Suzzallo, Henry, 1875-1933Alternative names
Educator Henry Suzzallo (1875-1933) served as the president of the University of Washington from 1915-1926, overseeing a period of significant expansion; he also maintained a long affiliation with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
From the description of Henry Suzzallo scrapbooks, 1915-1920. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 269184402
Henry Suzzallo was president of the University of Washington from 1915 to 1926; president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching from 1913 to1933; arbitrator of the National War Labor Policies Board; and chairman of the Washington State Council of Defence from 1917 to1918. He also worked toward the adoption of better living and working conditions for loggers in the lumber industry. He died in 1933.
Glenn Hughes, who founded the University of Washington (UW) Dramatic Art Department under Henry Suzzallo, described him as “a brilliant man, small and dynamic--the Napoleon of higher education.” The characterization was apt; Suzzallo’s career was marked by both tremendous achievement and bitter controversies. He was born in 1875 to Croatian immigrants. Following a sickly childhood, Suzzallo began college at the State Normal School in his home town of San Jose, California, lacking both the money and the grades to attend his first choice, Stanford. After two years he graduated, taking a teaching job in a two-room school in Alviso, California. His degree from the Normal School and money from teaching removed the academic and financial barriers, allowing him to attend Stanford. For the next eighteen years, Suzzallo would shuffle between Stanford and Columbia, first pursuing his education, and later as a faculty member at both institutions. During this time, he managed to win himself an increasingly prestigious reputation. When the UW began searching for a new president in 1914, Suzzallo’s name was on the short list of candidates.
In 1914, the UW was a small frontier college undergoing the first growing pains of becoming a major university. It claimed an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, small by the standards of the major American universities of the time, but still a tremendous increase over previous years. It also suffered from a less-than-robust budget. James R. Angell, the Regents’ first choice for president, declined the job, primarily because he considered the UW underfunded. Suzzallo was the Regents’ second choice, and he accepted the challenge. Even though money never flowed freely, he did prove remarkably adept at squeezing funding from both private donors and the Legislature. Plans for a magnificent new library, patterned after a medieval cathedral, symbolized his success in expanding the size of the campus and the prestige of the university. (The library would eventually bear his name). During this time, enrollment had burgeoned to over 10,000. Suzzallo further augmented his stature in the state during World War I, when he was president of the Washington Council of Defense, which had primary responsibility for the state’s war effort. The “Napoleon of higher education” was not to be spared his Waterloo, however.
The 1924 election of governor Roland Hartley would shatter the relative calm of Suzzallo’s presidency. Hartley won on a platform promising government retrenchment and lower taxes. He also had a record of long-standing antagonism towards the UW, which he saw as a hotbed of socialism. “Education is a fine thing,” he acknowledged, “but that is not all there is to the game of life.” The year of the election, Suzzallo had published his book Our Faith in Education, written primarily to present the case for higher education against those who wanted to limit it in favor of tax reduction. Not surprisingly, Hartley’s parsimony quickly conflicted with Suzzallo’s educational vision. Suzzallo’s high salary--$18,000 a year, larger than any other state official--made him and the University especially vulnerable to attack. Not only did Hartley want to curtail university expenditures, he also proposed overhauling the funding and administration system for the state’s colleges and universities. Suzzallo did nothing to hide his strong objections to the governor’s agenda. The battle spread to the Legislature and the Board of Regents, both Suzzallo allies. Each camp insisted adamantly, if implausibly, that it represented a political virtue intent on rescuing higher education from the political machinations of its opponents.
Hartley overcame the obstacle of the recalcitrant Regents by removing members supportive of Suzzallo. The Board, now dominated by Hartley’s new appointees, put Suzzallo on indefinite leave-of-absence when he refused to resign. Suzzallo’s ouster created a political firestorm, although a petition drive for a gubernatorial recall election, despite early momentum, sputtered, and failed to collect the required number of signatures. Suzzallo was flooded immediately with job offers. He decided to accept election as chairman of the board of the Carnegie Foundation. He remained affiliated with the Carnegie Foundation until complications following a heart attack in Seattle claimed his life on September 25, 1933.
From the guide to the Henry Suzzallo papers, 1903-1937, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Colleges and Universities|
|College presidents--Washington (State)--Seattle--Archives|
|Education, Higher--Washington (State)--Seattle|
|General Strike, Seattle, Wash., 1919|