The Imprint of Hamilton College

For many years after I left Hamilton College in Clinton, New York to take up my long career of teaching, scholarship and service at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia I had occasion to be reminded of Hamilton’s imprint on me. Once, just before making our way through Clinton to Buffalo to visit my mother, Mary and I notified Dwight Lindley, my department chair during my time at Hamilton (and probably the one most insistent that I NOT stay on there!), that we would be passing through. Still as generous as when we first arrived at Hamilton years earlier, Dwight threw us a party, and a surprisingly high number of my former English department colleagues showed up to renew our acquaintance. A few years after that I sent Dwight a manuscript of the book about Samuel Taylor Coleridge I had started at Hamilton and at length completed. Protesting truthfully that he was no Coleridge scholar, he nevertheless read the whole of my book, suggesting slight revisions here and there. Soon after that book was accepted for publication, not on the recommendation of Dwight (a scholar of John Stuart Mill) but of a Jesuit scholar of Coleridge, a poet and philosopher born some 34 years earlier than Mill.

Dwight retired some 15 years after I first met him at Hamilton, and he told me then that he and his wife Janie hoped to do some travelling. They did manage a trip to Europe that included Rome and a Mass in Saint Peter’s at the Vatican, and when I asked him on his return how he, an Episcopalian, reacted to that Mass, he replied: “You Roman Catholics know how to put on a show!”

Janie, while in her car after shopping at a Clinton supermarket, experienced a cerebral aneurysm, and after that nothing was the same for her or Dwight. On a spring trip Mary and I took to visit Dwight, he told us of his daily trips on the New York State Thruway in the bitter cold of winter to see to her needs at a Syracuse hospital. He also showed us the bathroom adjustments he had made so Janie could shower without falling when she got home. Then there was the untended garden in the back of the house Janie and Dwight had built for themselves in anticipation of years of retirement that never materialized.

When Janie died, Mary and I made another trip to Clinton and the Episcopalian Church she and Dwight had attended. It was right across Williams Street from the apartment where Mary and I had lived with our two daughters when I taught at Hamilton College some twenty years before. In a conversation I had with Dwight several years after Janie’s death I asked him how he was doing, to which he said: “I’m getting along, but I miss her terribly.” But not one to pass up an opportunity for a joke, he added: “Don’t let anyone talk to you about ‘the golden years’. All the gold goes to the pharmaceutical companies!”

When my younger daughter Margaret came to making her college search, she decided all on her own to attend Hamilton College, graduating four years later with a Phi Beta Kappa key. She now regularly attends the yearly celebration for inductees into Phi Beta Kappa from Saint Joseph’s University, the school I taught at for over 40 years after leaving Hamilton.

Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, at Saint Joseph;s University, the Jesuit University in Philadelphia

My friendship with Dwight Lindley did not end with his death and burial (next to Janie) in the Hamilton College cemetery. Their daughter, Anne, was a nine year old at the time Mary and I lived for over a week with the Lindleys before I started my first term teaching at Hamilton. I remember us seeing Anne ice skate at the Clinton Arena when Dwight and Janie invited us to see her there. When Anne grew up, she married a Spaniard as generous as her father, whom Mary and I met once on a trip we took to Madrid. Anne and Carlos have two daughters whose photos we still see yearly on the Christmas card Anne sends us from Madrid. People important to us die, but our relationships with them don’t.

The Prado, a world famous art gallery in Madrid