in support of the college. But financial struggles
continued with another economic recession in
1907. The college ended the 1912–13 academic
year with revenues and operational expenses in
balance, but without funds to make any headway
on repayment of its $45,788 debt.
In September 1913 the annual conference of
the Methodist Church debated a motion to close
the school. It was a near thing. There were strong
arguments on both sides. That the assembly de-
clined to close the college did not much help the
school’s trustees solve their financial problems.
President Julius Zeller (1909–1913) was well
regarded but had earlier tendered his resignation
in light of the university’s indebtedness. The day
after the Methodist conference ended, the col-
lege’s trustees directed their chair, Edward Blaine,
to “
send for Todd!”
But who was this Edward Howard Todd?
Trustees and church leaders knew him well. An
ordained Methodist minister, Todd had begun
his affiliation with Puget Sound University in
late 1897, when, at age 35, he joined the board
of trustees. In 1905 he became the school’s cor-
responding secretary, a financial officer who
worked with the president to secure funds for
the college. Todd was good at his job, but he had
no control over the spending of the money. In
1909 Todd left Puget Sound, dismayed at the way
money was borrowed and spent with no system-
atic plan for its repayment.
In 1913, when the financial crisis led to the
proposal to close the school, Todd was serving
as vice president of Willamette University, the
other Methodist college in the Pacific Northwest.
Fifty years old and highly regarded, Todd was
at the time mulling over with some enthusiasm
the possibility he might be selected to open a
new school of theology in the region. Edward
Blaine’s letter offering him the presidency of the
University of Puget Sound was unexpected and
not particularly welcome. Todd’s experience with
the school’s financial situation gave him little
hope for the future of the college.
But Edward Blaine and Everell Collins, long-
time servants of the University of Puget Sound
and heroes of the college in their own right, were
persuasive. Finally, after many sleepless nights
and prayers, Todd traveled to Tacoma with four
“propositions” that he required the trustees to
support before he would accept the presidency.
One of the propositions was that the college
would do only what it could afford to do. “We
will do good work and pay for it,” said Todd.
The trustees agreed to the four propositions.
Convinced of their full support, Edward Todd
blazed with a renewed commitment to what
the college could become. His acceptance of the
presidency was, he wrote, “a contract with God.”
Todd put the college’s financial house in
order, in the process achieving a goal previ-
ously thought to be unattainable: He met the
$250,000 Hill Challenge. James J. Hill of St.
Paul, Minn., the builder of the Great Northern
Railway, the “empire builder” for whom our
Seattle-to-Chicago long-distance passenger train
is still named, had earlier agreed to give the col-
lege $50,000 if it raised $200,000. Raising that
sum, back then, was like raising $4.6 million to-
day, and this was when most of the school’s do-
nors were poor church congregations scattered
across a sparsely populated region. But Todd did
it by the Oct. 15, 1915, deadline.
Looking forward to a move to a new campus,
the college in 1919 began a campaign to raise
$1 million for buildings and endowment. The
first half-million was to be raised from the citi-
zens of Tacoma and Pierce County. A group of
businessmen Todd called together to discuss the
campaign said it couldn’t be done. The second
half-million was to be raised from the Methodist
churches and their members in the conference.
When, in 1921, the full million had been secured,
trustees chair Edward Blaine wrote, “You have
heard of the man who tackled the job which
‘couldn’t be done’ and did it. His name is E.H.
Todd. In fact, if any of you have a piece of work
you wish left undone, pray don’t place Dr. Todd
in charge and tell him ‘it can’t be done.’”
Edward Todd worked hard and skillfully for
the college for a very long time. He had to.
When he became president 100 years ago, Todd’s
successor was only 5 years old, a little kid
named Franklin, running around Primrose,
Neb. If Todd knew in 1913 that he would
have to persevere in the job until R. Franklin
Thompson grew up, perhaps he would have
had second thoughts. Instead his passion for
Puget Sound kept him busy for 29 years. In
1924 Todd moved the school to its current
campus and built Jones and Howarth halls and
Warner Gymnasium, and established the archi-
tectural style of the campus. In 1939 he built
Anderson Hall, the college’s first residence. And
Kittredge Hall, the first student center, opened
in 1942, the same year Todd retired at age 79.
For nine years, until his death in 1951,
Todd remained an active member of the Puget
Sound community. R. Franklin Thompson,
only 34 years old when he succeeded Todd as
president, valued Todd’s mentorship and gave
him an office in the basement of Jones Hall,
where Todd wrote his memoir and a history of
the college.
During its first 125 years, Puget Sound has
been served by 13 presidents—eight of them
during the difficult first 25 years. Five have pre-
sided the past 100 years, and counting. Edward
Todd was the first in Puget Sound’s string
of strong, long-tenured leaders. R. Franklin
Thompson served for 31 years. He had to. His
successor, a kid named Phil, was only 10 when
Thompson became president.
Edward H. Todd, R. Franklin Thompson,
Philip M. Phibbs, Susan R. Pierce, and Ronald
R. Thomas were and are strong leaders who led
with the same fervor that energized Todd when
he took over in 1913. Each has made his or her
distinctive mark on the college and advanced
and improved it tremendously. But if 100 years
ago Edward Todd had not been sent for, we
most likely would not today have our beloved
college at all.
John Finney, director of institutional research,
registrar, and associate dean at Puget Sound for
31 years, now is spending his “retirement” help-
ing out in the university archives.