Julian A.C. Chandler

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Julian A.C. Chandler

Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler, the 18th [president] of the College of William and Mary from 1919 to 1934, oversaw massive change in almost every aspect of college life during his tenure. A highly involved administrator, Chandler is credited with transforming the institution from a small, struggling liberal arts college for men into a modern coeducational institution of higher learning.

Born in Caroline County, Virginia, Chandler earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from William and Mary in the early 1890s. He continued his education at Johns Hopkins University, earning a doctorate in history. With his degrees he worked for the Silver Burdett school textbook company, taught at both Richmond’s Woman’s College and Richmond College, and served as superintendent of the Richmond public schools. During his decade as head of schools, he expanded the school system and implemented a progressive model of primary education. Chandler remained involved with William and Mary, as an active alumnus he attempted to prepare a list of all students since the reopening of the College in 1888. Chandler’s reputation as an active administrator and his commitment to the alumni association so impressed the Board of Visitors that when President [Lyon G. Tyler] announced his retirement on February 11, 1919, Julian Chandler was offered the position within the month. To entice him to accept the offer, the Board of Visitors increased the salary of the President (from $3,000 to $5,000). Before he accepted the Presidency, Chandler negotiated for a number of conditions including: free occupancy of the President’s House, major repairs to those quarters (including converting the stable into a garage), free meals in the dining halls, revision of the the College rules and regulations to grant “proper latitude” to the office of the President, and removing the president of teaching requirement to devote full attention to administrative duties. The Board of Visitors agreed, and Chandler began his tenure as president, a period of unparalleled change in the College of William and Mary.

With the new president arrived sweeping changes in mission, scope, facilities, academic programs, faculty, student body and administrative style. The transition from President Tyler to Chandler is often cited as the emergence of the modern College. Chandler recorded his initial assessments of the state of the College in a short document for the Board of Visitors, “The Problem with William & Mary at Large,” outlining the need for greater administrative authority for the College president, funds for “advertising and canvassing” to “secure students for the college,” adding to the liberal arts curriculum vocational instruction in business, and expanding the College’s reach to both Norfolk and Richmond. To implement these diverse goals, Chandler recognized the importance of securing funding from the state legislature and by private donations. He followed this internal publication, with an article July 1919 on “The Sphere of the Modern College” that reiterated a dedication to vocational and wider community education (Chandler believed the liberal arts should ideally comprise one half of a student’s course load, the remainder in practical professional training). To ensure quality, Chandler articulated that William and Mary “should maintain unequivocal standards of admissions,” but also believed that the student body must be drastically increased into order to improve the college. By the August before his first term as president, Chandler had already hired six new professors, and presented extensive plans for a new auditorium memorializing the founding chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

During the 1919 term, the College became “terribly overcrowded” as the student body rose to record levels, ultimately enrolling 333 students. The increase in student enrollment placed additional pressure to expand the William and Mary physical plant. Part of President Chandler’s master strategy to modernize the college, the increasing number of students and the resulting construction demands demonstrated to the state legislature, current students, and past alumni the need for greater funding. To accomplish his ambitious goals, Chandler focused upon fund raising, creating an “Improvement Fund” with the astronomical goal of raising $40,000 from William and Mary alumni. Administration used the donated money to improve dormitories, and the success of the first campaign resulted in subsequent campaigns to raise $1,000,000 or more for the endowment and improvement in 1920 and 1924. These campaigns to raise capital, aided by Rev. William A.R. Goodwin, represented an enormous expansion from the Tyler presidency when the College’s endowment stagnated at $154,000 in bonds and securities and around $50,000 in buildings. As part of the fund raising, Chandler aggressively acquired property to expand the size of the campus (including 274 acre Bright Farm and 270 acre Mill Neck Farm, and about 300 acres of Strawberry Plains Road property, a number of nearby houses, a number of acres of wooded areas between Jamestown and Richmond roads, Lake Matoaka, as well as the 241 acre city of Williamsburg municipal airport)

As Chandler transformed the financial and land holdings of the college, an extensive building program was underway. Beginning with the construction of Jefferson Hall, in 1923 Richmond architect Charles M. Robinson drew plans for the expansion of campus west of the Wren Building. Inspired by studies of Chelsea Hospital and the other Sir Christopher Wren buildings in England, Robinson’s plan included a sunken garden to be flanked on either side by four academic buildings, a men’s dormitory complex, and a stadium on the northwest side. Only a few years into Chandler’s administration, construction was underway on Blow Gymnasium, two new men’s dormitories (Monroe Hall and Old Dominion Hall), two new women’s dormitory (Barrett Hall), (Chandler Hall), and (Brown Hall). Additionally, construction of new academic buildings including an enlarged library, new science building (William Barton Rodgers Hall), Washington Hall, and Miriam Robinson Memorial Conservatory. Along South Boundary Street, the College added a new infirmary. Across Richmond Road, a construction began on a series of new sorority houses Kappa Kappa Camma followed by Phi Mu, Kappa Alpha Theta, the Sorority Court, and Gamma Phi Beta a few years later.

The College enjoyed greater national attention during this time as the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg began.  The restoration work of Rev. William A.R. Goodwin not only resulted in the brick and mortar improvement of the Wren Building, but also raising the cache of Williamsburg’s historical prominence.  For a town so long considered an unhealthy backwater, the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg directly impacted the reputation of the College itself. 

after completing fist 2 goals – June 9, 1933 – Chatder had improved the College’s Buildigns and equipment and to improve the faculty – now to implement 3rd goald; “the selective process of the admission of students” -identified with “Dartmouth Plan” – all accepted applicants should rank in the upper half of their graduating class in high school – should be interviewed by an alumnus or represtantive, they should present certiicates from their principal and several teachers vouching for their truthfulness – beginning of a more selective admissions process

To complement the meteoric physical and personnel changes, President Chandler sought to reinvigorate the programs and curriculum of the school. To ensure the highest calaber of student, in 1933, Chandler adopted the “Dartmouth Plan” which required a more selective process of student admission including requirements that all applicants must rant in the upper half of their graduating high school class, an interview must be conducted by an alumnus or college representative, and certificates from their principal and several teachers vouching for their truthfulness must be submitted for review. Under his tenure, the college altered degree requirements: including more electives, requiring a major, and adding departments. In part due to the increasing focus on vocational education and in part his own son’s interest (future William and Mary President Alvin Duke Chandler in flying, Julian Chandler oversaw the creation of an Aeronautics department. To enhance professionalism, the teacher training program became the “Virginia State College for Teachers,” while the law school revived under the auspices of the Marshall-Wythe School: Citizenship and the Law. Chandler also involved himself in reviving the Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, which largely elected honorary alumni not current students. Changes in curriculum, as well as national accreditation, attracted great number of students to the college. Increase in the student body enabled Chanlder to recruit a larger faculty, and to create extensions branch programs in Norfolk and Richmond. Those extension programs raised William and Mary’s visibility in the state, gaining additional financial support from the state legislature, even while faculty members criticized aspects of the programs.

President Chandler’s highly attentive leadership style – personally overseeing all matters pertaining to the curriculum, faculty and students life – inevitably caused some controversy during his tenure. President Chandler negotiated an astronomical $10,000 annual salary for fame University of Penn coach John W. Heisman to become athletic director, but controversy stalled the hiring process. Chandler ran a tight ship, often butting heads with faculty members over their rights and responsibilities. Despite changes to rules and regulations, the College continued to forbid married female faculty members. Changes in the student body, and challenges to existing rules, were highly controversial during Chandler’s era; in particular, Prohibition proved difficult to enforce on campus and requirements on church service were lessened to reflect contemporary religious beliefs. Parietal rules continued to govern female life on campus, and the largely student run Honor System established “Duc Rules” for the underclassmen. One of the most lasting controversies of the administration was Chandler’s acceptance and installation of a flagpole and American flag from the Ku Klux Klan in 1926.

The last three years of President Chandler’s tenure were marked with financial and accounting problems. By 1931 the economic collapse of the Great Depression forced the College to seriously cut expenditures. Undeterred from his massive program of building, President Chandler spent beyond the allocated budget, promising to pay back an shortfalls at a later time. Chandler’s spending habits cause the Board of Visitor to reassess the power of the purse and role of the President. By the summer of 1933, President Chandler’s health was deteriorating, and Dean Hoke assumed administrative duties. Chandler passed away May 31, 1934, receiving much praise from alumni and students for his fifteen year tenure that transformed the College of William and Mary. As President, Chandler oversaw a substantial increase in the student body and faculty, massive expansion of buildings and programs, as well as the rising status of William and Mary nationwide.

External Links

Preceded by College of William and Mary President Succeeded by
Lyon G. Tyler

August 23, 1888 - June 30, 1919

Julian A.C. Chandler

July 1, 1919 - May 31, 1934

John Stewart Bryan

July 1, 1934 - January 1, 1943

A note about the information in this wiki
Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.