When Dr. Karl Tinsley Waugh accepted the post of President of Dickinson College in January of 1932 he was very much unaware of the road which would lie ahead. Dr. Waugh had attended Ohio Wesleyan University, as an undergraduate, before earning a doctorate of Philosophy from Harvard University. He later undertook an associate professorship in psychology at the University of Chicago, between 1907-1909, and continued as an educator at Beloit College, Berea College, and Northwestern University, eventually settling into an administrative position, acting as Dean of the University of Southern California in 1923. Dr. Waugh served as Chief Psychological Examiner, in the office of the Surgeon General, during the First World War and retired from service with the rank of Major. Dr. Waugh had established himself as a prominent educator and was highly recruited by Dickinson College to fulfill a much needed role of leadership in the office of the Presidency. Unfortunately his progressive outlook on education placed him in an inevitable conflict with both the Board of Trustees and former college President James Henry Morgan.
Dr. Waugh was initially met with a great welcoming at the College, although poor relations with faculty members and the Board of Trustees eventually played against his efforts at modernizing the school. He presented various budget reforms and introduced a “new plan for student government, devised a new scholarship loan program, and modernized the school’s curriculum”(Sellers History,345). Dr. Waugh attempted to reorganize the College’s fraternity and rushing system and addressed problems in student activities with new approaches and solutions. Such rapid change disturbed the College’s former aging leader, Dr. Morgan, and “incensed that his counsel, so freely offered, was neglected-used his position as trustee, with faculty and town, to launch a campaign of appalling vilification against Waugh”(Sellers History, 345). Dr. Morgan, depicted as a “power-proud old man…had been successful in creating distrust of Waugh”(Sellers History,346), and “Dr. and Mrs. Waugh soon found themselves isolated socially”(Sellers History, 346).
Dr. Waugh was prompted, by the Board of Trustees, to resign his post and so following the close of the Board’s June 24, 1933 meeting, Dr. Waugh formally surrendered his position as President of Dickinson College. The College elected Dr. Morgan, the victor of the anti-Waugh campaign, to head the college once again until a suitable replacement for Dr. Waugh could be found. Dr. Waugh secured an additional years salary and occupation of the President’s house until the following year, his “reforms were all reversed and contemptuously brushed aside…most of them would, to be sure, return to Dickinson more gradually as the school caught up with the times, although at the time, all seemed odious to the old guard”(Sellers History, 347).
The student body reaction to the Waugh incident was ferocious, “We appeal to those in authority to treat the student body with the consideration it deserves, and not subjugate it to a condition that it is not willing to accept”(Dickinsonian). The Alumni Association reacted harshly as well, the Dickinson Club of Harrisburg demanded that Dr. Waugh be given an opportunity to face a committee hearing, with a prepared defense, to decide whether or not the call for his resignation was appropriate. The Board responded by declaring that it “could not abdicate the authority invested in it to any other tribunal and therefore must decline to authorize the appointment of the committee suggested by the Harrisburg Alumni Club”(Board of Trustees, 116). The Board further added that the only information it would divulge concerning the resignation of Dr. Waugh was that there was an evident and disturbing “lack of harmonious relations between the President and the faculty and between the President and the executive committee of the Board of Trustees”(Board of Trustees, 116). The Board of Trustees, in a critical moment, declared its sovereignty over both the student body as well as the Alumni Association, in an intricate web of power within the Dickinson Community. This situation would only act as an extension to the decline of harmonious relations consisting between the College’s administration, student body, and alumni.
*All sources may be located in the May Morris room of the Dickinson College Special Collections and Archives