Karl Tinsley Waugh (1879-1971)

Portrait of Karl Tinsley Waugh

Karl Waugh was born on November 30, 1879 in Cawnpore, India. He was the youngest of the seven children born to Reverend J. W. and Jennie M. Tinsley Waugh, both missionaries. Waugh received his early education in India and high schooling in Massachusetts. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1900 as a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his master's degree the following year. He went on to Harvard in 1905 as a Thayer Scholar and then continued as a Weld Fellow until he earned his doctorate in 1907. Following his time at Harvard, Waugh served as an instructor in psychology and philosophy at the University of Chicago and Beloit College. Following war service as a psychologist with the rank of major in the office of the Surgeon General of the Army, he resumed his academic career, holding both teaching and administrative positions at Berea College and also the University of Southern California, where he was named dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

On October 10, 1931, Waugh was unanimously nominated to the nineteenth presidency of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He accepted this position immediately but did not begin his term until June 3, 1932, when he was inaugurated. Waugh was neither a clergyman nor an alumnus of Dickinson College, and when he began to move quickly to modernize both the curriculum and student life, he encountered significant resistance. A period of sometimes highly objectionable campus politics ensued and when it became clear that his opposition included the influential President Emeritus James Morgan, Waugh resigned on June 24, 1933. His leaving was to the delight of many, although significant portions of the student body and faculty were strongly supportive of his efforts to revitalize the College. A letter bearing over four pages of student signatures stated that "The students feel that they have lost a father with a brother's understanding, and that Dickinson has lost a leader who was and is sadly needed." When Morgan once again assumed the role of acting president, he halted many of the innovations that Waugh had introduced; however, in time the College would eventually reintroduce them.

Waugh had a dour and reserved appearance but appeared to enjoy interaction with students. He married Emily L. Sprightly on September 4, 1912; the couple had a son, Charles, and a daughter, Eleanor, who continued to attend Dickinson. After Dickinson, Waugh served in various academic and governmental capacities, including positions in the National Youth Administration, the Department of Public Assistance for Pennsylvania, and the United States Office of Education. He died on May 9, 1971 of a coronary stoppage.

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Dickinson College Archives
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