June 23, 1999 Geneva, NY — Ten years ago, at its 40th Class Reunion, the Hobart College Class of 1949 pledged to raise, over the next 10 years, $1 million to endow a professorship in the name of former HWS President John Milton Potter. This past Saturday, June 19, on the occasion of its 50th Reunion, those same alumni presented the Colleges with a check for that amount and the John Milton Potter Professorship in the Humanities was established.
Potter was the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges from 1942 until 1947, the 16th president of Hobart College and the fifth president of William Smith. A plaque will be placed in the Warren Hunting Smith Library to commemorate the gift. The professor who will first be honored with this endowed professorship is yet unnamed.
Potter's daughter, Mary Potter Meeker, came to Geneva from Minnesota to attend the presentation. She was a child when her father served as president. Her two children, Edward and Elizabeth, both currently living in California, also attended.
Although his tenure at the Colleges was brief, it was also very important. In his inaugural address, Potter said “There is but one effective armory for the constant warfare of a man with his doubts — the resources of his own mind, character, and spirit. It is the supreme function of the educational process to discipline, equip, and fortify these resources.” The way he found to do that was through the initiation of the series of courses known as Western Civilization. The comprehensive “Western Civ” curriculum guided all students who came through these institutions for more than two decades.
Potter was also instrumental in the institution of critical financial reforms which ensured that trust funds and operating funds would no longer be commingled, and it was under his presidency that the Colleges of the Seneca were created, giving William Smith full equality with Hobart.
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