Mentors

January 12, 2005

Mentors

“Cabbages and Sprouts, Sprouts and Cabbage”

by Jim Foxlow ’48

The respect the Wabash men of the post-World War II years bore George Kendall, Insley Osborne, and Byron Trippet bordered on adulation.

With me, at least, that respect persisted well into the years after I’d left Crawfordsville. When my wife, Gloria, told me in the 1960s that she’d seen Trippet thumbing through a movie tabloid in an Indianapolis supermarket, I had great difficulty believing her!

Sixteen months in the Navy V-12 unit at Dartmouth College, along with one-quarter at Kenyon, had enabled me to enter Wabash as a junior in 1946. I was doubly fortunate in having Byron Trippet as my advisor. After I had worked my way through his suggested readings in the summer of 1947, I returned to campus with the notion that I might be more interested in literature than in history. I told Trippet so, and he sent me to talk with Dean Kendall, who was amenable to my transferring from history to English. When I asked him whether he thought acceptance into a graduate school in English might be a problem, he said he thought that graduate schools would welcome an applicant who knew something of another discipline.

“Of course,” he added, “you always run into some damn fools who think no poetry was written before the time of William Butler Yeats. I once heard Yeats give a reading when he was going about the country with Lady Gregory and, well, he looked more like a poet than any poet has a right to look.”

I carry an abiding regret for missing Dean Kendall’s Shakespeare course. Professor Osborne (even in my 80th year I find it hard to refer to him as Osborne) valiantly tried to fill the gap by giving up his Saturday mornings to leading me through the plays. His patience with me was extraordinary; when I dumbly received his questions on passages I’d obviously failed to read, he’d mildly comment, “Well, I think you’ve been reading this too fast.”

Insley Osborne’s course in 18th-century English literature was one of the high points of my Wabash years (the textbook we used, its spine tattered, still stands on my shelves). That course dictated my graduate-school concentration. And I remember his searching questions and trenchant comments in the Colloquium on Great Books. There was also his patent delight—probably anathema to the Great Books Foundation—when somebody got it right: “Isn’t that just it!”

A chapel announcement in the spring of 1948 that Dean Kendall was receiving applications for Rhodes Scholarships interested me; but believing I wouldn’t stand a chance of being selected, I took no action until a late-night telephone call from the ever-hopeful John Forbes of the History department prompted me to turn up on Kendall’s doorstep on deadline day. The Dean suggested that I should at once see Insley Osborne, himself a Rhodes Scholar. The English Office being crowded, Professor Osborne led me down to the Old Chapel, where he began to talk about his experiences at Oxford.

“You might enjoy it there,” he said, “provided you could put up with the fare—cabbage and sprouts, sprouts and cabbage.”

Then, with some evident embarrassment, he turned to a discussion of “leadership qualities.”

”They may not be all that important; but Cecil Rhodes mentions them in his will, and so the trustees have to pay attention to them. And frankly, Foxlow,” he said, scratching his eyebrow, “you’ve never struck me as either a General Patton or a Henry Wallace.”

He was right, of course.

Jim Foxlow earned his masters at Columbia University and he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Butler University after more than 30 years distinguished teaching at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis.

 


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