My first meeting with Dr. Harper was at Vassar College, where one of my daughters was a student. He used to come, as the guest of Dr. James M. Taylor, the president, to lecture on Sundays; and as I frequently spent week-ends there, I saw and talked much with the young professor, then of Yale, and caught in some degree the contagion of his enthusiasm.
When the university had been founded, and he had taken the presidency, our great ambition was to secure the best instructors and to organize the new institution, unhampered by traditions, according to the most modern ideals. He raised millions of dollars among the people of Chicago and the Middle West, and won the personal interest of their leading citizens. Here lay his great strength, for he secured not only their money but their loyal support and strong personal interest—the best kind of help and cooeperation. He built even better than he knew. His lofty ideals embodied in the university awakened a deeper interest in higher education throughout the Central West, and stirred individuals, denominations, and legislatures to effective action. The world will probably never realize how largely the present splendid university system of the Central Western States is due indirectly to the genius of this man.
With all his extraordinary power of work and his executive and organizing ability, Dr. Harper was a man of exquisite personal charm. We count it among the rich and delightful experiences of our home-life that Dr. and Mrs. Harper could occasionally spend days together with us for a brief respite from the exacting cares and responsibilities of the university work. As a friend and companion, in daily intercourse, no one could be more delightful than he.
It has been my good fortune to contribute at various times to the University of Chicago, of which Dr. Harper was president, and the newspapers not unnaturally supposed at such times that he used the occasions of our personal association to secure these contributions. The cartoonists used to find this a fruitful theme. They would picture Dr. Harper as a hypnotist waving his magic spell, or would represent him forcing his way into my inner office where I was pictured as busy cutting coupons and from which delightful employment I incontinently fled out of the window at sight of him; or they would represent me as fleeing across rivers on cakes of floating ice with Dr. Harper in hot pursuit; or perhaps he would be following close on my trail, like the wolf in the Russian story, in inaccessible country retreats, while I escaped only by means of the slight delays I occasioned him by now and then dropping a million-dollar bill, which he would be obliged to stop and pick up.
These cartoons were intended to be very amusing, and some of them certainly did have a flavour of humour, but they were never humorous to Dr. Harper. They were in fact a source of deep humiliation to him, and I am sure he would, were he living, be glad to have me say, as I now do, that during the entire period of his presidency of the University of Chicago, he never once either wrote me a letter or asked me personally for a dollar of money for the University of Chicago. In the most intimate daily intercourse with him in my home, the finances of the University of Chicago were never canvassed or discussed.