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Hopkins, Emory, and Georgia Tech

Isaac Stiles Hopkins, class of 1859

President 1884-1888
Isaac Stiles Hopkins

Stamped in the mold of the early presidents of Emory—who often pursued half a dozen professions during their lives, from farming to lawyering and doctoring and preaching—Isaac Stiles Hopkins had a formative influence on higher education in the State of Georgia.

Graduating from Emory College in the same class as Atticus Haygood, Hopkins went on to the Medical College of Georgia and earned his medical degree in two years. But he never practiced medicine. Instead, he heard the call to ministry and served pastoral appointments in north Georgia for eight years, before joining the faculty at Emory in 1869. A man for all disciplines, Hopkins began his career at Emory in the chair of natural science, later taught Latin, switched to teaching English literature in 1882, added the Department of Toolcraft and Design to his portfolio in 1884, and, as president, taught the usual presidential courses in mental and moral science.

From his hobby of woodworking and mechanics grew, beginning in Haygood's administration in 1882, the first technology department in the state—housed at first in his home, where he worked with students who bought their own simple tools, then later moved to the building on the Oxford campus now known as Hopkins Hall, housing Oxford College's Eady Admissions Center. Haygood also launched a School of Telegraphy at the same time. Like many educators of his day in the South, Hopkins recognized the growing strength of the technological and industrial north, and also noted with some alarm that the new mills in the South were hiring Northerners as foremen and supervisors, while untrained Southerners were limited to lower-paying jobs. In an ironic reversion to the old ideal of the manual labor school, Hopkins called on Emory College to accommodate those who could "learn to work with both brains and hands." The notion was, if not revolutionary, at least unusual—providing the means of livelihood to students in the midst of a Christian liberal arts curriculum.

Optimistic about the prospects for the technological department, the Board of Trustees authorized construction of a building to house the program, and Hopkins Hall was completed in 1885. Borrowing $5,000 on the strength of a poorly performing endowment, the board sought to nurture the department toward self-sufficiency through sale of the products of the students. Shortly Hopkins was seeking an endowment of $20,000 to support the department, but like much of the Emory endowment in the nineteenth century, it never materialized.

Within a few years, however, the experiment begun in Hopkins's home workshop had caught the attention and the fancy of the state. When Georgia founded the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1888, Hopkins became Georgia Tech's first president. His departure from Emory in 1889 led to the closing of the technology department and Emory's abandonment forever of any engineering program.

During the Hopkins administration, for the first time, the Board of Trustees opened the way for representatives of the Alumni Association to sit on the board. The first three alumni trustees, elected in 1886, were Charles E. Dowman (1873), Charles G. Goodrich (1862), and Robert E. Park (1862).

Source: A Legacy of Heart and Mind: Emory Since 1836. Gary S. Hauk, PhD


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