William Mather Lewis

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William Mather Lewis

Mayor of Lake Forest, Illinois
In office
President of George Washington University
In office
President of Lafayette College
In office
Personal details
Born(1878-03-24)March 24, 1878
Howell, Michigan
DiedNovember 11, 1945(1945-11-11) (aged 67)
Colebrook, Connecticut
Alma materLake Forest College 1900
Illinois College 1902
University of Berlin 1914

William Mather Lewis (March 24, 1878 – November 11, 1945) was an American teacher, university president, local politician, and a state and national government official. He was mayor of Lake Forest, Illinois from 1915–17, President of George Washington University from 1923-7 and the President of Lafayette College from 1927-45.[1]



Lewis received an A.B. from Lake Forest College in 1900,[2] and an A.M. from Illinois College in 1902.[3] Later, he would receive his Ph.D. from the University of Berlin. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta.[4]

Lake Forest[edit]

Lewis was briefly principal of Whipple Academy, Jacksonville (a preparatory school of Illinois College),[3] before returning to Lake Forest to be head of the department of oratory and debate at Lake Forest Academy for three years. In 1905 he became headmaster at the academy, resigning in 1913 to travel and study in Europe.[5][6][7] He was mayor of Lake Forest, Illinois from 1915–17.[8]

State and national roles[edit]

Lewis was field secretary of the Navy League of the United States in the Mid-West in 1915.[9]

During World War I, he was executive secretary of the National Committee of Patriotic Societies.[5] Lewis was director of the savings division of the United States Treasury Department and chief of educational service for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1921-23.[1]

Because of his earlier work during World War I, Lewis was asked to become the director of the Pennsylvania Selective Service System (organising "the draft", which he did from September 1940 until he stepped down in November 1941 since it detracted from his duties as president of Lafayette College.[10]

University career[edit]

Lewis was President of George Washington University from June 1923[2]-27, and President of Lafayette College from March 1927[5] until retiring in July 1945, shortly before his death.[11] He was succeeded by Ralph Cooper Hutchison.[12]


Lewis was a contributor to the Encyclopædia Britannica.[5] He was awarded a patent for a milk bottle holder in 1918.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Lewis was born in Howell, Michigan in 1878. His father was Rev. James Lewis, minister of the Howell church from 1875 to 1882,[14] and his mother was Mary Farrand.[15]

He married Ruth Durand in December 1906[16] and they had a daughter, Sarah aka Sally Lewis Betts Hale (1907–2006).[17][18][19] They had a summer home in, and later lived in, Colebrook, Connecticut.[17]

They spent more than a year travelling and studying in Europe, including England and Berlin, from June 1913 to October 1914. This enabled Lewis to obtain a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin[7][20]

He died from a heart attack while driving near his home in November 1945.[11] His widow Ruth died in 1953.[21]


  • Lewis, William Mather. Selected Readings from the Most Popular Novels. Hinds and Noble, 1903.
  • Lewis, William Mather. The Voices of Our Leaders. Hinds, Hayden & Elderedge, Inc., 1917[22]
  • Lewis, William Mather. From a College Platform: Addresses. Dial Press, Inc., 1932.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bamberger, Miriam (October 6, 2003). "Presidential Profiles". GW Hatchet. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Elected University Head.; W.M. Lewis Is Chosen by George Washington Board". New York Times. June 1, 1923.
  3. ^ a b The School Journal. 71. E.L. Kellogg & Co. 1905. p. 604.
  4. ^ Sanua, Marianne Rachel (1998). Here's to our fraternity: one hundred years of Zeta Beta Tau, 1898-1998. UPNE. p. 140. ISBN 0-87451-879-2.
  5. ^ a b c d "Education: Education Notes, Mar. 14, 1927". Time. March 14, 1927. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  6. ^ "New Head Master at Lake Forest". Chicago Daily Tribune. November 18, 1905.
  7. ^ a b "Society and Entertainments". Chicago Daily Tribune. May 24, 1913.
  8. ^ New York State education. 24. New York State Teachers Association. October 1936. p. 61.
  9. ^ Michigan alumnus. 23. University of Michigan. Alumni Association. 1917. p. 185.
  10. ^ "State's Draft Head Resigns". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 14, 1941. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Dr. W.M. Lewis, 67, College Ex-Head; President of Lafayette for 18 Years Dies--Held Same Post at George Washington U." New York Times. November 12, 1945. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  12. ^ "Hutchison Elected Lafayette President". Reading Eagle. May 12, 1945. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  13. ^ Lewis, William Mather (October 1, 1918). "Receptable for bottles, 1280501". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  14. ^ The Christian Century. 55. Christian Century Foundation. 1938. p. 1166.
  15. ^ Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 16. Illinois State Historical Society. 1923. p. 195.
  16. ^ "In the Society World". Chicago Daily Tribune. November 30, 1906.
  17. ^ a b "The Colebrook Historical Society, Inc" (PDF). 2008. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  18. ^ "Hale, Sarah Lewis". Hartford Courant. October 4, 2006. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  19. ^ The Smith College monthly. 15. 1908. p. 396.
  20. ^ "News of Chicago Clubs and the Society World". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 1, 1914.
  21. ^ "Mrs. William M. Lewis". New York Times. May 29, 1953.
  22. ^ The Voice of Our Leaders on Archive.org

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Cloyd H. Marvin
President of George Washington University
Succeeded by
William Miller Collier
Preceded by
John Henry MacCracken
President of Lafayette College
Succeeded by
Ralph Cooper Hutchison