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LETTER OF GILMAN H. TUCKER.
On New Year's Day, 1853, I went as a boy from my country home in New Hampshire to New Britain, Conn., to be under the immediate instruction and direction of Mr. John D. Philbrick, who, as assistant superintendent of common schools for the state of Connecticut, had assumed the charge of the State Normal and Training Schools located in that place. My uncle, who responded to my desire to "go away to school” by sending me there, had a very high estimate of the value of the teaching and influence of Mr. Philbrick, and, I remember, quoted some Plutarch saying, that it was regarded as the greatest good fortune that a youth was born at a time when he could have the teaching of Socrates. He rightly judged that nothing was so important to one in obtaining an education as to come under the influence of a gifted teacher and a great and good man.
From this time commenced a personal intimacy which, growing into a close friendship, lasted to the end of Mr. Philbrick's life. Later, after completing school and college, as a young man“ beginning the world," I was for several years a member of his household in Boston, and since have always been a frequent and welcome visitor in his home. In these thirty-three years what have I not owed to him as teacher and friend!
As a teacher Mr. Philbrick placed before himself the highest ideal. No man could ever be more in love with, or more completely devoted to, his profession. He read and studied its greatest authors, and associated with its best exponents. And his mind was so receptive and so practical that he assimilated all, so that the fruit of his knowledge always appeared in his daily work. His plans were always broad, and his system founded on sound principles. Teaching was to him a great thing, - a philosophy; not a mere theory or art, but both and more, — the love and pursuit of wisdom. Its aim was to develop intelligent, well rounded out, and evenly balanced men and women.
The governing principle of his own life was not merely seeking increase of knowledge, - though none pursued that with more industry and success, – but growth in wisdom. His whole career exemplified this, and he became the Franklin among educators. He was, in his ripe years, certainly the wisest man in his profession of public educator in this whole country, if not in the world.
As a teacher he was a very strong personality. His presence was always a sunshine and stimulus, his enthusiasm generous and unbounded, and dull indeed must be the mind not waked into activity and ambition by contact with his own. He had a real, personal interest in the individual students, studied and recognized their peculiarities, and instructed and influenced them accordingly. The breadth, and I may say height, of his teaching was a peculiarity. He was constantly broadening and elevating the minds of his pupils, and, without noise or demonstration, continually building up character. The purest and noblest aims were caught, not taught, by magnetic contact with his own clear and lofty character. The true teacher is so much greater than a book as a living organism is greater than a lifeless machine. Fortunate those who were pupils of this great teacher, and greater man, and more fortunate to have carried his impress with them through life.
To speak of Dr. Philbrick as a friend, - and here, with me, only affection can speak. He was a very social person by nature, and a wide acquaintance among the best had afforded him means to highly cultivate himself in this direction. He was a superior conversationalist, and his flow of talk was always rich and entertaining. Pleasant, genial, and kind-hearted to all, to his intimates he was warm, sympathetic, generous, self-forgetting, and devoted. He idealized his friends. He did not see their faults, or, if he did, they were overlooked. He dwelt upon their abilities and virtues. How he loved to recount their good qualities, and what great things they could accomplish if they dared and tried! How often his cheerful courage and generous confidence carried hope and faith to his friends, which enabled them to accomplish work which had otherwise been unaccomplished ! His sympathetic helpfulness, extended during his whole life toward young men and women who sought his aid and advice, especially those beginning the profession of teaching, must be remembered by thousands in all parts of the country who were benefited by it. His confidence once given was perfect unless basely betrayed, and no man was a better judge of character or less often mistaken. While he understood the maxim that to have a friend one must be one, he constantly helped his friends in all possible ways when he knew there could be no return in kind. He gave more than he took, — he had so much to give, — and it seemed to enrich the giver as well as the receiver.
In his home he was brightness itself, thoughtful always of others, and here his life was as tender and beautiful as his public life was great and strong. As a host, joining with his worthy wife, — always so true a helpmeet to him in contributing to a perfect home, — what pleasure or comfort for a guest was ever overlooked, or what warmth of welcome wanting!
Such, but so imperfectly sketched, is a glimpse of the great and good man, John Dudley Philbrick. His earthly life is ended. May Heaven enrich the world with another like him!
LETTER OF THOMAS H. BARNES.
There are some people who must be known intimately to be understood and appreciated. Mr. Philbrick was one of these. Those who saw him merely upon the platform or at a distance were inclined to think he was overestimated by his friends; but those who came into intimate relations with him very soon learned that they were enjoying the acquaintance of a man of no ordinary mind, and one who formed his opinions with due deliberation and undoubted evidence and authority. I never really knew him until I was brought into the close relation which exists between a master and the superintendent; then I learned how much of a man I was dealing with, and how sound he was upon all matters relating to education.
When one knowing Mr. Philbrick well differed from him upon educational subjects, it became him to well weigh his own views before deciding that Mr. Philbrick was in error; for he would always be aware that Mr. Philbrick never came to his conclusions hastily, but always had well-grounded reasons for the opinions he entertained. He was a man who could be approached by the humblest of educators and be kindly received, for he was a large-hearted man, and had a pleasant and encouraging word for all who desired advice and were trying to help themselves.
Although I knew him well, yet I was surprised to find that he was even better known out of New England than in it. When I was in Washington, in the winter of 1877 -78, just as he was completing his preparations to go to France as representative of the educational interests of this country, I gave myself the pleasure of calling on him at his headquarters at the rooms of the National Bureau of Education. I met there General Eaton and other well-known educators, and I found that he was accorded by them the highest place as a man of sound, practical views upon education. It was a matter of great surprise to them that Boston would consent to accept his resignation as superintendent of our schools, but they felt that Boston's loss would be the nation's gain.
Mr. Philbrick as a writer upon education had no superior, as is clearly indicated by his many and voluminous reports, which show a thorough acquaintance with the progress of education in this and other countries, and are in themselves a complete history of the same.