President Laurenus Clark Seelye
Laurenus Clark Seelye was born on September 20, 1837, in Bethel, Connecticut. He was the youngest child of Abigail Taylor Seelye and Seth Seelye, who married in 1817. Seth Seelye was a merchant, farmer, and deacon, Laurenus Clark Seelye and his brothers, Thomas, Samuel, Julius, and Henry, were all educated. Three of the sons, Samuel, Julius, and L. Clark, went on to become ministers, Thomas became a physician, and Henry a farmer and later an attorney. Julius served as the president of Amherst College. Seelye most likely attended the Center District School in Bethel. He was schooled in Woodbury, attended the Old Hadley Academy, and afterwards spent some time in Danbury to complete his education. At the age of twelve he started home schooling under his brother Samuel. He entered Union College at the age of sixteen where he received a B.A. and graduated as valedictorian with highest honors. After Union, he attended Andover Seminary but left due to ill health. He traveled throughout the Mediterranean and across Europe in hopes of getting well; while in Germany, he decided to complete his education in Heidelberg.
L. Clark Seelye guided the early years of Smith College much as a father would guide his children. He was hired by the Board of Trustees in 1872 to create and maintain the College. His first years were spent hiring faculty, raising funds for building structures on campus, and locating students to teach. Much of his early days were spent lecturing to groups on the wisdom of higher education for women. On campus he was much beloved as “Prexy” and would be seen on campus at all hours of the day. His long tenure of 38 years made certain that he played a major role in the lives of the early classes at Smith.
He died on October 12, 1924.
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