“Amazing” DuPre

Maybe students still have nicknames for professors and administrators.  If they do, then I'm pretty sure the professors and administrators don't want to know what those are.  In years past, faculty collected nicknames, flattering and otherwise, from students, and they seemed to stick through several different generations of students.  Sometimes the nickname had something to do with the professor's first or last name ("Dunc" for David Duncan Wallace, "Clink" for John G. Clinkscales, or even "Fish" for John L. Salmon) and sometimes it involved certain attributes ("Peg" for E. H. Shuler, who taught surveying and was prone to leaving survey markers around campus, or "Graveyard" for James A. Chiles, who was known to be a tough German professor.)  The dean during the 1920s and 1930s collected a few nicknames himself.  

Arthur Mason DuPre, who came to Wofford as a student in the 1890s from Abbeville County, graduated in 1895 and immediately went to work teaching in the old Wofford Fitting School.  He became headmaster of the fitting school, which was designed to prepare students for admission to Wofford's freshman class, in 1897 and retained that position until 1912.  He also taught Latin and mathematics.  One of his students at the Fitting School remembered plaing a game of basketball in full view of North Church Street with his shirt-tail out.  Suddenly he saw Dean DuPre, who was sitting on his front porch, put down his newspaper and make a beeline for the game.  The student realized when DuPre was about halfway there that he was probably coming to tell him to tuck his shirt in, and quickly did so.  DuPre kept coming, letting the student know that such conduct was improper and that in such a public place, Wofford students must be above reproach.  

He moved to teaching in the college in 1912, and in 1920 became the college's first dean.  Today, we think of "the dean" as the chief academic officer, but Dean DuPre's office was a strange mixture of student and academic affairs.  Essentially, he handled all student discipline, whether it came from an academic or a social problem.  College historian David Duncan Wallace later noted that he was "strict in his system of discipline, but rigorously fair.  He enjoyed an almost unprecedented popularity with the students, which would have been impossible but for the recognition that he … was absolutely fair."  Shortly after becoming dean in 1920, DuPre spent a year as acting president, as Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder was granted leave to take part in a church-wide Methodist Educational Campaign to raise funds for Methodist-related colleges in the South.  He continued to serve as dean until 1940, when he returned to the classroom.  Ultimately, he worked at the college for 52 years.  

DuPre and Snyder, along with the college's long-serving treasurer, marked a shift from the days when the faculty took on administrative tasks in addition to teaching, to a time when individuals took on administrative tasks as a central part of their job, and taught less than a full load.  Still, having 3 or 4 people to handle all of the college's administrative tasks, and to keep tabs on 400 students, was no small undertaking.  

DuPre continued to teach a variety of subjects, was active in Central Methodist Church, and was even a member of the University Senate of the Methodist Church in 1941.  His successor in office, Dean David Wood, is a member of the University Senate today.  

There are more stories about "Old Mace," "Amazing DuPre," or "The Dean" than can be recounted in this space.  One student allegedly claimed that DuPre looked more like a Roman senator than anybody he ever knew (How the student knew what a Roman senator looked like is worth asking, though maybe DuPre taught him enough Latin that he figured it out?)  He was very much one of those characters that made Wofford unique.  

On the cover of the June 10, 1937 issue of the SC Methodist Advocate is this quote from DuPre that illustrates much of his, and the college's philosophy:  Remember that education makes us masters of conditions but servants of men.  Take this view and you understand something of the Wofford spirit.  You are not educated.  You have been, still are, and will always be, in the process of being educated.  Education is only a process.  At every step. at every goal reached, there comes not only the opportunty for, but also the call to, service.  To illuminate somewhat the dark places, to get under burdens here and there, to do your part in straight thinking, to so walk in the right way that others will be inclined to follow — That is the opportunity ahead.