Author: Mark L. McCallon

an associate professor at Abilene Christian University

Edwin Anderson Alderman (1861–1931)

Edwin Anderson Alderman was a noted educator, progressive reformer, and president of the University of North Carolina, Tulane University, and the University of Virginia, where he served as the school’s first president from 1904 until his death in 1931. He brought to the University of Virginia a zeal for progressive reform, having campaigned in North Carolina and Louisiana for increased spending on public education and the creation of teacher-training schools, especially for women. In Charlottesville, Alderman established the Curry Memorial School of Education in 1905 and reorganized the university to emphasize efficiency and promote professional and technical instruction. He also turned the University of Virginia into the southern center of the eugenics movement in the United States, spreading a culture of scientific racism and creating support for the state-sponsored sterilization of individuals considered genetically unfit. The number of faculty doubled by 1907 and the university became more integrated with the educational life of the rest of the state. Alderman supported creating a coordinate college for women at the university, and even though the General Assembly opposed the idea, the university began admitting women to its graduate and professional programs in 1918. Alderman was a prolific fund-raiser, a well-known orator, and a close advisor to U.S. president Woodrow Wilson. In 1938, the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia was dedicated in Alderman’s honor. In 2024, it was renamed the Edgar Shannon Library in honor of the university’s fourth president due to Alderman’s support of the eugenics movement.