By Janice Schulz
When Daniel Laurence was at the height of his career at the University of Cincinnati, he was honorably dubbed “Mr. UC.” This is not a title that was given out lightly, but a testament to Laurence’s career and his devotion to the University. He spent 62 years of his life at the University of Cincinnati from 1890 to 1961. Of those decades, four years were spent as an undergraduate student, football star, and student leader, 40 as clerk of the Board of Directors, Secretary and Business Manager, and Vice President, and 18 as Emeritus Vice President. Laurence was there as the University grew from a small city school to a strong institution. He saw 12 presidents come and go. He watched as 43 buildings and Nippert Stadium rose from the ground and oversaw many of those building projects as Vice President. During his time, enrollment grew from 133 to 17,538 students and the one Academic Department of 1890 became six separate colleges. And largely under his supervision, the annual budget grew from $76,860.57 to over $18 million. If anyone deserves the title of “Mr. UC,” it is surely he.
Born January 18, 1873, to Daniel and Mary (Cortelyou) Laurence, he was raised in and lived his whole life in Cincinnati, dedicating his time to not only the University, but also to other local public service organizations. He graduated from Hughes High School, where he was president of the senior class, and entered UC in 1890 to study Biology. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, was football captain (his position was full back), was President of the Students’ Executive Committee, and sang first bass in the Glee Club.
Laurence received his Bachelor of Science degree from UC in 1894 with a class of 33 fellow graduates. Although he started medical school after
his undergraduate work was complete, financial issues prevented him from pursuing that further and his life in public service began. His first professional position was clerk of the Superior Court in Cincinnati, which he held for three years. After that he served as chief deputy U.S. marshal for the district of Southern Ohio. During this time he also served as Mayor of his hometown, Reading.
On May 19, 1903, Laurence reported as Clerk of the Board of Directors, beginning his long career at UC. In that role he was responsible for keeping minutes of all board meetings, bookkeeping, acting as Paymaster for the University, and overseeing legal steps for tenants in arrears. As the University grew, so did the responsibilities of the position of Clerk. In 1920, the title of Business Manager was added to Laurence’s position; the new designation intended “to place the duties of this office in a truer light before the public.” (UC Board of Directors Minutes, September 28, 1920)
On June 4, 1929, Laurence was named Vice President in charge of Business Administration, becoming the first person ever to receive the title of Vice President at the University. In 1930 he moved his new department into the renovated Van Wormer Hall, now the home of University Administration. Laurence wrote about his new office in the 1929 Cincinnatian: “In former years, when the investment in college buildings and equipment, and the amount of college endowment funds were small, there was little need of a department especially organized to take care of them; but, with the expansion of the university in student attendance and in equipment, there has developed the department of Business Administration. To keep the physical plant in operation, to see that the needs of the various departments are provided, to manage and care for endowment investments, to collect, disburse and account for all moneys whether from student fees or other sources, and last but not least, to serve professor and student, are some of the details connected with the management of a university.” The department that Laurence founded is now the Division of Administration and Finance.
Laurence was always interested in the welfare of the student body and believed in the importance of a well-rounded education that included both academic study and extracurricular activities. The 1931 Cincinnatian quotes, “The students of our school have no better friend and defender than Mr. Laurence. Although his administrative duties are heavy he always has time for conferences with students and has a sympathetic understanding for the students’ viewpoint.” He served on the Committee of Trustees of Student Activities and was active in the Alumni Association. In 1934 he combined his alumni and VP roles by starting the Committee on University Bequests, organized to provide assistance to those wishing to include UC in their will as well as to encourage alumni to do so.
Laurence received several honors during his tenure at UC. In 1927 he was given membership in the Sigma Sigma honorary fraternity. The 1930 and 1938 Cincinnatian yearbooks were dedicated to him. His fraternity, Sigma Chi, named him Grand Counsul for the years 1931-1933. Upon his retirement, Laurence was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Although officially retired in 1943, Laurence was not finished serving the University and he was named Vice President Emeritus in charge of real estate and insurance. He was elected to the Cincinnati Board of Education and he served there until 1956. Laurence died on January 3, 1961. UC honored him again by naming the new physical education building Daniel Laurence Hall. The $1.75 million, four-story building, which stood on the site of the current Recreation Center until 2003, opened for use in the fall of 1961. At a memorial service held at UC for Laurence on January 9, 1961, Vice President and Dean of University Administration Ralph C. Bursiek remarked about Laurence, “In his passing the University, the community, and the educational world have lost a devoted and capable friend. He did in truth deserve the informal nickname of ‘Mr. UC.’ His name, I know, will go down with the all-time greats of the University of Cincinnati.”