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Archive for July, 2015

k2-_a5f2dc38-8463-431a-9f33-a0dc59db67fa.v1.jpg-66018fc2406f3216cfcf368a64aa376585858c5b-optim-450x450I have long been fascinated by famous individuals who served as university president.  The Academic Anchor has highlighted a few of these famous university presidents: Dwight Eisenhower (Columbia University), Joshua Chamberlain (Bowdoin College) and Clark Kerr (University of California).    Recently I discovered the most unusual university presidency.  It turns out that General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union Army General during the Civil War, was the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU).   

LSU was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.  ….    In 1853, the Louisiana General Assembly established the  Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy near Pineville, Louisiana. The institution opened January 2, 1860, with Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman as superintendent. A year later, Sherman resigned his position after Louisiana became the sixth state to secede from the Union, on January 26, 1861. The school was forced to close on June 30, 1861, with the start of the American Civil War.

Apparently many of Sherman’s professors resigned to join the Confederate Army while Sherman, as you know, became known for his “March to the Sea” where his scorched earth policies were devastating to the South and the Confederacy.  As stated by David Shribman in his article ‘Sherman’s March Through the South Still Resonates at LSU’ (2007):

It is one of those curious wrinkles of history that the man who, at the beginning of one of the most frightful decades in American history, was a pioneer at one of the signature institutions of the modern South, was also, before the decade had reached its midpoint, the signature villain of the region. Life is not predictable, which is why it is so fascinating.

The legacy of Sherman is still reflected in the culture Army ROTC program at LSU.   According to the LSU ROTC web site:

Yes, from the day it opened its doors in 1860, Louisiana State University has been influenced by its military tradition. In return, for more than a century, LSU has produced a continuing line of military men and women who have greatly influenced United States military history. This long relationship can be seen in countless symbols, including two Civil War cannons, which were used at Fort Sumter and later presented to the University by General William Tecumseh Sherman. It is represented in the Oak Grove and the 175-foot Memorial Tower honoring LSU students and other Louisianians killed in World War I. It is reflected in the War Memorial flag pole and reviewing stand and wall of honor listing the names of those who died serving our country in World War II and all subsequent wars. The heritage also lives in the tradition of LSU’s Tiger mascot, a remembrance of Wheat’s Tigers (a Louisiana unit that distinguished itself during the Civil War). LSU’s character is steeped in military tradition.

Yes, Dr. Percy Trappe believes that the truth is stranger than fiction!

[note: for a list of famous university presidents, including William Tecumseh Sherman, see the blog post “List of Famous University Presidents (United States)“.]

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