A STUDENT COMMANDS HIS OWN DEVELOPMENT
IN THE EIGHTEEN-SEVENTIES the college at Princeton was gradually regaining the reputation that it had held before the Civil War as an ideal school for young gentlemen of the South. Moreover, it was still known as an institution where upcountry youth learned "to preach, to reform, and to lead." Into this tradition young Wilson, a son of the South and a grandson of the middle frontier, fitted well, and as the son of a Presbyterian pastor he was entitled to free tuition. His father had studied at the theological seminary in Princeton; but when Tommie arrived on the college campus he was too shy to present a letter that Dr. Wilson had written to President McCosh.
James McCosh was an educator of whom the Wilsons could approve heartily. Born on the banks of the River Doon, he boasted that he had talked with men who "dr-runk whiskey with Bur-rns." In his mature years he had won renown as a religious reformer, and when he had arrived at Princeton in 1868 he had dared to attack the brutalities of hazing and the societies that had operated in secret, had encouraged sport for sport's sake, and had gone himself to the college games. The boys loved him as much as they feared his righteous wrath and laughed at his burr and his extravagances. He insisted that college students should be treated as growing mortals and not as disembodied intellects and that teachers were, properly, in loco parentis and responsible for developing men of character. Every Sunday afternoon he lectured on religious subjects, and once a week he heard students recite on his lectures and on the Bible.
To make up for inadequate preparation, Tommie's energy at first went mainly into his studies; but in June he was not among the twenty honor students of his class. In sophomore year, however, his mind came into its own, and at the end of his college course he stood among those who for the four years had maintained an average of 90 per cent. The boy gained confidence, and wrote to his father that he had discovered he had a mind. He took notes in the neat shorthand that he had mastered, by correspondence course, as a means of saving time; but he did not rely greatly on his teachers, who were not men of marked genius. His grades in the humanities were consistently higher than those in