1890s Students

1896 - First WUP class to include women, Margaret and Stella Stein


Louis J. Affleder (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) had a long career as an engineer. He was also a founding member of the National Federation of Settlements, part of the late 19th century settlement house movement designed to address the conditions of the urban poor.    

Theodor Ahlers (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) joined in the family business, the Ahlers Lumber Company.

Edmund Watt Arthur (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) was an eminent Pittsburgh attorney, as well as an avid naturalist, geologist, and essayist. Lake Arthur (in Pennsylvania) is named in his honor.

Edgar Dawson Bell (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) was a property lawyer with Gordon & Smith.  He also served as chairman of the board of Woods Run Settlement House and vice president of the Baptist Orphanage and Home Society of Western Pennsylvania. 

Alexander Black (Special Literature Prize) attended the Pittsburgh Law School, where he taught for some time after his graduation, before moving on to the law firm of Gordon & Smith. 

Ernest Gallagher Forrester (Senior Oratorical Prize) graduated from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and served as a Presbyterian minister in Ohio.

Joseph F. Griggs (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) became a physician whose career included the charge of a Presbyterian hospital in Peking.

William A. Johnston left a legacy in the university’s student culture that persists to this day. One of the early editors of the Courant, he was both valedictorian and class poet; he was also on the committee that selected blue and gold as the university’s colors and penned “Alle-genee-genac-genac,” a cheer still heard at Panthers football games. After graduation, he was a feature writer for several newspapers and an editor on the staff of both the New York Herald and the New York World. He published magazine articles throughout this career and a novel, Limpy, the Boy Who Felt Neglected (with illustrations by Arthur W. Brown) in 1916. It was made into an MGM movie, When a Feller Needs a Friend,” starring Jackie Cooper and Charles “Chic” Sale. Until his death in 1929, Johnston annually awarded a prize for the best short story written by a University of Pittsburgh undergraduate.

John Duff Houston (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) became president of James W. Houston Wholesale Grocers, his father’s company.

John E. McKirdy, literary editor of the Courant from 1891-92, later served as chief clerk of the state senate.

Park Hays Miller (Senior Oratorical Prize) served as a Presbyterian minister at the Church of the Evangel in Philadelphia. He also wrote a number of books, among them Heroes of the Church and Our Reasonable Faith.

William Gardner Shrom (Senior Oratorical Prize) worked for Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co. as an engineer.

Burt Smyers

Burt Smyers (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) organized the University of Pittsburgh’s first football team.  He arrived on campus in the Fall of 1889 and with a senior, John Scott, assembled a team that played one game, a loss to Shadyside Academy.  The following Fall, the team—and the sport—was formally recognized by the university.  Smyers was the quarterback.  

In recalling his career, Smyers said, "I played four years, as did most of the boys... And the last two years nearly all of us wore beards or moustaches. Football didn't bring in any revenue then. When we started the game we started very modestly. The boys had to supply their own equipment. I had no money to spend recklessly so I wrote home to mother and told her I needed a pair of football pants and she made them by cutting off the legs of an old gray pair and putting rubber elastic around the knees. The stockings were contributed by my sister.”

After graduation, Smyers had a long career as a lawyer in Pittsburgh. He remained an active supporter of Pitt football. 

Margaret Lydia Stein (Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature) was, with her sister Stella, one of the first two women to enroll in the Western University of Pennsylvania. Both sisters returned for their master’s degrees; Margaret went on to serve as principal at Avalon High School until her marriage. 



The Chancellor’s Prizes in English Literature

In 1883, the Chancellor established two annual prizes in English literature, one of $20 and one of $15. These were awarded at the end of the sophomore year to students of “first and second rank,” based on their work in literature over the first two years of study. The students were selected by a committee consisting of “the Professor of English, the Chancellor, and a third party whom these two may select.” In the 1890s, the winners of the Chancellor’s Prize, English Literature were:  

1890      Henry Maximilian Ferren, Joseph F. Griggs, Jr.
1891      William Charles Gill, Bert Hunter Smyers
1892      Louis J. Affelder, Alfred Fred Hamilton
1893      Edmund Watt Arthur, Theodore Ahlers
1894      Daniel McBride Franklin, Carlisle Hodkinson
1895      Frederic Walter Miller, Andrew Watson Forsythe
1896      Henry Hazlett Forsyth, John Duff Houston, Margaret Lydia Stein
1897      David Skirboll, Hugh Logan Porter
1898      Anna Mary McKirdy, Samuel Agnew Schreiner
1899      Edgar Dawson Bell, Alvah Hovey Adams

Senior Oratorical Prize  (established 1895)

1895    Ernest Gallagher Forrester
1896    Frank Edward Diem
1897    William Gardner Shrom
1898    William Elmer Copeland
1899    Park Hays Miller
Special Literature Prize (offered to two students with the highest grades in the sophomore year)
1899      Alexander Black, Albert Walter Renton
Student Writing

Students regularly published essays and stories (and occasionally publishing poems) in the Pennsylvania Western and in the University Courant. Most likely these compositions were prepared as part of course work. If not, they remain products of an education in the literary and rhetorical arts at the Western University of Pennyslvania. Below are some examples published in the Courant:

“Criticism,” by Harry M. Ferren (Vol.4 n.1, 1890)

“Cudjoe,” by “Wamba"  (Vol.4 n.3, 1890)  

“Psyche,” “A Trippin’ Through the Clover,” and “Another Year”:  Poems  (Vol.4 n.1, 1890)

“A Public Debt,” A. Watson Forsythe (Vol.1 n.4, 1895)

“An Ancient Inscription,” F.W. Miller (Vol 10, n.9, 1895)

“The Fenton Mystery,” author unknown (Vol 10, n.8, 1895)

“A Terrible Mistake,” H ’97 (Vol 11, n.3, 1895)

“Grains from my Hour Glass,” G. Howard Lyle (Vol 14, n 1, 1899)