1887 – 1904
Charles Dabney Presidency
UT received its first direct appropriation of funds from the Tennessee legislature during the administration of its 11th president, Charles W. Dabney, from 1887 to 1904. As the first president with an earned PhD—in chemistry from the University of Göttingen in Germany—Dabney directed significant changes to the course of study from the previous classical curriculum. Dabney insisted that university schooling must prepare young people for an active, not a contemplative, life. He criticized UT—as he found it, and all the other old universities—as places in which knowledge was imparted to the students. In the new university of Dabney’s imagination, students would engage actively in learning and would prepare not to be “country gentlemen” but functioning citizens. Dabney did not discard the classics, he included them in his scientific-utilitarian curriculum. Dabney moved quickly upon assuming the presidency to put his ideas into effect. Convinced that UT had fallen under the control of an “old-fogy” classical-bound faculty, he replaced virtually all of them. Their replacements included a prominent agricultural specialist from Massachusetts, two Cornell graduates, one from Maine, and one each from the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina. Tennessee’s governor complained about the large number of “foreigners” appointed to the faculty, but Dabney stuck to his guns. Dabney’s next priority was curricular reorganization. All undergraduate academic offerings were subsumed under a College of Agriculture, Mechanical Arts and Sciences. The terms classical and liberal arts were dropped, although classical courses were still offered. The new emphasis, however, was on the sciences and engineering. During his administration, the faculty almost doubled in size; the student body was enlarged almost threefold; and library holdings increased from 8,000 to nearly 20,000 volumes. The military regimen that had prevailed on the campus for 20 years was ended. Women were admitted; a dean of women was appointed; a law school was created; so was the Summer School of the South, which turned out to be both a pioneering effort and the largest such institution for the training of teachers in the entire South. The Preparatory Department, which had enrolled more than half the students on the campus, diminished the institution’s image, and diverted its energies to secondary school education, was abolished. Enrollment increased from about 400 students in 1887 to 729 in 1904. By the end of Dabney’s administration, there were 16 buildings on campus, a faculty and staff of more than 50, and a student body of nearly 500, as well as medical and dental departments in Nashville. Dabney Hall is named for President Dabney.