From the Daily Collegian (Amherst, Mass.):
Normally when I get an e-mail from the University administration that’s not informing me that I have a check waiting for me at the Bursar’s Office, I have to gulp down an extra cup of coffee just to remain comatose.
Last week, however, I got an e-mail that opened up epic possibilities for my imagination – yes, I’m talking about the e-mail calling for honorary degree nominations. Now, an honorary degree is nowhere near as bizarre or interesting as the dinosaur tracks in South Hadley or coming across directions for smoking bananas (more on that after Spring Break), but that’s part of the appeal. Sometimes the greatest things have mundane roots.
You ask yourself: “What if?”
What if the University of Massachusetts awarded an honorary degree to—drum roll, please – Stephen Colbert….
“An honorary degree is always a doctorate,” Fox said. “One of the things to keep in mind is that this is the highest degree awarded by the University.”
This is something of a snag, I think. Colbert already has an honorary doctorate—he was made a Doctor of Fine Arts by Knox College in 2006. The diploma can even be seen on The Colbert Report sometimes, although Wilford Brimley may have eaten it last summer because it was disguised as a breakfast pastry. So another D.F.A. will not be enough. The University could always award him a Doctorate of Humane Letters, but I think this has to be an absolutely rock-solid deal. The University will have to invent a new degree: Doctor Maximus.
From the Norwich Bulletin (Norwich, Conn.):
It’s widely accepted among historians that Abraham Lincoln’s speeches in Norwich 150 years ago helped him clinch the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.
But they were not what Lincoln intended when the former Illinois congressman came East.
Rodney O. Davis, co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., said Lincoln planned only to give his soon-to-be famous Cooper Union address in New York, and to visit his son, Robert, in New Hampshire.
“But once people discovered he was going to be in the neighborhood, Republicans in a number of communities in the Northeast wanted very much to hear what he had to say,” Davis said. “He agreed to do it, but he was embarrassed, as he had only prepared one speech.”
The speech in Norwich, like ones in Hartford, New Haven and other stops, were variants of the Cooper Union address.
From the Illinois Times (Springfield, Ill.):
llinois has a very short list of distinguished governors and a somewhat longer one of able historians. The list of distinguished governors who also are able historians is very short indeed. Only one name is on it, that of Thomas Ford.
Ford’s term in Springfield, from 1842 to 1848, was his first and only popularly elective office. He came into office faced with two armed insurrections — in western Illinois, where Mormons and locals were at each other’s throats like Sunni and Shia in Iraq, and in southern Illinois, which was plagued by posses of banditti. The state was convulsed by anti-abolition mob violence, and he had to shepherd through a fractious General Assembly a plan to ease a fiscal crisis that makes today’s budget shortfalls look like lost lunch money.
The man who saved Illinois from bankruptcy was unable to save himself. Ford practiced law in Peoria after he left office — former governors did not automatically receive pensions in those days — but failed to make a living. Dying of tuberculosis and needing money to support his children, Ford sat down to write a popular history of Illinois….
The events of Ford’s Illinois make for a ripping yarn, but readers without a special interest in Illinois history may find much of it as incomprehensible as an account of the religious politics of Britain’s Stuart kings. Nor is it a comprehensive treatment; as Knox College scholar Rodney Davis has noted, nearly half the book deals with Ford’s administration as governor and all of it with Illinois history during his own lifetime. In any event his narrative stops in 1846, a generation before modern Illinois began to emerge. (If he wrote “about small events and little men,” he explained, it was because “there was nothing else in the history of Illinois to write about.”) Nonetheless it remains, after a century and a half, as contemporary a work on Illinois politics as there is on the shelf.