Daniel A. DuPre – a lifetime at Wofford

DuPreDAThe DuPré name shows up to this day on campus, but I don’t know how many people around today know the role that three generations of DuPrés had in Wofford’s first century.

The middle of the three DuPrés was Daniel Allston DuPré, who was born in 1848 in Eagles Point, Virginia. The son of Warren DuPré, he came to South Carolina as a small child when his father became the head of a women’s academy in Newberry. At age six, he moved to the Wofford campus, where his father had become a member of the college’s original faculty.

Though he was only 12 at the outbreak of the Civil War, one biography notes that he volunteered at 15 for Confederate service. At age 17, he entered Wofford College (which must not have been a hard commute since he lived in the home next door to Main Building), and he graduated with the class of 1869. He followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a teacher in schools in Asheville and Georgetown. In 1873, he returned to be the co-principal, with the son of the president at the time, of the preparatory department at Wofford. Less than 4 years later, his father was called to the presidency of a college in Virginia, and the trustees selected Daniel DuPré to take his father’s professorship in natural sciences.

DuPreclassroomDuPré left for a year to study in Edinburgh, but returned in 1877 to take up his faculty duties, moving into the home just west of Main Building in which he had grown up. He also assumed the duties of treasurer of the college – in these days, with no administration, the faculty handled the duties of registrar, treasurer, and others in addition to their teaching duties. He remained the college’s treasurer until 1920, when the college hired its first full-time treasurer and business manager. He taught chemistry, physics, and geology until around 1902, and physics and geology after that until the 1920s. Geology was his favorite subject, and he continued to teach that until 1930, the year of his death. With the exception of a few years, he essentially lived in the same house on the Wofford campus all of his life.

Interestingly enough, and perhaps symbolic of the broad academic and social interests of Wofford faculty members, Professor DuPré was a founding member and longtime president of the Spartanburg Musical Association, which he and a number of other community leaders and members organized in the winter of 1885. That group performed its first concert in May 1885, and several years later, was succeeded by the Spartanburg Festival Association. The latter organization sponsored a major annual musical festival each spring and organized two large choral groups – an adult and a children’s choir.

He was also a member of the local library board of trustees and an active member of nearby Central Methodist Church.
It’s said that in class, as he was asking questions of his students, he had the habit of twiddling his thumbs, generally in one direction. But, if the student started to answer a question incorrectly, he would reverse the direction of his thumb twiddling, and an observant student could correct himself quickly.

The DuPré family had deep roots in South Carolina. His wife, Helen Stevens DuPré, was a granddaughter of Methodist Bishop William Capers. They had four children, a son, Fayssoux DuPré, who was a star baseball team member who had a legendary curve ball, and three daughters, artist Grace DuPré, Spartanburg Postmaster Helen DuPré Moseley, and college librarian Mary Sydnor DuPré.

By Phillip Stone

I've been the archivist of Wofford College and the South Carolina United Methodist since 1999. I'll be sharing college, Methodist, and local history, documents, photographs, and other interesting stories on this blog, which I've been keeping since December 2007.