Monday, February 8, 2016

Dr. Franklyn Bliss Snyder

(Please read the previous blog for background information)

Dr. Snyder was the eleventh president of Northwestern University located in Evanston, Illinois. He started as a teacher in 1909 and never left. He was very much a conservative with strong independent ideas, and was often concerned about the role of government in education. He would not be comfortable in today’s environment. In fact, many of his thoughts and ideas would not be acceptable as politically correct.

In addition to being a strong conservative, he was a determined leader at Northwestern. War was on the horizon in 1939, so he appointed a committee to study how the University would function. When war was declared, his plan was ready for implementation. By 1942, Northwestern had given 125 faculty members, 400 students and 3,000 alumni to the military. Twenty-two were already reported dead or missing in action. By the end of the war, 50,000 men and women had received training, three hundred had died in battle and two had received the Congressional Medal of Honor. ( Please click here to read about nurse Helen B. Wood who was the first to die in WW I.

He was a leader both on the campus and in the community. Often a guest speaker, unafraid to speak his mind, he was in demand from all groups. The public trust in his leadership was shown in how the community responded to the growth and needs of the University.

In 1944, Col. Robert R. McCormick gave a donation of property at the N. W. corner of Lake Shore Drive and Pearson Street to the university. “The property is to be used for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a fund, the income from which is to be spent for research in the medical school.” It was to be called the Irving S. Cutter Fund for Medical Research. This was one of three property gifts in downtown Chicago that Col. McCormick gave to the school. General Dawes, Vice President from 1925 to 1929, gave his mansion to the university. It was to become the Northwestern Historical Center.

If you read the quotations you can get a feel for the man, his views and thoughts.


 “I do not think we overemphasize football at Northwestern. We deal with college men who want to play football, not football players who want to go to college.”

“We make no apologies for treating an athlete as well as a flute player.” The primary aim of the university is to provide an education whether the education is for an athlete or a musician.”

“There is no bonded indebtedness on Dyche stadium. The university built it. Interest and principal if eventually paid from athletic receipts will constitute only a refund to the university. No outsider has any voice in our athletics.”

 “Northwestern is seeking additional scholarships and does not wish to be known as a rich man’s school. Northwestern wishes to educate any youngster deemed worthy of the opportunity.”

 “Too many young men and women go to college now. Too many assume that the only approach to a happy life lies thru a college.”

“The American educational system was built on two principles: local responsibility and local authority. If we go on the dole from Washington, the ultimate authority will be in Washington. No man is bright enough to have that authority, and if he were, I wouldn’t want him to have it.”

“God didn’t intend everybody to be a PhD or to have a $20 hospital room without charge.”

Graduating class in 1941 - “alert in observation and vigorous in protest if you see freedom of thought and speech ever in danger.”

“If endowed schools, hospitals and other non-governmental institutions are to survive, the federal government must cease confiscating the incomes and estates of wealthy men.”

“Northwestern’s retiring president is acutely aware that privately endowed universities are threatened by confiscatory federal tax policies. Society won’t let it be killed by a group of theorist who want to take everything in. I am much opposed to federal control of education. If we get that, we’ll soon have a police state whether we like it or not.”

“Dr. Snyder said that at the founding of the university in 1853, two themes appeared - a belief that church and university have a common purpose, the development of educated Christian citizenry, and second, a belief that the university could best work toward this purpose in an atmosphere of religious and intellectual freedom.”

“Today the arch foes of humanity are not Hitler and Stalin, Naziism or communism,” he said, “but sin and ignorance. I have no fear that our American way of life will fall a victim to the 20th century black death that is ravaging Germany and Russia.”

(Dr. Franklyn Bliss Snyder was born 26 July, 1884 in Middletown, Connecticut. On June 15, 1908 , he married Winifred Perry Dewhurst. They were both 24 years of age. Dr. Snyder died 11 May, 1958. They had 2 sons: Franklyn Bliss Snyder, Jr. and Peter Miles Snyder.)

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society