GEORGE W. NASH
A STATESMAN EDUCATOR
At Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1868, three days before Christmas, the Angel of Life ushered into being
a rugged little youngster whose parents, aftewards, transplanted him on South Dakota soil, where he grew,
studied, traveled and taught; and today there is scarcely a man, woman, or child above ten years of age,
in the state, who has not heard of and does not know George Williston Nash.
For the past five years he has been president of the Northern Normal and Industrial School at
Aberdeen. During this period, the old course of study has been boiled down and then greatly extended,
the organization of the school has been made more compact; it articulates together better as a completed
whole; the faculty has been strengthened, thousands of dollars of new material and apparatus have been
procured, a new building has been erected, the campus has been cleaned up and plotted, the enrollment
has trebled and things in general have taken on a substantial expression.
One of Nash's greatest blessings is his strong, pleasing personality. This makes discipline of the
school come easy and natural to him. We recall that one day a few years since he summoned into the
president's office at the normal for discipline, a young fellow who had been using tobacco on the
premises. President Nash did not scold him as some men would have done. He walked up to him manfully,
placed his left hand on the young fellow's shoulder, looked at him kindly and said in a low brotherly
tone, "Now, see here, Mr., I don't want this matter to go before the whole faculty.
Won't you just promise me privately that you won't use any more tobacco on the school grounds, and
then keep your promise?"
"I will!" said the young fellow in a firm, manly, semi-apologetic tone; and it's safe to say he
never broke that pledge. Such power of discipline emanates from a big brotherly heart.
As Ohio has become the mother of presidents, so Lincoln county, South Dakota, has become the mother
of state officers. Gee whiz! they simply manufacture candidates down there for state officers. Cassill,
the progressive state treasurer, was succeeded two years since by George Johnson, a good husky stalwart
from the same county. This year Johnson was a candidate for re-election, Lawrence was a candidate for
superintenent of public instruction, and Tom Thorson wanted to go to Congress. The first two won. Think
of it! Two state officers at the same time from the same town. This is, of course, one of the customary
possibilities under the primary law. If something isn't done to stop it, the first thing you know we are
going to have a whole state ticket from Canton. But they are a jolly good bunchbright, energetic,
capable fellows; so, after all, what's the difference?
GEORGE W. NASH
Back to our subject! Nash was educated at Canton, in Lincoln county. Then he went away to school,
taught, etc., and all of a sudden he jumped back to Lincoln county, bobbed out in 1902 as a candidate
for superintendent of public instruction, and he won. Since then, Lincoln county has had the
intermittent state-office fever; and instead of getting weaker. as most fever patients do, she is
actually growing stronger. Gracious! Since 1902, she has had two superintendents of public instruction,
two state treasurers, and several disappointed aspiring nominees.
PREPARATION FOR LIFE
If there is any truth in the theory that a man's success in life is proportioned according to his
preparation to succeed, it certainly can find substantiation in the life of G. W. Nash. After finishing
his public school work at Canton he went to Yankton College. Here he was graduated from the academy in
1887; from the college proper in 1891, being given his B. S. degree; and in 1895 the institution presented him
with his Master's degree. (Since this was written, with his LL. D.)
Not satisfied with his preparation, he went to Europe and entered the University of Leipzig, where
he attended school in 1894-5. Returning to this country he went to the University of Minnesota where
he remained during '96-7, specializing on mathematics and astronomy.
With a super-abundance of native talent, with his latent powers now developed and vibrating
for action, he returned to his alma mater at Yankton in the fall of 1897, and became professor of
mathematics and astronomy, holding this position until was nominated for superintendent of public
instruction in 1902.
A NEW FIELD
Everybody who was engaged in educational work in the state, and thousands of others, will recall
when he entered office in 1903, how quickly a whole state was throbbing with renewed life. There was a
college professor, untrained in the new line of work he was to follow, doing it more than successfully.
Here was a man of energy, of foresight, of action, and of determination.
He was called all over the state to deliver commencement addresses, He went into every county in the
state, spoke to school officers at their annual meetings, lectured before teachers' institutes, and
delivered dozens of other addresses. The eyes of a whole state were upon him. He was "making good,"
with some left over. His re-election came; the governor's chair awaited him; his friends implored; but
oh! no, Nash knew his business; he remained firm and declined. Presently the board of regents offered
him the presidency of the normal at Aberdeen. He resigned the superintendency of public instruction
and accepted the job. Why not? It was in his chosen field of work. True, it reduced his influence to
a smaller field, but it sunk it deeper. His state job was temporary, at best; the usual school presidency
might last through his useful days. He did the right, the sensible thing.
Be it said to the everlasting credit of Nash that he is the best vote getter whom the state has yet
developed. In 1902, he was the high man on the republican ticket, having received 48,464 votes. In
1904, he came back with an increase of 20,716 (almost 50 per cent) and polled 69,180 votesthe
largest number of votes that has ever been received by any candidate in the state for the office of
superintendent of public instruction.
NASH'S BI-ENNIAL REPORT
By all odds the greatest act thus far in Nash's life was the preparation and publication of his
bi-ennial report at the close of his first term as superintendent of public instruction. The state law
provides that the state superintendent shall send to each county superintendent in the state a copy of
his bi-ennial report, and that the latter shall, in turn, keep the same permanently on file in the
office. Ordinarily. these reports consist of nothing but dry educational statistics, and nobody ever
looks at them. Not so with the one Nash got out. In it he covered the entire field of educational
thought and progress. The demand for copies of it was so great that the edition was entirely exhausted,
and there is still a constant demand for it.
The report contains an historical review of the educational development of the state; recommends
uniform courses of study for the high schools of the state, better salaries for teachers, five day
inspirational institutes, the introduction into our schools of ETHICAL CULTURE and manual training,
state aid for high schools, a revision of the common school course of study, an examination of the eyes
and ears of the duller pupils to ascertain if their apparent sluggishness is not the result of physical
rather than mental defects, and that the entire school law of the state should be re-written.
He also embodied in it the extensive written reports and recommendations of the various county
superintendents throughout the state; brief reports of all the state and denominational institutions of
higher learning; his elaborate and tasty Arbor Day annual; extended educational reviews and comments
by thirty-eight of the leading newspapers of the state; a digest of the school laws and all the
educational statistics of the entire state.
Men who have since won distinction in certain lines of educational endeavor, have each, in turn,
found that G. W. Nash previously recommended the very thing they were doing, and that he was, withal,
the pioneer in the forward educational movement of the state.
In 1903, Professor Nash was united in marriage to Miss Adelaide Warburton, of Pierre, step-daughter
of the late Jugde Fuller. Their home is now blessed with a bright little junior Nash nearly old enough
to attend school.
President and Mrs. Nash are each trained singers and thorough lovers of music. This happy faculty
woven into their home life, makes it ideal; and their services are in constant demand.
President Nash is one of the very best educators in the state, and a man whose work has attracted
the attention of the nation. He has dignified and successsfully prosecuted every field of work in which
he has been engaged. Here is a symmetrical manan all-round man, if you pleaseone who can
do well anything assigned to him.
Nash has that widening influence that comes from travel. During his career at Leipzig he went to all
of the prominent cities in Europe including the Seven-Hilled City of Rome. He drank into his young life
the vital truths of history and art first hand. He climbed Vensuvius, and was nearly ready to peek into
its crater when the huge mountan, like an angry dog, began to growl at its intruder.
This year he went abroad again and took in the Passion Play at Oberammergau. It is travel and
observation, added to book knowledge, that makes the completed man.
He has an exceptionaly pleasing address. His friends have repeatedly urged him to give up
educational work and to take up law. There could be no doubt about his success in this other field of
labor; but President Nash has a mind of his own, and having fitted himself for educational work, and
having met with such decided success, he will in all probability continue in it.
Personally, we should like to see him enter the field of journalism. He is a brilliant student in
English, and a prolific writer. On the other hand, his political instinct and his foresight are as keen
as a Damascus blade. While at home in Canton, during his younger days, he used to assist his father in
his editorial work on the "Sioux Valley News," and his breezy editorials were watched for with an
unusual degree of expectancy by all of their subscribers.
We shall all watch his future career with abiding good will.
Wednesday's write-up of Professor G. W. Nash in the Who's Who'' column of the Argus-Leader called
forth much favorable comment in Canton, the land of his birth and the home of statesmen. The professor
is well known here, both as boy and man, and all are proud of his record. Canton Leader.
Since this article on Dr. Nash's life was published, he has been called upon to deliver his lecture
on "The Passion Play" over fifty times (eight times within his home city of Aberdeen); has been elected
president of the South Dakota Educational Association; and, in 1912, he conducted the teachers'
institutes for one-fourth of the counties of the entire state, and lectured, all told, in
thirty-three and one-third per cent of them.