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But whether in adversity or fortune, all have been loyal to the idolized alma mater, whose expanding and enduring glories we celebrate today.
It is well for us to go back upon the wings of memory to that halcyon epoch of youth in University days, when all of us were “Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field.”
Like the imperial city of the Cæsars, embosomed in green hills above a winding river, Austin reminded us yet more of that other ancient capital, the birthplace of poets and of sages, “Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence.” There we were transplanted to the golden age.
We wandered “Where the muses haunt, clear spring or shady grove or sunny hill.” We were revelers in the realm of old romance.
What adventures were ours with Giaffar and Haroun al Raschid disguised at night in the streets of Bagdad !
We walked with Vathek through the gloomy, vast and silent halls of Eblis. We wooed the laughter-loving Undine by the silverthreaded streams of the black German forest.
We followed the wayward footsteps of the miscreated Frankenstein.
We were idle dreamers with Rasselas in the happy valley.
We fought with Douglas for the golden casket that enshrined the heart of Robert Bruce. We drank with the Christian knight and the Saracen chieftain from the limpid fountain in the diamond of the desert.
We were devotees of literature, votaries of science, disciples of all divine philosophies. We lived in an atmosphere perfumed with the memory of heroic deeds.
We were reared in the legends of liberty and trained in traditions of heroism. Standing out in the horizon of the past, were the colossal figures of the founders of the Texas Republic.
In a graveyard at Austin, like another Old Mortality, we could wipe away the dust from the simple stone that marked the grave of Albert Sidney Johnston, that superb soldier who fell on the stricken field of Shiloh, like the daring Graham of Claverhouse, with the battle song on his lips, in the arms of victory. What grander hero than Houston, erect in the glory of majestic manhood, leader of the brave and the free; even when standing on the shore of death, dishonored and discrowned by the people he had led “From injuries to arms, from arms to liberty," like homeless Lear, still every inch a king. What more dauntless spirits than those whose valor made San Jacinto the Marathon of the new world, and those whose martyrdom gave to history the brilliant but mournful epigram: “Thermopylæ had her messenger of defeat, the Alamo had none." What nobler ancestry than the “Dead but sceptered sovereigns,” to whose urns we brought fragrant immortelles of eloquent panegyric. Careless alike of wealth or of fame, generous with the lavish hospitality of the old patrician South, loyal in friendship, unforgiving in hatred, "Souls made of fire and children of the sun, with whom revenge was virtue”; in love with peril and strife, stirred by the restless spirit of Saxon adventure, and brave as the Argonauts who sailed with Jason for the golden fleece,—such were the rugged pioneers who wrested Texas from Mexican domination and hostile savages.
Transcending even this devotion, was our love for the faded flag of a lost cause, consecrated by the prayers and cradle songs of southern mothers, and baptized in the blood of southern heroes and the tears of southern women.
We were unreconstructed rebels, one and all.
We could not forget that we were sons of men tested in the fiery crucible of battle who made the name Confederate Soldier immortal.
Such was the University of Texas in its early days, as I remember it.
Then in its infancy, we could say of it, as Webster said of Dartmouth: "It is a little college, but there are those who love it. Year by year we have watched its growth with filial pride, but however exalted the station to which it may attain, we feel that it will never surpass the pure inspirations it gave to its students in the first years of its existence.”
For the University the uncertain and formative period is overpast.
For her night's candles are burnt out, and fair and free and fearless she stands tiptoe on the misty mountain top, clad in the russet mantle of the dawn and bathed in the white radiance of the breaking day. Shadowy and yet unrisen generations invoke for her the benedictions of the covering heavens.
Built upon the imperishable foundation of the love of a free people her strength and her glory are one with the destiny of Texas.
A UNIVERSITY OF THE FIRST CLASS.
(Speech of T. W. Gregory, LL. B., '85, at the Alumni Banquet at Dallas, University Day, October 21, 1899.]
Mr. Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I must express my astonishment at the splendid aggregation of ex-students of the University of Texas before which I stand tonight. Judging from the few who, year by year, have wended their way back to the Commencement of their alma mater, I have concluded that few, especially among the ex-students of the Law Department, have reached the point where their “per diem per day” is equal to their "per noctem per night.” The advent of seven per cent cotton does not fully account for the great outpouring of the spirit upon this occasion, and even the high price paid to cotton pickers during the season just closed does not fully explain this enormous attendance.
I desire here and now to express to the Dallas committee the gratitude of the University of Texas to those who have labored with such patriotic motives and such unprecedented success to secure rates which enable the widow, the orphan and the impecunious young lawyer to attend this great jubilee of higher education.
A few weeks ago I stood within the walls of what I can well believe to be the most marvelously beautiful building in the world; never in my wildest imagination had I conceived of such a structure, and the pictured pages of the Arabian Nights conjured up only commonplace conceptions compared with this splendid realization of the architect's and artist's dream; I need hardly add that the building was the Congressional Library at Washington. Upon its walls were engraved the digested wisdom of the world, and over the chief entrance, written almost in letters of light, was this single sentence, embodying the experience and lesson of all the ages: “The foundation of every State is the education of its youth.”
I know not whose tongue first uttered or whose pen first traced these words, but long before the foundation of that great building was laid or its construction dreamed of, the framers of the organic law of Texas, seeking for guarantees of blood-bought human liberty and bulwarks against the assaults of the despot and the anarchist, planted in our constitution the mandatory provision that the legislature should provide for the erection and maintenance of a university of the first class.
I believe that I appreciate what these men had in their minds; I believe that they conceived of a temple of learning set upon a hill where all Texas and all the world might come and worship; I believe that they conceived of a university which in equipment, in endowment, in the number of its students, and the wisdom of its faculty would rank with the best of Europe or America; I believe that they contemplated the erection of an institution of learning where the sons and daughters of Texas, of her farmers and her merchants, of her mechanics and her bankers, of her hod-carriers and her lawyers, might go, without money and without price, and enjoy all the educational advantages enjoyed by the sons of the rich in the greatest institution of the old or new world; and, finally, to sum up the whole matter, I believe that by a university of the first class they meant : university second to none.
In the words of one of the greatest scholars, orators, law-makers, and citizens which Texas has ever known, of one whose strong arm and falchion blade has time and again passed between this institution and the sword of the demagogue and fenced its rights from harm,
"On higher hills science and art
And so, in response to this mandate of the constitution, the work began; the institution has passed through the usual diseases of infancy, the whooping cough, the measles, and the mumpsit has borne the assaults of the unconstitutional lawyer and the constitutional ignoramus; it has had its lights and its shadows, its hopes and its disappointments; but through it all the University has increased in wisdom and in stature; the little stone, hewn from the mountain side, has not filled the whole land, but its shadow has broadened and lengthened until thousands of students have rested in its grateful shade and drawn inspiration from its eternal teachings.
It has been my privilege, during the last few weeks, to visit many of the great educational institutions of the south, and the still greater ones of the northeast, and I bring to you tonight from them a message of God-speed and good cheer; I in no way exaggerate when I say that by southern colleges and universities the University of Texas is spoken of as second to none in our section, and that, among the northern and eastern institutions it and the University of Virginia are considered the two great educational centers of the south, and it is spoken of as only a matter of time when we will outstrip this, our only rival.
If I were asked tonight what, above all other things, constitutes a university of the first class, I would not for one moment hesitate in answering: splendid equipment, generous endowment, and wise instructors are the accompaniments and characteristics of a great educational institution, but the essential feature, the sine qua non, without which there can be only failure, is the scholarship and loyalty of its student body, past and present. At Johns Hopkins, at Columbia and at Harvard, I noted that in speaking of the splendid present and future of the University of Texas their professors invariably alluded to our Texas students, several of whom sit at this board tonight, who had pursued graduate courses in those institutions and made for their alma mater a reputation more lasting than marble.
Few of us have the opportunity of reflecting glory upon our University in distant states, but still more important duties are at hand; an enthusiastic support of her best interests is needed in Texas today and will be needed until her great mission is performed; if the five hundred who sit before me tonight should labor unceasingly in their 500 spheres of influence to make her the greatest educational institution of the age, what wonders could be accomplished! If the five thousand ex-students scattered in every town and hamlet of this State should unite in a common effort in her behalf there is no human power which could stay her onward march.
I can not believe that we have gathered here merely to feast and rejoice; I can not believe that this occasion is merely the renewal of old associations; but I do believe that there is here an underlying stratum of determination to swear anew allegiance to our common mother, and to go forth in her name conquering and to conquer; in