Fearless and Bold captures 140 years of stories
By Geoff Peckham,
The slogan for McDaniel College reads, “Changing Lives since 1867.” Dr. James Lightner has been working on a way to make those 140 years of stories and history available to the public.
Fearless and Bold, McDaniel’s first complete historical account was released this past homecoming weekend. Lightner, class of 1959, former mathematics professor, and current college historian, has been working on the book since 2000.
“I felt for a long time the college needed a definitive history,” Lightner said. He mentioned the short one that had been published in the 1940’s, and another published in the 1970’s that only chronicled up to 1947. Students and faculty alike had always asked Lightner questions regarding the history of the college, and after retiring in 1998, he decided to undertake the challenge.
Lightner explored the college archives leisurely for a few years before beginning to research and write the book. Among the materials he used to do his research were minutes of Board of Trustee meetings, faculty meetings, past issues of newspapers and magazines, presidential papers, and even the diaries of the college’s first president, J.T. Ward.
The chapters of the book are split by decade, with sections on faculty and administration, finances, buildings and grounds, curriculum, special events, and student life, including athletics. Lightner felt it was important to include a historical context for the rest of the world; each chapter ends with a year-by-year list of world events for the decade.
In addition, Lightner also conducted 37 interviews with alumni of the college, one of whom was from the class of 1923 who had celebrated her 100th birthday.
Lightner is particularly drawn to the unique stories the college has to offer. For instance: how Western Maryland College’s once elite football team had a chance to play in the first Orange Bowl but chose not to. Or how 1910 graduate Robert J. Gill not only went on to serve under Gen. Douglas MacArthur during WWI, but would be an executive officer for the Nuremberg Trials and would acquire war criminal Hermann G?ering’s war medals. Those medals are in the college’s archives today.
“That’s the fascinating part of history,” Lightner said, referring to the little-known connections that exist between McDaniel and the rest of the world. He hopes the book will become a major reference point for anyone hoping to learn more about McDaniel’s background. He said that alumni will be particularly interested, and he hopes that current students will pick up the book as well, which is available in the college bookstore.
The overall theme of the book is how the college has overcome so many obstacles ever since its inception. “It’s an interesting story of how a fledgling institution founded in 1867 kept on going,” Lightner said. “The book is full of insights on how we got to where we are today.”