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April 25, 2014

Namesakes-John Hessin Clarke, Clarke Field and Clarke Tower

A distinguished alumnus of the university is behind the name of Clarke Tower as well as the now razed Clarke Field, former home of the Western Reserve University Red Cats.

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John Hessin Clarke

John Hessin Clarke, born 9/18/1857 in Lisbon, Ohio, received his A.B. degree from Western Reserve College in 1877. He received the A.M. from WRC in 1880. He studied law in his father’s office and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878. He moved to Youngstown in 1880 to practice law and while in Youngstown became part owner of the Vindicator newspaper. Clarke moved to Cleveland in 1897 and joined Samuel E. Williamson and William E. Cushing in the law firm of Williamson, Cushing & Clarke. He was general solicitor and general counsel for the Nickel Plate Railroad for 13 years.

In 1903 he was a candidate for the U. S. Senate but lost to Marcus A. Hanna. He was a close associate of 2 Cleveland mayors, Tom L. Johnson and Newton D. Baker. In 1914 Clarke was appointed Federal Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, then the third busiest district in the U. S. Two years later, President Wilson nominated him to the Supreme Court. His nomination was approved and he filled the vacancy caused by Charles Evans Hughes’ resignation. Justice John Hessin Clarke served for 6 years as Associate Justice (1916-1922). He resigned to head the Non-Partisan Association for the League of Nations and campaign for the United States to join the League.

In addition to his status as a double alumnus of the university, he also received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws from WRU in 1916. He served as a trustee 1923-1932. Mr. Clarke retired and moved to California in 1931, where he died in 1945. He bequeathed a large portion of his estate (estimated $1.2 million) to Western Reserve University to be used at the discretion of the trustees for Adelbert College.

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View of the stands and pressbox
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Dedication program

In 1950 renovation of the athletic fields at WRU began. A new grandstand formerly used for the National Air Races was purchased, a new press box was added, the playing field was re-sodded, and a 35 foot high scoreboard was added. A new cinder track was added after the end of the 1951 football season. The formal name of the new stadium was Justice John H. Clarke Field, though it was known as Clarke Field. Dedication ceremonies were held 10/6/1951 during the football game vs. Kent State University. The new stadium provided seating for 10,000 and the new press box accommodated 100. Along with the excitement of the new stadium was the return of Eddie Finnigan to campus as new football coach.

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Clarke Field billboard

In the 1960s WRU embarked on a greatly expanded student housing program, building 2 groups of dorms each for Adelbert and Mather Colleges. In February 1967 the WRU trustees voted to name the new 11-story residence hall: John Hessin Clarke Tower. Its original design contained a lobby and lounge floor with 10 floors containing 100 double and 120 single units for men students. It was designed by Fred Toguchi (of Outcault, Guenther, Rode, and Bonebrake) and was the first high-rise residence on either the WRU or Case campuses. It was often referred to as Adelbert II (Adelbert I being the Storrs, Pierce, Hitchcock, Cutler, and Leutner group). The total construction cost was $1,780,000. Clarke Tower is one of the campus buildings which has been recognized for its architecture, winning a 1968 HUD Award for Design Excellence.

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Clarke Tower

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April 16, 2014

Western Reserve College’s First Student Organizations

In the earliest decades of Western Reserve College, student organizations were few. The very first student group was the Philozetian Society, one of several so-called literary societies. Today we would consider these debate clubs. Their purpose was to give students practice in debate, oration, and parliamentary procedure - all necessary skills for the ministry, law, and public affairs, for which students were being prepared.

The Philozetian Society was established on October 22, 1828, a little more than a year after the first classes were held. Meetings were held weekly, usually on Wednesday evenings. The meetings included extemporaneous debates during which the chairman proposed a topic and called upon members without prior notice. Topics for scheduled debates were assigned in advance by the program committee one week in advance. Topics included a broad range of contemporary issues, including, (1867) “Should the Right of Suffrage be extended to American Women?” (1871) “Should ministers preach politics?” (1874) “Is cremation better than burial?” (1879) “Have we anything to fear from Catholicism in this country?”

Together the literary societies published an annual newspaper, The Transcript, in the 1860s. Not surprising from debating clubs, editorials on issues of the day as well as the state of the College were a staple of the newspaper.

As was common among college literary societies, the Philozetian Society established its own library, separate from that of the College. Books were purchased, using society dues and fines. Members, former members, and friends of the College were also encouraged to donate books from their own libraries. Some of the Philozetian Societies’ books can still be found in Kelvin Smith Library’s Special Collections. The group continued to operate after Westen Reserve College moved to Cleveland in 1882, but was much less active and seems to have ceased around 1890.

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Philozetian Society seal from an 1868 membership certificate

Philozetian Society records in the University Archives include:
Meeting minutes, 1828-1884
Constitutions and by-laws, 1828-1886
Financial and membership ledgers, 1867-1886

Secondary sources about literary societies at WRC and at other schools include:
Waite, Frederick C. Western Reserve University - The Hudson Era: A History of Western Reserve College and Academy at Hudson, Ohio, from 1826 to 1882. (Cleveland: Western Reserve University Press, 1943)

Harding, Thomas S. “College Literary Societies: Their Contribution to the Development of Academic Libraries, 1815-1876” The Library Quarterly. v.29 no.1 (Jan. 1959): pp. 1-26 and v.29 no.2 (Apri 1959): pp. 94-112

Saslaw, Rita. Student Societies: Nineteenth Century Establishment. Thesis (Ph.D.) Case Western Reserve University, 1971

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