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Charles T. Hickok

Charles T. Hickok:  "Mr. Coe"

In a tribute to her father published by Coe in 1980, Eliza Merrill "Roby" Hickok Kesler recounts a "favorite after-dinner parlor trick" that Charles T. Hickok liked to play when he and his wife were entertaining friends at their home:

When the Coe/Cornell rivalry was really intense back in the 1920's, my father would ask our fox terrier dog, Caesar, what he would do if he had to go to Cornell.  The dog would collapse immediately on the floor and play dead.  Then Dad would say 'Okay, you can go to Coe,' and Caesar would jump up, bark loudly, and run around the house.

Charles T. Hickok came to Coe in 1905 as a teacher and principal of the Academy, Coe's preparatory school, and in 1909 he became the founder, chairman and sole teacher in the new political and social science department of the college.  When Hickok was principal of the Academy, he began by teaching mathematics, but the 1909 promotion enabled him to teach in the disciplines that his education at Western Reserve and Johns Hopkins had prepared him for:  Economics, American Government, Money and Banking, Sociology, Economic History, and Labor Relations.  Typically teaching six different courses each term, "C.T.H." was justified in stating that "I didn't have a chair at Coe.  I had an entire bench."  But teaching was his real love and he continued teaching political and social science courses until 1940, at the age of 70, five years after he was eligible for retirement.

Hickok's impact on the college went far beyond the boundaries of the classroom.  For twenty years without financial remuneration, he wrote and edited the Courier, yet his name never appeared in it as editor.  In the 1930s, when he college was experiencing severe financial difficulties, it was C.T.H and Marvin Cone who proposed that faculty member take only half their salary to help keep the college financially solvent.

Hickok knew how important expenditures and the endowment were to the college because he had been intimately involved in college fund-raising since the early years when he had traveled with Hubbard Maynard on solicitation trips.  During his summer vacations he also became the college's principal recruiter of new students.  His practice was to take a train to some Iowa town, rent a horse and buggy, and pay a call on the local Presbyterian minister, who would provide names of high school graduates who might be good candidates for the college.  Hickok would then drive out to see these young people at their homes and speak with them about their future.  Roby Kesler recalls that later, after automobile travel was an option, Hickok would travel with another Coe professor, C. W. Perkins.

 . . . . my father and C. W. Perkins, the explosive German professor, drove about the state on dirt roads, their camping equipment lashed to the running board.  They didn't stay in hotels, but camped out, pitching their tent and setting up their army cots in the town square or park. 

When the students he had recruited arrived, Professor Hickok would find jobs and loans for them, sometimes even taking them into his own home.  After their graduation, he busied himself with placing the graduates in jobs and keeping track of where they went as alumni.       

Hickok, or "Hickey" as he was known by some students, was admired by students for his cordial good humor, the clarity of his lectures, and his self-deprecating wit.  One method he used to explain an idea was to draw pictures, accompanied by his trademark warning that "I will now draw you one of my inimitable pictures."  A student remembers once, when an overworked student fell asleep in class, he said, "Now let's all be very quiet.  Mr. So-and-so is asleep and we don't want to wake him." The laughter of the class woke the sleeping student.  Another student, who served as a secretary, recalled that every day when she came to work he would leave a small treat under her typewriter.  Hickok also enjoyed sitting at his desk, carving up an apple with his pen knife, and offering slices to his visitors or assistants.

Everyone who drives past Coe on 12th Street is familiar with Hickok Hall, the three-story, red brick classroom building.  When this social sciences building was dedicated in 1950, it was fitting and proper that Charles Hickok was present to see his name placed on the building, for he truly was a builds of Coe College. On September 1, 1958, at the age of eighty-eight, "Mr. Coe" died in his chair while reading.  Two days later, on September 3, 1958, a final hour of silence was held by the college in his honor. 

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