Thomas V. Mansell, the "father of Westminster's Mock Political Convention," started this enduring tradition in 1936 when he was a professor at Westminster College. When the convention first began, he had two intentions in mind. First and most importantly, he hoped that students would learn about the process involved in a political convention, and at the same time, have fun participating.
Secondly, he hoped that the Mock Convention would inspire students to take part in politics at some point in their lives. When asked if he felt he had achieved his original intentions, Mansell replied, "I definitely feel the Mock Convention has served its purpose for many students throughout the years."
In 1929, Mansell graduated from Westminster with a degree in history after which he went to Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, Mansell roomed with a graduate of Oberlin College. His roommate had told him of the Mock Convention in which he had participated as a student at Oberlin. Mansell found that this was an excellent way for students to learn about politics in a practical way.
So, in the fall of 1935, he suggested it to his American government classes. The students became excited about the idea and began to put it into effect for the Spring of 1936. Thus, Westminster became the third college in the nation to stage a Mock Convention after Oberlin College, and Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.
The first convention took place in the gym of Old 77 and was a success considering 85-90 percent of the student body took an active part in it. Since 1936, the convention has taken place every four years with the exception of 1944 due to war efforts.
"I acted as a supervisor to the committee for the first five or six conventions. After that I was invited to appear at each convention as a guest. Therefore, I am very pleased that the Mock Convention has become a tradition at Westminster," Mansell said. He also added that each convention has been well worth the effort and no convention would be termed a failure.
For over 70 years, Westminster students have learned about politics through participating in the Mock Convention, and it has contributed to their endeavor for receiving a truly well rounded education. Mansell remembers students telling him that the Mock Convention was one of the most memorable experiences of their college days.
Mr. Mansell passed away in 1997.