Hobart at War
On Monday, April 16, the majority of Hobart students met in Williams Hall before heading to the quad for the first day of military drill.
Military training on college campuses had been suggested a few days prior when the Governor of New York, Board of Regents, and the presidents of several New York colleges met in Albany. Hobart alumni and other members of the Hobart community with military training volunteered to teach, led by Lieutenant C. W. Fairfax. Books on military training were ordered for the library, and H. L. Henry donated funds to buy model guns with which to drill. The plan was to drill the students four days a week.
However, students and faculty quickly began leaving college to join the war effort. By May 12, Hobart had lost 5 faculty and 13 students to Madison Barracks (in Sacket Harbor) for the Officers' Reserve Corps.
With Hobart hemorrhaging students, the Board of Trustees moved final exams to begin May 14, and on May 18, the campus closed with no commencement for the first time in 92 years. It was announced that any senior in good standing who wished to join the war before graduating, could receive their degree.
The rapid loss of students concerned the Hobart administration, and cards like the one below were sent out to increase enrollment.
The fall semester began on September 18, 1917, with only 100 Hobart students. Military training was reinstated, under Captain J. George Stacey '87. Stacey had been appointed by the New York State Military Training Commission to train Geneva, Waterloo, and Seneca Falls after the Slater Bill made military training compulsory in New York for all students between the ages of 16 and 19. Twelve Hobart students were in that age group.
Military service continued to siphon students off campus, and by February, there were only 60 left. By the summer of 1918, the students were almost gone, and it looked like Hobart might have to close until the end of the war. Luckily, the federal goverment stepped in.