William Herschel Bruce

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William Herschel Bruce

Death: December 30, 1943 (87)
Immediate Family:

Son of Hilery Sanford Bruce and Catherine Rebecca Bruce
Husband of Lillie Ora Bruce

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Herschel Bruce

William Herschel Bruce, college president and mathematician, son of Hilery S. and Catherine (Pruitt) Bruce, was born in Troup County, Georgia, on April 8, 1856. He spent most of his childhood in Alabama, where the family moved in 1861. After graduating from high school, Bruce, at the age of nineteen, began his teaching career in a rural school in Alabama. For the next eight years he taught school and attended Alabama A&M College (now Auburn University), where he graduated in 1883 with a B.A. in mathematics. That year he moved to Milltown, Georgia, where he continued to teach and began work on a Ph.D. at Mercer University in nearby Macon. The following year he accepted the position of head of the faculty of Blanco High School in Texas, where, in addition to his teaching and administrative duties, he practiced law. He continued to work on his Ph.D. and became Mercer University's first doctoral graduate in 1890.

During Bruce's nine years in Blanco, his reputation as a teacher and administrator attracted requests from eight school districts inviting him to be their superintendent. In 1893, over the objections of students and residents of Blanco, he accepted the position of superintendent in Marble Falls. He was so popular in Blanco that a number of the high school faculty and many students followed Bruce to his new post. He succeeded in gaining accreditation for the Marble Falls schools, as he had at Blanco. Three years later he did the same for Athens. In 1899 Athens residents financed a private school, which they named Bruce Academy in his honor. The previous year, Governor Charles Allen Culberson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction James McCoy Carlisle, as trustees, elected Bruce as second president of The John Tarleton College (now Tarleton State University) in Stephenville. The college temporarily suspended classes because trustee Thomas Benton King filed a lawsuit (later settled out of court) to protest his election. Bruce assumed the office in fall 1899 and resigned in late 1900 because the college trustees refused to grant him a long-term contract.

Bruce returned to Athens for the 1900–01 school year, then accepted an invitation from North Texas State Normal College (now the University of North Texas) to become head of the mathematics department. From 1901 to 1905 he worked in this capacity and, beginning in 1902 or 1903, served as President Joel S. Kendall's primary assistant. Following Kendall's death in 1905, Bruce, in October 1906, became president of the small, sixteen-year-old school. For the next seventeen years he devoted his energy to establishing North Texas State as the leading teacher-training institution in Texas. By raising admission standards to meet the requirements established by major colleges, increasing the number of faculty members who held graduate degrees, and enlarging course offerings, he had, by 1916, changed North Texas State from a three-year preparatory school to a four-year college. By 1923 the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities and the American Association of Teachers Colleges had admitted North Texas State as a member. Student enrollment increased during Bruce's presidency from 1,028 to 4,700, while the number of faculty members grew from fourteen to 118. The size of the campus also grew, from ten to twenty-five acres; and eight new buildings, including the school's first dormitory, were added. As a result of these achievements, Bruce was able to persuade Governor Pat Neff and the state legislature to change the name of the institution to North Texas State Teachers College.

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William Herschel Bruce's Timeline

April 8, 1856
December 30, 1943
Age 87