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George Edgar Vincent

George Edgar Vincent

Mar 21, 1864 — Feb 1, 1941

"The cynic makes fun of all earnestness; he makes fun of everything and everyone who feels that something can be done...But in his heart of hearts he knows that he is a defeated man and that his cynicism is merely an expression of the fact that he has lost courage and is beaten." 
–George Edgar Vincent

George E. Vincent was born March 21, 1864 in Rockford, Illinois, the son of Bishop John Heyl Vincent. From childhood he was destined to be a social pioneer. His father was the founder of the Chautauqua movement, a popular system of education and home study for adults. Vincent spent the early years of his career working for the Chautauqua Schools, eventually succeeding his father. He received an A.B. degree from Yale University in 1885, after which he took a year off traveling in Europe and the Orient.

In 1886 Vincent became the literary editor of the Chautauqua Press. He then served as Vice-President of the school from 1888-1889. Vincent entered the University of Chicago in 1892, the same year the university was established, and became the first graduate student in the world’s first sociology department. Along with Albion Small, Chair of the new department, Vincent helped write Introduction to the Study of Sociology, the first sociology textbook ever published in the United States. Vincent received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1896. His dissertation was entitled “Social Mind and Education”. In 1898 he also took over duties as Principal of the Chautauqua School.

After spending some time as a teaching fellow in sociology at the University of Chicago, Vincent became a full professor of sociology in 1904. From 1900-1907 he was Dean of the Junior College, and from 1907-1911 he served as the Dean of Arts, Literature and Sciences at Chicago. In 1911, after some persuasion from Minnesota governor John Lind, Vincent became the President of the University of Minnesota. He was described as “a professor’s ideal of a president”, employing exceptional instructors, encouraging scholarship, and building the University’s reputation as one of the country’s leading research universities. Influenced heavily by his experiences with Chautauqua, Vincent established the General Extension Division to provide access for adults to University of Minnesota classes. He established a connection between the Graduate School and the Mayo Foundation and created the All-University Student Council. He even created faculty representation in the Senate. During this time from 1907-1915, Vincent also served as the President of the Chautauqua Institution. He left both positions in 1917 to become the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, which under his guidance expanded its activities in medical aid and research. On March 9, 1920, Vincent gave a speech to the Empire Club of Canada entitled, “The Work of the Rockefeller Foundation. Health as an International Bond”. Vincent spoke again to the Empire Club on February 7, 1929, on “The British Empire and World Health”. He was a trustee of the Peiping Union Medical College from 1917 to 1929 and the China Medical Board, Inc. from 1930 to 1938. He was also a member of a variety of other groups, including the General Education Board from 1914 to 1929 and the United States Delegation to the Pan American Conference in Santiago, Chile in 1923. Vincent retired in 1929 but kept active in many more outside activities and roles: member of the President’s Public Works Commission in 1931, lecturer at the Scandinavian University in 1933, Chairman of the Hospital Survey Committee of the United Hospital Fund in New York City in 1935, member of the American Scandinavian Foundation, and member of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the Educational Foundation.

Vincent had always held an intimate tie to sociology. He was one of the founding members of the American Sociological Society in 1895. He dedicated much of his time serving as associate editor of the American Journal of Sociology from 1895 to 1915 and advisory editor from 1915 to 1933. Vincent was the sixth President of the American Sociological Society in 1916 and a pioneer of rural sociology. Vincent's Presidential Address, delivered at the 1916 Annual Meeting, was entitled "Countryside and Nation" and was later published in the Proceedings of the 1916 meeting.

Upon his death in 1941, the following obituary was published in the American Sociological Review (pp 273-275): "George E. Vincent (1864-1941)" (starts at bottom of page).

For more information on George Edgar Vincent, you may find the following sources useful:

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