Charles Ashmead Schaeffer (1887-1898)

Charles Ashmead Schaeffer

Oil on canvas by Bradford Lambert, n.d.
Gift of the children of Charles Ashmead Schaeffer: Elizabeth Fuller, George Schaeffer, and Gertrude Dunlap

The Hon. William R. Boyd, a former chairman of the Iowa State Board of Education, once said Charles Ashmead Schaeffer “was the [University of Iowa’s] first president who sensed what a modern university would be.”

Indeed, in his June 22, 1887, inaugural address, “The Development of the University,” Schaeffer called for a larger library, more classrooms, and, above all, a commitment of financial support from Iowans. The result was a continuing tax to support the University so that the school would no longer depend solely on biennial appropriations.

Schaeffer was only 17 years old when he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1861. Following service in the Union Army, he attended the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University and in 1869 earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Goettingen. From then until 1887, he was a member of the faculty at Cornell University.

The Pentacrest building that bears his name opened in 1902, five years after Schaeffer turned the first sod on the site. It was initially known as the Hall of Liberal Arts; it was renamed in Schaeffer’s honor in 1934.

Schaeffer was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on August 14, 1843. In 1871, he married Evelyn Schuyler of Ithaca, New York, and they had four children. Schaeffer died on September 23, 1898, at age 55.