“Brighten the corner where you are:” Coleman B. Waller’s Wofford

Coleman B. "Frog" Waller was a longtime member of Wofford's science faculty, serving from 1904 to 1947.  Yet he's one of those names that has sort of disappeared into the annals of campus history, referenced only at the annual presentation of the chemistry department's senior award, which is named for him.  Dr. Waller was 

Born in Greenwood, C. B. Waller came to Wofford as a student in the late 1880s and graduated in 1892.  After teaching for a year, he went to graduate study at Vanderbilt, where he took a course in chemistry, physics, and mathematics.  He taught at Vanderbilt and at Clemson while working on his Ph. D., which he completed in 1903.  Immediately elected to a chair in science at Wofford, he was also given a year's leave to pursue studies in biology at Johns Hopkins.  Evidently, in those days, scientists had to wear many hats.  

In addition to carrying a heavy load in the sciences – heading the biology and chemistry departments, inaugurating the new Cleveland Science Hall in 1904 – Dr. Waller stayed busy in the church and in the community.  He was elected to city council, serving through a time period where the city moved to a commission form of government.  He was a member of the city's board of health, and he served as a consultant to the city water works on bacteriology and chemistry.  He was at various times a member of all three of the city's large Methodist churches.  He joined Central Methodist when he first came to Wofford, but changed his membership to Bethel Methodist to help that church grow.  He was successful in that mission as the church moved to a new location – its present location – and built a large new sanctuary during his early years there. After a quarter century, he moved to another growing church, Trinity Methodist in Converse Heights, where he remained for the rest of his life.   

He was, according to legend, the first member of the Wofford faculty to own a car, a Dodge "touring car."  Most interestingly, he built his own home on the campus, betwen the home where Dr. John Clinkscales lived and the home where Dr. Daniel DuPre lived.  If it's not obvious to you based on the names of those two houses, here's another clue.  The Kilgo-Clinkscales House is where the dean of the college lives, and the DuPre house has become the DuPre Administration Building.  Dr. Waller's house, which is in between the two, became the president's house in 1942.  Dr. Waller's agreement with the trustees was that he could build the house, but they had the right to purchase it from him if they needed it later.  The Wallers had no children, so for some twenty years, they let Wofford students live with them.  Some thirteen students shared their campus home during the 1930s and 1940s, all of whom went on to distinguished careers in the ministry, in education, or in other fields.  The Wallers acknowledged that they thought of these young men as the sons they never had.  

With a number of other great faculty members. Dr. Waller retired in 1947, but he continued teaching at Spartanburg Methodist College until his death in 1957.  In talking about his life of service, people at Wofford remembered his motto, which was to "Brighten the corner where you are."