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Erastus Gilbert Smith

Excerpted from: The Round Table (April 9, 1921)
E.G. Smith Retires; Serves Beloit 40 Years Continuously

     Erastus Gilbert Smith, Professor of Chemistry, will retire from active teaching at the end of this college year.

     After forty years of continuous instruction at Beloit, during which he has come in contact with more than 4,000 students, Dr. Smith will retire at the age of 66.

     With the completion of this quarter, Dr. Smith will have finished the longest term of active service given by a member of the Beloit faculty. Professor Porter was identified with the college more than forty years, but his actual teaching period was less. Next highest in rank is Professor Emerson, who taught for thirty eight years continuously.

Last of First Faculty

     Dr. Smith is the only man living of the eight who constituted the entire faculty at the time he came to Beloit, in 1881. At that time there were less than 100 students in the college. The only buildings were Middle, North, Art Hall, Memorial Hall, the old gymnasium, the observatory known as South College. In this was the chemistry laboratory.

     President-emeritus E.D. Eaton is the only living member of the board of trustees which served the college at that time.

     Beloit was not coeducational and did not become so until 1895. The college buildings were on the present campus only. All other property has been acquired since. There was only one fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, which had just been recognized by the faculty. Teachers were in the main of the mission spirit. Endowment of the college was very small at the time. In 1892 the chemistry department moved to the Science Hall. Dr. Smith was 26 years old when he came here in 1881. He received his A.M., A.B. from Amherst. His title at first was professor of chemistry and mineralogy, but was later changed to professor of chemistry. Two years after he started at Beloit, he was married to Elizabeth Mayher. He built his home, which is now Smith Lodge, in 1888.

     Three sabbatical vacations have been taken by Dr. Smith. The first was in 1883, when he went to Germany for graduate work. At this time he received his Ph.D from Goettingen University. The next was 1904, when he taught at the Boston Institute of Technology and did research work in biological chemistry and bacteriology. The last was in 1914, and was given over to duties as a Harvard exchange professor.

     Dr. Smith claims the distinction of having served under all three presidents of Beloit, Chapin, Eaton, and Brannon. He was recorder of the college for the fifteen years preceding last year. He served as dean of men in 1903-1904.

Was Consulting Chemist

     In addition to his teaching duties, the Beloit scholar has done a large amount of consulting chemical work for outside agencies. This has been largely for cities, with reference to their water works. He estimated that more than one hundred cities have called on him for service of this sort. In two such cases he has been sent to Europe for data.

     Dr. Smith had charge of all public speaking work done at Beloit for a period of ten years, in addition to his regular duties as teacher of chemistry. During that period Beloit debate teams were eminently successful and Beloit orators won the state contest almost continuously. Among the winners of the interstate oratorical contest, the foremost forensic college competition, who were trained by Dr. Smith, are O.E. Maurer and W.I. Maurer. This work of coaching was done for the joy of the service and the interest of the department.

Secured Phi Beta Kappa

     An outstanding feature of Dr. Smith's service to Beloit was his securing of charter for the Phi Beta Kappa. There were only two members of this organization on the college faculty when the movement was started. For eleven years Dr. Smith labored. During this period the number of Beloit Phi Beta Kappa professors was increased to fourteen. Finally his efforts were crowned with a unanimous election of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, an action almost unprecedented in American scholastic circles.

     An average of 100 students a year have been influenced by Dr. Smith during his career, or a total of 4,000. These pupils have gone into the world to become teachers of chemistry, engineers, professional chemists and experts in allied fields such as medicine and science. Outstanding among his noted students are the following experts:

Teachers -- James A. Lyman, Ph.D.; Alvin S. Wheeler, Ph.D.; Paul W. Boutwell, Ph.D.

Mining Engineers -- Alvin B. Carpenter, E.M.; Clifton Johnson, E.M.; John Nelson, B.A.; Stanley Calland, B.S.

Sanitary Engineers -- E.F. Lochridge, M.S.; C.A. Emerson, M.S.; George Simmonds, M.S.; Hilscher, M.S.

Commercial Chemists -- John A. White; George Bradshaw, M.S.; Hamilton Bradshaw, Ph.D.; W.K. Gillet, B.S.; W.I. Buckeridge, B.S.; John Nair, B.S.; N.E. Loomis, Ph.D.; Robert Haylett, B.S.; Chester Golding, B.A.; Marvin Golding, B.A.

In other work -- W.W. DeBerard, editor; Conrad Jacobson, M.D., surgery; James Newlands, manager; Ralph Sayer, M.S. research; H.I. DeBerard, bacteriologist, and Carl Spanwick, bacteriologist. All these men were practically tuned into their life work by influence of Dr. Smith's teaching.

Serves as Mayor

     Dr. Smith was also active in city affairs of Beloit. He was mayor of Beloit for three terms. For ten years he was a member of the city council, and served on every one of its committees. For five years he was president of the council. He served as a member of the city library board. He was president of the Beloit Savings Bank for eight years, and president of the board of trustees of that bank for eight years. He is the oldest living trustees of the bank at the present time.

     The dean of Beloit professors is author of "Determination of the Rock-forming Minerals," "Manual of Qualitative Analysis," and numerous chemical monographs. He has been actively interested in music of all kinds and was for many years a member and soloist of the Beloit Choral Union.

Department Has Grown

     The department of chemistry has grown under his care from a small poorly equipped laboratory under the supervision of one man to its present commodious quarters and staff of four full time specialists.

     Prof. P.W. Boutwell, now associated with Prof. Smith in the department, and former pupil, will succeed Prof. Smith as head of the department.

Is in Who's Who

     Dr. Smith is one of the five members of the faculty listed in Who's Who. He was supposed to have retired under the Carnegie annuity plan last year when he reached his sixty-fifth birthday. By special request he was permitted to continue one more year, to complete his forty years of continuous service. Since that time the age limit has been increased.

     "I am not at the end of my usefulness, and it will be something of a shock to stop," declared Dr. Smith.

     "But I have good reason to feel satisfied with teaching. After all there is a deep and lasting satisfaction in being associated with young people in the solution of their problems and being able to start them in their work in life."

 

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