Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches
ROBERT ERNEST VINSON
Robert Ernest Vinson, retired president of The University of Texas at Austin, died on September 2, 1945. He was 68.
President Vinson was born on November 4, 1876, in White Oak, South Carolina. He earned a bachelor's degree from Austin College in 1896 and a degree in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia in 1899. In 1902 he studied at the University of Chicago. In 1905 Austin College honored President Vinson with a divinity degree.
Following his ordination, he served as associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Charleston, West Virginia. He was a professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 1902 to 1908. He was appointed president of the seminary in 1908. In 1916 he was selected as the fifth president of UT Austin.
The University was thrown into a crisis at the start of President Vinson's administration when Governor Ferguson sought the dismissal of the president and six faculty members whom he disliked. The governor also attemped to oust regents who opposed him and vetoed almost all of the University's legislative appropriation for the biennium of 1917-1919. President Vinson, with the support of faculty, alumni, students, and other citizens, successfully fought back these efforts. Governor Ferguson was impeached by the Texas Legislature for his actions.
During World War I President Vinson allowed training of students for the war effort through the Students Army Training Corp, which was authorized by the U.S. government.
Following the Armistice, President Vinson proposed expansion of the campus, initially by moving it to the Brackenridge tract near Lake Austin. However, legislative appropriations allowed for the purchase of substantial acreage adjoining the University. More than 1,200 Austin citizens served as cosigners of a bond to protect the state from the cost of buying this land. President Vinson then initiated a fund-raising campaign to expand the campus on the newly acquired land. Two University landmarks were eventually built as a result of his efforts, Memorial Stadium and Gregory Gymnasium.
In 1923 President Vinson resigned from UT Austin and accepted a position as president of Case Western Reserve University, where he served for 10 years, retiring in 1933. He expanded the physical campus, increased student enrollment, and founded the university's graduate school.
President Vinson was recognized with honorary degrees by eight institutions. He also served 14 years as a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation of Teaching.
John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty
Biographical sketch prepared by Teresa Palomo Acosta and posted on the Faculty Council web site on January 5, 2001. Additional biographical sources can be found in the Barker Texas History Center and the New Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association, 1996.