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Ulysses Smith: His Life and Work


Collins' oldest building has been known by many names during its nearly eighty years of existence. When it was completed in 1924, the Men's Dormitory was the only one of its kind and needed no other name. At the residents' request it was soon christened Washington Hall, but that was quickly changed to South Hall, a title that would last for over thirty years. Finally, in 1961, the building was rededicated with the name it holds to this day — the name of a talented businessman, administrator, and teacher without whom it and its companion buildings would likely not have been constructed. The oldest dormitory on campus is now known as Ulysses H. Smith Hall.

Ulysses Howe Smith was born on January 11, 1865, and grew up on a farm near Bloomington with his parents, Dudley F. and Sally (Blankenship) Smith, and his siblings.1 He began his college career as a commerce student at Eureka College in Illinois, but he only studied there for one year, 1883-4.2 The following year saw him back in Indiana and teaching in the Monroe County schools.

Smith himself returned to school in 1888, when he entered Indiana University to study pedagogy.3 Although today it seems unlikely that a 23-year-old freshman would be particularly involved in undergraduate activities, Smith was extremely active in the campus community. As a freshman, he was initiated into Phi Gamma Delta fraternity4 and won third prize in a declamation contest sponsored by IU's literary societies (which had been the forerunners of the greek system). For his winning recitation of "The Death of Benedict Arnold," Smith received a handsome prize of $2.50.5

During his junior year Smith acted in a play that he recalled fondly over forty years later:

That summer Smith was an instructor for the Monroe County Normal, a five-week teacher training school organized by Indiana University.7 Smith's special charge was a course in bookkeeping, which he had studied at Eureka. His experience as an educator continued outside the confines of the university: from 1891 to 1892, while still a student at IU, he served as superintendent of schools in Ellettsville.8

Smith's senior year was particularly busy. Every Friday at 6:30, he went up to the third floor of the Old College Building for meetings of the venerable Philomathean Literary Society, of which he was president.9 He also served as secretary of the IU Pedagogical Club, a brand new organization for future teachers who wished to conduct additional study of their chosen profession.10 But Smith was most prominent as co-Editor and Business Manager of the Indiana Student.11 The future IDS was then only a monthly publication and was actually owned by students — more specifically, by Smith himself. His work with the Student began many decades of interest in the newspaper business.

Smith graduated from Indiana University in 1893 with an A.B. in Pedagogics.12 He was 28 years old. Following graduation, he took a job as high school principal and math teacher in Anderson, Indiana.13 He worked in Anderson for four years, occasionally traveling to Bloomington to visit his family and his Phi Gam brothers. Perhaps it was his fraternity brothers who first gave him the nickname "Up High" — chosen for his initials and because he was very tall. In most cases, however, he was known to his family and friends as "Uley."14

In 1897 Smith made a move across country to Whitehorn, a gold-mining town near Cripple Creek, Colorado. There he founded, edited, and published the Whitehorn News, a successful local newspaper.15

Smith returned to Indiana after only two years, but a part of his heart still remained in Colorado, and in order to maintain some property there he staked a gold claim with three other partners. With questionable optimism they dubbed the site the "Doubtful Lode."16 Yearly work by each partner was required in order to keep the claim, so Uley hired a man to do his portion of the digging.

Back in Bloomington, he accepted a job as Assistant Registrar of Indiana University, in special charge of accounting.17 His supervisor, Registrar John Cravens, shared Smith's interest in journalism (he had founded two newspapers in Indiana) and through that connection and their work for IU the two men became close friends. Both would later befriend their much younger colleague, Clarence Edmondson — a friendship that should seem highly fitting to current Collinsites.

Smith began graduate work at IU in 1899, the same year he became Assistant Registrar, but he never completed his degree.18 The reasons for his giving up graduate study after only one year are not known, although it seems likely that the decision had to do with his marriage that year to Mary Louise List of Franklin, Indiana.19 The newlyweds moved in with Uley's parents, an arrangement which delighted the rest of the family since they felt this lightened the burden on the elder Smiths.20 Mary Louise and Uley had one child, Winifred, who was born within the first two years of their marriage. She would eventually follow her father's footsteps as a journalist and serve on the editorial staff of the Indianapolis Star.21

Although Uley was busy in Bloomington caring for his new family and organizing the University's financial structure, Colorado continued to demand a large part of his attention. His brother Paul, who was his partner in the newspaper business, still lived in Salida, Colorado and wrote him frequently about business matters. In January 1900 the brothers already owned the Whitehorn News and Turret Goldbelt and were making plans to acquire the Salida Record. Paul hoped that his brother would soon rejoin him out West and resume a direct role in the business. Soon after Uley's marriage he wrote: "I expect some day - - and I hope not very far distant - - to welcome you both to Salida where we can all grow up with the country together."22

The Record deal went through in February 1901 and Paul Smith took charge of the newly acquired paper. It was an extremely time-consuming enterprise, since Paul and his Colorado partners were not only the business managers of the paper, but also its reporters, editors, and printing press operators. Clearly, however, it was an occupation that Paul and his brother both loved and excelled in. Right away, the Record acquisition seemed promising:

Not all of Uley's dealings in Colorado were so positive. In October 1901, his partners in the "Doubtful Lode" came under the impression that he had jumped their mining claim.24 Two months of angry, confused letter writing and a resurvey of the land ensued. As it turned out, the man Smith had hired to work on the site had not dug deeply enough to legally hold the claim.25 The matter was finally untangled; however, Uley's letters to his mining partners reveal the frustration and helplessness he faced while trying to do business at a distance:

Throughout the early years of the century Smith's brother Paul exerted constant pressure for him to return to Colorado. In an early letter Paul wrote: "You would be pleased at the number of inquiries I have for you and the number of people who are anxious that you should return to Salida. In fact they look upon you as merely being away for a time and that you will some time come back. Of this I feel sure myself."27 Paul's urging intensified when one of the Smiths' newspaper partners was forced to leave Salida because of his wife's health. He campaigned relentlessly for Uley to move out West and replace the departing colleague. Ulysses' replies to his brother are lost, but Paul's letters suggest he was hedging about the decision. They debated the matter via post for over a year, with Paul constantly insisting that a move west would be to Uley's advantage:

Ironically, Paul himself would be forced to leave Colorado in 1904. His health had become poor and he went to seek less stressful work in a lower altitude.32

Meanwhile back in Bloomington, Ulysses Smith continued to broaden his role in IU. Commerce was added to the University curriculum in 1903 and Smith, because of his abundant experience in the field, became the accounting instructor.33 In April 1904 the commerce course was expanded into a full department, as reported by the IDS:

In addition to teaching business courses and working in the Registrar's office, Smith was active in many other facets of the University. In the summer of 1904 he was elected secretary of the Alumni Association,35 and the following year he was appointed to the University athletic board, on which he would serve continuously for 31 years.36 Smith was also present for University social events, such as the Woman's League Christmas party in 1905 at which "[a]fter a social hour, Santa Claus impersonated by Prof. U. H. Smith, added to the merriment of the evening by distributing gifts for 'all children who had not bolted classes more than half the term.' "37

Perhaps for financial reasons, or perhaps because of the ever-present chance of moving to Colorado, the Smiths had not yet established a permanent home in Bloomington. Since the spring of 1904 they had been living in a house rented from Uley's "Aunt Narcie," Narcissa Brandon. However, this arrangement would soon come to a bitter end. Smith had understood that the rental agreement was for three years — but, oddly for an experienced businessman, had nothing in writing. Perhaps he felt it would be inappropriate to demand such assurance from a family member, but it could have saved him a lot of trouble. Expecting to stay put for at least three years, he invested a great deal of time and money in improvements to the property. Then in May 1905, after only one year, Aunt Narcie rented the house to someone else. She claimed not to remember the three-year agreement. Uley wrote angrily to his aunt: "We never dreamed that you intended to sell us out — , or that we were setting a trap for ourselves by making the place beautiful. But all that is done. We are sold out, it is reported, and we have not a line in writing. We are at your mercy."38 The Smiths vacated Aunt Narcie's house at the end of June.39 It was not until the spring of 1908 that Uley began soliciting bids for someone to build him a house on East Third Street.40

1908 also brought a career change for Smith when he left the Registrar's office and was appointed Bursar.41 This move made him one of the top officials in the University: he, Registrar John Cravens, and President William Lowe Bryan were often considered to be a sort of administrative triumvirate. Smith would occupy the post of Bursar until his retirement and it is for that position that he is best known. His brother Paul, who was still a frequent correspondent, wrote to congratulate him:

Over the next several years Uley was extremely active on campus and in the community. He continued to work with the Alumni Association and the Athletic Board and served as president of the Association of University and College Business Officers43 and the Bloomington Rotary Club.44 He was very involved in the Episcopal Church, serving as a trustee of the diocese and as a member of the Bishop's council and the local vestry.45 He also wrote articles on various aspects of journalism and business and presented them to audiences of fellow journalists. As the University's top financial officer, Smith was heavily involved in the Memorial Fund campaign after World War One. This was a massive fundraising effort that enabled the construction of the Indiana Memorial Union, Memorial Hall, and (the original) Memorial Stadium. Between 1911 and 1934 Smith traveled to Indianapolis once a week on University business — a staggering figure in those days before long commutes became commonplace. The IDS calculated that his trips totaled 124,384 miles, or five times the circumference of the earth. "For several years I made the trip on the Monon and Pennsylvania railroads," said Uley of these trips; "later I went on the Illinois Central line and then on the newly established bus line. I now go by train to Indianapolis and return by bus."46

Uley was also an important part of the Olympiad Campaign that lobbied so successfully for the construction of West (Edmondson) and North (Cravens) Halls. In fact, the campaign strategy was his idea:

Smith's idea was a success: the campaigners obtained hundreds of names of students who committed to live in the new dormitories. Construction of West and North Halls began and the buildings opened in 1940.

In 1936 Smith was named Treasurer of IU. However, he only held this position for a year before retiring in the summer of 1937.48 The Board of Trustees voted him the title of Bursar Emeritus upon his retirement, and he maintained a deep interest in the affairs of the University.

The following year, Smith was honored in a ceremony on Alumni Day when an oil portrait of him by Brown County artist Marie Goth was presented to Indiana University. John S. Hastings was the speaker on the occasion and said of Smith:

Uley's portrait was originally displayed in an administrative office, but in 1965 it was moved to the Smith 1 lounge, where it remains today.50 Dozens of Collinsites pass through the lounge on a daily basis, many never realizing that the man in the painting gave their home its name.

Smith moved to California after his retirement, and he died there on April 21, 1953 at the age of 88.51 His funeral took place in Hollywood at St. Mary's-of-the-Angels Church. South Hall was renamed in his honor on September 24, 1961, the same day that the rest of the Men's Residence Center was rededicated.52 His former secretary, Vestie Burks, unveiled the building's nameplate. The student representative who spoke at the ceremony was a Smith Hall resident.53

Ulysses Smith was a man of many interests and talents whose service to his alma mater over more than three decades cannot be measured. He and his friends, John Cravens and Clarence Edmondson, were vital in creating the Indiana University we know today. Their contributions are proudly memorialized in the buildings of Collins Living-Learning Center, whose residents still display their exemplary qualities of kindness, service, and intellectual curiosity.

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Footnotes

1 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

2 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

3 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

4 Indiana Student, Vol. 15, No. 1. October 1888, p. 13:2. Back

5 Indiana Student, Vol. 15, No. 3. December 1888, p. 53:2. Back

6 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 60, No. 7. 20 September 1933, p. 1:6. Back

7 Indiana Student, Vol. 16, No. 7. April 1890, p. 145-147. Back

8 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 35, No. 29. 25 October 1909, p. 4:3. Back

9 Indiana Student, Vol. 19, No. 1. October 1892, p. 26:2. Back

10 Indiana Student, Vol. 19, No. 3. December 1892, p. 21:2. Back

11 Indiana Student, Vol. 19, No. 9. June 1893, p. 3:1. Back

12 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

13 Indiana Student, Vol. 20, No. 1. 3 October 1893, p. 4:2, and Ibid. Back

14 Fact sheet, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

15 Alumni Quarterly, summer 1937. Back

16 Letter from D. D. Dick to W. H. Covey. 4 October 1901. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

17 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

18 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

19 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 63, No. 145. 19 May 1937, p. 1:8. Back

20 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith. 8 January 1900. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

21 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 63, No. 145. 19 May 1937, p. 1:8. Back

22 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith. 8 January 1900. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

23 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith. 27 February 1901. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

24 Letter from D. D. Dick to W. H. Covey. 4 October 1901. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

25 Letter from W. H. Covey to U. H. Smith. 14 November 1901. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

26 Letter from U. H. Smith to W. H. Covey. 25 November 1901. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

27 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith. 17 September 1901. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

28 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith, 19 February 1902. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

29 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith, 8 March 1902. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

30 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith, 31 March 1902. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

31 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith, 28 February 1903. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

32 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith, 8 June 1904. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

33 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 29, No. 43. 12 November 1903, p. 1:1. Back

34 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 29, No. 139. 15 April 1904, p. 1:4. Back

35 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 29, No. 184. 23 July 1904, p. 1:1. Back

36 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 63, No. 155. 2 June 1937, p. 5:6. Back

37 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 31, No. 57. 9 December 1905, p. 3:2. Back

38 Letter from U. H. Smith to Narcissa Brandon, 6 May 1905. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

39 Letter from U. H. Smith to Narcissa Brandon, 14 June 1905. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

40 Misc. letters, March 1908. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

41 "Ulysses Howe Smith papers, 1901-1912." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Available http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/c197pers.html. Back

42 Letter from Paul B. Smith to U. H. Smith, 13 March 1909. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN.Back

43 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 46, No. 140. 11 May 1920, p. 1:1. Back

44 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 57, No. 175. 4 June 1931, p. 1:4. Back

45 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 63, No. 145. 19 May 1937, p. 1:8. Back

46 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 61, No. 44. 15 November 1934, p. 3:2. Back

47 "Selling Idea of Dormitory Life to Unorganized Men Is Decided on at Meeting." Indiana Daily Student, 28 September (no year). Back

48 Indiana Daily Student, Vol. 63, No. 145. 19 May 1937, p. 1:8. Back

49 "Remarks of John S. Hastings on the occasion of the presentation of a portrait of Ulysses H. Smith." Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

50 Letter from Robert E. Burton to Morris C. Barker, 20 April 1965. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

51 "Ulysses Howe Smith, 88 Dies in Los Angeles Home." Indiana Daily Student, 22 April 1953.Back

52 Program from Men's Residence Center rededication ceremony, 24 September 1961. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, IN. Back

53 "University Housing Dedicated Sunday." Indiana Daily Student, 26 September 1961. Back





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