Clyde E. Wildman, 1936-1951
DePauw's Fourteenth President
In the aftermath of the controversies of the Oxnam era, the trustees decided to seek the participation of the faculty in choosing a new president. A search committee was formed which included Professor Walter Bundy of the English Bible department as the elected representative of the teaching faculty. Bundy distributed a questionnaire to his colleagues in an effort to obtain their views in regard to presidential qualifications. He found a fair degree of consensus in their replies, which described the ideal candidate for president as a man of high Christian principles and solid educational experience; an articulate but uncontroversial, fair and impartial leader. Many also indicated a preference for a layman in place of the long series of ordained ministers occupying the presidency.
The person ultimately selected to become the next president of DePauw was Clyde E. Wildman, who appeared to fit these criteria very well, except for the fact the he had been ordained to the Methodist ministry. Both Wildman and his wife, Forest Kyle Wildman, were DePauw graduates. He had also earned an S.T.B. and Ph.D. from Boston University, making him the first president of this institution to hold an earned doctorate. Currently a professor of Old Testament at the Boston University School of Theology, Wildman had spent most of his career as a college or seminary teacher, with a brief stint as an administrator. Moreover he had served a term as president of the Boston University chapter of the A.A.U.P., not an insignificant item in light of recent events at DePauw. Clearly the new president brought with him an intimate knowledge not only of the university itself but also of faculty governance and Methodist educational institutions.
The Wildman administration began auspiciously with the A.A.U.P. voting to restore DePauw University to the eligible list at its annual meeting in December 1936. This action, taken in recognition of the change in administrations, has never been reversed, perhaps because the DePauw chapter of the A.A.U.P. has exercised a watchful eye over questions relating to academic freedom.
The 1936-37 academic year also marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the university. In honor of the centennial the university sponsored a series of four conferences entitled "Life Looks at the College." Attending the first three were representatives of the churches, the business community, and the legal, medical, and teaching professions. The last conference was devoted to the role of women, a highly relevant topic in view of the 70 years of coeducation at DePauw. In 1937 William W. Sweet, a former head of the history department, published the first full-length history of the institution under the title Indiana Asbury-DePauw University, 1837-1937. Poet Max Ehrmann from the class of 1894 composed a "Centennial Ode" prophesying a "glorious rebirth" of Alma Mater.
DePauw's financial situation brightened as the nation gradually began to recover from the worst effects of the Great Depression. By the late 1930s the university was operating in the black once more. But new dormitory, classroom, and library facilities were still needed. In January 1937 President Wildman inaugurated the Centennial Fund campaign with a goal of $500,000, later raised to $1 million. By 1941 the campaign had raised slightly less than half that figure, but other gifts and bequests brought the total amount received during that period to nearly $950,000. Chief among these was a bequest for $422,000 from Augustus L. Mason, an alumnus, trustee, and onetime dean of the Law School. Finally after long litigation the estate of former student John H. Harrison, a wealthy newspaper publisher in Danville, Ill. produced $600,000 for the university.
In November 1942 President Clyde Wildman and Dean Edward Bartlett visited Washington, D.C. to offer the university's facilities for possible use in military training programs, consulting especially with DePauw alumnus Howard Peterson, then a special assistant in the War Department. The Navy showed an interest in the institution's offer and sent a team from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station to survey DePauw's facilities. As a result the university was selected as the site of one of 20 Naval Flight Preparatory Schools (V-5). The first V-5 unit of 200 men arrived in Greencastle in January 1943.
Later DePauw was host to another, quite different Naval training program. The Navy V-12, a college training program for qualified students preparing to be commissioned as Naval Reserve officers, arrived in July 1943 and remained until October 1945. Again the resident faculty was responsible for most of the curriculum, which consisted in large part of academic subjects studied in regular college classes with civilian students. Under the command of Lt. Commander William B. Dortch, the 400 apprentice seamen in the Navy V-12 program lived in Rector and Lucy Rowland Halls. Their number was later increased to 600 after the last V-5 unit departed.
In May 1944 President Wildman appointed several committees in anticipation of postwar adjustments. On the recommendation of one such committee the Bureau of Testing and Research came into existence that fall. Directed by Joseph Heston of the psychology department, the bureau became responsible for freshman testing and conducted the first guidance clinic for prospective freshmen in the summer of 1945. Its functions were to increase greatly in the following years as a valuable adjunct to the whole instructional process.
President Wildman suffered a coronary occlusion in February 1950 and submitted his resignation to the board of trustees in June, asking that it take effect one year later. He recovered sufficiently to conduct the university's affairs during the 1950-51 academic year with the assistance of newly appointed Dean Norris.
One of Wildman's last official acts was to preside over the dedication ceremonies for the Memorial Student Union Building in May 1951. After his departure from Greencastle he taught Old Testament at the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University and later at Dickinson College, where he died suddenly in November 1955