Florida College-A Heritage and a Challenge (II)
James R. Cope
Temple Terrace, Florida
Address by President James R. Cope at Opening of Twenty-fifth Session of Florida College, Temple Terrace September 4, 1970
This street called "rightful expectancy," however, runs two ways. Just as you have certain things you have a right to expect, so those of us charged with operating Florida College have a right to expect certain things of you. Before I begin the list I submit that we do not expect flawless perfection in you. Such is not found in mortals. Together you and your teachers will seek moral growth and spiritual development yet all will make mistakes. You have come to Florida College with a clean record. We hope your leaving will prove even more meaningful than your coming.
But now to the positive expectations.
First, we have a right to expect every one who wears the name Christian to speak and act in keeping with the name. God has no special moral and spiritual standards for parents and teachers who are Christians that He doesn't have for younger persons. It is just as much contrary to God's law for a young person to lie, steal, commit fornication, murder or covet as it is for an adult. There are no double standards with God. He is no respecter of persons.
Second, we have a right to expect you to respect the rights of others. This involves personal and school property, time, quietude for study, and anything else of which you may deprive others whether intentionally or thoughtlessly. None has the right to enter the room of another, without his permission, to appropriate a tie or blouse, to play his radio so loud it is heard next door, or monopolize the time of a fellow-student by visiting in his room and preventing his studying.
Third, we have a right to expect you to do your part toward cleanliness, neatness and modesty in keeping premises clean and neat, your dress neat and conforming to published Florida College standards, your faces shaved and your hair neatly trimmed. We are not about to enter into an argument with you regarding these matters which every student knew perfectly well when he registered. We do not propose that the dress of hair stylists of Paris, Rome or Haight Ashbury shall determine the detail styles of Florida College students. If you happen to be one who thinks more of men's long hair, sloven dress or mini skirts than you do of what Florida College affords, you are in the wrong environment.
Fourth, we have a right to expect you to obey the rules and regulations of Florida College. If this is not your intention you are in the wrong school. Those who come with chips on their shoulders and critical of the world, generally don't last long here. Such persons become so uncomfortable that they either change their attitude or change their residence. Florida College is not a moral reformatory but we frankly tell you it is a moral conformatory. We intend for our standards of moral conduct to be respected.
Florida College exists to aid parents to carry out what the founders of the school understood to be parental responsibility the education of their children. Among other things this means that it is the prerogative of this particular educational institution to determine the best activities for its students. Other institutions may feel that their students should help determine basic institutional policy. Florida College does not share this view as it pertains to its own peculiar role in high educational areas.
In order to foster a wholesome atmosphere among the students, this College will discipline, suspend, or expel anyone whose influence is felt to be pernicious by reason of immorality, disorderly conduct, chronic idleness, or other causes deemed sufficient.
I am glad to think that only a few of you will deliberately destroy property. Some will, true enough. Each year some feel that they have the unique privilege of breaking a window, tearing a door from its hinges or kicking a hole in the wall. A few will deliberately snub regulations because they feel themselves above law and immune to penalties. These, however, are those who will find themselves outside the great mainstream of their fellow-students and at odds with the faculty and administration. Innocent pranks are a part of school life and fun in the right context is a must for the Florida College campus. Willful rebellion against proper authority and wanton vandalism, however, will not be tolerated. We mean what we say about these matters.
This College operates on the principle that for the special environment we want around our students, adult minds who have spent from twenty to forty years rearing their own and others' children understand better the real needs of youth than youth itself does. This, my young friends, is why God gave parents the duty of rearing children rather than giving children the duty of rearing parents. This explains why your parents sent you here rather than to a faculty your own age.
Years of experience show that certain academic and social regulations need to be reappraised periodically. Certainly the administration of Florida College is grateful for any helpful suggestions we can get from any source, students or otherwise, to improve the campus environment. We request them. We find, however, that one of the very special reasons why many parents want their children here is because of the regulations. They feel that in the personnel of Florida College they have responsible men and women who conscientiously care about what happens to young people, that our regulations tell them as parents that school officials make an honest effort to know where their children are and what they are doing. To illustrate: response to questionnaire sent last spring to parents of this year's sophomores showed that at least 50 per cent wanted the present rule on double dating of second year students to remain exactly as it been for many years.
Those who merit special permission usually get it. Experience reveals that sometimes those who think themselves mature young adults act much like high school sophomores. I repeat: we are glad to reexamine the rules and reasons about the basis of Florida College rules but simply because somebody got pinched by one or more of them we don't intend to rewrite the entire handbook overnight. It is encouraging to hear many former students as they begin growing their own families, observe something like this: "While there I thought several rules silly but I want them the same way when I send my children to Florida College. Such statements remind one of Mark Twain's remark that when he was fourteen he could not fathom his father's stupidity but at age 20, he marveled at the wisdom the old man had accumulated in such a short six years.
Most of us who are older come to know from experience that our parents were much wiser than we thought. This is true of Florida College housemothers. Every one of them has reared two or more children to maturity and all of them are grandmothers. When they crack the whip they are doing what they believe is right. They need the sympathy and prayers of all of us. Most of us know that being a mother to 50 to 125 boys or girls is much more of a task than looking after a family of 2, 3 or 4 children. This is why community rules must be standardized and special permission granted when merited.
Finally, I suggest that we have a right to expect you to develop an appreciation for those who have and continue to make your opportunity here possible. These are the men and women who are your teachers, counselors, administrators, and the men who constitute our Board of Directors -- some twenty men scattered from California to England, from Kentucky to Florida who pay their own expenses to attend meetings, who draw not one cent for their services, who give thousands of hours of time which they could be using for their own business and personal interests and also give liberally of their money to keep Florida College operating for you and your children after you. In addition, there are hundreds of men and women, living and dead, many of whom have never had a child of their own here, yet they, for the most part, have provided the buildings and other physical facilities in which we operate. They gave what they gave, not to give me a job, but for you to make possible your education here.
I remind you that practically every building, every bed, every chair, and every desk is here because somebody gave it. Somebody thought enough of this education Florida College affords you to join hearts and hands with your teachers and say, "You do the teaching, we will provide the facilities."
I never see a broken chair or shattered window that I do not remember a little old lady I met in Cullman, Alabama, several years ago. Holding my hand warmly, she said "My total income is $35 each month, barely $1 a day. I have been keeping up with the fine work you have been doing with those young people at Florida College and I want to have a part in it. One dollar isn't much but it represents one day of my monthly income. It will help a little and I want to give this amount each month to help you help those youngsters build a better world."
Do you understand why I see that little old lady's face when I meet young people who have no intention of allowing her to help us help them build a better world? When I see them destroy property she gave for their comfort while she did without? On the other hand, I see her face again when I observe both as individuals and as groups Florida College students volunteering their time and efforts to wash windows, use paint brushes, clean the campus, mow the grass, observe "Don't-walk-on-the-grass" signs, pick up litter, and raise money wholly to help others help Florida College build a better world. These are they who make this work worthwhile. They turn headaches into happiness and heartaches into heart throbs. They see the difference in making a living and making a life!
This spirit of dedication is the spirit which has built Florida College. It is the spirit that sees beyond stone and steel, beyond menial tasks and even beyond the declension of pronouns and remembering of historical dates and data. It is the spirit that says, "I want to belong, I want to be a part, I want to contribute my better self to the ideals which the name Florida College symbolizes." Like the little old lady who gave her one dollar out of her very living to help Florida College build a better world, so have many people. It is not unreasonable that we expect you who benefit directly from these gifts to develop an appreciation for them for without them Florida College would not exist because it could not. You who have never known anything but fine classrooms, libraries, gymnasiums and athletic fields, paid for by tax monies will probably have difficulty understanding that for eight years the only library Florida College had was 360 sq. ft., a space not as large as our present bookstore. Now, thanks to a man by the name of William Chatlos, who has never been on your campus, you have a library of first rate quality. Your fathers who came here 20 to 25 years ago can hardly believe their eyes when they walk inside this magnificent structure. Shall we who now enjoy it take it for granted?
From 1946 till just three years ago whatever basketball was played on this campus was played on two concrete tennis courts where Chatlos Library now stands. Because Fred K. Conn, an 85-year old Tampa businessman, since deceased, had a special love for the young people who attend Florida College, he gave enough money and members of the Florida College Board who have the same love for youth matched that amount and you now have an exceedingly nice gym valued at over $200,000 which, will seat 800-1000 people. These people cared about you, your health and your happiness. Shall we who now enjoy it take it for granted?
For student assemblies, plays, concerts, and other large campus gatherings we have this commodious auditorium. From 1946 till ten years ago, we assembled almost anywhere and everywhere in the large Bible room, upstairs over the present classroom building, in the reception room of Sutton Hall, for two years outside overlooking the River. But here we are! This structure didn't "just happen." It came from the life savings of Paul Hutchinson, a California Christian, and his deceased wife because he believed that you who are here were worthy of better than that had by those before you. Today this husband honors his beloved companion's memory by honoring you with this structure. Shall we who now thrill at its simple beauty disregard the Hutchinson's generosity or Lee and Margaret Boswell who sent five daughters through Florida College and who gave $15,000 for the seats where you now comfortably repose? Or the same Margaret Boswell who on two different occasions has postponed the building of a new home that that money might be given to Florida College to complete the Science and Music building and the Academy Classroom building -- shall we ignore such unselfishness when that same unselfishness makes possible whatever Florida College affords you today?
I insist, my young friends, that we who are responsible for operating Florida College have a right to expect something very special of you. Your parents are investing heavily in your future. Most of them do without many of life's luxuries to pay for your education here that they may do for you what they believe to be their parental duty toward you. This is why we feel that we have a right to expect you to develop an appreciation, a sense of gratitude, for what you have here -- gratitude first to God and then to those He has used to give of their substance and their hearts simply because they loved you upon whose shoulders rests the operation of tomorrow's Florida College and tomorrow's world.
Most of you have been uniquely blessed by having honest, sincere, God-fearing parents who you know are not hypocritical. You know that your parents would not spend $2000 in the next eight months to keep you in this environment if they did not love you and believe that they are making the best investment in your educational future that they know to make. I agree that many youth have been so deceived by the hypocrisy of their parents that they have become gun-shy of every person who would offer them security and something worth embracing but this state of mind does not represent youth who are themselves Christians and whose parents are Christians. Florida College is the answer of parents and children who love each other and to those who would magnify a generation gap. Florida College bridges that chasm and nearly 500 young faces here today with becoming gratitude exclaim: "There's no generation gap at our house."
Christians, old or young, have an understanding of kindness, of love, of mercy, of forgiveness, which non-Christians do not comprehend. This spiritual heritage, my young friend, you have from God. For the most part God has used your parents to instill it in your hearts. Now it is the turn of Florida College to take what God and your parents have planted within you and direct your thinking from youth to manly and womanly Maturity. If you will yield your minds and hearts to the men and women to whom your parents have entrusted you, there is no doubt about the outcome. The heritage you have here is a rich one. I bespeak God's guidance and blessings upon you who have come our way and I pray that He may guide our thoughts to do His will toward you as if you were our own flesh and blood. This we want to do~ For 24 years we have done it. By God's grace we shall make it 25!
The Florida College bell rings for you today as it has tolled for hundreds like you who have come to this spot and left better men and women as its solemn tone bespoke a blessing upon entrance and Godspeed upon departure. Forty years ago, as a small lad, I pulled the rope to this same bell as it called worshippers to a small country church building in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains in my native Tennessee. I pray that it may call your hearts and hands to a sense of gratitude for your opportunity at Florida College as we officially open the 25th session of this institution. Today, my young friends, September 4, 1970, the bell tolls for you as it announces welcome to you and hope for a better world through you.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 2, pp. 3-7