Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

University Archives

Samuel P. Capen: University Man


Introduction

"These records should not only preserve the story of growth... They should also capture something of the color of changing human procession that winds its way down through the endless reach of time..."

-- Samuel P. Capen, foreward to the IRIS yearbook, 1927


Capen was the first full-time, salaried Chancellor of the University of Buffalo. Prior to coming to the University, he served as Director of the American Council on Education. Under his leadership, the University was transformed from a small group of autonomous schools into a modern university of 14 divisions and a central campus. Capen was acknowledged as a leader in higher education, particularly known for his strong defense of academic freedom and innovation in liberal arts instruction.


Biography of Samuel Capen

Samuel Paul Capen was once described as having a character "rather like that of a stern and rock-bound coast, containing within it many pleasant green pastures as well as majestic mountains." He was known by his colleagues to possess a clear, cool head, a dry sense of humor and an ability to transform his concerns for individuals into programs for people. Henry Ten Eyck Perry, a faculty member in the Department of English, once remarked that Samuel Capen lived his life by a creed similar to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "plain living and high thinking."

The following is a biography of Capen focusing on his role as Chancellor of the University of Buffalo, 1922-1950. It also includes a ciriculum vita that was last updated in 1953. Please see the Samuel P. Capen Papers finding aid for more details.


Early Years, 1894-1902

Born into the academic life as the son of Elmer Hewitt Capen, president of Tufts College (1875 to 1905), Capen literally grew up on a college campus. He enrolled in Tufts as an undergraduate in 1894. Already following in his father's footsteps, he was elected president of his senior class and was one of four chosen to deliver a Commencement address at his graduation in 1898.

In the fall of 1898, Capen entered Harvard University's Graduate School to study modern languages. Two years later he received a Master of Arts degree and was appointed the Harrison Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. After one year of doctoral studies in modern languages with a concentration in German, Capen was granted a one year leave of absence to study at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He received his PhD in 1902 and was was hired to teach German as one of the founding faculty members of the recently established Clark College in Worcester, Massachusetts.


Clark College, 1902-1914

A favorite of Clark students (they even dedicated the 1911 yearbook to him), Capen often taught comparative literature and drama in addition to his modern language course schedule. At the same time he began taking classes in education and psychology and later became a lecturer in educational administration.

In 1908 he was elected both president of the Public Education Association of Worchester and a member of the Worchester School Committee. Although still interested in modern languages, Capen's success in his new field was considerable. In 1914 he came to the attention of the United States Commissioner of Education and was offered the position of specialist in higher education at the Bureau of Education.


Bureau of Education, 1914-1922

While at the Bureau of Education, Capen was asked to conduct numerous fact-gathering surveys on the administration of higher institutions. Very interested in this type of statistical data, Capen had previously surveyed universities and colleges on the methods for supervising university professors back in 1910 while still at Clark College. As Specialist in Higher Education, he surveyed a broad range of institutions and educational systems. Soon the Bureau became flooded with requests for Capen's statistical analyses derived from the surveys. Developing a reputation for being a clinical and objective advisor on the topic of educational reform, his methods for surveying became the standard in the industry.

In 1917 Capen was asked to serve as executive secretary of the recently formed Committee on Education established under the Council of National Defense. This new educational committee, formed at the onset of WWI, worked to coordinate the higher educational interests of the country to further various war-related projects. Capen's work at the Bureau of Education and on the Committee of Education formulated the policies that would eventually help to coalesce the country's higher educational associations.

In 1918 the American Council on Education (ACE) was established to unify the numerous educational associations and the nation's academic institutions for an improvement of higher education. Capen was named the first Director of the Council and was regarded as the "chief designing architect who not only built solidly upon the present but looked into the future... farther than he could see -- but only hope."

Because of his work at the Bureau of Education and the ACE, there were many universities around the country who courted Capen to lead their institutions and Samuel Capen could have had his pick of any of them. Then in early 1922, the Council of the University of Buffalo contacted him about their need for a Chancellor who could unify the University.


University of Buffalo, 1922-1950

There has always been a governing board known as the Council at the University at Buffalo since its inception in 1846, but the first Chancellors were not appointed from the university community. They were distinguished citizens of Buffalo, lawyers and politicians, whose official function was to represent the University before the public. The deans of the individual schools were separately responsible for their departments' educational and financial affairs. Then in 1920, Chairman of the Council, Walter P. Cooke organized a city-wide financial campaign that enabled them to hire a Chancellor that could bring the University into a new era. The Council looked to Samuel Capen to help them establish a central and solid administration for the University. In 1922 Capen left the American Council on Education to become the first full-time Chancellor at the University of Buffalo.

Until the establishment of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1913, the University of Buffalo had been merely a "collection of professional schools, going their separate ways with little central administration.

"In 1922 the institution was still fractured between the liberal arts and the professional schools. Capen, however, recognized the opportunities the Council had envisioned for the future of the University and for Buffalo itself. He shared their vision to build "a university that should provide complete opportunities for higher education equal to the best anywhere obtainable, that should be a focus for the city's idealism, that should change the current of the city's life."

In his inaugural speech on October 28, 1922 Capen detailed his philosophy on the role of a university administrator:

I do not hold with those who would limit the number of college students on the basis of any distinctions of race or sex or creed or social standing. There is but one justifiable basis on which a university in a democratic community such as this can choose those who are to become members of it, the basis of ability. But a university is a place maintained at great expense to foster the philosophic point of view, to stimulate constructive thinking, because this point-of-view and this mode of thinking have been found necessary to the progress of civilized society.

During his twenty-eight years at the University of Buffalo, Capen established many University programs and educational experiments that helped to further the expansion of higher education. He helped to broaden the education of the professional schools, developed standardized curriculums, and personally hand-picked a first-class faculty of full-time, academically trained professors. He also established the Millard Fillmore College for adult education and created the Bureau of Personnel Research, a counseling office, to administer programs that tested the achievements and personalities of students in order to provide better guidance for career choices and help them obtain employment. And the numbers attest to his role as administrator: student enrollment rose from 1,687 in 1922 to over 10,000 by the time of his retirement in 1950.

Capen's experience working on the Bureau of Education and the ACE helped him establish a central and solid administration for the University. He often addressed conferences, commencements, and social clubs on the subject of educational administration and the topic of academic freedom. "I foresee," he once wrote, "the coming of a storm perhaps more severe than any to which our higher institutions have been subjected for years. The forces bent on challenging the intellectual integrity of colleges and universities are gathering."

Samuel P. Capen made an impact on the history of the University at Buffalo and brought it into a new era. Louis Jaffe, a former faculty member in the School of Law, best summarized Capen's tenure as Chancellor in a memorial written after Capen's death in 1956:

[He was] a man whose ideal was the best in education and he set out to build a university and to run it over the years on first class principles with almost no money. This would have been more than most men could stand up to... But Capen, with his stern sense of a duty undertaken and his courage in the face of towering difficulties, not only escaped panic or a settled sense of defeat, but for the most part maintained an attitude of positive confidence in the doing of the job.

Curriculum vita

Born
Somerville, Massachusetts - March 21, 1878
Parents
Reverend Elmer Hewitt -- Mary Leavitt (Edwards) Capen
President of Tufts College
Married Grace Duncan Wright -- March 25, 1908 daughter of Col. Carroll D. Wright (q.v.)
Former U.S. Commissioner of Labor and President of Clark College
Children Daughter -- Mary Capen Davis
Religion Unitarian
Educational Record
  • Public Elementary Schools, Somerville, Mass.
  • Latin School, Somerville, Mass.
  • Tufts College, B.A. and M.A., 1898
  • Harvard University, M.A., 1900
  • University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1902
  • University of Leipsig, 1901-2

Honorary degrees:
  • LL.D., Lafayette College, 1920
  • LL.D., University of Chicago, 1932
  • LL.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1933
  • LL.D., McMaster University, 1938
  • LL.D., Syracuse University, 1944
  • LL.D., Alfred University, 1946
  • LL.D., Colgate University, 1949
  • L.H.D., Tufts College, 1921
  • L.H.D., Hobart College, 1925
  • Litt.D., Clark University, 1937
  • Sc.D., George Washington University, 1927
  • Doctor Honoris Causa, Universtiy of Rennes, France, 1948
  • Dc.L., University of Buffalo, 1950

Professional Record
  • Instructor, Modern Languages, Clark College, 1902-3
  • Assistant Professor, Modern Languages, Clark College, 1903-8
  • Professor, Modern Languages, Clark College, 1908-11
  • Professor, German, Clark College, 1911-14
  • Lecturer, Educational Adminstration, Clark University, 1911-14
  • Specialist in Higher Education, U.S. Bureau of Education, 1914-19
  • Advisory Board -- Committee on Education and Special Training, U.S. War Department, 1918
  • Executive Secretary -- Educational Committee, Council of National Defense, 1917
  • Director, American Council on Education, 1919-22
  • Chancellor, University of Buffalo, 1922-1950
  • Chancellor Emeritus, University of Buffalo, 1950-
  • Visiting Professor of Education, Ohio State University, 1925 (summer)
  • Lecturer on Higher Education, University of Chicago, 1926 (summer), 1927 (summer)
  • Inquiry into the Character & Cost of Public Education in New York State, Author of Study Outlin, 1935
  • Inquiry into the Character & Cost of Public Education in New York State, Associate Director, 1935-38
  • Permanent Trustee,Tufts College, 1931-
  • Board of Trustees -- member, Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching,1935-50
  • Board of Trustees -- Secretary,Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, 1943-45
  • Board of Trustees -- Vice Chairman, Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, 1945
  • Board of Trustees -- Chairman, Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, 1946-47
  • Board of Managers -- member, Buffalo Museum of Science, 1937-
  • Advisory Board -- member, Allegany School of Natural History, 1939-41
  • Board of Trustees -- Member, Bennington College, 1940-42
  • Board of Directors, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1942-45, 1946-49
  • Honorary Member, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1950
  • Advisory Committee -- Member, American Institute of France, 1946-
  • Board of Trustees -- Member, Associate Colleges of Upper New York, 1946-47

Professional

  • American Council on Education -- Problems & Plans Committee, Chairman, 1930-37
  • American Council on Education -- Problems & Plans Committee, Member, 1938-42
  • American Council on Education, Chairman, 1923-24
  • American Council on Education -- Executive Committee, Member, 1924-40
  • Association of Urban Universities, President, 1922-23
  • Commission on Medical Education, Member, 1925-32
  • Administrative Board of Institute of International Education, Member, 1926-46
  • Educational Advisory Board of John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Member, 1927-29
  • Division of Educational Relations -- National Research Counci, Member, 1922-30
  • Division of Educational Relations -- National Research Council, Chairman, 1930-33
  • State Examination Board, Member, 1929-
  • National Advisory Committee on Education, Member, 1929-31
  • New York State Association of Colleges & Universities, President, 1932-33
  • British Society for Experiment & Research in Education, Vice President (U.S.), 1919-22
  • Worchester Public Education Association, President, 1908-11
  • Worchester School Board, Member, 1908-14
  • Royal Order of St. Sava (Serbian), 4th Class Conferred in 1919
  • Council of One Hundred of the American Association for Adult Education, Member, 1935-36
  • Educational Policies Commission, Consultant (Ex-Officio), 1936
  • National Committee on General Education, Member, 1937-

Offices in Educational Organizations
  • American Colleges and Universities for Exchanges of Students with France, Director, 1920-22
  • Educational Research Committee of the Commonwealth Fund, Secretary, 1920-27, Committee on Administrative Units of the Commonwealth Fund, Chairman,1922-27
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society, Board of Directors, Member (three years), 1948-51
  • Buffalo City Planning Association, Member, 1937
  • Alien Enemy Hearing Board, Member, 1942-45
  • U.S. Treasury Victory Fund Committee, Member, 1942
  • Association College & Universities of the State of New York, President, 1944
  • Children's Hospital -- Advisory Board, Member, 1944-
  • University of Pennsylvania War Fund Committee, Membe, 1944
  • Civic Committee on Full Employment, Member, 1945-46
  • Army Advisory Committee (1st Army), Member, 1947-
  • Board of Inquiry to study Bell Aircraft Dispute, Member, 1949
  • New York State Crime Commission, Member, 1951

Learned Societies
  • National Insitute of Social Sciences
  • National Education Association
  • National Economic League
  • American Association for Advancement of Science
  • Academy of Political & Social Science
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Phi Kappa Phi
  • Alpha Omega Alpha
  • Delta Phi Alpha
  • Phi Delta Kappa
  • Beta Gamma Sigma
  • Theta Delta Chi
  • Society for the Advancement of Education
  • Phi Beta Kappa Associates
  • The Newcomen Society

Honors

  • Ballou Medal -- Tufts College, 1948
  • Phi Delta Kappa (Buffalo Chapter) Key awarded, 1950
  • Chancellor's Medal -- University of Buffalo, 1951
  • Brotherhood Award -- National Conferene of Christians and Jews (Buffalo Round Table), 1952

Editor Educational Record, 1920-22 Lessing's 'Nathan der Weiss', 1914 Contributor Encyclopedia Britannica
Author
  • "Opportunities for Foreign Students at Colleges and Universities in the United States", 1915
  • "Resources and Standards of Colleges of Arts and Sciences", 1918
  • "Facilities for Foreign Students in American Colleges and Universities", 1921
  • "Opportunities for Study at Amercan Graduate Schools", 1921
  • "Reflections on Freedom in Education" (Journal of Philosophy & Phenomenological Research), 1948
  • The Management of Universities, 1953
  • Numerous reports, surveys, papers, U.S. Bureau of Education Bulletins, articles for educational periodicals.

Surveys of Institutions: University of Oregon
  • University of Nevada
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Puerto Rico
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Denver
  • University of Wyoming
  • Brown University
  • Antioch College
  • Rollins College
  • Colorado College
  • Battle Creek College
  • Trinity College
  • College of St. Thesesa
  • College of St. Catherines
  • Bradley Polytechnic Institute
  • Louisiana State Universtiy

Surveys of Educational Systems: Study of Colleges of North Carolina
  • Higher Institutions of Iowa
  • Higher Institutions of Washington
  • Higher Institutions of South Dakota
  • Higher Institutions of Alabama
  • Higher Institutions of Cleveland
  • Higher Education in State of California
  • Higher Education in State of Nebraska
  • Indiana State Educational System
  • Punlic Higher Education in Utah

Clubs

  • Saturn Club, Buffalo
  • Buffalo Club -- Honorary Member, Buffalo
  • Universtiy Club -- Honorary Member, Buffalo
  • Harvard Club of Buffalo (President, 1940), Buffalo
  • Century Club, New York City
  • Harvard Club, New York City
  • University Club of New York City, New York City
  • Buffalo Club of New York City (Honary Member of Board of Governors), New York City
  • Cosmos Club, Washington, DC
  • University Club, Washington, DC
  • Chevy Chase Club, Maryland

Quoting Capen

The following are a sample of Capen's timeless observations preserved in speeches, memos, correspondence and articles. All of the original materials can be found in the Universtiy Archives' collections on Capen. Please see the Samuel P. Capen Papers finding aid for more details. For a collection of Capen's most acclaimed speeches on academic freedom see The Management of Universities (edited by Oscar A. Silverman for the Council of the University of Buffalo. -- Buffalo, Foster & Stewart Pub. Corp., 1953).


On the University at Buffalo From the Foster Hall dedication speech, 1922 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #19.38):

A university is not a place. It is not a group of buildings. Its is an aggregation of scholars voluntarily assembled for the pursuit of learning... The qualities of a university and hence its reputation depend on the earnestness and skill of the persons who compose it.

And just as a man's home becomes associated in intangible ways with his personality until it seems the visible manifestations of his essential qualities, so the buildings in which a university is housed become merged with the university. Not only do they represent the university to the eye; but around in the course of time cluster the traditions of the institution.


From Commencement Day address, 1924 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #20.11):

The University of Buffalo is more than a university. It is a great popular movement. It represents the devotion of the people of Buffalo to an idea, the idea of intellectual improvement. It expresses their willingness to deny themselves, not for future material advantage, but that knowledge and taste and high ideals may be spread more broadly in the community and so that Buffalo may become a finer place to live in.


From Centennial Celebration address, University of Buffalo, October 3-4, 1946 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #24.18):

Anyone who looks back on the early record of this institution cannot fail to be struck by the readiness of those who organized each part of it to improvise. Often with resources hardly more substantial than moonshine they dared to undertake an educational venture which they believed to be necessary and trusted that they could find a way, however unconventional, to make it succeed.

This institution prides itself especially on three attributes: the democratic character of its institutional life, its willingness to experiment, and its devotion to intellectual freedom.

Only by exercising the prerogatives and the responsibilities of freedom do men learn to be free and to be strong. The most precious of all these prerogatives is freedom of the mind, and it entails the gravest of all responsibilities. To the free exercise of the mind this University is irrevocably committed. Any student or teacher may here investigate any subject that attracts him and may report anywhere, in or out of the classroom, the conclusions he has reached. Any student or teacher may voice his opinions on any question, no matter how unpopular they may be, or even how foolish. He will not be restrained or penalized. On the contrary, the University will defend against any one who attacks him his rights of free inquiry and of free speech. This is what academic freedom means. At the University of Buffalo it has never been invaded.


From Chancellor's Message, 1950 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #24.12):

The only forecast relating to the immediate future that I will hazard is this: The University of Buffalo will continue to grow in distinction, in power to enrich the lives of its students, and in ability to serve its community and the nation. The privilege of belonging to it will be increasingly a source of justifiable pride to all of its members.


On educators and administrators
From address to graduating high school seniors 1912 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #18.6):
You know a teacher can never see a group of young people assembled together without wanting to tell them something. No doubt you have noticed this habit of teachers. We hope, of course, that you will remember some of the things that we may say.

From Capen's inauguration speech, 1922 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #19.39):

I do not hold with those who would limit the number of college students on the basis of any distinctions of race or sex or creed or social standing. There is but one justifiable basis on which a university in a democratic community such as this can choose those who are to become members of it, the basis of ability. But a university is a place maintained at great expense to foster the philosophic point of view, to stimulate constructive thinking, because this point-of-view and this mode of thinking have been found necessary to the progress of civilized society.


From a letter to Capen's successor, Chancellor, Raymond T. McConnell, 1954 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #4.13):

The daily acts of an administrator are written in water. The wind passes over them and they are gone. But the results of his administrative policy if it is positive and constructive, remain. They 'constitute another stratum in the long process of sedimentation by which universities are slowly formed, and acquire stability and traditions and their individual characteristics...: to know that he has been responsible for depositing one such stratum is the administrator's reward, if he needs one other than the fun of the job.


On the importance of education
From the introductory remarks for commencement ceremonies, University of Buffalo, June 10, 1931 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #21.28):

But does this mean that university diplomas are valueless? Not at all. They are among the most valuable possessions that men and women accumulate. They are valuable as symbols; symbols of difficult and prolonged tasks successfully accomplished, symbols of association with a University of long and honorable history and of ever-growing prestige, symbols of membership in the limited company of those who have had the privilege of higher education.


From The Enlightenment and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's "Nathan the Wise" unpublished manuscript (pg. 63), n.d. (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #25.16-25.17):

It is a mistake to suppose that reason kills religion. On the contrary, it is only as the human reason develops that the race becomes fit for higher forms of religion.


On change and reform
From Capen's inauguration speech, 1922 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #19.39):
The United States faces the need of a drastic and thorough-going reform of its whole scheme of education.... The reform demanded does not consist of the mere readjustment of the mechanism of administration. It must go to the heart of the undertaking.... There is no central educational authority in the United States which can by fiat remold the whole system.... Changes in American education have to be made piecemeal. They result from local experimentation .

From "The Principles Which Should Govern Standards and Accrediting Practices" address delivered before the North Central Association meeting, March 18, 1931 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #21.24):

Although we may recognize past changes, we sometimes ignore the fact that the process of change is going to continue; and we legislate for the future as if the conditions of the present hour were to persist.


On academic freedom
From "The Responsibility of Boards of Trustees for the Preservation of Academic Freedom" -- an address to the Conference of Trustees of Colleges and Universities, April 26, 1935 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #22.14):

Acceptance by an institution of the principle of academic freedom implies that teachers in that institution are free to investigate any subject, no matter how much it may be hedged about by taboos; that they are free to make known the results of their investigation and their reflection by word of mouth or in writing, before their classes or elsewhere; that they are free to differ with their colleagues and to present the grounds of their difference in their classes or elsewhere; that they are free as citizens to take part in any public controversy outside the institution; that no repressive measures, direct or indirect, will be applied to them no matter how unpopular they may become through opposing powerful interests or jostling established prejudices, and no matter how mistaken they may appear to be in the eyes of members and friends of the institution; that their continuance in office will be in all instances governed by the prevailing rules of tenure and that their academic advancement will be dependent on their scientific competence and will be in no wise affected by the popularity or unpopularity of their opinions or utterances; that students in the institution are free, in so far as the requirements of the several curricula permit, to inquire into any subject that interests them, to organize discussion groups or study clubs for the consideration of any subject, and to invite to address them ally speaker they may choose; that censorship of student publications shall be based on precisely the same grounds and shall extend no further than that exercised by the United States Postal authorities.


From Baccalaureate address, University of Buffalo, June 7, 1936 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #22.26):

Members of the Class of 1936, as citizens of this University you have belonged to an institution which conscientiously tries, at whatever cost of comfort and occasional misunderstanding, to practice the principles of democracy. You know what it means to enjoy liberty of belief and utterance. You have experienced the dignity of independence. As citizens of the larger democracy, of which the University is a small though significant part, I dare believe you will continue to be faithful to these principles and vigilant in their defense.


From "Academic Frontiers: The Growth of the University of Buffalo," Opening Convocation Centennial Celebration address, University of Buffalo, October 3, 1946 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #24.18):

The most precious of all these prerogatives is freedom of the mind, and it entails the gravest of all responsibilities. To the free exercise of the mind this University is irrevocably committed. Any student or teacher may here investigate any subject that attracts him and may report anywhere, in or out of the classroom, the conclusions he has reached. Any student or teacher may voice his opinions on any question, no matter how unpopular they may be, or even how foolish. He will not be restrained or penalized. On the contrary, the University will defend against anyone who attacks him his rights of free inquiry and of free speech. This is what academic freedom means. At the University of Buffalo it has never been invaded.


From Baccalaureate address, University of Buffalo, June 4, 1950 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #25.13):

A university is an institution in which the advancement of knowledge is deliberately and officially fostered, an institution which is committed not only to the higher forms of instruction but also to research, and which rests its reputation on the quality of its scholarly output. In all its departments it is devoted to inquiry and to intellectual creation. Hence, all of its educational activities, on whatever level they may be directed, are informed by the spirit of research, are made to square with the standards of intellectual integrity set by the research scholar.

From "Who Should Manage Universities, And How?" paper presented at the Thursday Club, January 13, 1949 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #25.7):

The university is and must be an institution without intellectual boundaries. It is and must be wholly free to prosecute the search for truth. Any aspect of nature, any work of man any accepted idea, any respectable prejudice, any institution of society must be open to its inspection, must be subject to evaluation by it, must be for it a fair field for new discovery. There must be no restraints upon the publication of its findings and interpretations, whether these happen to be popular or unpopular. Those who pursue the truth under the sponsorship of the university cannot walk in jeopardy of their careers, should they chance to offend a board or a board member, or an administrative official, or even an important segment of the general public. If such a condition is imposed upon them, the institution responsible therefore is not yet, or is no longer, a university.

From Baccalaureate address, University of Buffalo, June 4, 1950 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #25.13):

I think it is fair to say that a substantial part of the general public has never approved of academic freedom and is often greatly worried about it. Many people appear to believe that it is just a high sounding name invented to cover up subversive activities and attitudes.


On the role of a leader
From Baccalaureate address, University of Buffalo, May 23, 1943 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #24.3):

Call the roll, in your own minds, of the great figures who have led the people by word and deed in every past crisis of our national life from the founding of the Republic... If any single word will describe the quality that all had in common, that word is nobility; nobility of behavior in time of stress, nobility of utterance.


From University Day address, University of Buffalo, February 22, 1928 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #21.10):

Have you ever reflected on the substance behind great legends? Legends, of course, are always untrue in part. But they are always profoundly true at their core. They do not arise spontaneously on no foundation. When all the tests of modern scholarship have been applied to the great legends of the world, religious, historical or personal, always there is uncovered at their base a stratum of incontrovertible fact. The superficial details are often -- indeed generally -- the sheerest fancy. But something must first exist that challenges the wonder of mankind before the imagination begins its work of elaboration.


On Americans
From address to graduating high school seniors 1912 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #18.6):

It is distressingly easy to read nothing but cheap magazines and popular novels. We are deluged with that sort of literature. Americans are the greatest magazine readers and the greatest consumers of cheap novels in the world. The temptation to read these and nothing else is constant; and yet I believe for your intellectual welfare the temptation should be resisted. Never mind the latest popular novel. If it is worth reading you may read it five years hence just as well as today. The good ones will certainly last five years.


From "The People and the Universities" 1926 radio address (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #20.28):

...the people of the United States generally want their children to have a college education. That is to say, their concept of the kind of education desirable as the foundation for successful living has advanced one step beyond the popular concept of the year 1900.


From Baccalaureate address, University of Buffalo, May 21, 1944 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #24.8):

To most Americans the good life is a life of energetic grappling with difficulties, a life of movement and of change, a life of achievement which brings them increased possessions or recognition.


On a graduate's future
From Baccalaureate address, University of Buffalo, June 11, 1933 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #22.8):

Students graduating from American universities during the last few years have faced great uncertainties. They have not been practically assured, as was once the case, of securing appropriate employment... Many must have been overwhelmed by a sense of frustration... I am reminding you then, then, that there is a hard struggle ahead. But I reminding you also that it is an inspiring struggle in which the stakes are high...What matter if you must forego for a time the superficial accompaniments of success that used to be easily won by any American who was not an absolute fool -- and by some who were? Such sacrifices have never daunted those who are young and strong and who have a purpose that reaches beyond the selfish satisfactions of the moment. Youth and strength are yours.

Your claim to the role [of university alumni] lies in your familiarity with the terrain on which the great drama is staged. It lies in your ability to deal with them in the spirit and by the method of science, viewing them against the background of man's long evolutionary history. And particularly it lies in your freedom from fear of ideas - of you have attained this freedom... Your part can be played and well played by each of you wherever you are and whatever you may be doing. It demands first that each of you continue unremittingly to study those questions, those absorbingly interesting questions, which involved the economic, political and social life of America and its relations with the rest of the world... It demands that in your association with your fellows you have courage to defend your views, even though they be unpopular. In sort, it demands that you spread about you the influence of an informed and open mind.

The most important acts of your lives will be those by which you will help to direct the thinking of America. Whether you are doctors or lawyers or teachers or housewives or pharmacists or business men or engineers, you stand committed to bear your share in this great task. No words of mine, spoken at the eleventh hour, commit you. Your past commits you... the University of Buffalo commits you.


On the creative mind
From "The Creative Impulse" 1906 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #16.9):

I believe it should be the paramount endeavor of every educated man to express his own personality to the fullest extent possible in everything which he undertakes, to leave his own private mark on everything which goes out from under his hand.

From "Is a New Laokoon Needed?" 1908 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #17.2):

It is, therefore, in the power of the poet, painter or musician to remold mankind by combining and arranging color, sound and form; because the emotions thus created, though seemingly feeble and useless, are actually more powerful, of greater importance in the life of mankind, than armies and governments and the 'speculations of reason.'

From "Lessing and the German Enlightenment" 1908 (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #17.4):

Tastes and standards; ideas; and truths themselves may change; but great poetry is everlasting, because it represents human life, which throughout all variations of external circumstance, remains fundamentally the same.

Humor
Limericks, handwritten, n.d. (Samuel P. Capen Papers, 1894-1955, 4/7/19, #24.15):

An accomplished musician named Nellie Simultaneously played on two celli She did not use two bows One she plucked with her toes, And the other she sawed 'gainst her belly.

There once was an old lady named Packer Whose belly was painted with lacquer Now lacquer's tough stuff If you put on enough You could drop the old dame and not crack her.