Dwight B. Waldo

Dr. Dwight Bryant Waldo (June 13 1864October 29 1939) was the first President of Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, Michigan and was a native of Plainwell, Michigan. Waldo was elected principal of WMU on April 1, 1904. He served as president from 1904 through 1936. When Western Michigan first opened, it was known as the Western State Normal School and later as the Western State Teachers College. One of Waldo's first moves, creating a rural school department, cemented WMU as a teaching college. It was the first such department in the nation and prepared teachers to effectively educate students in rural parts of America. Waldo also firmly believed in diversity on campus, and during his tenure many females and minorities were given the opportunity to attend the college.

In the beginning Western Michigan served as a two-year normal school, but under Waldo's guidance it was soon structured into a four-year teachers college. He also served as one of the first instructors at WMU. Waldo is credited with keeping WMU open when many government officials wanted to shut it down during the Great Depression. The school's football stadium, Waldo Stadium, and library, Waldo Library, are named in his honor. In 1912, Kalamazoo College awarded Waldo a Doctor of Laws as an honorary degree for his accomplishments at WMU.

Waldo was born in Arcade, New York during the final year of the Civil War, and was noted for his interest and research into the life of Abraham Lincoln. His personal collection of Lincoln memorabilia is one of many displays at Waldo Library. A WMU librarian and Dwight Waldo Historian stated, "Waldo's vision, 'tough love' leadership style and unique combination of pragmatism and idealism are legendary around campus and Kalamazoo". Waldo was also known to walk around campus with a talking parrot on his shoulder.

Prior to assuming his leadership role at Western Michigan, Waldo was the first principal at Northern State Normal School (now Northern Michigan University) where he served from 1899 to 1904, and additionally served as the Department Chair of the History Department. Interestingly, 100 years after Waldo came to Western Michigan another Northern Michigan president, Judith Bailey, would follow in his footsteps to help Western Michigan kick off its "Centennial Campaign" after arriving in 2003. Waldo was also a history and economics teacher at Albion College before becoming principal at Northern State.

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