Herbert S. Hadley

Seventh Chancellor, 1923-27

1923: Herbert Spencer Hadley was inaugurated as chancellor on November 10.
1924: Washington University upgraded entrance requirements for college students and created a Freshman Advisory Council.
1924: The university formally offered its first summer school, which attracted 534 students.
1927: The George Warren Brown Department of Social Work was founded.
1927: Chancellor Hadley died from heart disease, and George Throop was named acting chancellor.

Herbert Spencer Hadley was born in Olathe, Kansas, in 1872.

He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas and his law degree from Northwestern University in Chicago.

He began his professional career as a general practice lawyer in Kansas City before initiating a 30-year career in public life, serving as first assistant city counselor in Kansas City and continuing on to become prosecuting attorney for Jackson County, attorney general of Missouri and, in 1909 at age 36, governor of Missouri.

A progressive Republican who fought against corporate wealth and gambling, he served for one term before returning to law practice in Kansas City. By some accounts, he nearly received the Republican Party’s nomination for U.S. President in 1912.

“Ours is the typical American city…that belongs neither to the East, West, North, or South, but which exemplifies American life as a whole. Here are to be found the culture and refinement of the East, the courage and vigor of the North, the frankness and freedom of the West, and the courtesy and chivalry of the South. We have sunshine enough for sentiment and snow enough for courage, and we have the substantial foundations of industrial and agricultural wealth to justify our claim to leadership in material as well as in spiritual achievements.” -Herbert S. Hadley, Address at the laying of the cornerstone for Newton R. Wilson Memorial Hall, May 19, 1924

He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Colorado in 1916 for the benefits of the cleaner air. He recovered well enough to take a position as professor of law at the University of Colorado before being recruited by Robert S. Brookings to become chancellor of Washington University in 1923.

During his short four years as chancellor, the university established several new programs, including the departments of economics, political science, sociology and social work, and the Graduate School of Economics and Government, which eventually became the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

During Hadley’s administration, the first summer school program was offered to the public and the official mascot of the university’s athletic teams became the bear. The School of Medicine also thrived during his time as chancellor. Class sizes increased, as did admission standards.

By 1927 it was clear that his health was again failing and George Throop took over as interim chancellor while Hadley struggled to recover. When he died in December 1927, current Missouri Governor Henry S. Caulfield said in his eulogy: “There is not a resident of Missouri but who is better off that Herbert Hadley lived.” His colleagues from the Kansas City Bar Association published a memorial collection of letters received about the great man. One colleague noted, “his integrity was flawless; he had character. To do right and to repudiate wrong and sham were the impulses that guided all his actions.” Another wrote: “He was strong, honest, upright, intellectual, and alert. He possessed great talents and used them well.”

Next: Eighth Chancellor George R. Throop
Previous: Sixth Chancellor Frederic Aldin Hall