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|The Influence of the Gift
of Mrs. Wiess
ANGIE FRANK SMITH, B.A., D.D., LL.D.
Bishop, Methodist Episcopal Church, South
|I would be true neither to my own feelings nor to the spirit
of this occasion, did I not first of all, give expression to the sense of
privilege and high honor I feel in having a place upon this program.
The story of Southwestern University falls naturally into three divisions: I. 1873-1911; II. 1911-1937; III. 1937-.
The first period began with the establishing of Southwestern University at Georgetown, in 1873, as the central institution of higher learning for Texas Methodism. When it was established, Texas was yet frontier, in largest part. San Jacinto was but thirty-seven years removed and the rigors of reconstruction following the War between the States were still being felt. The story of Southwestern for the next thirty-eight years is intimately interwoven with the story of the emerging of Texas from a primitive wilderness to a state of high industrial and cultural development. The sons and daughters of, Southwestern played a large part in this saga. Particularly did Southwestern contribute to the growth of Texas Methodism. Less than fifty thousand Methodists were in Texas when Southwestern opened its doors. There were more than three hundred thousand in 1911. The training received by ministers and laity alike through this period came in largest part from Southwestern. Those were the days of Southwestern's glory -- the days of Mood, McLean, Sanders, Hyer, Cody, Allen, and Young. Never did any institution more fully vindicate its right to live than did Southwestern University during those early years.
Inevitably this period came to its close with the founding, in 1911, of Southern Methodist University at Dallas, which shortly became the central institution, not only of Texas Methodism, but of all Methodism west of the Mississippi River. During the period from 1911 onward, Southwestern carried on bravely, but the war, economic upheavals, and a building debt took heavy toll of its student body and resources. With the closing in of the depression in 1930 it seemed as though the old school could not survive. That it did so is high tribute to the fidelity of its leaders, and to the loyalty of its friends. It was generally agreed, however, that without financial relief, the future held small hope. Such was the situation in the early months of 1937, when the gift of Mrs. Louisa Elizabeth Wiess, of Houston, together with the money raised by alumni and friends of the institution, in keeping with the terms of her bequest, relieved Southwestern of all indebtedness and added $200,000.00 to its endowment. The second period in the life of Southwestern ends here.
The third now begins, and with no indebtedness and more than $500,000.00 productive endowment, the future is as bright as the promises of God.
The beginning of Southwestern and its new birth of today are strangely, and we believe providentially, linked through the life of its great benefactress, Mrs. William Wiess.
From its earliest day, Georgetown has been peopled by cultured, God fearing folk. A college was maintained for the education of their children, long before Southwestern was established in the town. Because of the advantages of this environment, there moved to Georgetown in 1871 a sterling family, that of S. D. Carothers, consisting of father, mother, and four children. The third child was a daughter, Louisa Elizabeth, who had been born in Austin on March 27, 1856. The Carothers' home was one of piety, culture, and high integrity. In such a home, and in the intellectual atmosphere of Georgetown, the daughter grew to womanhood. During her childhood, Southwestern was established in Georgetown, and when she was married in 1880 to Captain William Wiess of Beaumont, Texas, the ceremony was performed by Dr. F. A. Mood, the President of the University. Naturally her interest in the institution was profound and intimate.
Mrs. Wiess went to Beaumont as a bride and here she spent the whole of her married life. Captain Wiess died in 1914, and in 1923 Mrs. Wiess removed to Houston to be near her son, Mr. Harry C. Wiess, the President of the Humble Oil and Refining Company, and his family. Here she resided till her death on July 7, 1936.
The Wiess home in Beaumont was a center of culture, intellectuality, and piety. Captain Wiess was a man of outstanding achievement in the business world, a capitalist, a builder, a philanthropist. In his personal life he was a man of deep spiritual convictions, an active churchman, and unswerving in his support of all moral and righteous interests.
A fit companion indeed for so rugged a character was his wife. Equally devoted to the finer things of life, Mrs. Wiess made a home in Beaumont, in which was exemplified a devotion and a love beautiful beyond words. She was active in her church, a lady bountiful to all who were in need, and a devoted mother to Captain Wiess' children by a former marriage. Possessed of tremendous energy, she had a vivid interest in life all about her. She had one son of her own whom she loved with surpassing devotion.
For many years Captain Wiess was a trustee of Southwestern University, giving to it liberally of his time and means. Quite naturally Mrs. Wiess shared this interest in fullest measure.
In the summer of 1936, desiring to honor the memory of his father, and knowing what pleasure the gift would bring to his mother, Mr. Harry C. Wiess, cordially supported by his sister, Mrs. W. A. Priddie, of Beaumont, suggested to his mother that she give certain stocks, worth at this time in excess of $160,000.00, to Southwestern University. Mrs. Wiess joyfully acquiesced in the proposal, and executed the necessary papers. Less than a month later she was called to her Heavenly Home.
In fitting fashion this noble woman came to the end of her earthly life, with this magnificent gift to the institution with which her whole life had been so closely connected. Because of this gift, Southwestern has come into a new day. Blessings upon the life of this remarkable woman. To her memory, and to her son, whose filial devotion conceived this gift, we solemnly pledge ourselves today to make of Southwestern an institution which will fill a unique place in the educational life of the Southwest, a small college of select clientele, conducted under liberal religious auspices, with academic standards of the highest type, and affording that environment which such a small college alone can give. The trend in higher education is away from the mass idea, and toward the smaller group. In Southwestern, because of its location, its equipment, its long history and its traditions, we have the greatest opportunity in the Southwest for the developing of just such an institution.
This long has been our dream. Thanks to the vision and munificence of the Wiess family, it will now become a reality.
Old Southwestern in
My College Days
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