Inaugural Address of The Rev. William Weston Patton as President of Howard University, October 9, 1877.
The peculiarity of the occasion calls for an appropriate theme, and I therefore invite your attention to The Relation of the Higher Education to a True Civilization, and to the Elevation of a Depressed Race.
A university fully developed, fitly manned, and adequately endowed is the ripest product of modern civilization. It is at once the outgrowth, the sign, and the guaranty of the highest culture of a land. Sending its roots deep into the soil of past generations, and deriving no small part of its vitality from the researches and the renown of scholars who have ceased from earthly studies and gone to wider field of thought, it also draws to itself the life-giving influences of the air and light of contemporaneous ability and learning. Covering in its various departments, academic training, ancient and modern literature, history, philology, natural science, philosophy, art, medicine, law and theology, it ranges over all the past, while possessing the wide present, and touches human thought and action at every possible point. The name itself stands for the idea of completeness. Hence since the early part of the twelfth century, when the institutions at Bologna and Paris emerge from their obscure beginnings, the names of the universities suggest the course of European history and the glory of their respective lands. Speak to a man of culture of historical France, and by the side of her military fame he will put the renown of her former University of Paris, with its theological college of the Sorbonne, whose doctors at one time decided the grave disputes of all Europe, and feared not to confront and oppose the infallible Pope himself. Name modern Italy, and the Universities of Bologna and Padua, of Ferrara and Pisa, of Naples and Palermo, or Perrugia and Parma, with their illustrious compeers, rush at once into thought. Germany--I had almost said, what is it, but the product of the centuries of instructions given within the Universities of Heidelberg, Leipsic, Würtzberg, Freiburg, Tübingen, Halle, Göttingen, and more modern institutions? The influential thinking of Great Britain has been done by the men trained at Cambridge and Oxford, at St. Andrews, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.