History of the Taylor-Hibbard Club
Wisconsin Alumni Association | Taylor-Hibbard Club History
On September 18, 1964, in a speech to its members, Prof. Kenneth Parsons presented the following account of the origins of the Taylor-Hibbard Club. Much has changed since 1964, but THC traditions live on. The square dances of the 1970s have been replaced by the spring international potluck dinner, and the fall "steak fry" features veggie burgers. Profits from the soda machine continue to finance club activities. And who knows which THC president (following Ted Schultz) will go on to win the department's next Nobel Prize?
"The association began in the early 1920's, after Professor Taylor's move to Washington. Few honors have pleased H. C. as much as being recognized in the name of this club. He has spoken to it many times. But the guiding hand during the formative years of this club was that of Professor B. H. Hibbard.
I have only imprecise recollections of comments, mostly by George Wehrwein, about the early years of the Taylor-Hibbard Club. It was the outgrowth of a regular meeting together for the evening meal at the old YMCA cafeteria (which stood just east of where the Union is now) by a group of some five former county agents from Pennsylvania then doing graduate work in agricultural economics. They met for shop talk and review. Others joined and a student supper club was born - soon to become the Taylor-Hibbard Club - about 1922.
My impression is that Bushrod Allin was elected president of this association in 1925. It was he who shaped it into a student-faculty association, meeting together for dinner, with wives and girl friends invited. This form was surely approved of by Professor Hibbard, who loved all sociable occasions, especially if graced by the delightful ladies. This was the club as I first saw it in the fall of 1929. Roland Renne was president, having succeeded Ted Schultz of the year before. Probably we heard an account of their just completed trip to Russia at the first meeting I attended. Those of us who remember those days will recall that the club met two Thursday evenings a month for dinner in one of the private rooms at the Union, such as the Beefeaters Room. Usually some faculty member spoke on a topic of general interest in which he had special competence. The presence of the ladies helped assure that the speeches were not merely professional 'shop-talk.' "
But again the golden years were few. The stock market crash of 1929 was followed by the depression. Graduate students of those days talked seriously about going back to the farm, and some did. The club struggled on. The $600 annual assistantship stipiend for the two semester hours was cut to $520 a year. This was scarcely enough to live on and really inadequate for the few married students. Union meals became too expensive, so faculty wives served food. They were difficult days, but I was in Washington during some of this time.
Then came the New Deal and suddenly the market boomed for budding young agricultural economists -- and the faculty too. Professor Froker helped set up the Federal Milk Market order program. Professor Schaars worked on livestock marketing. Professor Wehrwein commuted to meetings of the National Resources Board in Washington. The first of the students to Washington became virtually recruitment officers from the 'unlimited supply' of graduate students, which was soon exhausted.
In the thirties, while the U. S. was preoccupied with national recovery programs and agricultural adjustment, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were riding high. Then came the Second World War. Many former graduate students served with the War Food Board and other emergency programs. All this we pass over, since we are merely trying to trace out the continuities in the history of the Taylor-Hibbard Club. The number of the graduate students declined. But the club kept meeting with some regularity.
With the end of war, the study of agricultural economics took on an unprecedented international dimension. Students came from everywhere. Lend-lease brought 18 graduate students from China for a year of special work - 1945-46. That year we had 25 Chinese students in the department. After the war, American graduate students returned with G. I. benefits, wives, and children. The Taylor-Hibbard Club had to change. Dinner meetings gave way to after-dinner meetings in which the foreign students would prepare and serve a national dessert. Since then dinner meetings have become occasional only. For a student to take a wife to a Taylor-Hibbard Club dinner requires not only two dinner tickets but likely payment of a babysitter, too. So now we have one or two dinner meetings - modern, complete with bar. The students again meet together for shop talk as often at least as their forerunners from Pennsylvania did more than forty years ago - but now mostly on Friday over afternoon coffee, rather than an evening meal. Shop talk is spiced by frequent lectures, often by international figures. Now there are larger worlds to conquer. While foreign students still struggle with the nuances of English and look forward to going home, the American students practice their foreign languages and study maps of faraway places, prospecting for suitable opportunities for thesis research.
Much of the formal social life of the club seems to have shifted to the auxiliary - student and faculty wives organized as the Jills. They meet regularly for evening dessert and an evening out - away from the books and babies. This is where we are today.
The alumni of this club are now all over the world. So far as I know there is only one other formally organized Taylor-Hibbard Club - that in Washington DC - mostly the USDA. The alumni of this department in Washington DC have met occasionally for a very long time, for dinner and picnics. Since 1947, however, the group has met as a Taylor-Hibbard Club. At first the club met for luncheon with speaker. Now, I understand, they meet over coffee, with participation based on interest in the topic or speaker and not limited to the alumni."
The Taylor-Hibbard Club is an admirable adjunct to the Department. The library in Hiram Smith Hall, which it maintains and supervises, includes hundreds of books and theses easily accessible to students and faculty alike. Its annual News Letter has contained much information about the departmental staff's activities as well as the whereabouts and positions held by T-H alumni. The fact that some of the T-H members serve on committees of the department is further indication of the importance the department places upon this liaison relationship.