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The Mathematics Department of Clemson College


Clemson College was formed in 1889 after the will of Thomas G. Clemson was probated. A Board of Trustees was designated and they set about finding a President of the College. Mr. Henry A. Strode accepted this position in 1890. He was Head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Mississippi--not even aware he was a candidate for the position. He supervised the College construction and hired "chairs" for all departments, appointing himself as chair of mathematics. No students were enrolled during this time. Just before students were admitted, the Board of Trustees replaced him as President without explanation; however he continued to serve as the "chair" of Mathematics for three more years.

A list of Heads for the Department of Mathematics (during this period) is as follows:

In 1899-1900 the total cost to a student was about $250 per year. There were the following departments: agriculture, mechanics, chemistry and the natural sciences, academic, textiles, and military. The Academic Department included the sub-units of mathematics, English, history, and sub-freshman. The Mechanics Department included sub-units of applied mechanics, physics, electrical engineering, forge and foundry, drawing and design, and the machine shop. The department heads included: Chemistry: Hardin (Bracket was in the department); Applied Mechanics: Boehm; Electrical Engineering: Riggs; Physics: Poats; Civil Engineering: Brodie; English: Furman (Daniel was in the department); and History: Morrison.

The staff for the Mathematics Department was Professor Brodie (BS and AM from Furman) and Assistant Professor Waller (AM from Wofford/Vanderbilt). Mathematics courses were first year (complete algebra and plane geometry) and second year (analytic geometry and differential and integral calculus). The Mathematics Department also offered plane surveying. There were mathematics entrance and calculus exit exams. An example of these exams appeared in the 1899-1900 catalog. (See Appendix A of this section.)

The catalogue for 1902-03 yields the following information. The original curriculum committee called for courses in civil engineering but no such department had been formed. In 1902, the Board of Trustees called for such courses to be offered by the Mathematics Department. The formation of a Civil Engineering Department was delayed until several years later.

Mathematics Staff: Professor Brodie, (BS and AM), Assistant Professor Waller (AM and PhB), Assistant Professor Samuel M. Martin (BS Citadel 1896), Assistant Professor S.W. Reaves (BS and AM) and Assistant Professor August G. Shanklin. The courses were first year (algebra and plane geometry), second year (solid geometry, higher algebra, trigonometry plus descriptive geometry, and plane surveying for the civil engineers), and third year (analytic geometry, then differential and integral calculus).

For the time period 1903-1907 the Mathematics Department staff was the same except Professor Waller left and Assistant Professor Hale Houston joined the faculty. (Professor Houston later became the Head of the Department of Civil Engineering.) Assistant Professor Shanklin also served as Registrar and Secretary of the Faculty. Assistant Professor Joseph Hunter (BS Clemson College 1896) joined the Department in 1906.

In these years, the courses were given numbers as follows: Math 520: Algebra; Math 521: Geometry; Math 522: Trigonometry; Math 523: Descriptive Geometry; Math 524: Higher Algebra; Math 525: Analytic Geometry; Math 526: Differential Calculus; Math 527: Integral Calculus.

At this point we will provide a sketch of the pre-WW2 enrollment. The College opened in 1893 with 446 students. The first graduation occurred in December 1896 (37 students). There were some 4 week courses.

A sketch of the cumulative total of graduates is as follows: 1900 (483), 1905 (652), 1910 (703), 1915 (819), 1920 (1,700), 1931 (3,308), 1937 ( 4,489). The enrollment in 1930-31 was 1336 students. In 1932-1933 there were 1,119 in-state students, 86 out of state students (mainly North Carolina and Georgia), and some foreign students. In that year there were 1,599 students. The peak pre-WW2 enrollment was 2,381 students.

Major Samuel Maner Martin was promoted to be the Head of the Department in 1908. Many of the classes were held in the upper floors of Tillman Hall and the teaching loads for most of the faculty was teaching fours hours in the morning and grading papers and preparing for the next day during the afternoon. (The cadets had laboratories during the afternoon.) Most of the faculty had no individual offices but offered help from vacant classrooms by appointment. The picture below shows a typical class during this time. (This was probably Professor Hunter's classroom since he posted the trigonometry and formulae in his room.


The Mathematics Department continued to offer essentially the basic curriculum described above until 1931 at which time Dr. Dawson Sheldon was hired and offered courses in differential equations, advanced calculus, and industrial mathematics. Assistant Professors Marshal Bell, Ned Coker, John LaGrone, Charles Kirkwood, Gilbert Miller, Pen Brewster, and others were added in the late 1930s. By 1939 there was a General Science degree that included six English courses; two courses in history; chemistry; language; mathematics courses in trigonometry, analytic geometry, differential and integral calculus; two physics courses; two courses in psychology, two courses in economics; sociology; and courses in military sciences. See Description of the Mathematics Faculty and Curriculum for the period 1918-1950. During the war years, student enrollment dropped dramatically. (For example in 1944 only 14 cadets graduated.) However, the U.S. Army Air Corps had a Specialized Training and Reassignment (STAR) program in Clemson in which a total of 10,000 servicemen were given 5 months training in mathematics and other subjects of value to their service. The picture below shows Professor Martin with a STAR class.


Professor Samuel Martin retired in 1947 and Dr. Sheldon became the Head of the Mathematics Department. There were many additions to the faculty during and just after the WW2 period including Edward Stanley, Eugene Park, Charles Harden, Al Hind, Jonas Brown, Lewis Kelly, Charles Stuart, and John Sullivan. New courses were added including advanced algebra I and II, theory of equations, a course in mathematical statistics, introduction to abstract algebra, mathematics for elementary teachers, college geometry, advanced mathematics for engineers, and vector analysis. See Description of the Mathematics Faculty and Curriculum for the period 1918-1950. There was a concentration in Mathematics under the BS degree in Arts and Sciences during this period.

In 1961, the Department offered a BS degree in Applied Mathematics and an MS degree in Applied Mathematics. By this time, Pen Brewster, Al Hind, and Gilbert Miller had PhD degrees. The Department also hired Dr. John Tilley in 1961. A digital computer was purchased for the College in 1962 and Professors Palmer and Kirkwood from the Mathematics Department were charged with operating this computer on a part-time basis. See Merrill Palmer and Charles Kirkwood for their account of the beginnings of this operation and other aspects of their service at Clemson.

In 1962, the Martin Hall complex consisting of three connected buildings was constructed. Each of the Mathematics, Foreign Languages, and English Departments and the Computer Center were housed together for the first time since the College opened. The middle wing of the building was designated as Martin-O (for offices) and the three departments and the computer Center shared that building. Mathematics had exactly half of the building (approximately 45 offices and 3 common rooms). The southern-most building (Martin-M) contained the mathematics classrooms.

In addition to the MS program, there were some excellent undergraduates. In 1963, Stephen King of Williamston was a junior and participated in an unusual program. Under Dr. John Tilley's direction, Steve embarked in a self-study program. He took no classes but studied rigorous advanced calculus concepts and took an examination in August. The program was designed to resemble a similar program at Yale. Steve eventually went to Yale as a graduate student and is now Chair of Mathematics at USC in Aiken. There were other outstanding undergraduates also (see the section about Dawson Sheldon).

Meanwhile Clemson College was preparing for University status and since Dr. Sheldon's age was approaching the mandatory retirement limit of 65, a search for a new Department Head was initiated in 1963-1964. Clayton Aucoin was chosen as the new Department Head beginning in 1964.

Appendix A
Mathematics Exams

The following exams were printed in the Clemson College catalog for 1899-1900.

Entrance Exam

Calculus Exam

Appendix B
Henry A. Strode


Henry Strode was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1844, served in the Confederate Army, was paroled at Appomattox, and graduated from the University of Virginia. He won the Green Medal for Mathematics at UVA as a student. After teaching in the Cabell Preparatory School for a few years, he established a preparatory school for UVA, Princeton, and Harvard that became known as the Kenmore School. It had an excellent reputation at the time. (The rules of discipline were lax but he insisted that the students always act as gentlemen. His emphasis was probably to give a liberal education as opposed to a practical education. One of his students later became influential in South Carolina and perhaps was the contact between South Carolina and Mr. Strode.) He stayed there for 17 years, then closed the school (the enrollment had fallen from 60 to about 20 students) and became the Head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Mississippi for a year, then became the first President of Clemson College in 1890. He was highly praised (by the Board of Trustees) for his work in getting the necessary buildings and faculty to begin operation of Clemson College.

The Kenmore School was established in a home that became too expensive for the owners after the war. However, during the establishment of the School, Henry Strode married the daughter of the former owner, Miss Mildred Ellis.

During the period 1890 to 1893, Henry A. Strode oversaw the construction of Clemson College and hired faculty. During that period, he lived in the Calhoun Mansion. He was relieved of the office of president on January 31, 1893 without explanation in the minutes of the Board of Trustees. He served as professor of mathematics from 1893 to 1896.

His "resignation" as Clemson President in 1892 may have come from bad health or it may have resulted because of a feud among two of the Board of Trustees or it may have been because he paid the academic professors ($1500 per year) more than he paid the agriculture or engineering professors ($1000 per year). He left Clemson in 1896 because of he was "ineffective" according to the Board of Trustees meeting minutes. This also could have been because of ill health or because his teaching methods were deemed inappropriate for the new college.

He returned to the Kenmore School building that had been converted back to a home and lived there until he died in 1898. He died at the age of 54. His daughter married a Clemson graduate, Charles Carter Newman who later became a Professor of Horticulture. After his death, the Kenmore School building and land was purchased by Judge Audrey E. Strode Jr. from Mrs. Henry Strode. She later became Mrs. W.R. Smith.

After Strode left, an Associate Professor, J.G. Clinkscales (formerly from the Columbia Women's College), became the new Head of the Department. He was paid $800 per year along with a house to live in. There were openings for an Assistant Professor of Mathematics and a Tutor in Mathematics. T.P. Perrin of Abbeville later filled the Assistant Professor position.

Strode Tower was constructed in 1969. (It may have been that the Board of Trustees in the 1960s thought he had been badly treated by the first Board of Trustees which was not always a congenial group. The Chairman of that Board was Richard W. Simpson of Pendleton. Curiously, Samuel Martin married his daughter)

The source's of this material is the book Traditions: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University, edited by Donald M. McKale and Jerome V. Reel and published by Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia (1998); the Clemson University Tiger dated July 25, 1969 on the dedication of the Strode Tower; the bookClemson: An Informal History of the University 1889-1979 by Wright Bryan; and the Strode papers at the Strom Thurmond Institute.

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