[Reprinted from the Vanderbilt Alumnus Magazine, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Autumn 1972), p. 15.]
A white marble tablet on the third floor of Kirkland Hall dedicated to him by the student body on June 2, 1915, calls him "a pioneer and undaunted champion in the struggle for purity in college athletics." Dedication ceremonies of Dudley Field on a sunny Saturday afternoon fifty years ago hailed him as "Dean of Southern athletics, scholar, gentleman, and friend." The man so honored was the late William Lofland Dudley.
Born in Covington, Kentucky, on April 16, 1859, William Lofland Dudley became a man who did not recognize failure. Accepting the Chair in Chemistry at Vanderbilt in 1886, he promptly assessed the needs of the Middle Southwest and set out to meet them. In its infancy, he was the Vanderbilt Athletic Association; he made its schedules, purchased uniforms and equipment, went on road trips, and financed team games. Abhorring professionalism, he organized the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (precursor of the Southern Intercollegiate Conference and Southeastern Conference) in December 1894 and served as its president until December 1913. He prompted college faculties to take control of sports, and he promoted physical examinations for athletes, heavier penalties for swearing and football "piling on," and the division of football games into four fifteen-minute quarters. Professor Dudley also served on the Executive Committee of the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Showing a genius for chemistry as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, he became the man to whom Chancellor Kirkland entrusted the reorganization of the Medical Department. Professor Dudley inaugurated courses in organic chemistry, and envisioning Southern industrial development, took his students to visit factories to get a concept of chemical engineering. When Furman Hall was constructed in 1906 to house the chemical laboratories, he was not satisfied with the proposed flooring, so developed his own, a magnesia-cement composition containing cellulose water-proofed with parafin and asbestos.
Also interested in civic affairs, Professor Dudley was a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. He was on the governing council of the American Chemical Society, a fellow and vice-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and grand consul of Sigma Chi from 1897 to 1899.
Upon his death September 8, 1914, the Athletic Association paid him tribute: "He had a wider and more intimate acquaintance with the students and alumni of Vanderbilt University than any other person; he was loved by all of them, and that was his sufficient compensation."
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