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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day [Charles Coleman Thach [API President 19 02-1919]

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: biod-request@www.anb.org [mailto:biod-request@www.anb.org] Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2003 1:50 AM To: ANB
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2003
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      From: biod-request@... [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2003 1:50 AM
      To: ANB bioday mailing list
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day

      American National Biography Online

      Thach, Charles Coleman (15 Mar. 1860-2 Oct. 1921), educator,
      was born in Athens, Alabama, the son of Robert Henry Thach, an
      attorney, and Eliza Lockhart Coleman. He enrolled at the Alabama
      Agricultural and Mechanical College at Auburn in 1873, graduating
      with a bachelor of engineering in 1877. In 1885 Thach married
      Ellen Stanford Smith in Auburn; their marriage produced five children.

      Thach taught for one year at O. J. Ferrell's private academy
      at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, then returned to the Agricultural
      and Mechanical College as an assistant professor in the preparatory
      department in 1878. The following year he was appointed principal
      of the department. Thach left Auburn in 1880-1881 to study economics
      at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1881-1882
      he held a professorship in modern languages at Austin College
      in Austin, Texas. The Agricultural and Mechanical College in
      Auburn offered Thach a competitive position for 1882-1883, and
      he returned to Alabama, where he worked for the remainder of his career.

      Thach's professorial titles reflect both his changing interests
      and reforms in American education. In 1887-1888 Thach was named
      professor of English, professor of Latin, recording secretary,
      and librarian, and for the first time, he taught political economy.
      One of Thach's major contributions to education was the founding
      of an economics department at the Agricultural and Mechanical
      College. He became the college's first professor of political
      economy (and English) in 1892-1893. In 1899 the Alabama state
      legislature changed the name of the college at Auburn to the
      Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API); in 1960 its official title
      was once again changed to reflect popular usage, and Auburn University
      was born.

      Thach, named president of the college in 1902, directed the
      modernization of API. He set the stage for the large-scale fundraising
      that would build the school into a nationally recognized institution
      of higher education. In 1905 he wrote to Andrew Carnegie requesting
      funds to build a freestanding library at Auburn. A founding member
      of the Alabama Library Association, Thach took particular pride
      in API's book holdings. He wrote to Carnegie, "I can say without
      exaggeration that [our library] is regarded . . . as one of the
      very best in the South." Auburn's Carnegie Library served the
      college from 1909 to 1963, and the building continues in service
      for administrative offices. The University of Alabama awarded
      Thach an honorary doctorate in 1904; the same year he became
      API's first member of the American Economic Association. In 1908-1909
      the API catalog assumed its modern form, and structural colleges
      were established: academic, engineering and mines, and agricultural
      science. Political economy was retitled economics in 1915, and
      Thach continued to teach in his capacity as professor of psychology
      and economics.

      Thach became president emeritus in December 1919 and died in
      Dalton, Georgia, two years later. His career was a watershed
      for API. He was the first alumnus to attain the presidency and
      the last president to be an integral member of the faculty. Thach
      inherited a nineteenth-century college, he bequeathed a nascent
      twentieth-century university. He reorganized and directed the
      college and founded the department of economics.


      The papers of Charles Coleman Thach are housed in the Presidential
      Collection, Department of Archives, Ralph Brown Draughon Library,
      Auburn University. The papers, which can be accessed with special
      permission from the president's office, include personal and
      professional correspondence. Thach's history of API to 1888 is
      in Alfred M. Bond, Northern Alabama, Historical and Biographical
      (1888). The role Thach played in the creation of Auburn's economics
      department is set out in David O. Whitten and Bess E. Whitten,
      A History of Economics and Business at Auburn University (1992).

      David O. Whitten

      Back to the top

      David O. Whitten. "Thach, Charles Coleman";
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
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