Book and Key: A Brief History, Part II

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This article is the second half of a history of the Book and Key Society, written by a founder whose signature is too inscrutable for me to read and who therefore shall go unnamed. Read Part I here.

UPDATE 2/27: The author’s name is Howard Cooper Johnson.

These men typify the spirit of Swarthmore. What is this spirit?

  1.  It is the Spirit of personal competency, and individual physically well and emotionally secure, one who successfully passes through periods of stress and trouble, one who can enjoy living, helpful to others and morally good.
  2.  It is the spirit of family competency, where the family group is recognized as the basic unit of our society — a home in which parents inspire affection and respect of youth — where one wife lasts a lifetime.
  3.  It is the spirit of social competency, where one will be at ease as a member of many different social groups; one who realizes strength and satisfaction for himself only when he is willing to contribute of his strength to others less fortunate.
  4.  It is the spirit of civic competency, where personal satisfaction can come only from cooperation with others to enhance improvement in affairs of government, in charitable and community work and in the advancement of education from kindergarten to university.
  5.  It is the spirit of vocational competency, which is achieved only when one learns that he alone is responsible for the economic support of himself and his family; belief in thrift to provide for one’s own Old Age Security; a life so patterned upon individual freedom that the spirit which has inspired the marvelous standard of living in America will not be blasted by the adoption of impractical “isms” or the expansion of an unwise bureaucracy.

The achievement of these five competencies should be the final goal of each individual member of Book & Key.

I cannot close these remarks without paying tribute to the memory of Morris L. Clothier, ‘90. The most devoted, the most generous friend Swarthmore has ever known He was the donor of this Temple, of the Alumni Brass tablets in the Dining Hall, of the Library’s clock and chimes, of the ’89 Gateway, of the Griswold Cummins and Morris L. Clothier Professorships, of countless scholarships to worthy men and women undergraduates and the prime mover and chief contributor to Clothier Memorial, an amazing list of gifts to his Alma Mater. But more cherished than these was his friendship, his humor, his almost childish amusement in those intensely human relationships. My last picture of him was three days before his death when I drove him, after one of our many luncheons together, to his beautiful summer estate at Seal Harbor. He insisted upon my slowing down to about 15 miles per hour and wandering all over Northeast Harbor to delay his return, because his wife was giving a luncheon for Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. When he reached his cottage the visitor’s chauffeur stood inquiringly at attention before the Clothier door. Morris, sneaked in through the kitchen door to avoid “the policeman” as he called the chauffeur or “the Director of Public Safety”, the policeman’s boss. His caricatures of College presidents, of some Alumni overcharged with pomposity, even of queer customers in our store, were rich. In later years he swept, with his stout walking stick, the skirts of women and the overcoats of men as we passed along the crowded aisles or sidewalks. Up until the last, this friend breathed generosity, kindness and humor, coupled with the highest code of integrity. To know his will was to be a better man. We will never see his counterpart. His spirit hovers o’er us all tonight in this hall of cherished memories.

Keton Kakkar ’20

Keton entered Swarthmore with the class of 2019 and graduated with the class of 2020. He double majored in English literature and computer science and was awarded Honors at commencement. A former editor of this newspaper, he was responsible for merging The Daily Gazette with The Phoenix, among other initiatives. He grew up in Sands Point, New York, completed the last two years of his secondary schooling at Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts, and is a member of the class of 2025 at the NYU School of Law.


  1. I’m enjoying reading these historical notes! The reference to “customers in our store” indicates that the author’s last name might be Strawbridge?

    • Hi Mary,

      Glad to know you are enjoying them. From looking at other documents today, I realize the name of the author is Howard Cooper Johnson Class of 1896, co-founder of Book & Key.

  2. The author listed above was obviously a close friend of Morris Clothier…and that’s where the Strawbridge and Clothier department store enters the picture. I don’t know the name Henry Cooper Johnson…but I sure do know the Book & Key. My father, Charles “Pard” Larkin ’21 was a member of Book & Key and I still enjoy wearing his little B&K pin!
    This listing above of “the spirit of Swarthmore” personified my Dad …and to a great extent personified the whole fabric of the College which sadly seems to have eroded so much.
    Thanks for bring back fond memories!

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