Folwell, William Bainbridge, 1878-1938.
William Watts Folwell, B.A. (1857), M.A. (1960) Hobart College, NY; LL.D. Racine College (1870), Hobart College (1878). Author of A History of Minnesota . Librarian (1869-1903), professor of political science (1884-1907), and first president of the University of Minnesota (1869-1883).
William Watts Folwell was born in Seneca County, NY on February 14, 1833. He attended Hobart College, NY, where he received his undergraduate degree in 1857 and M.A. in 1860. He was awarded LL.D.s from Racine College (1870) and Hobart (1878). After four years of teaching at Hobart, Folwell became interested in comparative philology and enrolled at the University of Berlin in 1861 for further education in the area.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned to the United States to serve in the 50th New York regiment of Volunteers where he rose to the rank of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel of Engineers (1862-1865). After the Civil War, he went into a business partnership as one of the managers of a cooperative milling business in Ohio. During this period of his career, he studied economics and politics, subjects that become his areas of teaching.
In 1869 he accepted a teaching position at Kenyon College, Ohio. Later in the same year he accepted the presidency of the of the University of Minnesota, the first person to hold this position. In his inaugural address Folwell stated that the state should support the University, advocating free public high schools with curricula to prepare students for entrance to the University of Minnesota. Because of his influence on education in the state of Minnesota, Folwell was able to close the University's preparatory school in 1869, and espoused the creation of junior colleges. He supported a building program for the University and urged the creation of a geological and natural history survey (1872).
Folwell supported agricultural education and, in 1882, the agricultural extension service was established to meet the educational needs of Minnesota’s farmers. He promoted the academic study of education that preserved the University of Minnesota’s status as Minnesota’s land grant college. Folwell also served on a number of civic commissions and committees. In 1876 he was commissioner of the Centennial Exhibition, served as president of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts (1882-1892), member and president of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, and president of the Minnesota Historical Society (1924-1927).
After resigning the presidency of the University of Minnesota in 1883, he continued as chair of the political science department where he remained until his retirement in 1907. After his retirement, the University honored him by naming a new building Folwell Hall. In addition to his role as president and professor of political science, Folwell served as University Librarian from 1869-1903. He is also know for his four volume A History of Minnesota, published in 1921 by the Minnesota Historical Society. In 1925, Folwell received the first honorary doctorate awarded by the University of Minnesota. William Watts Folwell died at his Minneapolis home on September 18, 1929.
From the guide to the William Watts Folwell Papers, 1856-1929, (University of Minnesota Libraries. University of Minnesota Archives [uarc])
|referencedIn||Folwell family papers, 1898-1944||University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]|
|referencedIn||Folwell, William Watts, 1833-1929. William Watts Folwell papers, ca. 1856-1929.||University of Minnesota, Minneapolis|
|creatorOf||William Watts Folwell Papers, 1856-1929||University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]|
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