North American Scholar
WIGGINS, Benjamin Lawton
A.B. U. of the South (Sewanee), 1880; M.A., 1882; LL.D. Trinity Coll. (Hartford, CT), 1899; St. John's Coll. (Annapolis, MD). 1902; South Carolina Coll. (1905); fell, by courtesy Johns Hopkins, 1883-4.
- Professional Experience:
First asst. chair of anc. langs. U. of South, 1880-1; prof. anc. langs. 1881-1909; vice chancellor, 1893-1909.
B. Lawton Wiggins was an extremely important force in Southern education at the close of the 19th century. A graduate of Sewanee, Wiggins became professor of Greek at 20 and vice chancellor at 32. As the South came back to life after Reconstruction, technical and vocational universities received increased funding and interest. It was Wiggins' role to maintain the original vision of Sewanee as a university to train leaders from and for the South. He recognized that the liberal arts and particularly the classics were crucial for any of the professions, whether law, medicine, or business and developed a 14-unit standard curriculum. He gradually raised entrance and graduation requirements to those of the elite colleges of the East, to the point where the number of matriculating students became dangerously low. His strategy was rewarded in 1908 when the Association of Southern Universities and Colleges voted to make his curriculum compulsory for its members.He made a lifelong friend of his teacher Gildersleeve, who lectured for several summers at the compulsory Sewanee Summer School. Wiggins published nothing substantial, but Gildersleeve said of him, "his extraordinary ability as a man of affairs was happily paired with a deep and fervid love of letters."
NatCAB 13:560; Sewanee Archives; WhAm 1:1343.
- Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.