Academics Documents Faculty Uncategorized

About the Professors

The Wofford College Journal, which has been the college’s literary magazine since 1889, used to act as a monthly newspaper for the campus as well. I found these notes in the February 1906 issue that describe some of the comings and goings of members of the faculty.

On account of the severity of the weather, Dr. Carlisle did not meet his classes for a few days last month.

Dr. Snyder delivered a lecture on the evening of January 14th in the chapel of South Carolina College. This lecture was on “The Assets of a Young Man Just Entering Upon the Duties of Life.”

Dr. Cooke delivered his lecture on “Pompeii and Rome” in the auditorium on the night of January 18th. The lecture was largely attended and was profitable to the YMCA, under whose auspices the lecture was given.

Prof. Clinkscales gave a lecture at the Roebuck School on January 19th.

Dr. Wallace was in Columbia on January 25th. He appeared before a Senate committee in behalf of a bill for a white juvenile reformatory.

Dr. Snyder addressed the Chamber of Commerce on the evening of February 1st.

Prof. Clinkscales delivered an address at the First Baptist Church on the morning of February 4th.

Prof. J. A. Gamewell paid a short visit to Greenville, SC, on Feb. 3rd.

Dr. Carlisle made a talk at the opening exercises of the new Kennedy Library.

Dr. Snyder delivered an address at Greenwood, SC on January 31st. This was Founder’s Day at Lander College.

Academics Faculty

Professor Frank Woodward

Another in a fairly short list of professors who served but a short time at Wofford in the early days was Professor Frank C. Woodward.

A Virginia native, Woodward graduated from Randolph-Macon College, a Methodist institution in Virginia that is older than Wofford.  After graduation, he followed his father into the Methodist ministry in Virginia.  But, he had been trained in some of the more scholarly methods of teaching English and languages, and despite having no advanced degrees, in 1881 Wofford called upon him to teach French and Latin.  A year later, the college gave him the English chair that Dr. William M. Baskervill had vacated to go to Vanderbilt. He lived in the house on the eastern end of the row of faculty homes formerly occupied by David Duncan, and later occupied by J. A. Gamewell.  That house is now the wellness center.

Woodward continued Baskervill’s teaching style in the English courses enthusiastically.  He taught for a total of seven years at Wofford before, in 1888, the faculty at South Carolina College called him to join their ranks as professor of English language, literature, and rhetoric.

He was destined for higher office.  In 1897, the trustees made him president of South Carolina College.  An interesting point there is that the faculty in the 1880s and early 1890s had two members who went on to presidencies at much larger places, Woodward as well as John C. Kilgo, who went to Trinity as president in 1894.

After USC, Woodward went to the University of Richmond to teach English.  It’s hard to say what impact he had on Wofford these 130 years later, but he was one in a series of faculty who spent a few years helping to improve teaching and scholarship, who worked alongside a core of faculty who stayed for many more years.

Academics Faculty Uncategorized

William Baskervill, the first PhD at Wofford

William M. Baskervill’s name is unfortunately not one that comes to the forefront of Wofford’s history.

Joining the faculty in 1876, Baskervill was one of the first Wofford professors to have studied in Germany.  He was a Randolph-Macon graduate and a Tennessee native, and had met the young Charles Forster Smith, a Wofford graduate, in Germany.  Smith, who had come back to teach at Wofford in 1875, had encouraged Baskervill to join him and cover some subjects that were under-staffed, and so fresh from two years at Leipzig, Baskervill arrived at Wofford to teach Greek and English literature.

David Duncan Wallace, the college’s historian, noted that Baskervill stimulated the students and faculty alike.  His study of literature was much more scholarly than the older generation of teachers, and his methods were a bit new for the students.  Some no doubt thought he was too hard.  Some of the students found him sarcastic and impatient with them as well.  One student, Wallace noted, left a poem on the chalkboard that poked some fun back at Baskervill.  It read, in part:  Anglo Saxon and Dutch:  This is taught by Baskervill/ Who goes for it with vinn and will/ And tries so hard his class to inspire/ With his Anglo-Saxon Fire.  The class heeds not his high behest/ But utters up a strong protest/ Against each foolish innovation/ Brought hither from the German nation.”

The student who confessed to the prank was brought before the faculty for punishment.  Dr. Carlisle reportedly asked, “What are you before the faculty for?” and the student replied “Writing poetry.”  With that, the student nearly caused Carlisle to erupt in laughter, and the student managed to get away without any punishment.

In 1878, Baskervill left Wofford for further study in Germany, but the death of his wife caused him to return to the United States sooner than he planned.  He returned to complete his PhD at Leipzig in the summer of 1880, while remaining on the Wofford faculty, and thus became the first faculty member to earn a PhD while teaching at Wofford. His dissertation, a copy of which is in the archives, was entitled “The Anglo-Saxon Version of the Epistola Alexandri ad Aristotelem.”

He did not remain at Wofford long, like his contemporaries Charles F. Smith and James H. Kirkland who had helped move to a greater emphasis on scholarship, he moved on to Vanderbilt.  In Nashville, he taught both Henry Nelson Snyder and David Duncan Wallace, both of whom came to dominate Wofford during much of the 20th century.  He spent the rest of his life at Vanderbilt, but his untimely death in 1899 cut short a flourishing academic career.

Baskervill may not rank up there with Gamewell for longevity, or with Carlisle, Snyder, Wallace, Chiles, and  several others in terms of recognition.  However, his time at Wofford marks a shift toward greater scholarship among the faculty, and he set a tone of increased rigor in teaching.  Numerous faculty who came after him were much closer to his style than they were to those who came before him.


When did we start having class on Labor Day?

Every year, as fall semester classes begin, students and faculty ask this question: Why do we start on Labor Day?  Sometimes the answer that comes back is, we’ve always started on Labor Day!

But that’s not completely true.  In 2015, for example, Labor Day was September 7, and waiting to start classes on Sept. 7 would have meant we’d have been in session until December 18, which somebody must have thought was awfully late, so we started on Monday, August 31 instead.  The following Monday was Labor Day, and we had classes that day.  This year, we “stepped back” the calendar a week, starting on Monday, September 5.

Over the past fifty years, the first day of class in the fall semester has gradually shifted back from Thursday to Monday, and it has ranged between as late as Sept. 12 and as early as August 31.  And that’s not counting orientation, move-in days, pre-session meetings, and the like, all of which precede the first day of classes.

Before World War II, the date of first class meetings in the college catalogue was often vague.  The catalogue notes which days freshmen were supposed to report, and the day that upperclassmen were supposed to report, but doesn’t say when instruction begins.  After World War II, the dates are more precise.

Through the 1966-67 academic year, the first semester began in September, and continued into January, with first semester exams happening after Christmas.  The second semester ran from February to early June.  All that changed in 1967-68 with the implementation of Interim, which brought first semester exams back into December, but also meant that classes needed to start slightly earlier to get a 15-week semester complete before Christmas Break.  And to be honest, that’s probably the main reason we’ve wound up starting on Labor Day for most of the past 20 years – because that’s about when you have to begin to get 15 weeks of class in before Christmas.

Start of Class – selected dates from 1946-66 and each year thereafter.
1946 Thursday, Sept. 19
1950 Saturday, Sept. 16
1951 Saturday, Sept. 15
1955 Friday, Sept. 16
1956 Tuesday, Sept. 18
1961 Saturday, Sept. 16
1966 Saturday, Sept. 17

(Interim begins in 1967-68 academic year)
1967 Thursday, Sept. 7
1968 Thursday, Sept. 5
1969 Thursday, Sept. 4
1970 Thursday, Sept. 3*Before Labor Day
1971 Thursday, Sept. 9
1972 Thursday, Sept. 7
1973 Thursday, Sept. 6
1974 Thursday, Sept. 12 (Exams ended Dec. 20)
1975 Thursday, Sept. 11
1976 Thursday, Sept. 9
1977 Thursday, Sept. 8
1978 Thursday, Sept. 7
1979 Wednesday, Sept. 5
1980 Wednesday, Sept. 10
1981 Wednesday, Sept. 9
1982 Wednesday, Sept. 8
1983 Wednesday, Sept. 7
1984 Wednesday, Sept. 5
1985 Wednesday, Sept. 4
1986 Wednesday, Sept. 3
1987 Wednesday, Sept. 2 *Before Labor Day
1988 Wednesday, Sept. 7
1989 Tuesday, Sept. 5
1990 Tuesday, Sept. 4
1991 Tuesday, Sept. 3
1992 Tuesday, Sept. 1 *Before Labor Day
1993 Tuesday, Aug. 31 *Before Labor Day, first time in August
1994 Tuesday, Sept. 6
1995 Tuesday, Sept. 5
1996 Tuesday, Sept. 3
1997 Tuesday, Sept. 2
1998 Tuesday, Sept. 1 *Before Labor Day
1999 Monday, Sept. 6 Labor Day
2000 Monday, Sept. 4 Labor Day
2001 Monday, Sept. 3 Labor Day
2002 Monday, Sept. 2 Labor Day
2003 Monday, Sept. 1 Labor Day
2004 Monday, Sept. 6 Labor Day
2005 Monday, Sept. 5 Labor Day
2006 Monday, Sept. 4 Labor Day
2007 Monday, Sept. 3 Labor Day
2008 Monday, Sept. 1 Labor Day
2009 Monday, Sept. 7 Labor Day
2010 Monday, Sept. 6 Labor Day
2011 Monday, Sept. 5 Labor Day
2012 Monday, Sept. 3 Labor Day
2013 Monday, Sept. 2 Labor Day
2014 Monday, Sept. 1 Labor Day
2015 Monday, Aug. 31 *Before Labor Day
2016 Monday, Sept. 5 Labor Day

Academics Methodist

Henry Nelson Snyder: Wofford and Methodist leader

This article appeared in the SC United Methodist Advocate this month.

Wofford’s Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder served as the college’s fourth president from 1902 to 1942, and at the same time, was one of the leading laymen of South Carolina Methodism. He was a very influential leader in state and national higher education circles as well as in national Methodist circles, and his was a leading voice in the movement toward Methodist reunification in 1939.

SnyderHandbookDr. Snyder was a Tennessee native who came to Wofford and Spartanburg in 1890 to become a professor of English. He had earned his degrees at Vanderbilt, which was designed to be the central university of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Some of his teachers there had Wofford connections as well as deep ties to the Methodist Church. After a decade at Wofford, he did what many young American academics in the 1890s and early 1900s did: he went to a German university to study for his doctorate. He would have completed it if Wofford had not called him to the presidency while he was working on his degree

Dr. Snyder’s ties to regional and national higher education movements began in the 1890s, when he was one of two Wofford professors to attend the organizational meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the regional accrediting agency for colleges and schools throughout the Southeast. He also built networks in South Carolina’s fledgling public schools in the 1910s and 1920s, and was on good terms with many superintendents and principals. This helped him recruit students to attend Wofford and the other Methodist colleges in the state. He also organized summer schools for teachers at Wofford for many years.

Snyder’s commitment was to make Wofford a first-rate Methodist-related institution, and to blend academic excellence with spiritual development. He later wrote that he never let himself forget the importance of the college’s church relationship. And apparently, the church leadership trusted their president, for they ultimately made him the chairman of the conference board of education, which was responsible for selecting the trustees of all of the colleges. That’s perhaps not the best practice today, but in that place and time, it worked. Snyder wrote that the Annual Conference gave him a free hand in the administration of the college, and this allowed him to build a fine college and faculty over his tenure. While he occasionally had to defend the faculty from critics who objected to a modernizing curriculum, no one ever seriously threatened his independence.

The Conference regularly elected Dr. Snyder as a General Conference delegate, and year after year, he served on various church boards. He was a member of the hymnal revision commission that produced the 1905 and the 1935 Methodist hymnal, and for some twenty years, he was one of the southern church’s members on the reunification commission. As a leader in church-related higher education, he was away from Wofford for the better part of a year in the 1920s as he worked with a church-wide educational fundraising campaign, a cause that benefited Methodist-related colleges throughout the South.

Throughout his life, Henry Nelson Snyder was more than simply a liberal arts college president. He was an ambassador for education at all levels, and he was a firm believer in the important role the Methodist Church played in education. He also played an active role in the creation of the Methodist Church, using his experiences and wisdom to help heal a century-long breach in the church.

Academics Faculty

“Fish” Salmon

With a last name like Salmon, it’s no surprise that students stuck him with the nickname “Fish.”

John L. Salmon

John L. Salmon was one of the longest-serving members of the college’s faculty, coming to Wofford in 1921 and remaining active well into the 1980s.  When he arrived in 1921 to teach modern languages, he joined an already well-established corps of professors, some of whose tenure stretched back into the 1870s.  He was rather embarrassed when the chairman of the Board of Trustees saw him trying to get his bearings on campus and assumed he was an entering freshman instead of a new faculty member.  Since he was close to thirty years old and had graduated from Centre College seven years earlier, one can understand why he might have been unhappy!  He later wrote of the college at the time of his arrival, “it was a small institution with an excellent reputation, a small, but good, faculty; a student body that contained many men who would achieve greatness; and an inadequate and poor physical plant that was woefully lacking in equipment and conveniences for both faculty and students.”  In a 1974 letter to President Joe Lesesne, he noted that when he came, he was the eleventh faculty member, that the college had one secretary who worked for the president, and that the business manager used part-time student help.  His longevity on campus made him something of a campus historian, and he could always offer an anecdote or story about the many characters who had graced the campus.

For four years, Professor Salmon taught French, then he took a few years’ leave to finish his MA at Harvard, where he also taught for two years.  When he left in 1925, President Snyder called him in, and without any preamble, said, “Salmon, you have been with us four years.  I cannot give you a diploma, but I want to give you this.”  And with that, Dr. Snyder handed Professor Salmon a Bible signed by the faculty.  By 1950, when Salmon wrote those words, only he and E. H. Shuler from that group remained on the faculty.

After his return to the campus in 1928 as Professor of Modern Languages, Fish Salmon and his wife, Lynne, were a popular couple, entertaining generations of students in their campus home.  Until the Army took over the campus during World War II, the Salmons lived what is now the Hugh R. Black House, but the Army turned their home into an infirmary.  Salmon went with Wofford’s juniors and seniors to Converse, where he was the dean of Wofford’s student body there.  He and Mrs. Salmon wound up settling on North Fairview Avenue, where they lived the rest of their lives.  He was probably the first person to teach Spanish at Wofford – he picked that up along with teaching French.  The Salmons never had children of their own, but they were always sought out to serve as chaperones at campus parties – perhaps because they tended to overlook some things that might have been going on at those parties!

Professor Salmon continued to be active on campus for some twenty years after his retirement in 1964, having served as the chairman of the foreign languages department and the first Reeves Professor, one of the first endowed professorships on the campus.

Jack Salmon died in November 1988 at the age of 96, having just celebrated 68 years of marriage.  He was the oldest member of Central United Methodist Church at the time of his death.  Writing about the influence Professor Salmon had on his life, Dr. Pedro Trakas, a member of the class of 1944 and a professor of Spanish at Eckerd College in Florida, said “I remember the way Professor Salmon taught me, and he was as good a model as I could ever hope to emulate.”  Dr. Trakas wrote that he had to explain to his father why he wanted to be a professor, since “teachers don’t get paid what professionals should get, and he told his father “if I can be the kind of professor that Professor Salmon is and live the kind of life he lives, that’s all I want.”

Academics Students

Commencement Season

It’s getting close to Commencement again here at Wofford, and in just a few days, we’ll send another class off into the world.  I like to show some of our Commencement-related artifacts and documents each year around this time.  Today, I’ve got a program from the 1859 ceremony, complete with the names of all of the speeches that members of the senior class had to give.

Academics Documents Students

A class trip to Charleston, 1889

This article, from the December 1889 issue of the Wofford College Journal, details some of the exploits of Wofford’s Class of 1890 as they took a senior class trip to Charleston, by rail, a few weeks before Thanksgiving.  Student travel was no doubt as enlightening to them as it is to our students today – and no doubt, as nerve-wracking to their professor as it is to our faculty today.  And some of those sights remain popular in the Holy City as they did in 1889. 


A Senior on the campus is quite a different individual from a Senior off the campus. This fact was clearly evidenced a few weeks ago. The noon train from Spartanburg to Columbia, Nov. 12, ‘89, pulled out of the car shed with a precious burden in the shape of the entire class of ‘90 bound for Charleston, under the escort of our genial Professor of Greek.

Wofford’s Class of 1890

Once in motion, all ideas of Senior dignity vanished. Stiff necks and urbane countenances gave place to lounging postures and Freshman grimaces. Not until we reached Union, however, did the true genius of the crowd display itself. At this point of our route an extra coach was tacked on, of the which we at once proceeded to take possession; leaving our genial Professor in blissful ignorance two cars in front to peruse at his leisure, the programme of the Gala Week. From this point to Columbia we held high carnival, for the melodious strains of “By, by, my Honey, I’m gone,” “Hang the Facul-tee” etc. etc., completely drowned even the roar of the rushing train.

We reached our destination at 10 o’clock P. M. and immediately instituted a diligent search for lodgings. At the end of two and a half hours, our entire party, not excluding our courageous escort, was peacefully ensconced upon the billiard tables of the Waverly House. Billiard tables not being a faithful field for Natural History investigation it was but natural that a science loving Senior class should soon tire of them. Accordingly as soon as day dawned, we betook ourselves to the Battery to see the sun rise over the bar and the thermometer fall below a stiff sea breeze.

We next visited the Charleston Museum, which is a great place and contains many wonderful things. Among other things there is a skeleton of a donkey. This struck one gentleman with particular force, and while contemplating it in wrapt attention he was overheard to murmur: “How wonder-and fearfully we are made,” or words to that effect.

We “did’, the most prominent places of interest in the quaint and historic old town, including Magnolia, the Citadel, St. Michael’s, Sullivans lsland, the Harbor, the Medical College, White Point Gardens, Fort Moultrie and the News and Courier. We regretted very much that lack of time prevented our visiting the Charleston Hotel.

Three days in the city served to satisfy our sight-seeing propensities, and accordingly most of us packed our Saratogas and, Saturday morning, left behind us the City by the Sea, famous for cyclones and great men, earthquakes and wiggle-tails.

We reached home safe and sound and have resumed “the even tenor of our Senior way.”


Academics Faculty

John Quitman Hill, Wofford’s fourth Rhodes Scholar

Wofford’s fourth Rhodes Scholar is also the only one to date that has returned as a member of the faculty.  Coming over thirty years after the last Wofford student or alumnus to be elected, Professor John Quitman Hill, took an unusual path to his scholarship.  A childhood illness prevented him from attending school until he was eleven years old.  Many children would never catch up after such a late start, but not only did John Hill graduate from high school seven years later, he went on to earn some of the highest academic honors in the world.

Professor John Quitman Hill

After he graduated from Gaffney High School, he took a job in a textile mill in Lyman, where he met and married his wife.  He became part of a substantial number of students who worked in textile mills while attending Textile Industrial Institute, now Spartanburg Methodist College.

During World War II, he enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps.  In 1945, following  the end of World War II, he enrolled at Wofford as a sophomore and graduated at the end of the 1947 summer term.  The newly minted college graduate was 28 years old.  While at Wofford, he worked at night in the Pacific Mill in Lyman as a card grinder.  He completed his Wofford courses with all A’s and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  A year later, he received his Rhodes Scholarship, and from 1948 to 1951, he studied at Oxford.  He earned his B. A. in the Honours School of Mathematics, working with such scholars as J. S. deWet,, E. C. Thompson, J. H. C. Whitehead, and E. C. Titchmarsh.  His primary fields of study were pure and applied mathematics and Riemanian geometry.

Returning with his family to South Carolina, he taught high school in Duncan (seriously!) before going on to teach at the University of Tennessee.  He returned to Spartanburg, where he taught briefly at Converse before joining the Wofford faculty in 1953.  In 1955, he was awarded the Oxford Master of Arts degree, entitling him to sit and vote as a member of Oxford’s Convocation.

A devoted teacher, Hill became one of the college’s first John M. Reeves professors in 1958 at the same time he was named chairman of the mathematics department.  He received the college’s inaugural distinguished teaching award in 1961. Students in the yearbook noted that he always had time for students, and claimed that “everything looks easy when he explains it.”  No small compliment for a mathematician.

Professor Hill died after a long illness in 1972 at the young age of 53.  Known for his interdisciplinary interests, Professor Hill conceived of an interdisciplinary seminar for faculty to examine the first principles of the various disciplines taught at Wofford.  That interest was reflected in the creation of the John Q. Hill memorial lecture series at the college.  The math department’s award for its most outstanding senior is also named in his honor.

Academics Faculty Photographs

Whitefoord Smith: The professor with the odd name

Whitefoord Smith has one of the most unusual first names of any of our early professors, and it lived on for a long time in the name of the college’s first library – the Whitefoord Smith Library.

Prof. Whitefoord Smith

Born in Charleston in 1812, Smith he took his name from the family name of his father’s mother.  His great-great grandfather, Sir Adam Whitefoord, had been a Scottish baronet, and his great-grandfather, Col. Charles Whitefoord, was an officer in the 5th Regiment of Foot.

He attended the city schools in Charleston before moving on to South Carolina College. He was a student in Columbia during the presidency of Thomas Cooper. While at college, he found that he could not accept all of the teachings in the “Shorter Catechism” and left the Presbyterian Church of his ancestors for the Methodist Church. Methodism was, at the time, a denomination of the common people

At the same time, while he was a student at South Carolina College, he found his passion in the debating societies. He became a master of both parliamentary rules and of rhetoric, and it was said that he was the master of any assembly. He graduated from college in the Nullification era, and his speeches and debates gave some evidence that he might have a future in politics.

He studied law in the traditional manner, in the office of an attorney, but it was there that he felt a stronger call to the ministry. And so, in 1833, he joined the South Carolina Conference, beginning a period of some twenty years in various pulpits.  He was elected as a delegate to the Louisville convention that split the Methodist Church into northern and southern branches, and three times more was elected as a General Conference delegate.  On the death of Senator John C. Calhoun in 1850, he was asked to be the principal eulogist, but declined the honor, saying that he had not known the deceased well enough to perform the task.

Prof. Smith's spectacles, from the Archives

In 1855, the trustees of Wofford College, then in its second year, elected Smith to the chair of English language and literature. Smith had declined professorships before, but his health had begun to suffer from the overwork of the pastorate. He believed that he still had a service to provide, so he accepted the position and came to Spartanburg. He remained until 1859, when he was elected as the first president of Columbia College. The burdens of the presidency were quite heavy, and he resigned just a year later and returned to Wofford, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Though his oratorical skills and preaching ability were highly regarded, Smith was described as a humorless and nervous man. One report is that he was terribly afraid of thunderstorms, and that when a student wanted to bring a quick end to one of his lectures, he would comment that it looked like a storm was coming. This would send Dr. Smith scurrying to his home to his campus home next door to Main Building. In the event that it actually did storm, Professor Smith would gather his family in a room, close the blinds, and light a lamp to obscure the flashes of lightning, and pray loudly and fervently while the rain fell.  It’s also reported that Dr. Smith had a very old horse, Old Baldy, who was so slow that when he offered Professor David Duncan a ride in his carriage, Duncan declined, saying that he was in a hurry.

All joking aside, Smith was, by all accounts, a very good teacher of rhetoric, and in an oral culture such as the 19th century South, where effective public speaking was an expected part of a student’s public life, learning the skills of giving a public address was crucial. Dr. Charles Forster Smith, one of the college’s most distinguished early alums and later a professor at the University of Wisconsin, later wrote of how much he learned from Professor Smith’s courses on rhetoric and elocution.  The mature Charles Forster Smith did note that the courses on English literature were somewhat lacking, and that the professor neglected the more modern British and American literary fields altogether. That would not have been unusual among the college’s early faculty – they were all called to be generalists, and as much as teaching subjects, they were teaching ethical and moral leadership alongside the liberal arts.

Charles F. Smith also noted that Whitefoord Smith’s prayers in chapel were exceedingly long, remembering a fellow student with tired knees exclaiming during one prayer “Lord, will he never stop!”

I am sure that none of us remember any of our professors being a little long-winded.