Horace Woodworth and UND

Last week, the university newsletter published a little story on some building foundations discovered on the campus quad during recent renovations. These buildings were hardly unexpected as were part of the early 20th century campus plan that the mid-century plan overlaid in a clumsy fashion.

They even included this handy map showing the two campus plans superimposed on one another. Like it not, we continue to work on a campus shaped by its mid-century plan despite the sometimes dramatic updates made to individual buildings.  

UND campus map WEB

My post today is less interested in changing plan of campus and more interested in the figures commemorated in these early buildings. In particular, I was very pleased to see that Woodworth Hall once again appeared on our campus (only to be reburied). As the story reports, Woodworth Hall was built in 1910 and stood on campus until it was lost to a fire in 1949. It featured classroom, a 400-seat auditorium, a small gymnasium for women, and faculty offices for the education (in its various guises on the early UND campus). The building is usually credited to end of Webster Merrifield’s term as University President although it was built in the first years of Frank McVey’s term as president.

Image 34

The building was originally named Teachers College, but then renamed after Horace B. Woodworth in 1912. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that the article by the UND’s media team didn’t even mention the building’s namesake. Woodworth was one of the first members of the influential early cadre of UND faculty sometimes called the “Merrifield” faculty. He was hired to teach Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy, which he had nearly no qualifications to teach other than a series of degrees from East Coast institutions and time as a pastor at a Congregational church in Iowa. By the mid-1890s, however, his interest had shifted toward history and he published one of the first “histories” of the state (which had hardly existed long enough to require or deserve a proper history): The Government of the People of the State of North Dakota, published by Eldredge and Brother in Philadelphia. By 1902, he achieved the rank of Professor of History and was the first faculty member at any North Dakota institution to earn this distinction. By the time of his retirement at UND he had emerged as both one of the most respected faculty members on campus and a kind of campus conscience who helped the young institution chart its course through the turbulent turn of the 20th century. 

It is interesting to notice that with the disappearance of the building named for him on campus, his memory has faded as well. One wonders whether this kind of forgetting is useful for institutions as each generation tries to mould the university to its own standards and priorities or whether when we forget figures like Woodworth, we lose a bit of what gives an university its gravitas in contemporary society.

I wrote some more about Woodworth here and in my history of the UND history department here.

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