Presidential Poetry for the Holidays

UT President Harry Benedict was a poet – and sure did know it!

Above: A Christmas greeting, authored by UT President Harry Benedict, was sent on a one-sided postcard to all University alumni in 1927.

In 1927, Dr. Harry Benedict was the first University of Texas graduate to be appointed its president. He served in that capacity for a decade, still the record for the longest sitting UT chief executive. Benedict’s involvement with the University was deep. He’d earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from UT (as well as a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard), then joined the faculty in 1899 to teach applied mathematics and astronomy. During his career, Benedict was chair of the Athletics Council, president of the University Co-op, and was twice elected president of the alumni association. He was the first Director of University Extension, and later served concurrently as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and as Dean of Men before the Board of Regents asked him to take on presidential duties.

Academically, Benedict’s interests were broad and varied. “Dr. Benedict can right now engage a specialist in any one of half a dozen different fields in conversation,” wrote good friend and Texas naturalist Roy Bedicheck. Benedict was well-versed in economics, sociology, anthropology, geology, and history, along with math and astronomy. He was an expert on Texas flora and fauna, collected bird eggs with a passion, and took fellow UT professors fishing and camping along Bull Creek in northwest Austin and in to the Texas Hill Country.

Benedict could also write, and as president enjoyed penning an annual holiday rhyme – from he and his wife, Ada – for his official UT Christmas cards. Because of his popularity on and off campus, the cards were often sent to faculty, staff, and alumni across the state. Here are a few samples, discovered several years ago at an Austin book and paper show. (See also: Found! 1909 UT Physics Lab Reports)

Above and below: The 1929 Christmas card featured a drawing of the Texas Capitol as seen from the Forty Acres, with Sutton Hall on the left. The artist was Professor Samuel Gideon in the School of Architecture. 

The 1930 card featured a photograph of a snow-encrusted old Main Building (where today’s UT Tower now stands) and some distinctly astronomy-themed verse (see below).

Click on an image for a larger view.   

 

 

 

 

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