22, 1858 in Ontonagon, Michigan
Educational Background: B.A., Lafayette College,
1880; M.A., Princeton University, 1883; LL.D., Lafayette, 1905
Teaching Experience: Hill School, Lawrenceville,
New Jersey 1880-94
Administrative Experience: Head Master of Berkeley
School, New York City, 1904-05
Key events/accomplishments during administration: College debt-free in 1907;
Pensions provided for retiring faculty through Carnegie funds
Post-Coe Career: Director of
the School of Commerce and Finance at James Millikan University in
A Short Administration: William W. Smith
at Coe College
the resignation of Samuel McCormick as Coe's president, it took over a
year to bring a successor to campus. While the Board sifted
through the men recommended for this position, Dean S. W. Stookey
assumed the role of acting president, a position he held throughout the
1904-05 academic year.
the recommended candidates was William Wilberforce Smith, who was at
the time head of the Berkeley School for boys in New York City.
Although Smith never visited Iowa, several members of the Board of
Trustees visited Smith. In December of 1904, the Trustees sent a
letter inviting him to consider taking the position left vacant by
Samuel McCormick's departure. He quickly replied and promised to have a
written decision for the gentlemen in a short time. On January 7, 1905,
Smith officially accepted the presidency, to begin that fall.
son of a Presbyterian minister, Smith spent his youth living in small
towns in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. After graduating
from high school, he worked at various jobs in Council Bluffs and Omaha
before deciding to attend LaFayette College in Pennsylvania, where he
graduated as the valedictorian of his class in 1880. He then spent two
years at the Princeton Theological Seminary but finished his masters
degree at Lafayette. During the next twenty years, Smith often
changed jobs and locations. He taught and was a principal at
schools in New Jersey and then entered the business world in New
York. He was active in local politics, most notably in efforts to
defeat a Tammany candidate for mayor. In 1896 he moved to San
Francisco to become president of the Catalog Publishing Company.
In 1904 he accepted the Head Master position at the Berkeley
School. A few months later he resigned to become Coe's 4th
president. During the summer prior to arriving on campus, he was
granted an LL.D. degree from LaFayette and two months later, at the age
of 47, he married Anna Wills Page from New Jersey.
Smith was only at Coe for three years, there were several significant
accomplishments during his administration. Most notably, funding was
obtained for construction of Carnegie Science Building (now Stuart
Hall), and the college--as of July 1, 1907--was finally
debt-free. The success of H. H. Maynard's fund-raising efforts
were particularly important because this enabled the college to meet
the conditions for receiving Carnegie funds which would provide
pensions for retiring Coe faculty.
complement this good financial news, the college also experienced a
healthy, sustainable growth in the size of the student body. In
the first year of Smith's administration, there were 190 students
enrolled in the college and 89 students in the preparatory academy.
Two years later, the college enrollment had increased to 209,
plus an additional 121 academy students.
this period, the faculty instituted important changes in its
organization and practices. One significant decision was the
restructuring of the college into 16 departments, creating a
classification of disciplines that has remained fundamentally unchanged
for over 90 years: Bible and Moral Philosophy, Education, Philosophy,
Psychology and Logic, History, Greek, Latin, German and French,
Mathematics and Physics, Chemistry, Zoology, Botany and Geology,
Physical Training, Music, Public Speaking, English Language and
Literature, and Political Science and Law.
second enduring faculty decision was to assign faculty as advisors for
each class of students. The faculty were "to instruct their
students in regard to college regulations, to advise them in regard to
matters which may be subject to petitions and to receive from their
students, and on their behalf present to the Faculty their
petitions." These four faculty would soon have the additional
responsibility for advising students prior to registration. The
faculty appointed in 1905 to serve as these class officers were
Professors Baily (Seniors), Benson (Juniors), Bryant (Sophomores), and
Weld (Freshmen). With the exception of Baily, who died and was
replaced by C. T. Hickok in 1917, Benson, Bryant, and Weld all served
as class advisors into the 1930s.
the many accomplishments of his administration, significant dissension
between Smith and both faculty and trustees quickly developed.
The minutes for the meetings of faculty and trustees do not reveal the
reasons for the difficulties, but faculty records do indicate that a
faculty committee was chosen for purposes of meeting with the trustees
and expressing their grievances. In June of 1908, less than three
years after arriving on campus, Smith graciously resigned from the
am happy in the fact that the college is strong, larger and more
favorably known than it was three years ago--indeed most prosperous
except for unhappy divisions in its two governing bodies. I have
the pleasant consciousness of having sincerely striven for Coe's best
interest as I have understood it, and of some highly valued friendships
formed among you. However, I may differ from my associates in the
Board and Faculty, I do not question the sincerity of any in his
service of the College, and I hope that good counsel will speedily
resolve any present difficulties.
a 12 to 8 vote (perhaps evidence of further discord), the Board of
Trustees accepted his resignation. The following January, William
Smith became the Director of the School of Commerce and Finance at
James Millikan University in Illinois, a position he held into the