Tales from Centre’s newest history book are as addicting as potato chips
A decade ago, Van Winkle Professor of Sociology William “Beau” Weston wrote an essay about the history of Centre’s relationship with the Presbyterian Church. Little did he know that the essay would lead to the publication of a full-length history of the College, Centre College: Scholars, Gentlemen, Christians, published this month.
“I meant that essay, written for a series of on-campus discussions on the future of the church-related college, to be a one-off, but it metastasized over the next few years into a full-length history,” Weston says.
“The book is my version of the whole story of Centre College, from the founding of Transylvania to the wet/dry vote of 2010,” he continues. “It’s a counterpart to the gorgeous picture-laden history that the College published last year, Our Standard Sure by Tom Hardin ’63 and Bob Hill. The only previous attempt to tell Centre’s story was Centre College of Kentuckyby Hardin Craig, Class of 1897, written for the sesquicentennial in 1969.”
Weston chose his title from a line in a pamphlet written by Centre trustee John W. Yerkes, Class of 1873. “The epigraph of that pamphlet was ‘Make Scholars. Make Gentlemen. Make Christians. All else is base ambition. That is your crown,’” Weston says. “He attributes that statement to ‘a charge made to Old Centre some 40 years ago.’ I like this stirring charge, because I saw in it a continuity from the earliest days of the College to today.”
Weston so liked Yerkes’s statement that his book’s subtitle, “A Story of How a College Made for Scholars, Gentlemen, and Christians Developed Into a College for Learning, Leadership, and Service While Still Holding Its Center,” is also based on the trustee’s sentiments. Completing the research for his book, Weston says, was an enjoyable exploit.
“It was a great pleasure to read through the minutes of the trustees and the faculty, to see the years of debates by the literary societies, to go through the Cento [Centre’s student newspaper], the read student papers about Centre life and to interview great figures of Centre’s recent past.”
Because Weston has surveyed students and alumni several times during the two decades he has taught at Centre, he was able to incorporate much of that material into his book.
“That’s an advantage of having a sociologist write the history—every quantitative measure I could find about the College is included,” he says. “The book is laden with anecdotes inset in the text. John Thelin, the dean of college historians who wrote the foreword to the book, said that these anecdotes were like potato chips—he just couldn’t stop reading them.”
Researching, writing and publishing such a detailed history was a team effort, and several members of the Centre community played significant roles in the publication of Centre College: Scholars, Gentlemen, Christians. Katie Adams Stoner ’01, Amy Sibley Jones ’04 and Tyler Ward ’07 assisted in the research, while College archivist Bob Glass “was invaluable in finding and considering all the sources in the College’s varied archives,” Weston says. He adds that he is also grateful to Mike Norris (director of communications) for publishing the book and Diane Fisher Johnson (assistant director of communications and Centrepiece editor) for editing it. The cover of the book was designed by Tom Sturgeon, and the inside pages were laid out by Mary Kay Jones.
The book can be purchased at Chenault Alumni House by contacting Jeanine Sanders firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-238-5500. The cost of the book is $15 (plus postage if not picked up at the Alumni House). The book is also available at the Centre bookstore.
And whether readers are alumni, current students, Centre parents or friends of the College, they will find much to love in Weston’s history. “Centre’s core story, I believe, is our great continuity in producing educated, service-oriented leaders for Kentucky and the world at large,” Weston says. “I hope the tale is interesting to Centre readers.”