Who was Lawrence McKinley Gould? Why was he so important to Carleton? How does his legacy continue to affect Carleton today?
With the recent publication of his biography on Gould, Carleton archivist Eric Hilleman sought to answer these questions.
“Interest in Gould comes with my job. He’s the iconic, great figure in Carleton’s institutional history” said Hilleman.
Hillman first thought of writing the book fourteen years ago. “In 1998 Carleton President Stephenstra R. Lewis, Jr. asked me whether I would be willing to write Gould’s biography,” said Hilleman. However, due to his many responsibilities, Hilleman could not focus on the book until 2010.
Hilleman’s biography documents Gould’s interesting career, moving from explorer to professor to President of Carleton.
As an explorer, Gould made several discoveries that changed depictions of Antarctic cartography. When Gould sailed in the Baffin Islands, he realized that while he sailed in open water, the map indicated he sailed twenty miles inland.
“In the end, [Gould’s finding] was responsible for the land area of Baffin Island being reduced…by the size of the state of Connecticut,” said Hilleman.
Gould’s successful voyage in the Baffin Islands demonstrated his skills to other explorers. “Gould’s two expeditions to the Far North gave him the explorer’s résumé that resulted in his being selected to go as Geologist, Geographer, and Chief Scientist -- and ultimately as second-in-overall command -- on Commander Richard Evelyn Byrd’s first Antarctic Expedition of 1928-30,” said Hilleman.
Commander Byrd tasked Gould with finding Antarctic highlands whose existence explorers could never before verify. “[Gould] led five other men on an epic 1500-mile journey by dog sled into the Antarctic interior and back, charting never before beheld stretches of the Queen Maud Mountains,” said Hilleman, “On this trek -- the principal subject of Gould’s own book, Cold, Larry Gould had gone farther south on the globe than any previous geologist.”
Gould and his companions found on the journey that the envisioned Antarctic highlands did not actually exist. “For a second time, Gould would be an agent for the erasure of a feature from accepted maps,” said Hilleman.
After completing his trip to Antarctica, Gould wrote the book Cold and went on the lecture circuit. It was on the lecture circuit that Gould first came to Carleton. It was then that Carleton’s Dean Lindsey Blayney immediately offered Gould a position as professor at Carleton.
However, Gould required more time to think about the offer and would not become a professor until a year later. “Late in 1931, Cowling visited the Goulds in New York making a definite offer: a full professorship, head of department, and a handsome salary…that would make Gould, at age 36, the college’s highest paid professor,” said Hilleman.
When Gould joined the faculty at Carleton, Carleton had only eight hundred students. He was the sole member of the College’s geology department.
Students immediately enjoyed Gould’s teaching skills. “Students who had taken a course from Gould during that first year at Carleton spread the word that he was superb in the classroom,” said Hilleman, “when Gould returned to Carleton for his second year teaching there…he found that nearly a full quarter of the student body had attempted that fall to enroll in one or another of his offered classes.”
Gould’s influence is still felt by students and faculty alike. “Hilleman reveals how Gould could have pursued a storied life in politics - even the American presidency - and yet devoted his life to furthering education as professor and eventual president of another sort here at Carleton College. Gould left an indelible mark on the college, far less visible than the library of his name or the penguin housed within,” said Benjamin Altshuler ‘13.
Through his example, Gould inspired countless students. “He inspired generations of students with his passion for teaching and fervent extracurricular pursuits, publishing papers, and traveling,” said Altshuler.
Gould also fostered a deep sense of pride amongst members of the Carleton Community. “Gould had an uncanny ability to inspire institutional pride and loyalty among faculty and students,” said President Steven Poskanzer.
Gould worked hard to make Carleton an elite institution. “Gould’s legacy affects Carleton as a whole: His dedication to high quality education at a small college in a small Midwestern town set the tone for what Carleton is today,” said Terry Kissner, Collection Development & Preservation Specialist in the Library.
As a result, Gould helped establish Carleton’s reputation as a premier college. “It is during his presidency that Carleton shed the last vestiges of its more parochial (and more denominational) beginnings, and became a true national treasure,” said President Poskanzer.
“I hope that Carleton students find me as approachable and friendly and committed to their welfare and academic and career success as students from 1945-62 felt about ‘their’ President,” said President Poskanzer.