Edwin Anderson Alderman (May 15, 1861 – April 30, 1931) served as the President of three universities. The University of Virginia's Alderman Library is named after him, as is Edwin A. Alderman Elementary School in Wilmington and Alderman dorm at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Alderman was the key leader in higher education in Virginia during the Progressive Era as president of the University of Virginia, 1904-31. His goal was the transformation of the Southern university into a force for state service and intellectual leadership and educational utility. Alderman successfully professionalized and modernized Virginia's system of higher education. He promoted international standards of scholarship, and a statewide network of extension services. Joined by other college presidents, he promoted the Virginia Education Commission, created in 1910. Alderman's crusade encountered some resistance from traditionalists and never challenged the Jim Crow system of segregated schooling.[1]

Career[edit | edit source]

Alderman graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1882. He became a schoolteacher in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and then superintendent of the school district there.

In 1891, Alderman and Charles Duncan McIver successfully pressed the North Carolina Legislature to establish the Normal and Industrial School for Women, now known as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Alderman taught there until 1893, when he became a professor at the University of North Carolina; he was named president of that institution in 1896. He moved on to take the same position at Tulane University in 1900, before moving again to the University of Virginia in 1904. There he stayed for 27 years, until his death in 1931 from a stroke in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, while en route to deliver a speech in Illinois. He is buried at the University of Virginia Cemetery.[2]

Alderman was a noted public speaker, and won fame for his memorial address for Woodrow Wilson, delivered to a joint session of Congress on December 15, 1924.[3]

At the University of Virginia[edit | edit source]

In 1904, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia invited Alderman, then president of Tulane University, to become the first president of the University of Virginia. Since its founding in 1819, University had been governed by its Board of Visitors, but increasing discord between Visitors and the faculty, as well as the rising administrative burden of dealing with expanding academic departments and burgeoning student enrollments, led to the decision to move forward with the creation of the office of the president.[4]

Alderman was not the first choice for the new office. After considering other candidates, including Virginia Law graduate Woodrow Wilson,[5] the Board had first invited its former member George W. Miles, a colonel who had served on the staff of Virginia Governor James Hoge Tyler. The faculty opposed Miles' nomination and he was forced to withdraw. Other candidates were proposed, including Francis Preston Venable (who had succeeded Alderman as president of the University of North Carolina), but Alderman was unanimously chosen as the consensus candidate on June 14, 1904. He began to serve in the fall of 1904 but was not formally inaugurated until April 13, 1905 (Thomas Jefferson's birthday, celebrated as Founder's Day).[6]

The University of Virginia changed in several significant ways under Alderman's guidance. First, he focused new attention on matters of public concern, helped create departments of geology and forestry, added significantly to the University Hospital to support new sickbeds and public health research, helped create the Curry School of Education, established the extension and summer school programs, and helped create the first school of finance and commerce at the school.[7] He then restructured existing programs, separating the former “academic department” into the College of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in accordance with a growing move to standardize college educations by the Association of American Universities.[8] The enrollment of the school greatly increased under his administration, as well, going from 500 regular session students in 1904 to 2,200 in 1929.[9]

Alderman also laid the financial groundwork for the University's future. During the first years of his presidency he established its first endowment fund and led the fundraising of almost $700,000 to meet a $500,000 challenge grant from Andrew Carnegie.[10] By the end of his presidency the endowment would increase to $10 million.[11]

He spent two-thirds of his long term at the University of Virginia physically disabled after a bad bout with tuberculosis.[12]

Academic career[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Michael Dennis, "Reforming the 'academical village,'" Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1997, Vol. 105 Issue 1, pp 53-86
  2. Cooper, Jean L. (2007). A Guide to Historic Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-59629-173-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=nCn4XrP_u0MC&pg=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=edwin+anderson+alderman+cemetery&source=web&ots=67QLyANAxp&sig=BPjUpQlLT1x62ew0F6neGdPu1HY&hl=en. 
  3. Alderman, Edwin (1924). Woodrow Wilson: Memorial Address Delivered Before the Joint Meeting of the Two Houses of Congress. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=Ax0eTqH3Pz0C&dq=alderman+memorial+%22woodrow+wilson%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=VNzcHQ8Q7K&sig=cXJ3o3Cl438EI-UGmllaO9OQuDs#PPA1,M1. 
  4. Bruce, pp. 28-38.
  5. Bruce, p. 29.
  6. Bruce, p. 38.
  7. Bruce, p. 61.
  8. Bruce, p. 110-114.
  9. Dabney, p. 132.
  10. Bruce, p. 321-326.
  11. Dabney, p. 84.
  12. Kelly, Matt (2005-05-06). "Hail to the Chiefs". Inside UVA. http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2005/08/chiefs.html. 

References[edit | edit source]

Academic offices
Preceded by
George Tayloe Winston
President of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Succeeded by
Francis Preston Venable
Preceded by
William Oscar Rogers (acting)
President of Tulane University
Succeeded by
Edwin Boone Craighead
Preceded by
Board of Visitors
President of the University of Virginia
Succeeded by
John Lloyd Newcomb
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