Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date



Thaddeus Seymour came to Rollins in 1978 as the twelfth president of the College. During his twelve-year tenure, he not only transformed the school through fund-raising efforts, but also enhanced the academic excellence of its liberal arts education and strengthened the relationship with the local community.

Seymour was born on June 29, 1928, in New York City. His father was Whitney North Seymour, a well-known attorney and president of the American Bar Association. Seymour attended Princeton and the University of California at Berkley as an undergraduate. From there, he went to the University of North Carolina, studied eighteenth-century English literature, and received his master’s degree and Ph.D. Seymour began his academic career as an English professor at Dartmouth, and five years later became Dean of the College. Before coming to Rollins, Seymour served as president of Wabash College in Indiana for nine years.

While at Rollins, Seymour led the college’s centennial celebration, rededicated the Walk of Fame, raised funds for the construction of the Olin Library and the Cornell Social Science Building, reinstated Fox Day, and actively contributed to various community activities. He served as chairman, vice-chairman, and committee member of numerous academic and civic organizations. Throughout his life, Seymour has been widely known not only as dean and college president, but also an inspiring teacher, a caring counselor, a supportive friend, a charming magician and a leading citizen of the community.

Upon his retirement in 1990, Seymour received an honorary degree from Rollins College. He has also been recognized with honorary doctorates from Wilkes College (PA), Butler University, and Indiana State University. In 1994, he received the Citizen's Award from the Sullivan Committee. Three years later, in 1997, Seymour and his wife, Polly, became Winter Park’s Citizens of the Year, in recognition of their continued service to the community.


In this oral history interview, Dr. Thaddeus Seymour reflected on some defining moments of the college history and the Hamilton Holt administration, such as the Rice Affair, the 1947 Rollins/Ohio Wesleyan Football Game, Mary Bethune's honorary degree from Rollins, the Wagner Affair and the Hugh McKean administration, as well as his tenure as the 12th president of Rollins College working with faculty, staff, students, college friends and donors, the Board of Trustees and other community leaders in Central Florida from 1978 to 1990.


Rollins College Archives