Nearly 70 years have passed since Benjamin Prince died, but his legacy still lives on in the leadership, commitment and generosity of the more than 400 alumni and friends who continue to follow in his name. In the last 15 years alone,
Now as the society celebrates its silver anniversary,
From the beginning, great things were probably expected of Benjamin Franklin Prince, a farmer’s son whose grandparents were named Adam and Eve — and he didn’t disappoint.
Only five years old when a Lutheran college was founded
For 68 years, Prince, who graduated with honors from Wittenberg’s Preparatory Department in 1865, devoted his life to Wittenberg, both as a student and in a variety of offices ranging from professor to collector of tuition to vice president. He knew every graduate of the university during his time on campus, and he founded the college’s first alumni association. He also played in instrumental role in the creation of the college’s annual alumni fund,
Heralded by the Class of 1914 as a “diligent and untiring scholar, a thorough and painstaking teacher; a man beloved by all who knew him,” Prince made the university’s concerns his own concerns, and in so doing, he helped to ensure that Wittenberg entered the future with confidence and strength. The boy nicknamed Bennie was indeed Wittenberg’s “Grand Old Man” when he died in 1933 at the age of 93, but his legacy continues to inspire hundreds each year who now follow in his name as members of the Benjamin Prince Society (BPS).
Founded in 1977 in recognition of individuals who were willing to invest significantly in the university, the society
“ The Benjamin Prince Society was founded on the notion that alumni ought not to take their college or university for granted because people sacrificed for them — people they never knew,” explained Jake Baas, former executive director of advancement.
Baas played a prominent role in the creation of BPS when he worked at Wittenberg from 1976 to 1984. As executive director, Baas thought that any leadership-level giving society should reflect Wittenberg’s heritage.
“ Bennie Prince had practically every job available at Wittenberg,” Baas said. “He resonated loyalty and service. He lived on campus in the house now named after him, and many alumni remembered giving him their tuition. His dedication and commitment reflected the Wittenberg tradition, and we thought this society should have his name,” he explained.
More than 150 charter individuals and couples heeded the call and quickly filled the BPS ranks, increasing their gifts from $100 to $1,000 to join — an impressive increase back in 1977. Their gifts helped to secure needed resources for a growing college in the years that followed. Hundreds of
Bitner Browne ’35 definitely did. A BPS charter member, Browne, director emeritus of the board of directors, has actually given to Wittenberg for more than 60 years because he recognized the important role Wittenberg’s high academic standards and commitment to Christian life played in his success as a Springfield attorney. He also recognized the importance of the university in the context
“Wittenberg is one of the most
“ Giving to the university has always been a lifelong thing for me,” said Noonan, director emertius of the board of directors, Class of 1914 Award and Medal of Honor recipient. “It’s the college I want to support. Whatever we can do to be helpful we do because Wittenberg is so very
A retired Springfield horsebreeder, Noonan, like Browne, has consistently supported the university for more than 40 years. In fact, her BPS-level gifts brought the campus Kissell Auditorium in memory of her father.
“ I feel so close to the university, and I think so much of what the people there are doing, which is why I have a long history of involvement,” she said.
“ I’ve found that the more involved people are with
“ Giving at the BPS level is absolutely critical,” he said, noting that BPS-level gifts provide much needed financial aid for students, faculty salaries, academic facilities such as Hollenbeck Hall and the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center, all of which help to further teaching excellence and student success.
“ The Wittenberg experience has enabled thousands of alumni to enjoy success in their personal lives and careers,” added Bob ’58 and Barbara Hein VanKleunen ’62, current co-chairs of BPS. “Leadership giving at the BPS level is a way of expressing our gratitude to Wittenberg. It also provides our leaders of tomorrow with an
Together, the VanKleunens hope to make the society an even larger reflection of the values for which Benjamin Prince stood. A lifelong learner, Prince taught seven subjects during his professor days at Wittenberg, including history, Greek, botany, physiology and English literature. As a result, teaching has become a focal point of BPS Day, an annual event for BPS members and other volunteer leaders that the VanKleunens founded three years ago.
The all-day event, scheduled for April 5, provides a classroom
“ This day helps to engage our alumni and allows them to pass their light onto others,” Bob VanKleunen said. The VanKleunens are also in the process of forming a leadership committee to assist the university in future planning.
“ Gifts from the society can effect a real change on
That commitment to provide the support that keeps the university among the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges reflects Benjamin Prince and confirms what Jake Baas discovered way back in 1977:
“ Wittenberg alumni and friends want to make a difference in the life of the university that made such a difference in their lives,” he said “and when asked to do so, they will.”
Here is the obituary from the Springfield Daily News.
Dr. B. F. Prince
Dr. B. F. Prince, 93, dean of the faculty of Wittenberg college and affectionately called "The Grand Old Man" at that institution, acclaimed as the oldest professor in point of years and active service in the United States and beloved by thousands of men and women in and out of Springfield, died at 5:15 a. m. Mnday at his home, 644 N. Wittenberg Avenue, following an illness of one week. Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p. m. Wednesday at a place to be decided later. Burial will be
He was honorary head of the history and political science department of the college; had served for 55 consecutive yearsas chairman of the prudential committee; was treasurer of the Alumni Endowment Association; for 31 years was a director of the Ohio Archaeoloical and
The death of Dr. Prince is mourned by rich and poor, the high and low, for he was a man of lovable character, who always spoke a kindly word for his fellow-men. His was the service always of joy, of ministration and of wise counsel. He never shirked in duty and devoted his life assiduously and earnestly that others might be benefited. He was for many years a member of the board of directors of the college. Dr. Prince was a former president of the Men's Literary Club.
He was born on a farm near Westville, in Champaign County Dec. 12, 1840. He spent his early days in the toils incident to the farm life of pioneer days, attending school but a few months each year. He entered Wittenberg College as a student in the fall of 1860, a few
He was reared in a Lutheran family and from the age of 13 he had been deeply interested in that faith. Much of his inspiration also, he often said, came from reading the Lutheran Observer. He also was wont to remark that although he came to Wittenberg College to gain an
Since that time he taught such studies as Greek, Latin, mathematics, political science, economics, sociology and history. He taught Greek for 30 years.
Dr. Prince married Miss Ellen Sanderson of Springfield on August 3, 1869. She died February 17, 1911. He remembered distinctly all of the
He always said that teaching was to him one of his greatest joys and that he had never been dissatisfied with his life or his work. He was
For many years he served as president of the Springfield Building and Loan Association.
Dr. Prince was injured in 1928, when he was struck by an automobile skidding on icy streets.
When he first came to college Dr. Prince said he brought six dozen candles which his mother had made for him to study by. Coal oil lamps had just been introduced among the students and the candles were not used. Springfield, according to Dr. Prince, was then a city of about 7,000. There were very few houses north of Buck Creek. There was a rickety wooden bridge across that stream at N. Market St. (now N.
"We didn't get over to Springfield very often, probably about once a week. However, after the Civil War broke out the students were eager
When Dr. Prince came to Wittenberg there was but one building on the campus and that was the "Old dorm" or "Old Wittenberg," as it is known among the old graduates. Dr. Prince had seen Wittenberg grow from a college of one building to an institution of learning now embodying many buildings. He was also treasurer of the College at one time. It was
"Work" is the best prescription for a long life, according to Dr. Prince. As campus custodian he made the rounds of all the college buildings regularly, and as one student expressed it, "it is doubtful if anywhere in the country there could have been found a teacher who was so well and favorably known among such a large number of his former students as was Dr. Prince."
Dr. Prince possessed an unusual combination oftalents. As a scholar his historical writings were of importance. As a teacher he commanded, the respect and admiration of many student generations. As a business
"His name deserves a place along with the presidents of the institution. His passing will be mourned by thousands of Wittenberg alumni and former students who loved him as a man, and esteemed him for his notable service to the institution to which his life was given.