Hiram College

Hiram College alumnus U.S. President James Garfield inspires new tradition at alma mater

Samuel Register (right), a Hiram College senior majoring in political science and minoring in theatre arts, joins his favorite teacher Richard Hyde, professor of theatre arts and the Howard S. Bissell Chair in the Liberal Arts, on Hiram’s new Garfield Log. “Rick is passionate about what he does and he wants you to share in that passion. If you take time to do that, a whole new world opens up to you,” Register says. “Rick has an understanding of humans and if you’re around him for just a little bit, he will brighten your day. When you’re not around him, his lesson still carries on.”

Varnished and chiseled to sport two seats, a 5 ½-foot maple log became a new fixture at Hiram College this summer. The Garfield Log, situated behind Hinsdale Hall at the heart of campus, perpetuates U.S. President James A. Garfield’s impression of the quintessential college.

“The ideal college is Mark Hopkins at one end of the log and a student on the other.” Though perhaps apocryphal, this quote — dated 1881 and attributed to Garfield – refers to his former Williams College teacher, Hopkins. Garfield attended Williams College after his 1851-1853 period as a student and later president at Hiram, then the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute.

Don McFall, visiting assistant professor of accounting and financial management at Hiram, worked with Robert Haak, Ph.D., vice president and dean of the college, to bring the log and its symbolism to Hiram.

“The point being, buildings and everything else do not make education. It’s the connection between the faculty member and student,” explains McFall.

Haak underscores that a log represents “Garfield’s insight that true education is an interaction between human beings, a conversation,” he says. “That engagement is what the Garfield Log symbolizes to me.”

Haak says would like to see the log endure as a lasting reminder of the connections members of the Hiram family share.

“I hope it will be a living symbol of what we are about in all the classrooms, laboratories and athletic venues here at Hiram,” he says.