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The Plastic Age

When an American sets out to found a college, he hunts first for a hill. John
Harvard was an Englishman and indifferent to high places. The result is that
Harvard has become a university of vast proportions and no color. Yale flounders
about among the New Haven shops, trying to rise above them. The Harkness
Memorial tower is successful; otherwise the university smells of trade. If Yale had
been built on a hill, it would probably be far less important and much more
Hezekiah Sanford was wise; he found first his hill and then founded his college,
believing probably that any one ambitious enough to climb the hill was a man fit
to wrestle with learning and, if need be, with Satan himself. Satan was ever
before Hezekiah, and he fought him valiantly, exorcising him every morning in
chapel and every evening at prayers. The first students of Sanford College
learned Latin and Greek and to fear the devil. There are some who declare that
their successors learn less.
Hezekiah built Sanford Hall, a fine Georgian building, performed the duties of
trustees, president, dean, and faculty for thirty years, and then passed to his
reward, leaving three thousand acres, his library of five hundred books, mostly
sermons, Sanford Hall, and a charter that opened the gates of Sanford to all men
so that they might "find the true light of God and the glory of Jesus in the halls of
this most liberal college."
More than a century had passed since Hezekiah was laid to rest in
Haydensville's cemetery. The college had grown miraculously and changed even
more miraculously. Only the hill and its beautiful surroundings remained the
same. Indian Lake, on the south of the campus, still sparkled in the sunlight; on
the east the woods were as virgin as they had been a hundred and fifty years
before. Haydensville, still only a village, surrounded the college on the west and
Hezekiah's successors had done strange things to his campus. There were
dozens of buildings now surrounding Sanford Hall, and they revealed all the
types of architecture popular since Hezekiah had thundered his last defiance at
Satan. There were fine old colonial buildings, their windows outlined by English
ivy; ponderous Romanesque buildings made of stone, grotesque and hideous; a
pseudo-Gothic chapel with a tower of surpassing loveliness; and four laboratories
of the purest factory design. But despite the conglomerate and sometimes
absurd architecture—a Doric temple neighbored a Byzantine mosque—the
campus was beautiful. Lawns, often terraced, stretched everywhere, and the
great elms lent a dignity to Sanford College that no architect, however stupid,
could quite efface.
This first day of the new college year was glorious in the golden haze of Indian
summer. The lake was silver blue, the long reflections of the trees twisting and