George Edward Reed
President of Dickinson College
"Above all,
I have been anxious to realize the will of God concerning me
in a matter involving departure
from the particular line of work
to which hitherto my life has been consecrated, and in the prosecution of which I should count it, 
but honor and privilege to spend the remainder of my days."

--George Edward Reed
February 2, 1889,
accepting the Presidency of Dickinson College3

"His resonant voice
and musical cadences
thrilled the vast audience present
as he in glowing terms pictured Dickinson's future."

--Impressions of President Reed
on his inaugural speech (1889)3

George Edward Reed (1842-1921)
Photo Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives

George Edward Reed was a native of Maine was alien to Dickinson College and the Middle Atlantic.  As one of many New Englanders to take the helm at Dickinson, Reed arrived with energy and high ambitions.  He hoped to transform Dickinson from a provincial liberal arts college to a thriving university.   While this dream was never realized, President Reed succeeded in quadrupling enrollment during his years in office, embarked on an intensive building program that renovated the President's house and South College and added both Denny and Conway Halls.  Similarly, Reed's term oversaw the formation of the Dickinson School of Law, an expanded curriculum, the development of fraternities and sororities, special interest groups and an overall redefinition of the College, though not to the extent that he desired.
The fresh ideas and catalytic approach of President Reed was not necessarily met with enthusiasm. Some faculty members, trustees and students held that the President had a blatant disregard for traditions of the College.  He first of all distanced the Methodist church from the College and reshaped the look of chapel services on campus--he made it necessary for the faculty to be involved and had the beloved "gallery" in the Old West chapel torn down.  Reed succeeded in reviving the College's law department and William Trickett soon established the Dickinson School of Law on September 30, 1890.  He also advocated masters and doctorate programs, a separate school of engineering and the institution of letter grades.  Reed also challenged various aspects of student life such as the rampant hazing of fraternities and underclassmen.  He believed the practice to be "evil and barbarous." At the time, some students and administrators thought such "discipline" to be vital to molding appropriate behavior.  To meet this controversy, the Student Assembly was established on November 4, 1908 "to organize the male students of the College into a body so that they may intelligently and in an orderly manner consider the problems affecting them."3
The term of President Reed saw many improvement to student life, together with the accompanying costs for such advancement.  Reed replaced old stoves in dormitory rooms with steam heat, reset the "old stone steps" of Old West, expanded the grounds crew, acquired Biddle Field for closer College playing fields, purchased Lloyd Hall as a ladies' dormitory and built Denny and Conway Halls.  Such improvements accumulated a floating debt of $120,000 (a $107,000 increase from the previous President's term) when the production endowment was only $320,000.4
Regardless of these figures, President George Reed's term was marked by growth and dynamism.  His gift to attract students was demonstrated by a sharp decline in student enrollment after his retirement. Warm memories of this ambitious President were shared by all members of Dickinson College's Student Body.
Address to the Trustees
by College President George Edward Reed
after an Unimpressive Campaign tour for Funds to Finance the building projects.
June 4, 1894

The fashion of the time seems to be to elect to the Presidencies of Colleges' Gentlemen, usually laymen--of independent fortunes.  Gentlemen to whom the question of salary is of no particular importance, who themselves are able to lead in the making of subscriptions, and who, by reason of business associations with men of wealth are, presumably capable of exercising a wider influence in financial lines than is possible to a clergymen dependent upon a meager salary, and whose song, ordinarily is that of the old itinerant,
"No foot of land do I possess,
Nor cottage in the wilderness"
The new dirtier seems, in many instances, to have worked admirably and perhaps is the thing now needed in Dickinson College.
    As matters now go in our College's the great desideratum here is money.  To get money would appear to be the peculiar business of a college President, and if in this he does not succeed, the proper thing, the only thing, indeed is that he step down and out.
    My own success in the line of money making has not been great as I had hoped, largely, it may be because of inability to give the matter the required time and attention, possibly because my genius does not work in that line...
    But for the persuasion of members of this board, coupled with the fear that some harm might come to the College through any sudden action on our part we should have returned from the position we now hold, six months ago.  If the needed increase in the resources of the College shall not soon be forthcoming, our conviction is that a man with larger money getting power should, in the near future, be secured.3

Most of the material used above is drawn from Charles Coleman Sellers, Dickinson College: A History (Middletown,Ct.,1973)
(footnote numbers apply to the note at the bottom of the main page)

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