Wesleyan's First Century: With an Account of the Centennial Celebration

By Carl F. Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
ATHLETICS

WHEN Willbur Fisk proposed, a hundred years ago, that physical development was an essential requisite for the complete education of a student, he was but adding new evidence of his wisdom in matters educational. But when, in response to this, the faculty devised a system of manual work in the college shop for their students, the plan utterly failed because it did not take into account the play instinct, through which comes the sanest physical development for brain workers, giving them along with bodily exercise a much needed mental relaxation from the grind of their work. Even though the boys of that first decade laughed at the lure of the college shop, their physical exuberance and love of play found an outlet in kicking the college football, traditionally furnished by the underclassmen, about the campus to the south of the Lyceum ( South College). Gradually their games came to be organized, but without any special recognition on the part of either college body or faculty, and utterly lacking the tremendous enthusiasm which came in later years when intercollegiate contests were introduced.

The first great impetus for athletics came in the revolutionary years of President Cummings's term, when not only the physical aspect of the campus, but also its educational methods, were changing. The importance of physical training was being agitated throughout the East. Wesleyan reacted favorably to this impulse by erecting a frame Gymnasium, 60 by 40 feet, south of the present Andrus Field. The building is still standing (southwest of Hall Laboratory), having been moved in 1897, and now serves as a college storehouse. It was opened in the spring of 1864. The next fall, students were required to attend gymnasium classes.

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