University of Minnesota Honorary Degrees and Minneapolis Park Names
Here’s an exclusive club: William Watts Folwell, Thomas Sadler Roberts and Edward Foote Waite. Each has had a Minneapolis park property named for him, and each also received an honorary degree from the University of Minnesota.
William Watts Folwell
1925 was a big year for Folwell when, at age 92, he received the first honorary Doctor of Laws degree ever awarded by the University of Minnesota and Folwell Park was dedicated in his honor. The name for the park had been chosen in 1917, but it took eight years for the park to be finished and dedicated.
Folwell was hired as the first president of the University of Minnesota in 1869. He was elected to the Minneapolis park board in 1888 and served on the board — many years as its president — until 1906. He was the first to propose the name “Grand Rounds” for the city’s ring of parkways.
He is pictured in 1925 when he received his honorary degree, apparently in ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.
Roberts was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Minnesota in 1940, when he was 82. In the photo, taken sometime that year, he is perusing a book of Audubon prints.
The Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Lyndale Park near the north shore of Lake Harriet was named in his honor in 1947, a year after his death.
Roberts was a doctor known for his extraordinary capacity to diagnose unusual diseases and illnesses largely due to his prodigious memory. He retired from medicine in his 50s and devoted his time to ornithology. He taught at the University of Minnesota and was a director of the Museum of Natural History. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.
Waite received his honorary degree from the University of Minnesota and had a Minneapolis park named for him in the same year — 1949 — when he was 89. His Doctor of Science degree honored a legal career best known for years of service as a juvenile court judge in Minneapolis. But he was far more than a wise and compassionate judge; he helped shape the field of juvenile law in the United States.
Waite is less well-known for his five-month stint as Minneapolis’s police chief in 1902. It was not an easy job in the wake of a scandal known nationally as the “Shame of Minneapolis,” centered around corrupt Mayor Albert Ames and his brother Fred, whom he had appointed police chief. David P. Jones was appointed mayor to replace the fugitive Mayor Ames and turned to his friend, Waite, an assistant district attorney with no police experience, to clean up a corrupt police force and restore public faith in law enforcement.
Waite Park was developed along with Waite Elementary School as a joint project between the park board and school board from 1949-1951. The park and school opened for the 1950 school year but final improvements to the site were not completed until the following year.
Waite is pictured snowshoeing in about 1945 at the age of 85. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society. (See another photo of Waite at the school named for him.)
From this very exclusive list it would appear that the good do not die young.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com