George Hibbert Driver (Amherst College 1900, Amherst MA 1904, Yale Bachelors Divinity 1905, Harvard Masters Sacred Theology 1940) was a remarkable poet, preacher and theologian. Driver was the class poet for the Amherst Class of 1900, the class poet for his Yale Divinity School 50th reunion, and the poet laureate for Harvard Divinity School. He wrote “Harvard Divinity School in Triumph: A Poem Composed for the Alumni Assembly, Jan. 31, 1955.”
Driver was associated with Amherst during the same time as Robert Frost. Though I cannot yet identify a direct link, surely Driver (alumnus) and Frost (professor) crossed paths along the road not taken.
Driver self-published two books of poetry. A collection which I recently donated to Archives & Special Collections, Amherst College Library (Ravi D Goel Collection on George Hibbert Driver) includes the original manuscript copy of Driver’s second book “Fare of Poems.” Also included are hundreds of unpublished poems and detailed workbooks marked “D.O.E.” (“Driver’s Own Encyclopedia”). He published numerous articles in national journals in his day which have the foundation in the workbooks.
The hundreds (or indeed thousands) of poems in the collection – which include “Illustrious Yale” and commemorative poems for numerous social and religious organizations – are simply extraordinary. Driver remains relevant today and was recently quoted in James W. Claflin’s Lighthouses and Life Saving Along Cape Cod (2014, page 63).
The provenance is similar to documents which I have donated to the Yale Library. Historical documents of artists and writers are often forgotten after many generations and may ultimately be lost to history. Former Yale College Dean Mary E. Miller stated in her 2013 Yale freshman address, “Yet here is an astonishing number: most art historians — and I am one — would estimate that 99% of all such works ever made are lost to us.” These items were a flea market sale away from meeting the same fate.
Driver delivered the oration at the 1900 Amherst graduation exercises which is documented in the New York Times. His father, George Hibbert Smith Driver, served in the “War of the Rebellion,” and donated letters written to him from 1861 to 1865 to the Williams L Clements Library at the University of Michigan.
An Amherst alumnus’ private collection includes George Hibbert Driver’s college scrapbook, which “consists of a large, 60-page scrapbook filled with every conceivable piece of ephemera a college student might care to keep, and more.” Previous to this gift, Amherst College owned printed copies of Driver’s self-published works and no original documents.
With special thanks to fellow ophthalmologist and former Amherst Trustee James Tsai MD. Jim and I were speaking at a Florida ophthalmology conference a few years ago and I mentioned that I had recently acquired these items. Jim expedited my request with Amherst College colleagues (too many to list and Susan Pikor in the President’s office graciously took the lead).
I hope that this collection will add to the Amherst Library’s richness of a favorite son.