Share / Discuss

Prodigious Powers of the President

When I learned of Rebecca Chopp’s decision to resign Swarthmore’s presidency, I resolved to send her a note expressing thanks for her hard work and persistence in furthering the College’s spirit, especially its liberal arts spirit. While I was gathering my thoughts on this, the July Bulletin came, and with it, her essay titled “Use Thy Gumption” on the life of the mind at Swarthmore and the profound influence of past-president Frank Aydelotte.

This thank you note has to do with leaving: Rebecca leaving Swarthmore now, and Frank Aydelotte leaving Swarthmore, nearly 75 years ago. When the president retired in 1940, Bert Brown ’16, whose College history included many musical contributions, wrote this song to the popular tune “Oh, Johnnie, Oh, Johnnie”:

Oh, Prexy, Oh, Prexy leaving us now.
Oh, Prexy, Oh, Prexy, please tell us how
Whenever Swarthmore needed dough,
You just rolled up your sleeves and,
Presto in the satchel rolled some.
Oh, Prexy, Oh, Prexy, please tell us how
You did it ’ere you go away.
You’re no Gable it’s true
But when they look at you
They say Oh, Prexy, Oh, Prexy stay.

The lyrics acknowledge the prodigious power of the president to attract funds in spite of an eight-year depression. There is also a soft acknowledgement that Aydelotte’s ears rivaled those of Clark Gable.

When Aydelotte came to Swarthmore in 1921, he must have seen how firm was the foundation on which his program would be built—one of loyalty and commitment. These qualities preceded him, and he stood on their shoulders. Swarthmore has since enjoyed the benefits of both the social life and the life of the mind.
I offer my thanks for Rebecca Chopp’s years of important service to the College, its faculty, and students and for the transformations she guided.

—Presley Brown ’52
Langhorne, Pa.