A Young Professor at Rollins, 1885-86

Prof. Lloyd in 1885

One of the many wonderful letters in our Archives is from William Webster Lloyd (1864-1955), who came to the newly established Rollins College as a young man to teach Greek and Latin and serve as Principal of the Academy (the school’s preparatory division).  Though he only stayed at Rollins one year, he had many memories that were still vivid almost 50 years later, and he wrote them down in a letter to Prof. A. J. Hanna.

As Prof. Lloyd recalled, he found his trip from Chicago to the Florida frontier “a real adventure.”  He remembered traveling “up the St. Johns River on the steamboat by night, the search light thrown from side to side on the black, pitchy waters hemmed in by forests of water oaks and pines.”  When he “stepped off the train in Winter Park, he seemed to be set down in a forest of telegraph poles in a sandy desert” where only a few buildings could be seen.

Downtown Winter Park in 1884

But the real surprise came when he arrived on campus:  “The non-existence of the college buildings shown on the prospectus of Winter Park was a chilling shock.  The Ladies’ Cottage, though not complete, proved to be an actuality, and Knowles Hall was under construction, but the rest of the buildings were as yet but noble fantasies.  This was much worse than expected. . .”  Fortunately the Congregational Church offered temporary classroom space, and housing was found for the incoming students.

Later, “Mr. Chase [this was Loring Chase, one of the founders of Winter Park] graciously welcomed the stranger, and explained that as the Seminole Hotel was not ready, he would have to give me a room in the building erected for servants’ quarters.  This structure had been constructed of green pine lumber, and the consequent shrinkage was soon impressed upon me in a vivid manner.  As I opened the bed, there sprang out from under the pillow a huge rat, fully eighteen inches long he appeared to my astonished eyes, and ran across the floor and out under the baseboard!  I wondered whether he would return in the night to dispute possession of his pre-empted abode. . .”

Classes were to begin at 9:00 on November 4, 1885.    Prof. Lloyd wrote that “At 8 o’clock the church door was still locked.  Pupils and parents began to arrive, and stood waiting on the steps.”  Finally he sent someone to ask the President for the key, and once inside, he found that the desks had not been delivered.  These were quickly retrieved from a freight car by some students, who helped the professor set them up.   And classes began.

No curriculum had been established, so Prof. Lloyd drafted one for both the College and the Academy.  He ambitiously designed it “not as is usual in similar cases, for an embryo, tentative institution . . . but exactly like the curriculum of the best colleges and highest standards of the north.”  The result (below) was adopted without any changes.

First curriculum, 1885

Prof. Lloyd told of many incidents on the campus that first year, involving scorpions, spills in the lake, and other mishaps.   He recalled holding class on the porch of Knowles Hall one hot day.  A tall pine tree nearby was being removed at the time; a rope had been tied around it, and a number of young men and boys volunteered to help pull it down.  As Prof. Lloyd remembered:

“Dr. Hooker (Rollins’ first president) was one of those who volunteered and took his place in a long line at the rope.  But the tree remained firm.  All were commanded to dig in their heels, lean far back and then give ‘a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together.’   This they did with a will, but under the jerk the rope broke!  Every person came down with a thump in a sitting posture.  The look of injured dignity on the face of Dr. Hooker was painful to behold, but with the noblest youth of the college downed in this manner, levity in the Greek class could not be prevented.”

After leaving Rollins, Prof. Lloyd graduated from the Chicago Theological Seminary (1889), married and had two children.  He taught mathematics, Latin, and Greek in various schools and colleges, and was also in the real estate business.

In 1935 he returned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rollins and help dedicate a plaque commemorating its first professors.  He found then-President Hamilton Holt’s innovative approach to education, with its emphasis on collaborative learning rather than memorization, to be very much in line with his own long-held views:   “. . .let me say that some of the principles of teaching advocated by Dr. Holt . . . pleased me immensely as voicing conclusions I had arrived at more than forty five years ago.  The inefficiency of the lecture method of instruction, as practiced then and since, was clear to my mind . . .”     In fact, Prof. Lloyd had once proposed conducting a seminar called “Straight Thinking,” designed to combat the “illogical, sophistical, unfair, dishonest thinking” that he found “to be a general habit.”  To be successful, he argued, “the utmost liberty to the student’s mind must be allowed.”  Students would need to conduct their research freely and arrive at their own conclusions in order to develop “a permanent habit of scientific mental procedure.”  This, he felt, would be one of the most rewarding experiences a student could have:  “As a graduate, will he not look back at the formation of such a habit as one of the most valuable and gratifying attainments in college?”

Left:  Prof. Lloyd at Rollins in 1935

Below:  A list of the Charter Faculty of Rollins College  (from “The First Seven Years of Rollins College”)

In 1951, Prof. Lloyd was invited to participate in the College’s Animated Magazine (an annual event in which contributors read their pieces before an audience, rather than having them printed).  He did not come to campus this time, but took part by telephone from Beggs, Oklahoma.   He was asked to talk about life at Rollins in 1885; sadly, no record of his remarks seems to have been kept.

He died just four years later, in 1955.  But he maintained a lifelong tie to Rollins.  As he once wrote, “The progress of Rollins College will always be of interest to me and I shall rejoice in its success.”

~ by D. Moore,  Archival Specialist

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