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Erwin H. Schell, SB ’12

Erwin H. Schell, SB ’12Erwin H. Schell, SB ’12

Whether in 1933 or 2013, the words of Erwin H. Schell, SB ’12, program director of Course XV from 1931 to 1951, remain tried and true. Schell is long remembered as a committed and enthusiastic professor, mentor, and friend to the graduates of Course XV, who was known to send a birthday greeting to every course graduate during his 30 years of service.

July 10, 1933
To all Course XV men:

In my first letter, I told you that we were entering the most thrilling period in any civilization—the period when advance through adversity gains headway. In this, my last letter, the blessing that I wish for you is that you may experience the deepest thrill of all—the thrill of contributing personally to this upswing.

The forces which underlie advance are not obvious. We can see the results more clearly than the causes. Most people will never know why conditions improve. They will be carried along on the surface of the tide. They will congratulate each other on the better days at hand and to come. They will try to forget the unhappy past.

A few individuals will be at the controls. They will make use of certain very old principles. The first is that any significant turn in human affairs results from the introduction of some hitherto unused concept. The second is that this change in direction will not retrace an old path but will break a new one, bringing increased advantages to a larger number of people than ever before. These individuals will remember that man is much more a creature of the past than of the present; science as it expands his environment must take this into account. They will remember that all enduring human satisfactions relate in some way to the function of growth; daily life should offer opportunity and incentive for the steady enrichment of the spirit.

Finally, they will possess three outstanding qualities—a capacity to work effectively with people of all classes and stations, a passion for discovery, and a driving sense of duty. You know well enough that your youth, your energy, your training, and your experience place you in this group. The real problem is how to begin. And here, I offer a clue.

It is certain that future progress will be found along uncharted paths. Opportunity and adventure will go hand in hand. Important work will come only to those who are willing to take individual risks in the interest of the general good. The starting place is exactly here. Destiny will hinge on personal courage. Do you dare to adventure in advance?

I hope that you may begin in some small way, where you must shoulder full responsibility for success or failure. I hope that you may choose some new and broadening fields for your first activities—civic, commercial, associational—where you may be free from past habit. I hope that you ally yourself with others who stand for progress, for they will encourage you by their example. I hope you may find in advance-for-its-own-sake the bread and wine of happiness.

These are the challenging days ahead for you.

Yours for the future,

Erwin H. Schell