Friday, January 22, 2016

Northwestern University

Dr. Franklyn Bliss Snyder was born 26 July, 1884, in Middleton, Connecticut. He was once described as “quick moving, a lover of books and of outdoor sports.” He married Winifred Perry Dewhurst, July 25, 1909, and they had two sons. She was well known in Chicago and university circles, her father being the pastor of the University Congregational church. When Mr. Snyder died in 1958, he left a widow, two sons, two brothers and five grandchildren. It is possible that descendants are still living.

Dr. Snyder was a graduate of Beloit College (1905) and obtained both his master’s and a doctor of philosophy degree from Harvard. In 1911 he became an assistant professor at Northwestern and a full professor in 1919. He succeeded Dr. Walter Scott Dill in 1939. He was followed by Dr. J. Roscoe Miller upon reaching the age of sixty-five. Dr. Miller was recognized as the Distinguished Citizen of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1966. If Walter Scott Dill is Scottish that means that three successive presidents of Northwestern had a Scottish heritage.

At the St. Andrews’s dinner, December 3, 1932, Dr. Snyder was the principal speaker. The Toastmaster was Rabbi Garson Levi a native of Greenock and Distinguished Citizen in 1975. Also on the program was the Rev. Dr. John Timothy Stone. The surprise of the evening was an appearance of Scots comedian Willie Fyfe and his wife. They had been brought over from the Palace theater by their old friend, Robert Black, who owned a construction company.

When Dr. Snyder was introduced, he spoke about his German name and that he was born in New England. Then he mentioned his grandmother who was born in Skye. In his possession was a table that “stood beside her bed on which stood the lamp and Bible.” He said he owed to her several things. “First of all I owe her much more than those material things...I owe her an abiding confidence in Scotland and Scottish men. I have said many times to my students that if they could choose their ancestries, and did not choose to sprinkle a few Scotsmen there, they would be stupid beyond words. For I know of no nation that has made as large a contribution to human welfare as has Scotland.”

“Another thing I owe to my grandmother is an interest in and better understanding of the man who most of us would consider greatest of all Scotchmen, Robert Burns. I know of no one else who is Burns’ equal when it comes to the difficult task of thinking the thoughts of the wise and speaking the language of the humble.” Dr. Snyder was considered a Burns scholar and had published two books about the national poet of Scotland. One of his books, The Life of Robert Burns, I was able to purchase on eBay. His second book was Robert Burns, His Personality, His Reputation and His Art.

He gave the commencement address at Northwestern in 1949. “In that address, he warned that the United States would be a sorry place in which to live in 50 years if the unjustified demands of labor or the unchecked greed of the tax assessor, or the theorizing of the planner stopped men from saving and investing in agriculture and industry.”

Dr. Snyder led the university through the years of World War II when it trained 50,000 for the military and also through eleven additions and building programs. After the war, the university was jammed with returning veterans. (If memory serves, Don Buick attended something at the University. I don’t remember if it was before or after the war.)

I need to stop because this is getting too long but there is much more. Dr. Snyder was one of a kind. He was blunt, fearless and certainly not political correct by today’s standards. I have collected a number of his statements and if there are 100 requests, I will make them the next blog. You can see how much we have changed in the last 50 years.

Wayne Rethford, Past President
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events

January 30, 2016 - Chicago Scots 18th Annual Burns Supper: Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson, Chicago. Cocktails, dinner, toasts, music and dancing beginning at 6:00 p.m. Dinner seating, toasts and program at 7:30 p.m. Music and dancing at 10:00 p.m. For more information, please contact Carey Smith, Director of Programming, at 708.426.7149 or visit their website. (Sponsored by the Illinois Saint Andrew Society)


  1. Wayne, I would like to have some of Dr Snyder's comments; give them to us in another of your blogs.
    Richard Bell.

  2. Wayne, I want to know some of Dr Snyder's statements; post them in another of your blogs.