'Tis said that "Ohio is the mother of presidents." (Just now she is struggling to become a step-mother). She is, and a mother of several different kinds of presidents. President F. B. Gault, of our state university, was born at Worcester, Ohio, May 2, 1851. Dr. Gault's mother has been dead for thirty years, but his father survived until July 8, 1912. He was a pioneer in Kansas and in Iowa, but drifted back to old haunts, clustered with hallowed memories, to spend his declining years.

When F. B. was four years of age, the family removed to Jones county, Iowa, where he was reared on a farm. His big, brawny physique shows him, in his younger days, to have been a son of the soil.


President Gault did not enter school until his ninth year. Good reason—there was none to attend. Finally the farmers of Wayne township Jones county, voluntered to raise enough money by popular subscription to erect a school house. This was done, and it was there that young Gault attended school for several terms. Later, he became a student in the high school at Monticello, a little city in the northern part of Jones county. From there he went to Cornell graduating as a B. S. with the class of 1877. Three years later, his Alma Mater honored him with his M. S. degree, and in 1898 with his M. A., while the University of Worcester in the town of his birth, made him a Ph. D. in 1901.



Dr. Gault began his teaching experience before he was eighteen years of age in Linn county, Iowa, near Cedar Rapids, where he taught a country school for four terms. Then he was for three years principal of schools at Tama, Iowa, and two years principal at Mason City.

Going west he organized the South Side public schools at Pueblo, Colorado, remaining at the head of those schools for five years. He then resigned to become superintendent of the city schools at Tacoma, Washington. When that state was admitted to the Union under the omnibus bill of '89 which also brought in the Dakotas, Dr. Gault drafted the school code thereof, which remains to this day, almcst entirely unaltered. While he was in the state of Washington, President Roosevelt, in 1902, acting upon the unanimous recommendation of the congressional delegation from that state, appointed him a member of the visitors' committee to inspect our United States naval academy at Annapolis.

before leaving Iowa, and after going west, Dr. Gault was one of the foremost teachers' institute instructors and conductors in the country. Hon. 0. L. Branson of Mitchell, while a young school teacher in Iowa, received his normal institute training under him.

Dr. Gault drifted back across the mountains during the summer of '92, and organized at Moscow, Idaho, their State University, combining with it their Agricultural college, and School of Mines. (Compare this piece of educational statesmanship if you will with what took place in organizing similar institutions in our own state.)

Re-crossing the mountains tohis old home, he was called upon to organize Whitmore College at Tacoma. He remained at the head of this institution for six years, during which time it enjoyed a remarkable growth.

In the summer of 1906, Dr. Gault was called to the presidency of our State University, at Vermillion. In this position he has been pre-eminently successful. When he arrived, he found the loose ends of unorganized departments fluttering in the breezes of public gossip. Tying these together into a cable of strength, he at once became master of the situation. Touching on this matter in detail, once before, we ventured the wicked assertion that "Had Christ returned to earth to have undertaken the task that confronted Gault when he landed in Vermillion, he would again have been led up Calvary." We have since regretted this apparent sacrilegious comparison, but really it expressed a recognized truth.

Dr. Gault was first employed for two years as president of our university by the old board of regents, headed by the scholarly Dr. Spafford of Flandreau. The new board, now headed by Mayor Hitchcock of Mitchell, have retained him to date—six years in all. Indeed, the new board, in section 50, pp. 45, of the "Rules and Regulations," governing our state schools, specifically state: "It is the policy of the board of regents of education that members of the faculty and assistant professors of the state institutions, shall hold their positions during good behavior and satisfactory service." Amen! politics eliminated at last. Not a change has been made in the head of a state institution for five years except one at Rapid City, necessitated by the voluntary resignation of the president of the School of Mines.

Reverting again to our state university, we reiterate that during President Gault's administration, it has prospered. The campus has been fixed up, much new and needed furniture secured; the law school and the library have been bulit; the medical department has been organized; the heat, light and power plant has been erected, and a good artesian well has been sunk, (the latter being the involuntary gift of the Honorable Peter H. Norbeck of Redfield. Keep still!)

Prior to President Gault's arrival the institution at Vermillion had been quite largely a high school for Clay county. He at once threw out the preparatory department. This cut the enrollment about 150. He did not care. It was quality rather than quantity which he had in mind. Despite the sudden reduction in attendance the institution soon began to grow. In 1907, the close of President Gault's first year, they graduated 43, the next year 44; in 1909, they raised it to 55, and the next year to 60, and the next to 65, while this year they graduated 74.


The year that Dr. Gault graduated from Cornell College, in 1877, he was elected as a delegate to the interstate oratorical contest which was held at Madison, Wisconsin. Congressman E. W. Martin was also a student at Cornell at that time. He was not present at the contest—being away on one of his accustomed fishing trips. When it came time to elect a president of the association for the ensuing year, young Gault arose and presented the name of Eben W. Martin. So eloquently did he set forth the superior qualification of his protege for the position that Martin was elected. Then a clamor went up for a speech from the newly-elected president. He could not be found. Gault knew where he was.

The funds of the association had been hideously squandered. Young Martin had a business head on him. He re-adjusted financial matters, paid off the old obligations, opened up a set of intelligent books and placed the organization on a Gibraltar basis. Incidentally, he got his own start in public life, out of this experience.

This year, after an interim of thirty-five years, this same Gault was selected as one of the judges to determinne the successful orator before the old organization which meets at Northfield, Minnesota, but owing to pressing engagemens at home, he was obliged to decline.


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved