Ruggles, William

From GW Encyclopedia


“In the story of the University, no one has yet had a longer period of service on the faculty than Professor William Ruggles. Born in Rochester, Massachusetts, September 5, 1797, he died at Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey, September 10, 1877. Ruggles was connected with the College and University for fifty-five years. A graduate of Brown in the class of 1820, he became a tutor in Columbian College two years later and Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy from 1824 to 1865 when he was made Professor Emeritus in those fields. He apparently still continued to lecture as Professor of Political Economy and Civil Polity, from 1865 to 1871. Ruggles served under the first six Presidents of the College and as Acting President three times.

“No other man has lived through so much University history. He was here at the College's auspicious beginning. He fought through the drab years 1826-42 when the weight of debt threatened to take the institution under. He rejoiced in the happier days when the debt was totally lifted. He saw the Civil War reduce a large student body to a mere handful taught in the homes of the faculty, and in his final years he enjoyed the spacious days of the administration of the great [James] Welling.

“Professor Ruggles was a man of spirit. When the Board was tardy in paying salaries or when it embarked on some policy he opposed, his resignation was always forthcoming but never accepted. A member of no religious denomination, but dealing almost exclusively with Baptists, he observed on the basis of attitudes, that he was perhaps the better Christian. His characterizations of College personages were generally accurate but frequently uncomplimentary. President Welling described Ruggles as a man of great conscientiousness, high intelligence and blameless character. His excellent portrait in the University collection suggests a very wise man who perhaps was not always loved but who was respected.”

Editor’s note: The Boards of Trustees, in adopting resolutions in appreciation of his services, declared: “We hereby testify and record our exulted sense of the virtues which adorned his private character, the unselfish zeal he brought to the performance of all his duties and the inestimable value of the manifold and multiform services which he rendered to the College during the long period of his connection with its history.” Ruggles’ record tenure at the university was surpassed by that of Elmer Louis Kayser, who came to George Washington University as a student in 1914 and stayed until his death in 1985. Kayser was professor of European history from 1917-67, and was also the University Historian from 1962-85.

Document Information

Images: 0
Photographic Credit: n/a
Author or Source: Faculty Newsletter, Spring 1965; 1891 Alumni Directory; Ruggles papers/MS0258
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 11, 2006
Prepared by: Lyle Slovick

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