Albion Interactive History / People / Samuel Dickie

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / People / Albion College

Dr. Samuel Dickie, 1851
7th President, 1901-1921
Ninth Mayor of Albion, 1896

    Died 1925 

City of Albion Mayor +

Albion College President +

Accomplishments as President

Albion College Graduate
Class of 1872

Samuel Dickie came to Lansing, Michigan, with his parents William and Jane Dickie, from Buford County, Ontario, in 1858, about seven months after his birth on June 6, 1851. Both his parents were natives of Ayershire Scotland. As a boy Samuel Dickie was determined, purposeful. He found it necessary at an early age to go to work at physical labor to provide funds for the support of his family. His poverty is evident from the fact that he recalled in later life that snow blew through the cracks in the log home of his youth during winter.

One of his early jobs was weeding some of the gardens of what was then Michigan Agricultural College to earn money for his mother “and save some to got o school on” he said. He worked as a farm hand for $9 a month. He carried the water for a railroad section gang for $2.50 a week. He later taught school six miles from Lansing for $5 a week.

During all of this he was trying to get an education. He attended the Lansing Academy and Lansing High School, the latter under a principal, Martin VanBuren Rork, who is credited with helping him to decide to attend Albion College.

At college he showed much interest in mathematics and was known as a determined solver of difficult mathematical problems. It was known that he spent hours working through the intricacies of a mathematical problem to survive the ordeal of providing the correct answer as others either provided no answer or the incorrect one.

Only six months after graduation from Albion, Samuel Dickie, and the daughter of one of Michigan Methodism’s must widely known clergyman were married. It was on December 22, 1872, that Mary Brockway, daughter of the Rev. William H. Brockway, and Samuel Dickie were married.

By this time his teaching career had begun. He was employed in the Dansville Union school and alter became superintendent of Hastings public schools. His public school teaching and administrative career continued for five years, at the end of which he was granted an M.S. degree from Albion College and became its astronomy and mathematics professor, both in the same year, 1877. That year ended a period during which Dickie not only acquired skill as a teacher but also skill and a reputation as an orator. The vigor of his delivery is legendary among all those living who have heard him speak. The titles alone of some of those speeches which he gave in churches, schools, and public auditoriums are indicative of the purposefulness o the thinking man.

Prof. Dickie tended to lean as time went on toward specialization in his speech subject matter. He became a sworn enemy of alcohol, its users, its sellers, and its manufacturers. He was frequently ready to take to the platform for a series of oral beltings in behalf of prohibition. This proclivity eventually called him to the attention of the Prohibition National Committee. It was in 1884 that he appeared at the national convention of the Prohibition part to be its chairman. Two years later he ran for governor of Michigan on the Prohibition ticket, but was defeated.

His zeal in behalf of his cause, however, did not diminish. Indeed, it must have intensified, for in December 1887, he resigned his position on the Albion faculty to take over the chairmanship of the Prohibition Party national committee. This was the point at which his public speaking began in earnest. All the speeches were preceded acceptance of this political post were merely preliminary to those which were to follow.

Samuel Dickie began stumping the country through the wilderness territories and the populous states. This twelve year committee chairmanship was spent in visiting every territory and every state and speaking in every city in the Nation of more than 10,000 population. He attained virtuosity facing crowds and especially the scoffers among the wets. Sometimes these cranks sent him anonymous threats.

Once, before he became the national chairman, one such threat asserted he would be shot if he dared appear on Albion’s Superior Street. The determined professor swung into his coat, jammed on his hat, and set out for the rendezvous with his assassin. He marched to Superior Street, wheeled into the business district, strode up one side of the thoroughfare, crossed, and strode down the other side. Then he walked home. The threat had materialized into nothing. No gunmen appeared. No one shot him in the back. He saw only his familiar townspeople.

In March 1869, Samuel Dickie began an association with the institution at Albion which he continued except for an occasional interruption until his death November 4, 1925 at 74. He was graduated from Albion College with a B.S. degree in 1872 in a class containing six members who chose him as their valedictorian. His direct connection with the college as a faculty member and as president covered more than thirty years. He taught astronomy and mathematics for about ten years and was president for 20 years. During his professorial years he not only raised funds to erect and fit the Observatory, but he was assigned the custody of extensive college holdings. As a multitude of references to his name in the records of the faculty and trustees attest, by 1901 he had served on every committee and functioned in every capacity. In addition to his association with the college as a faculty member and as its chief administrator, for years he was a member of the Board of Trustees.

During the decade before he took office he had extended the range of his interests into other areas as well. In the words of Ann Hollinshead, “the years 1890 through 1900 were crowded with service to the nation, to the church, and to his home city of Albion. Though he had lost his bid for the governorship in 1886 on the Prohibition ticket, he remained active in politics for many years as chairman of the National Committee for the Prohibition Party and editor at times of both The Citizen and The New Voice, two Prohibition Party publications.

Alongside Dr. Dickie’s natural bent for politics lay a strong concern for Methodist matters throughout a long lifetime. Since early days he had been attracted to the ministry, but his immediate entrance into academic affairs precluded any steps toward full ordination. Before returning to campus, however, at the Michigan Annual Conference at Ionia on September 15, 1879, “The Bishop” ordained Samuel Dickie to the office of deacon, and the Conference requested his appointment to a professorship in Albion College (Michigan Conference Minutes, 1879) In the years to come he would conduct hundreds of chapel services preach countless sermons, and serve as lay delegate to the General Conference a total of seven times.

Dr. Dickie was also an active participant in a variety of community affairs. For years he chaired the combined town and gown committee which fostered the annual May Festival, and became involved in local business enterprises as well. He served as president of the Albion Buggy Company, co-founder and director of the Albion Commercial and Savings Bank, and an early advocate for building of the Parker Inn. This Methodist concern fo civic affairs also led Dr. Dickie into local politics. Despite antagonism from some because of his anti-saloon activities hew won the mayoralty of Albion on the “dry ticket” and served from 1896 to 1897.

He knew when he became president of Albion College what his duty was. He conceived that duty to be getting rid of the college debt. A fund raising campaign was started and when it ended, the college possessed $100,000 it did nto have before. The debt was paid. As president he saw erection of the Lottie L Gassette Building which was first a library. He also saw the complete renovation of the old Central Building which was renamed Robinson hall in honor of Dr. George O. Robinson of Detroit who provided $60,000 for that renovation. Dr. Dickie also saw completion during his tenure of the Epworth Physical Laboratory, an it was he who persuaded Madelon Stockwell Turner or Kalamazoo to remember the college in her will. She left most of her estate of more than $300,000 to Albion College.

That Dr. Samuel Dickie was a vigorous man is beyond all doubt. Alumni and residents of Albion remember him almost in awe. He stood about five feet, ten inches tall, and as a mature man he was handsome, distinguished. His hair was white and his thick mustache was carefully and sharply trimmed. His carrage was erect and dignified, and when he walked onto a stage to speak, his audience waited for the resonant power of his voice to transfix them. But the speech moving out upon them on that voice was more than sound alone. The logic, and clarity it carried caused his audiences to marvel at the mans metal vitality.

As the summer of 1918 was almost over, an accident occurred which caused the educator great suffering. While retrieving a paper at Superior and Cass Streets for a soldier aboard an interurban car, Dr. Dickie was knocked to the pavement as the car swung around the turn. He suffered a concussion which sent him to the hospital where he did not recover consciousness for 72 hours. Although he was urged to take a six month leave to recover, he was back to work three months later. It was three years later that he resigned at the age of 70.

In the retirement of Dr. Dickie, Albion College lost a president who had been associated with the institution as a student, alumnus, faculty member, member of the Board of Trustees, and president for half a century. While not continuous, that association was relatively close for almost the entire 50 years. After he joined the faculty and especially after he became president, we know that association was even closer. It seems safe to assume that no contemporary of Dr. Dickie was closer to college affairs that the educator himself.

Slightly four years after his retirement in June 1921, Dr. Dickie died at his home after what was referred to at the time as a “heart failure.

Source: Gildart, Robert. Albion College, 1835-1960, A History. Chicago: Donnelley Lakeside Press, 1961.

Samuel Dickie, Albion College president 1901-1921.

President-emeritus Samuel Dickie poses for a photo at the 1921 Commencement.

Samuel Dickie, A.M. LL. D.

One of the most prominent educators of the state of Michigan, Dr. Samuel Dickie, president of Albion College, has also gained a national reputation in connection with his work in behalf of the Prohibition party. His effort has ever been directed along lines for the benefit of mankind and his utilization of his inherent talents has resulted in the promotion of intellectual and moral progress, and rendered him a natural leader of public thought and opinion.

Professor Dickie was born in Burford township, Ontario, Canada, June 6, 1851, a son of William and Jane (McNabb) Dickie, who were natives of Ayershire, Scotland, and when young people came to America. They were married in Canada and the father engaged in farming in Burford township, Ontario, until 1858, when he removed to Lansing, Michigan, where he continued to follow agricultural pursuits. He gave his political allegiance to the Democracy and both he and his wife were members of the Presbyterian church. They spent their last days in the home of their son, Professor Dickie, the mother dying in 1889, and the father in 1890.

In the public schools of Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Dickie began his education, and in 1869 matriculated in Albion College, from which he was graduated with the class of 1872, winning the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He also gained the valedictorian honors. Through the four succeeding years he was superintendent of the high school at Hastings, Michigan, and in the meantime continued his studies and won the Master of Arts degree from his Alma Mater. In 1877 he returned to Albion College to accept the proffered chair of Mathematics, and has since been continuously connected with the institution, although not always as an educator. He resigned his chair in December, 1887, to accept the position of chairman of the Prohibition national committee. He served in that capacity for twelve years, during which time he visited every state and territory of the Union, speaking in every city containing more than twenty thousand inhabitants. Sixteen time has he visited the Pacific coast and is thoroughly acquainted with every part of the United States. He ahs broad experience in connection with the executive work of the party, and as an orator won a national reputation. His scholarly attainments, the close and earnest study which he has given to the temperance question, his understanding of its political possibilities and above all his desire to arouse public sentiment to an appreciation of the moral side of the subject, all combined to make him a most forceful and convincing speaker.

Dr. Dickie resigned his position with the Prohibition national committee, to take effect December 31, 1899, and in connection with Hon. John G. Wooley, one of the foremost temperance workers and Prohibition leaders of the country, he purchased the “New Voice,” a prohibition paper of large circulation in New York. They began its publication under the firm style of Dickie & Wooley, as joint editors and publishers, and removed the paper to Chicago. While continuing his residence in Albion, Dr. Dickie gave to the paper his thought along editorial lines, and also spent one day each week in Chicago assisting in the business management of this journalistic enterprise. The circulation was increased to over sixty thousand, and was the leading and most successful organ of the party. Dr. Dickie remained in connection with it for two years and then sold his interest to Mr. Wooley, who is now sole proprietor.

Since retiring from the field of journalism, Dr. Dickie has devoted his entire attention to the interests of Albion College, and in February, 1901, was elected its president, since which time he has been at the head of the institution in which his own education was acquired. During the five years just prior to his election to the presidency, he had the entire management of the endowment fund of the college, over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and so invested this that it now yields an excellent annual income. A new library building has recently been erected. It is a fine edifice, which with its furnishing cost fifteen thousand dollars. Perhaps Dr. Dickie’s principal achievement of the school was his effort to eradicate the indebtedness of ninety thousand dollars which had been accumulating for thirty years. He succeeded in providing for the discharge of this debt, and already one-half of the sum has been paid in. As president of Albion College, he has enlarged the scope of its work and has advanced its methods in accordance with educational ideas. From this institution he received the degree of Doctor of Law.

Professor Dickie is a man of excellent business ability and executive force. While progressing continuously along intellectual lines, his development has never been abnormal, but has been in harmony with the growth of a well rounded character, and his counsel in business affairs is wise, his judgment clear and correct, and his efforts helpful. He was one of the organizers and a member of the directorate of the Commercial & Savings Bank of Albion, and is a director of the Albion Buggy Company.

In 1872 Dr. Dickie was united in marriage to Miss Mary Brockway, one of the early and influential residents of the city. A leader in public affairs, he was a member of both branches of the State Legislature for a number of terms and aided in shaping the policy of the commonwealth. He also built the Lake Shore Railroad from Lansing to Jonesville and was an extensive contractor, building for himself nine stores which are still standing on the main street of Albion. He was likewise one of the early preachers of the Methodist Episcopal church in Michigan and thus contributed to the moral as well as the material development of the state and to its political progress. Mrs. Dickie was educated in Albion College and by her marriage, which was celebrated December 22, 1872, became the mother of four children: Clarissa, wife of L.E. Stewart, of Battle Creek; Ada, the wife of Cornelius Hamblen, of Detroit; Mary, at home; and W.H. Brockway Dickie.

Professor and Mrs. Dickie are members of the Methodist Episcopal church and for a number of years he has been the president of its board of trustees. In 1896 he was nominated on the Prohibition ticket and elected mayor of Albion, and during his administration the first cement bridge of the city was built and other improvements undertaken. The breadth of his wisdom, his indomitable perseverance and his strong individuality have been manifest in every work that he has undertaken. His entire accomplishment represents the result of the utilization of his innate talents, and the directing of his efforts along lines where mature judgment and rare discrimination have led the way.

Source: Hobart and Mather. Biographical Review of Calhoun County, MI. April 1904.

The first mark Samuel Dickie made on Albion was as a student. While a student at Albion, he showed much interest in mathematics and was known for solving difficult mathematical equations, spending hours working through the intricacies of a problem. He graduated in 1872.

Six months after graduating from Albion, Dr. Dickie was married to Mary Brockway, the daughter of one of Michigan Methodism’s most widely known clergymen, Rev. William H. Brockway. The Dickies had 4 children who all attended Albion as well: Clarissa Dickie Stewart, Class of 1894; Ada Dickie Hamblen, 1898; Mary Dickie Gillett, 1904; and Brockway Dickie, 1913. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Brockway Dickie, Josephine E. Dickie and Samuel Dickie II were also graduates of Albion, 1937 and 1940 respectively.

For 5 years after graduating from Albion, Samuel Dickie taught in the Dansville Union School and became superintendent of the Hastings public schools. In 1877 he was granted an M.S. degree from Albion and became its professor of mathematics. As a side note, Dickie also received his doctor of laws degree from Albion in 1900.

In 1879, he was ordained to the office of deacon by the Michigan Annual Conference. The same year the Conference requested his appointment to a professorship in Albion College. His first contribution to the face of the campus, as a young professor of mathematics, was made 1882 when he influenced the Board of Trustees to go ahead with the building of a college observatory. As a result, Dickie became the College’s first professor of astronomy in addition to his role as professor of mathematics.

In 1886, Dickie ran for the governorship of Michigan on the Prohibition ticket. He lost but remained active in politics for many years. In 1887, as a sworn enemy of alcohol, he resigned his position on the Albion faculty to take over chairmanship of the Prohibition Party national committee, at which point his public speaking began in earnest. He left his position as chairman of the Prohibition Party to become editor for The Citizen and The New Voice, two Prohibition Party publications.

Alongside his political interests, Dickie retained a strong concern for Methodist matters. In years to come, he would conduct hundreds of chapel services, preach countless sermons, and serve as lay delegate to the General Conference seven times.

From 1896-97, Dickie served as mayor of Albion, on the “dry ticket,” but did not run again due to a sudden need for his attention in college matters. In July of 1897, Dickie was the Chairman of the Committee on the Presidency, who were expected to come up with nominations for a new college president upon the resignation of Rev. Lewis R. Fiske. It wasn’t until the close of the fall term at Albion that the Board finally met to consider a presidential candidate. The Committee’s nominee was Rev. John P. Ashley, Ph.D., then Principal of the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary at Lima, NY.

In 1901, after considerable contention over backward social regulations instituted on campus by the Ashley administration, Albion was again searching for a new president. After Ashley’s resignation, Dr. Dickie was requested to act as president until a successor could be elected. However, it was the consensus of the Board that Dickie should be Ashley’s successor. By 1901, Dr. Dickie had served on virtually every committee and functioned in every possible capacity on campus, including serving for several years without compensation as the college’s secretary and treasurer, and seemed the logical man for the job.

As President of Albion, Dr. Dickie inherited a huge debt. In order to “save” the college, he mortgaged personal property, apparently using the funds to sustain faculty salaries. Through shrewd financial campaigning with church officials and affluent subscribers, Dickie was able to wipe out the deficit within 2 years. His victory was announced January 2, 1903 in the Albion Recorder, and there was a great Jubilee Day for both College and community on January 16th to celebrate with a four-course turkey dinner, a speech by Governor Bliss, and music.

After conquering the college debt, Dr. Dickie was able to focus more on his personal interests. He was a staunch proponent of the literary societies on campus, in addition to forensics and debate. He was not enthusiastic about intercollegiate athletics, but could be seen from time to time at a game in a dress suit with high collar. Dickie was an appreciator of music, serving for years as president of the Albion Musical Festival Association and chairman of a working committee for the annual May Festival. He was also active in local business enterprises in Albion, serving as president of the Albion Buggy Company, co-founder and director of the Albion Commercial and Savings Bank, and an early advocate for building the Parker Inn. Dickie’s most notorious aversion was the use of tobacco in any form, and he did not allow anyone who used tobacco to compete on a college athletic team or represent the college in debate or forensics. He was also not a fan of fraternal organizations, believing them to provide a foundation for cliques and mayhem, that their members had unfounded notions of “personal superiority” (Fennimore, 414), and that they promoted fun over academic scholarship.

Three buildings were added to campus during the Dickie administration. In 1903, the Lottie L. Gassette Library was built through a gift from Mrs. Charlotte T. Gassette of Albion in honor of her deceased daughter, a one-time student of Albion College. In 1906, the Central Building was so renovated that a new building was nearly constructed; the newly renovated facility was dedicated as Robinson Hall. The final building to go up during Dickie’s administration was the Epworth Physical Laboratory, dedicated in 1916.

It was also during Dr. Dickie’s administration that the College’s summer school agreement with the School of Liberal Arts at Bay View was made. Students were allowed to attend summer classes at Bay View and transfer the credits back to Albion, on the condition that the dean and nearly half of the members of the Albion faculty were hired at Bay View during the summer to make sure that the policies of the College were enforced.

At age 69, 70 being fixed as the age for retirement at Albion College, and in his 20th year as Albion College president, Dickie instructed the Board of Trustees to begin a search for a new college president. Rev. John W. Laird of the Mount Vernon Place Church in Baltimore, MD was chosen as his successor, and in 1921 Samuel Dickie stepped down as president of Albion College.

President Laird supported two motions by the trustees following Dr. Dickie’s resignation, one making Dickie President Emeritus of Albion College and an active member of the Board, and the other that Dickie be reelected to the position of chairman and treasurer of the Endowment Fund Committee. In 1922, Dickie relinquished this position as well. In 1924, two days after the controversial expulsion of President Laird, Dr. Dickie resigned from the Board of Trustees. He was beginning to feel his years, his hearing failing, having spent 55 years at Albion College as student, instructor and president, and he was ready to sever all formal ties.

Dr. Samuel Dickie died in November of 1925, presumably of a heart attack, leaving the College and the Albion community to grieve his great loss

Source: Albion College Archives, 2003 [Downloaded July 3, 2003]

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