This page was created by Christopher R. Maden.  The last update was by SourceLab Editorial Board.

How's Crops, Dean? (1932)


Reuben Andrus, pictured here, was one of the early founders of Illinois Wesleyan and later president of Depauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. McPherson was inspired to implement the crops for tuition program not only by colonial-era tuition practices but also by how Andrus paid for his education. According to Andrus’ memoirs, he used crops to pay for his degree at Illinois College during the 1840s. In his first semester, Andrus and his father hauled 30 bushels of corn to pay for his tuition. Each summer Andrus would work harvesting crops to pay for the following year’s tuition. The crops for tuition program thus drew on the experiences of one Illinois Wesleyan founder


This article from the September 9, 1932 edition of the Illinois Wesleyan student newspaper, The Argus, describes the crops for tuition program. It confirms that President McPherson, along with Illinois Wesleyan business manager Nate Crabtree, founded the initiative. The article also describes how the program was inspired by a similar program at Harvard University during the Colonial Era and that the crops would be valued above market prices. The New York Times story is from August 29, 1932. The Chicago Tribune story is from September 8, 1932. We have not located the Los Angeles Times story mentioned.

This is a photo of John Dickinson III from Abingdon, Illinois. He was the first student at Illinois Wesleyan to take part in the crops program. John Dickinson was the grandson of an early president of Hedding College. Because the college closed due to financial reasons, it is quite fitting that Dickinson would be the first student to take part in Illinois Wesleyan's program. Uncredited in this photo is President McPherson, standing on the far right.


These are two articles in the September 21, 1932 edition of the Illinois Wesleyan student newspaper, The Argus. In the first story, “Farm Products for Tuition Scoop for ‘Eyes and Ears of the World’," details the making of 'How's Crops Dean.' It begins by describing how Virgil Martin, head of the publicity department at Illinois Wesleyan, worked with Paramount to produce the film. This article includes the names of all the students who were featured. The second story, “More Interesting News About Our Tuition Plan,” describes the business implications of the program. Additional papers in which the program was featured are mentioned, including The Bloomington Daily Pantagraph, The New York Sun, an unnamed San Diego paper, The Minneapolis Journal, The Minneapolis Scripts-Howards Papers, and The Indianapolis Star.


This is Justin Alikonis. He was a chemistry major at Illinois Wesleyan. In “How’s Crops, Dean?,” he was the student who traded in the pig. “Isaac Rosenberg” was an alias Alikonis used for the film, to which he may have been a spontaneous addition. According to the September 21, 1932 Argus, the filming was about to call it quits when Alikonis was found chasing a pig that he planned to use to pay for his tuition.


This is a poem that was featured in The Indianapolis Star about Illinois Wesleyan and the crops program. It was written by Mary E. Bostwick and featured in the paper on September 5, 1932. This version comes from The Argus, which reprinted it on September 21, 1932. Each stanza of the poem describes a farm product then a class the product could be used to pay for.

The following are from the Illinois Wesleyan Alumni Bulletin of October 1932. The article describes how the film was produced, as well as its impact in providing Illinois Wesleyan with worldwide publicity. According to the article, the program was announced on August 28, 1932, and Paramount filmed on the first registration day of the fall semester that same year. The second part of the article describes a woman who presented silver fox furs in exchange for a major in business. While it is unknown whether the offer was accepted, this story sounds similar to the woman in the film who wants to trade fox furs for a course in law. The third part of this article provides context about how these farm products were used. They were stored in local grain elevators and disposed of by the university's farm manager.



This is an image of the lid of the box that stored the film found by archivist Meg Miner. A key thing to note is that on the top right corner of the box the label reads “Paramount News, McPherson-Pres, Nov-1928”. It is unclear why the box was labeled November 1928 as the program was initiated in 1932, and McPherson was not president until 1932. There also is a sticker with the address of Burton Holmes Lectures Inc. While Burton Holmes worked at Paramount News in the early 20th century, he had switched his contract to work with MGM in 1930 and was independent by 1932. It is not apparent why the box containing the “How’s Crops, Dean?” newsreel has a Burton Holmes Lectures, Inc sticker on it.

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  1. Watson, The Illinois Wesleyan Story, 193.
  2. Ibid., 164.
  3. Record Group 14-2/2: Faculty publications file, Reuben Andrus, 2.
  4. Ibid., 3-4.
  5. “Illinois Wesleyan to Accept Farm Produce In Full Payment of Students' Tuition,” New York Times, 29 August 1932.
  6. “Silver Fox Offered as Tuition Fee Is College Problem,” Chicago Tribune, 8 September 1932.
  7. Watson, The Illinois Wesleyan Story, 164.
  8. “'A Short History of Holmes' Film Work,", August 15, 2016.

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