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Founders’ Week: Placher Looks Back to 1907

As a professor who’s spent 30-plus years on campus, a graduate and respected scholar, Bill Placher can look at Wabash now and its history and offer interesting perspectives.

Placher ‘70 delivered the third of four Chapel Talks as part of the College’s 175th Anniversary. Here full podcast of Placher’s Chapel talk here.

The Professor of Religion focused on 100 years ago, or 1907 – a time he called one of the greatest in Wabash’s 175-year history. 

He told the Thursday morning gathering it was a time of dissension among the faculty over curriculum change and a time of memorable coaches, teachers and students.

Placher talked about legendary football coach Francis Cayou. He noted Wabash’s win at Notre Dame in 1905, wins over Purdue in ’06 and ’07. He also recounted the great halftime speech he’s noted for in Little Giant lore as told by Jim Amidon ’87 in the second of the four speeches on the College’s beginnings and history.

But Placher added more to the story.  He told of how Cayou celebrated a little too much after the Little Giants – a moniker he is credited with beginning – won that famous game. He missed the train ride home with the team and was later released because of his conduct.

He then turned his attention to a short-term, but very famous professor – Ezra Pound. The acclaimed poet taught French and Spanish for a short period. Pound was somewhat flamboyant, for his time Placher suggested. He offered the story of Pound sharing his small boarding room with a young lady that led to his dismissal.

Pound took his remaining salary, Placher said, and headed off to Venice, Italy, “where he wrote some of the greatest poetry of the 20th Century.

Placher skillfully weaved in the story of Robert Winter who graduated in 1909 and then spent most all of his adult life in China. He came back to Pound and shared a brief passage of poetry Pound wrote while publicly imprisoned after his arrest by American soldiers in Italy at the end of World War II.

He suggested the love of Wabash College is about the teaching and learning which goes on in 2007, and which took place in 1907, and all the way back to the College’s beginnings in 1832.

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