Faunce, William Herbert Perry, 1859-1930

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President of Brown University, 1899-1929.

From the description of Scrapbook, [ca.1878-1888]. (Brown University). WorldCat record id: 122647911

Ninth president of Brown University, 1899-1929; Baptist clergy.

Graduated from Brown in 1880; graduated from Newton Theological Institution in 1884; pastor of State Street Baptist Church in Springfield, Mass., and Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in New York, N.Y.

From the description of William Herbert Perry Faunce papers, 1845-1930,n.d. (bulk 1890s-1929). (Brown University). WorldCat record id: 122544708

William Herbert Perry Faunce (1859-1930), ninth president of Brown University, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on January 15, 1859, the son of Reverend Daniel W. Faunce, a graduate of Amherst College and Newton Theological Institution and Mary Parkhurst Perry of Bristol. After high school in Concord, New Hampshire, he entered Brown in 1876. It is difficult to imagine a more maladjusted freshman, and equally difficult to imagine that he would in the future be president of the University for thirty years. On January 12, 1879 during the week of his twentieth birthday he wrote a twenty-page letter to his father, full of memories of past problems and uncertainty about the future:

At home you kept me indoors, or I kept myself in, and I grew up ignorant of the sports of childhood.... But when I got here my eyes were opened. I was astonished beyond measure. Instead of finding the fellows devoted to study I found they cared nothing about study. The best fellow was the one who would pull the best oar or run the fastest in football or play baseball the best. ... I might have withdrawn closer into my shell, as many fellows in my class have done, and grown up alone, never catching the 'spirit' of college, never getting into college society, afraid of everybody, utterly unknown and obscure. ... That I did not become one of these, is largely due to Hardy. He was always independent and not over-careful of another’s feelings. He smiled at my greenness, laughed at my sensitiveness, called me an old maid when I deserved it, and yet stood by me as a true friend, and taught me how to act. ... I acquired an intense admiration for physical strength and prowess. Yet I dared not go into the gymnasium, for all could beat me. Thus you see I had a peculiar time. I do not like to speak of it, for it is painful even now to think of. Yet still I was not on the whole unhappy.

His popular roommates, first Henry Hardy and later J. Lee Richmond, a star athlete, helped him to advance socially, and his election to Delta Upsilon and to the Brunonian board, and capturing the first prize in declamation gave him confidence. He was worried about his future and continued in his letter, "I have always imagined that sometime I should be a minister. ... Then, to look at it negatively, what other calling could I enter? I am not keen enough to be a lawyer; I have no taste for medicine; teaching seems to be the general resort of people who are educated, but good for nothing else.... I am constantly finding out how little I know, and my ignorance increases faster than my knowledge."

After graduation he taught freshman mathematics at Brown while Professor Benjamin F. Clarke was in Europe in 1881-82. He decided to be a minister and graduated from Newton Theological Institution in 1884. He was pastor of the State Street Church in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1884 to 1889. In 1889 he became pastor of the Fifth Avenue Church in New York City. Then in 1899 came the offer of the presidency of Brown University. Faunce still had his uncertainties about his abilities. He considered carefully what his decision should be by making two lists headed "Pro" and "Con." Under the Pros he noted his interest in education, enjoyment of teaching, the opportunity for contact with and influence on young men, and the fact that his church had reached the maximum growth for a Baptist church in its location. He felt he could offer love of the college, power to conciliate, the confidence of the Baptists, and emphasis on character and religion. Also, "Brown University is the opportunity of a life-time. I must not decline it for want of courage." The items under "Con" included his happiness in his present situation, a new work just undertaken, the risk of changing to another sphere at age 40, the thought that the Baptist cause in New York City would suffer, and the realization that his work involved far less anxiety and burden than the presidency of Brown. Still modest about his accomplishments, he wrote, "I am deficient in financial ability, in impressiveness of personality, in creative power." Finally, he accepted. He was inaugurated on October 17, 1899.

Faunce's administration was to span thirty years, the longest presidential administration in Brown's history, and the change would be significant. The growth of the physical plant was extraordinary – a new president's house in 1901, the Van Wickle Gates in 1901, an administration building in 1902, a modern engineering building and a swimming pool in 1903, Caswell Hall, a dormitory, in 1904, Rockefeller Hall, the student union, in 1904, the John Carter Brown Library in 1904, the John Hay Library in 1910, Arnold Laboratory for biology in 1914, Metcalf Laboratory for chemistry in 1923, an engineering laboratory in 1925, Marston Hall for modern languages and two more dormitories, Hegeman and Littlefield Halls, in 1926. On the campus of the Women's College, Sayles Gymnasium was built in 1907, two dormitories, Miller Hall in 1910 and Metcalf Hall in 1919, and Alumnae Hall in 1927. The total assets of the University in 1899 when Faunce became president were $1,177,966; in January of 1912, they were $9,931,005. Faunce's personal administration was interrupted several times. In 1912 he visited Egypt, India, and China, and in 1922 he went to Europe to address the English Speaking Union in London and the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches, and to be present at the opening of the League of Nations.

Meanwhile the condition of the University had been bolstered by two major endowment funds and threatened by the World War. As the University grew, so did the student body. In 1899 there were 631 undergraduate men, 152 undergraduate women, and 85 graduate students. In 1929 the undergraduates and graduates totalled 2,201, and there were 1,936 registrations in the extension courses. The teaching staff had grown from 68 faculty members and 21 other staff in 1899 to 230 faculty and staff in 1929.

Some of Dr. Faunce's philosophy is expressed in these excerpts from his speech on the occasion of his twenty-fifth anniversary as president:

To me an institution is a biological unfolding, is a sacred living organism whose roots are buried deep in the past and whose branches spread out, always in unpredictable fashion, into the sky above. To cherish and nourish such a growth, now with the tears of anxiety and now with those of joy, is to have a part of life.... The first thing is to push out the horizon beyond the hat brim, to enable a man to survey more than his own dooryard.

I believe in keeping the open mind, in facing facts in every quarter of the globe. I believe with James Russell Lowell that the world is fireproof and that it is safe to strike matches.

Hence I have welcomed at Brown University men of every faith and every creed and ever shall. Many times I have heard men say from platforms at Brown things which I could never believe, and I have bid them go on. In the State founded by Roger Williams, the university will always stand for giving a platform to every man of whatever faith or creed who speaks with the proper courtesy and consideration for his fellow man. ...

I wrote out my resignation a short time ago and tried to present it to the corporation. But a certain combination of finesse and filibuster prevented me from presenting it. It is written, and it is there any time they call for it.

When the beloved president known to students as "Prexy" and "Willie Horse Power Faunce" retired in 1929 at the age of seventy, the Corporation wanted to provide a residence for him, and $40,000 was contributed by five friends to acquire the house at 41 Lloyd Avenue where he lived until his death on January 31, 1930. Vice-President James P. Adams reminisced about Faunce, "Dr. Faunce was the last President of Brown who could be affectionately described as 'Prexy.' He could easily be thought of in that way because he was a man who had fine relationships with members of he faculty but was a person of dignity. He always wore a morning coat in his office. His diction was superb.... I have seen him go into an assembly that was perhaps boisterous or a bit rowdy for the niceties of behavior at the moment. And I have seen him, without a gesture or an exclamation, bring the whole assembly to a quiet hush when he rose to speak."

The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright 1993 by the Brown University Library.

From the guide to the William Herbert Perry Faunce papers, Faunce (William Herbert Perry) papers, (bulk 1890-1929), 1845-1968, (John Hay Library Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf William Herbert Perry Faunce papers, Faunce (William Herbert Perry) papers, (bulk 1890-1929), 1845-1968 John Hay Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Chafee, Zechariah, 1859-1943. Zechariah Chafee correspondence and reports, 1880-1943. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn William Ernest Hocking papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Papers New Jersey Historical Society Library
creatorOf Cartier de Marchienne, Emile de, baron, 1871-. Letter, 1921, April 22, Ambassade de Belgique, Washington, D.C., to Dr. W.H.P. Faunce, Providence, R.I. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Hoover, Herbert Clark, 1874-1964. Letter, 1920, June 9, New York, to Dr. W. H. P. Faunce, Brown University. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Meiklejohn Papers, 1894-1924, 1912-1923 Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Allen D. Grimshaw papers, 1917-2008, bulk 1960-1995 Indiana University Office of University Archives and Records Management
creatorOf Atwater, Richard Mead, 1844-1922. Papers. Haverford College Library
creatorOf Faunce, William Herbert Perry, 1859-1930,. Scrapbook, [ca.1878-1888]. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Johnson, Franklin W. (Franklin Winslow), 1870-1956. Letter, 1929, May 6, to President W. H. P. Faunce, Brown University. Brown University, Brown University Library
creatorOf Faunce, William Herbert Perry, 1859-1930,. Typescript letter signed from William Herbert Perry Faunce, Brown University, Providence, R.I., to William Winter [manuscript], 1913 October 14. Folger Shakespeare Library
creatorOf Whitsitt, William Heth, 1841-1911. Papers, 1858-1909, 1896-1899. Library of Virginia
referencedIn William Roscoe Thayer papers, 1762-1927 (inclusive), 1872-1921 (bulk) Houghton Library
referencedIn Autograph File, F, 1447-1994. Houghton Library
creatorOf Littlefield, Nathan Whitman, 1846-1929. Correspondence. 1876-1929. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Collitz, Hermann, 1855-1935. Hermann Collitz papers, 1846-1935. Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Arthur Twining Hadley, president of Yale University, records, 1899-1921 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Worthington Chauncey Ford papers, 1858-1938, 1880-1925 [bulk] New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948. Charles Evans Hughes papers, 1914-1930. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Natalie Bayard Brown papers, Brown (Natalie Bayard) Papers, (bulk 1897-1950), 1877-1950 John Hay Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Brown University Million Dollar Endowment Fund records, 1911-1921, (bulk 1912) Brown University Library University Archives
referencedIn Worthington Chauncey Ford papers, 1858-1938, 1880-1925 [bulk] New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Meiklejohn, Alexander, 1872-1964. Meiklejohn papers, 1894-1924 (bulk 1912-1923). Amherst College. Library
referencedIn Pease, Arthur Stanley, 1881-1964. Correspondence and compositions, 1870-1963 Houghton Library
referencedIn Oswald Garrison Villard papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Barus, Carl, 1856-1935. Carl Barus papers, 1869-1935,n.d. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Hovey, Alvah, 1820-1903. Papers, 1842-1903. Andover Newton Theological School, Franklin Trask Library
creatorOf Faunce, William Herbert Perry, 1859-1930. William Herbert Perry Faunce papers, 1845-1930,n.d. (bulk 1890s-1929). Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Collection of autographs, [ca. 1797 to ca. 1915] Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Rockefeller, John Davison, Jr., 1874- . Correspondence, 1904-1924. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Ward, Lester Frank, 1841-1913. Correspondence, 1865-1913, "Driscoll" to "Gates". Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Oscar Wegelin papers, Wegelin (Oscar) papers, 1899-1966 Brown University Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Letters to William James from various correspondents and photograph album, 1865-1929. Houghton Library
referencedIn Zechariah Chafee papers, 1915-1957 (bulk dates 1943-1947) Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Hay, John, 1838-1905. Correspondence, 1854-1914, "Elliott" to "Fish". Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
creatorOf Brown University. Correspondence with Paul Philippe Cret, 1922-1937. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Brown University Sesquicentenniel Celebration records, Brown University Sesquicentennial Celebration records, 1914 John Hay Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Walter Hines Page letters from various correspondents, American period Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Atwater, Richard Mead, 1844-1922. person
associatedWith Baptist World Congress. corporateBody
associatedWith Barbour, Clarence A. (Clarence Augustus), 1867-1937. person
associatedWith Barus, Carl, 1856-1935. person
associatedWith Brown, Natalie Bayard, 1869-1950 person
associatedWith Brown University. corporateBody
associatedWith Brown University. Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Brown University. Office of the President corporateBody
associatedWith Brown University. Treasurer corporateBody
associatedWith Cartier de Marchienne, Emile de, baron, 1871- person
associatedWith Chafee, Zechariah, 1859-1943. person
associatedWith Chafee, Zechariah, 1885-1957. person
associatedWith Collitz, Hermann, 1855-1935. person
associatedWith Faunce, D. W. (Daniel Worcester), 1829-1911. person
associatedWith Faunce family. family
associatedWith Ford, Worthington Chauncey, 1858-1941. person
correspondedWith Grimshaw, Allen Day. person
associatedWith Hay, John, 1838-1905. person
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert Clark, 1874-1964. person
associatedWith Hovey, Alvah, 1820-1903. person
associatedWith Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948. person
correspondedWith James, William, 1842-1910 person
associatedWith Johnson, Franklin W. (Franklin Winslow), 1870-1956. person
associatedWith Koopman, Harry Lyman, 1860-1937. person
associatedWith Littlefield, Nathan Whitman, 1846-1929. person
associatedWith Meiklejohn, Alexander, 1872-1964 person
associatedWith Morris, George Perry, person
associatedWith Newton Theological Institution. corporateBody
associatedWith Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918 person
correspondedWith Pease, Arthur Stanley, 1881- person
associatedWith Robinson, Ezekiel Gilman, 1815-1894. person
associatedWith Rockefeller, John Davison, Jr., 1874- . person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Laura C., d.1915. person
correspondedWith Thayer, William Roscoe, 1859-1923 person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Ward, Lester Frank, 1841-1913. person
associatedWith Wegelin, Oscar, 1876-1970 person
associatedWith Whitsitt, William Heth, 1841-1911. person
correspondedWith Winter, William, 1836-1917 person
associatedWith World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship Through the Churches. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. President's Office. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Rhode Island
New England
West (U.S.)
Speeches, addresses, etc.
Baccalaureate addresses
Baptist theological seminaries
Christian life
Universities and colleges
Universities and colleges
Universities and colleges
Spiritual life


Birth 1859-01-15

Death 1930-01-31


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