Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Wheeler, Benjamin Ide

Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1854-1927), president of the University of California, was born in Randolph, Massachusetts, on July 15, 1854. He studied at New London Academy in New Hampshire and in 1871 entered Brown which he found to be “a cozy college and small, but for us it became great, because in the compactness of its life all its resources were available to use with a minimum of waste.” At Commencement in 1875 he delivered the classical oration, “Athens in the Days of Pericles.” From 1875 to 1879 he taught in the Providence High School, and from 1879 to 1881 he was instructor in Latin and Greek at Brown. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1885. He was instructor in German at Harvard from 1885 to 1886, professor of comparative philology and Greek at Cornell from 1886 to 1899. In 1899 he was chosen to be the president of the University of California. When he went to Berkeley there were 1,987 students. When he left in 1919 there were 6,983. In 1889 all departments of the university were located in Berkeley, except for the professional schools in San Francisco. During his administration there were added the Scripps Institution at La Jolla, the Experimental Farm at Davis, the Citrus Experiment Station at Riverside, the Los Angeles Medical Department, and the state-wide Extension Division.

In 1909-10 he was the Theodore Roosevelt Professor at the University of Berlin. His fondness for Germany which had begun in his student days continued when the World War began, causing the University of California in 1918 to appoint three members of the faculty as an unofficial advisory board to act as regents. The board continued for six months after his retirement in 1919, until his successor was installed. In 1920 he went to Japan as a member of an unofficial commission to encourage friendly relations with the Japanese. He went to Europe again in 1926, and died in Vienna on February 8, 1927.