five years and where he died. Any of a dozen small New England colleges which then lay one or two cuts educationally under Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia was distinguished for three or four faculty members outstanding and dominant, who left their impress on the students of that day. One of the things which gave Amherst distinction was its library. Its three outstanding members of the faculty were Professor Charles E. Garman, who taught philosophy, Professor Anson D. Morse, who taught history, and

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