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1934-1941: Bruce Richard Baxter

Bruce Richard Baxter

Born in 1892 to a Methodist minister, Bruce Baxter may be the only Willamette president to have been issued a spanking by one of his predecessors to the office. During a visit to the Baxter household to solicit funds, the Rev. Francis Hoyt, finding the Rev. John Baxter sick in bed and young Bruce misbehaving, put Bruce over his knee and administered correction as was common practice at the time. Baxter received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oberlin College, as well as a bachelor’s in sacred theology from Boston University. He was announced as Doney’s successor on July 28, 1934. Because he was traveling in South Africa when the news reached him, Baxter was unable to begin his duties until October of that year; the new school year was ushered in under acting president and dean Frank Erickson. Baxter was an experienced teacher, administrator and public speaker. Described as a people person with an analytical mind and a “human dynamo of energy,” Baxter informed the students upon arrival that his “first official step will be to see that Willamette licks Puget Sound.” Unlike his predecessor, Baxter embraced athletics. During his administration, Willamette saw greatly strengthened public relations, changing social life for students, as well as a continuing building boom including the construction of a new library (now Smullin Hall) and Collins Hall and the moving of the former U.S. Post Office onto campus to serve as the Law School. In the summer of 1940, Bruce Baxter was elected bishop by the Western Jurisdictional conference of the Methodist Church; he nevertheless graciously offered to continue serving as acting president sans salary, until the university was able to appoint his successor.

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