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Henry Wade Rogers
 
Born:
 
October 10, 1853
Holland Patent, New York
Died:
 
August 16, 1926
Pennington, New Jersey
President:
 
1890 - 1900
Education:
 
Hamilton College, New York;
B.A., University of Michigan (1874);
M.A., University of Michigan (1877);
Hon. M.A., Yale (1907); Hon. LL.D., Northwestern (1915); Hon. LL.D., Wesleyan
 
"Former President of this University; now Dean of the Faculty of Law in Yale University, and Judge of the Federal Court; a jurist of national eminence; an educational organizer, who welded together the departments of this University, mapped the lines of its progress for a generation, and placed it under a lasting debt of gratitude."
- John Henry Wigmore, Dean of the NU School of Law, 1915
Henry Wade Rogers
 

Henry Wade Rogers was born October 10, 1853 in the small town of Holland Patent, New York. He attended the University of Michigan, receiving a B.A. in 1874, an M.A. in 1877, and also taking law courses at Michigan's Law School during the 1876-77 academic year. He married Emma Ferdon Winner in 1876. After practicing law in Minnesota and New Jersey, Rogers returned to the University of Michigan as the Tappan Professor of Law in 1883. From 1885-1890 he served as Dean of the Law School. He is generally credited with making it the largest law school in the country at the time.

Rogers was asked to become President of Northwestern University in the fall of 1890, at the age of thirty-seven, after an extensive nationwide search. He was selected for his academic credentials and his administrative abilities, two traits that the University Board of Trustees had identified as key to the successful growth of the University. At the time, Rogers was not only known for his work building the program at Michigan but for his books and speeches, his involvement in the Methodist Church, and his progressive politics. Rogers made it clear from the beginning that he would make changes at Northwestern. At his February 18, 1891 inaugural, responding to University founder Orrington Lunt's remark that "wise conservatism" was needed in running a university, Rogers offered the sentiment that the University "must not hesitate to make changes in the established order of things."

The changes that Rogers had in mind altered Northwestern significantly and in many ways built it into a more modern and progressive institution. Rogers expanded the University's liberal arts studies to give students access to a broader program of learning, including the fields of political science and economics. He hired new faculty for all the schools and insisted that they be given time and facilities for research as well as teaching. New academic buildings erected during his time in office were Annie May Swift Hall, Orrington Lunt Library, and Fisk Hall. In all his efforts he insisted that Northwestern should match or exceed the standards of more prestigious universities. His leadership led to a dramatic increase in enrollment, and recognition of the school as one of the top universities in the country.

Women at Annie May SwiftHe strongly supported coeducation at Northwestern, at a time when there was talk that including women students weakened the University. Regarding coeducation, he said "Let us hope ... that there is no difference of opinion as to whether a woman is entitled to as good an education as a man. ... For until there exists in this part of the country a university for women only, as well equipped as those existing here for men, the principle of co-education must be applied or women will be discriminated against in their efforts to secure an education." (Presidential report 1892-3)

Rogers worked to unify the various professional schools under the authority of the University's Board of Trustees so that all programs would be governed as one. On July 1, 1891, Rogers had seen Articles of Consolidation signed by the Schools of Medicine, Law, Pharmacy, and Dentistry. The Woman's Medical College of Chicago was also consolidated as the Northwestern University Woman's Medical School during the 1891-92 academic year. As William Locy put it, "…on taking office he found the University a loosely joined federation of schools, under separate boards of trustees. Through his guidance they were united into an organized whole. He found in the College of Liberal Arts at Evanston a small college, he left it the literary department of a well organized University." (Wilde, p 339)

Future Northwestern president Walter Dill Scott (NU 1895) was a student during Rogers' tenure: "He was my only 'Prexy' and I have always had a very great affection for him . . . he was made an honorary member of the Class of 1895."

In 1900, Rogers came under pressure from the Board of Trustees to leave the University. Although the specific reasons for Rogers' resignation remain unknown, they most likely included the Board's general disagreement with his political views, including his opposition to the 1898 annexation of the Philippines by the U.S. government; his lack of comprehensive fundraising initiatives; and his longstanding conflict with the Board on issues of coeducation. Rogers left Northwestern and immediately began teaching in the Yale University law school. He taught at Yale from 1900 until 1921. He served as Dean of the Law School from 1903 until 1916. During his time at Yale, Rogers was appointed Judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (2nd district) by President Woodrow Wilson. He retained this position until his death in 1926.

Note: The papers of Henry Rogers are held in the Archives.

 
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archives@northwestern.edu | Last updated 9/9/2009