James Lloyd '54
James Lloyd '54Professor of Physics 1961-96
As I look out my Lathrop Hall office window toward the northwest, not much seems changed from 35 years ago. True, there are houses on Johnnycake Hill, the old Ad Building leaves its trace mainly by an incongruous tarmac circle off Oak Drive, and the old library is getting blocked from my view by the growth of a patch of pines down the slope. Otherwise, the Baptist Church steeple remains the most recognizable feature I see off campus, lake effect snows obscured the upper end of the valley just recently, and the old maple slowly dying from the salt draining from the parking area begins to swell its buds for yet another year.
Beneath and behind this slow external change lies a profound change in the nature of the college, best appreciated by a contrast with the very different college I first knew. I started teaching at the end of an era, but my memories go back another decade. (In fact, they go back furthest of anyone still active on campus except Hunt Terrell!)
In the fall of 1950 the keepers of tradition put us through a week of orientation, which seems now to have been mostly the learning of cheers and songs. The campus had recently gone through the "Rally in the Valley" when a massive effort at reviving prewar traditions had been undertaken. While the rally's budding was much less successful than that of the old maple outside my window, the insult of the 1932 spurning of the football team by the Rose Bowl still rankled, Andy Kerr was still a demigod, and our beating of Syracuse in early November (for the last time ever) was cause for the freshmen to abandon their beanies.
Miscellaneous memories and tales come to mind in no particular order. For one, the faculty had a close involvement in details of student life, even to the extent of charging into a dorm to rouse a student sleeping past the start of a final exam. While being a "beloved old professor" was perhaps more important than national recognition, scholarly work by faculty was considered a "good thing" provided it did not interfere with teaching duties. The presence of C.D. Child's name in physics texts was pointed out with a certain reverence.
A higher power felt there was no need to increase faculty salaries because "they're all independently wealthy anyway."
Where are we now? We have a thoroughly professional faculty that interacts with colleagues on a national and international level. We have a highly selective admissions process that brings many extraordinary students to the campus. We have a modern curriculum in all of our programs. Increasing numbers of students work directly with faculty on serious research problems. We have become a very good college standing on the verge of greatness. It must be stated that a large measure of credit for stimulating and helping achieve this transition goes to the first few classes of women. Because they were a group of self-selected pioneers, they had a toughness that helped them keep their keen edges.
What keeps us now from crossing the step to greatness is our inability to provide a sufficiently supportive environment for those with keen edges, cutting edges.
I see all too often the "ball mill" effect. A ball mill is a machine that tumbles objects mixed in with a lot of smooth spheres. Out come parts that are equally smoothed. The smoothing of rough edges is a desirable thing, but unfortunately the sharp edges have usually been worn down too. To keep sharp edges one must be willing to be different, perhaps lonely, to define one's own goals.
I would wish that in the next century this college could become even better known for nurturing students who follow their inner drives, and less well known for the "play hard" that sets limits to the "work hard."