William DeWitt Hyde (1885 - 1917)

painting of william dewitt hyde

William De Witt Hyde, the seventh president of Bowdoin College (1885-1917), was born in Winchendon, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1858. After earning his bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1879, he continued his theological studies at Union Theological Seminary (1879-1880) and Andover Theological Seminary (1882). Hyde served as a minister in Patterson, New Jersey (1883-1885), prior to accepting his post as president of Bowdoin and professor of mental and moral philosophy.

According to Charles C. Calhoun, author of A Small College in Maine (1993), Hyde transformed Bowdoin from a "failing country college" into "an example of a style of higher education." He enlarged the faculty, revolutionized the curriculum, eased entrance requirements, and gave new status to the sciences and the languages. During his tenure, the Walker Art Building (1894), Searles Science Building (1894), Hubbard Hall (1903), and Sargent Gym (1913) were built. 

Hyde was a prolific author, whose works included: Practical Idealism (1897), God's Education of Man (1899), Jesus' Way (1902), and From Epicurus to Christ (1904), which was reprinted as The Five Great Philosophies of Life (1911). He also wrote the Offer of the College, which appeared in The College Man and the College Woman (1906), and gave Bowdoin nationwide exposure and cemented Hyde's reputation as a theorist of higher education. Hyde was also a trustee of Phillips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire (1898-1917), and he received honorary degrees from Bowdoin (1886, 1917), Harvard (1886), Syracuse (1897), and Darmouth (1909). 

He was married to Prudence Phillips on November 6, 1883, and they had three children: William, Elizabeth, and George. George (1887-1945) was a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1908 and was an attorney in Boston. George's two sons were also graduates of Bowdoin (William [Class of 1938] and Richard [Class of 1943]), as was his grandson, William Jr. (Class of 1965). Hyde died in Brunswick, Maine, on June 29, 1917.

Painting credit: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine Gift of The Alumni