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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Schaeffer, Charles Ashmead
(August 14, 1843–September 23, 1898)

–president of the State University of Iowa—was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1861 and immediately enlisted in the First Pennsylvania Battery, serving for two years. From 1863 to 1865 he was a student at Harvard University's Lawrence Scientific School. For two years he was instructor in chemistry at Union College. He then went to the University of Gottingen, where he received his Ph.D. in 1868. For another year he was a student at the Berlin School of Mines, and then spent six months of study in Paris.

    Upon his return to the United States in 1870, Schaeffer became professor of general and analytical chemistry and mineralogy at Cornell University. While a member of the Cornell faculty, he also served as vice president and dean of the university. In 1887 the Board of Regents chose Schaeffer as president of the State University of Iowa to succeed Josiah L. Pickard. He was inaugurated as president on June 22, 1887, and served until his death. His tenure came at a time of trouble caused by the dismissal of four faculty members and the reorganization of the faculty by the Board of Regents. During his 11 years as president, he surmounted the early obstacles and led the university through one of its greatest decades of development.

    During his tenure (1887-1898), student enrollment grew from 571 to 1,334 and the number of faculty from 49 to 102; the curriculum expanded from 113 courses to 137; the library collections grew from 18,000 volumes to 42,000; and the budget increased from $95,254 to $146,800. Schaeffer emphasized greater use of laboratories and established them in the medical and psychology departments. He authorized 16 expeditions for biological research, and encouraged the production of research monographs, such as those produced by the Departments of History, Natural History, and Psychology. He gave more prominence to the fields of social sciences, natural sciences, modern languages, and engineering. He initiated the Department of Pedagogy to help prepare better high school teachers. He placed more emphasis on physical education, and helped create a well-equipped gymnasium. Under President Schaeffer, the first extension work was done, and the first summer sessions were offered.

    New buildings constructed or begun with public funds during Schaeffer's tenure include the Chemistry Building, the Dental Building, the Homeopathic Medical Hospital, and the University Medical Hospital, and the building of Close Hall by private subscription was authorized. The value of the physical facilities at the university increased from $208,000 to more than $625,000 during his tenure. One of his most important achievements was the passage by the legislature at his urging of a designated levy of one-tenth mill for building purposes on the university campus. Although the legislation was later repealed, it was due to Schaeffer that it passed at all, and it was renewed for more than 15 years, creating a stable fund for capital construction that was safe from interference from the vagaries of the legislative sessions and political maneuvering.

    At the time of his death, Schaeffer had plans for a new library and a gymnasium. He had also selected the Des Moines architects Proudfoot and Bird to design the neoclassical classroom and office buildings that now flank Old Capitol. Construction of Collegiate Hall commenced in 1897. The building was completed and opened on January 2, 1902, after his death, the first of the four buildings that, with Old Capitol, would eventually become the Pentacrest. At that time, the building was named the Hall of Liberal Arts, but in 1934 it was renamed Schaeffer Hall in his honor.

    Schaeffer was known throughout the United States, and in 1893 he was appointed by the U.S. Commissioner of Education to serve as a vice president of the World's Congress Auxiliary of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He chaired the Committee on Programme and was a member of the Committee on Higher Education. He secured the speakers for the sessions held during July and August 1893. With the support of Charles C. Bonney, president of the World's Congress Auxiliary, Schaeffer won a brief skirmish with D. C. Gilman, president of Johns Hopkins University, over who was in charge of the program.

    Schaeffer was a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the New York Academy of Science, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), and the Old Capitol Club. He was a vestryman of Trinity Episcopal Church, a director of the Citizens' Savings and Trust Company, and a trustee of Griswold College and St. Katharine's Hall.

    At the time of his unexpected death in Iowa City in 1898, the members of the Board of Regents adopted a resolution expressing their conviction that the state had suffered a deplorable and irreparable loss. Schaeffer changed the course of the State University of Iowa, bringing the departments, the courses, the faculty, and the physical facilities to a point of leadership among the public universities in the United States. His creed as an administrator was that an able and specialized faculty was the one necessary part of a university; all else was accessory.
Sources Schaeffer's papers are in the University Archives, Special Collections, Univer sity of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. See also John Springer, "Charles Ashmead Schaeffer," Iowa Historical Record 16 (1899), 433–48; and Jacob A. Swisher, "Charles Ashmead Schaeffer," Palimpsest 28 (1947), 49–62.
Contributor: Loren N. Horton

Cite as: Horton, Loren N. "Schaeffer, Charles Ashmead" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 22 October 2014