THOUGH IT WAS SOCRATES who said “Know thyself,” I say, as my advice to the incoming class, “Know the history of thy university.” While still uncertain whether or not “thine” was the correct pronoun for that last sentence, I can say with certainty that I’m extremely uncertain as to the history of our University.
From the countless admissions brochures, campus tours and wild nights at Phi Psi, the task of learning the history of one’s university can often get confusing. Therefore, I’ve decided to give you this gift — a handy guide to the inception of our great University, from the moment when Mommy Hopkins decided she loved Daddy Hopkins very much, and started to rub up against… well, that’s another column.
The University was founded in 1876 with a grant from Johns Hopkins. This grant wouldn’t have been possible if it had been legal in Maryland for a person to marry his sister, as our university’s founder had apparently been planning to do since his youth. Previously known as John Hopkins, a scorching bout of syphilis (which he probably caught from his sister) left the university’s founder with a rather severe neurological disorder, the result being that he believed that he was not just one but many “Johns.”
However, all of this didn’t stop Johns Hopkins from becoming a failed architecture student who eventually became an entrepreneur and donated large sums of money to have his failed architecture thesis built on campus. Henceforth, we have had the beautiful Glass Pavilion as our legacy here at JHU, and Mr. Hopkins’ first name, Johns, has entered modern architectural vocabulary as a slang word for not just one but many “toilets”.
The first president of the university, Daniel Coit Gilman, established the goal of our little university on a hill, namely, the “encouragement of research till one’s ears bleed from an over-ingestion of theoretical Physics.” Luckily, the university managed to disregard these words and still build up a fine Arts and Sciences school that encourages research till one’s ears bleed from an over-ingestion of Proust.
The Homewood campus itself was built in the 1920s off of Charles Street. The decision to build the new Homewood location on a hill was for a cause most dear to the departed Mr. Hopkins’ goal as a university, to ward off the syphilis epidemic raging just a few blocks away on Greenmount Ave, because as everybody knows, syphilis can’t spread uphill.
But I jump way ahead of myself. Jump back to when Magna Charta was being signed in Europe. Around this time, Hopkins trustees envisioned some sort of residences in the memory of past Hopkins alumni, built these buildings and named them, quite inventively, the Alumni Memorial Residences.
These buildings are named after some of our most prestigious alumni, such as Adams, Gildersleeve, Sylvester, Griffin, Vincent, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and perhaps our most important alums, the brothers Building A and B.
With the fire resistance of kerosene drenched charcoal and harbor-rats that have been known to take down airborne swordfish, you freshmen get to live in buildings that form an important part of Hopkins history. Namely, the un-air-conditioned part.
Freshmen, you shall follow in the footsteps of a most distinct and respected class of scholars. Our famous alums here at the Johns Hopkins University have included Alger Hiss, Spiro Agnew, Michael Bloomberg, Joseph Stalin (SAIS graduate) and Charles Manson. Interestingly, all our famous alums have some sort of combination of being communists, drug addicts or prison inmates.
Apparently Woodrow Wilson also attended our college but preferred, as so many of the alumni chose to do, to tell people that he went to Princeton instead. The point being that there have been some pretty impressive people that are Hopkins alums who, more often than not, have spent time in minimum security federal institutions. At least it’s something to strive for.
In recent years, we have seen a Michael Bloomberg-shaped cloud creep across our campus, heralding forth the wondrous Bloomberg hall, as well as his other additions, such as the beautiful new brick work and the playful animatronic squirrels that can be seen frolicking across campus.
Thus, young freshmen, it is an exciting time for you to be joining us within the history of our fair university.
Go out there, and find happiness; or, if not that, drink your way to happiness.
Just watch out for downhill areas. There’s syphilis about!
Source: The JHU News-Letter.