Thursday, September 21, 2000

Oxford pays tribute to 'McGuffey Reader' writer

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — On Friday, the city will start celebrating its immortal best seller and the teacher who wrote it.

        Sept. 23 is the 200th birthday of William Holmes McGuffey, a teacher at Miami University in 1836 when he wrote the first of his six McGuffey's Eclectic Readers.

        “The books ultimately educated five generations of Americans and sold about 130 million copies, a figure surpassed only by the Bible in the history of publishing,” Miami spokeswoman Elizabeth Runyon said.

        McGuffey, once known as “Schoolmaster to the Nation,” imbued his books with moral principles, giving the nation a common system of values. The books are still used in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

        “He made popular many sayings and stories from a multiplicity of sources — "Mary Had a Little Lamb,' "The Boy Who Cried Wolf,' and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” — said Phillip Shriver, president emeritus of Miami University and a veteran history professor. “Everyone has heard, "Where there's a will, there's a way.'

        “We've never had a more important leader in education, fundamentally because 37 states adopted his books,” Dr. Shriver said.

        At the request of university trustees, all mail from the city and Miami will receive a special McGuffey cancellation. Hiestand Design, a student graphic design studio, produced the artwork.

        At 10 a.m. Friday, Dr. Shriver and other dignitaries will gather at the Oxford Post Office, 5145 Brown Road, to help inaugurate the cancellation mark, which will be used for a week.

        This week, campus groups have discussed McGuffey's impact on education and exhibited a collection of his books in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Library.

        The Miami University Art Museum will display furniture from the McGuffey Museum, home to the family during his time at Miami, through next August.

        McGuffey farmed. He preached. He served as president of Ohio University and Cincinnati College, and helped set up public schools in Ohio and Virginia.

        The Miami University professor's reading texts from the 1830s taught frontier children and continued to influence generations. His books are America's most famous teaching tool, according to the Ohio Almanac.

        In 1961 a House bill to honor him went nowhere. In 1971 supporters sought a stamp for the anniversary of his death in 1873. The postmaster rejected it. In 1997 his supporters worked for two years and again sent petitions with hundreds of signatures to the U.S. Stamp Advisory Committee. Again, nothing happened.

        “Ironically, education is the biggest challenge these days and a main priority of the presidential candidates,” Dr. Shriver said. “Meanwhile, we can't get a stamp for the Schoolmaster to the Nation.

        “But we've had assurances that the committee will review its procedures in the future — and give him a chance.”

        Where there's a will, there's a way.


Drug test probe expands
Enquirer editorial
Bush lead over Gore narrows in Ohio
Few bid little for killer's letter
Man arrested in woman's death
PULFER: Be very afraid
Storm hits Xenia hard
UC students find campus altered
Start of classes at UC snarls interstates
Give help, not prison, group urges
Teens gather to affirm faith
Best sellers
A City in the Making
Court TV gives in to murder victims' families' plea
CSO to premiere 'Millennium Fantasy'
Familiar characters captivate children
Nobel-winning Nigerian playwright likely to visit
Nobel Prize winner to ring Peace Bell
Phish jams to joyful crowd
The Early Word
These dads feel right at home
Frampton comes back
$2.1M for new radios pleases officials
3 stolen all-terrain vehicles found
50-plus indicted by Butler grand jury
Competing drug benefits draw skeptical responses
County ordered to cough up court cash
Don't build road, most at Taylor Mill meeting say
Fugitive caught in Kansas
In the schools
Killer of girl, 2, pleads for his life
Mother makes lesson of tragedies
- Oxford pays tribute to 'McGuffey Reader' writer
Regents' OK expected on $6B budget
Remains those of waitress
Safety barrier going up between I-75 and St. Bernard
Senate OKs new teacher licensing
Senator's mailing brings complaint
Talawanda teachers make deal
Teachers critical of proficiency tests
Get to it
Kentucky News Briefs
Pig Parade: Erectheham on the Porkcropolis
Tristate A.M. Report