First Graduate School Dean
Profile of the George Davis Chase, Founding Dean of the University of Maine Graduate School
By Professor Dan Sandweiss
The Higher Degree, the annual graduate newsletter of the University of Maine, 4:1 (2014)
Although the University of Maine has granted graduate degrees since 1881, the Graduate School as a separate administrative unit did not come into being until 1923. Since that time, 11 individuals have led the Graduate School — 10 deans and one director. The founding dean was George Davis Chase, a professor of classics who also taught “Sanskrit and other languages as the need arose.” After receiving his A.B., A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1889, 1895 and 1897, Chase spent a year at the University of Leipzig in Germany before being appointed an assistant professor at Cornell University and then associate professor at Wesleyan University. He joined the University of Maine faculty in 1905 as professor and head of the Department of Classics.
Chase’s commitment to graduate education spanned his entire career at the university.
From 1905–15, he was a member and chairman of the Committee on Advanced Degrees; from 1915–23, he chaired the Committee on Graduate Study; and in 1923, he became the first dean of the faculty of graduate study, a position he held until 1938. He retired a year later. In 1927, the university awarded Chase an LL.D.
In 1939, The Maine Alumnus cited Chase’s efforts in advancing UMaine graduate work. Chase established a publication series, Maine Studies, principally to publish the best master’s theses. He also established graduate fellowships and scholarships. According to the New York Times on May 27, 1895, Chase himself benefited from a Shattuck graduate scholarship at Harvard, so he understood the importance of this support.
At UMaine, Chase helped create necessary new facilities and an endowment to support faculty and graduate student research.
The Maine Alumnus wrote the following about Chase’s role in establishing graduate studies at the University of Maine: “Realizing the importance of [graduate studies] and the responsibility of a state university to establish adequate and accredited graduate faculties, he set about instigating a complete reorganization of the work. As a result of his vision and leadership, Maine has for nearly 30 years been able to grant a fully accredited and universally recognized masters’ degree.”
The 1938 Commencement, Chase’s last as dean, included a resolution of congratulations stating that George Davis Chase “has done more than any man to develop and maintain in the University the high standard of graduate scholarship and research which chiefly entitle an institution of higher learning to be considered a university.”
George Davis Chase died May 7, 1948 and is buried in a family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, Maine.