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Beyer, Samuel W.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Beyer, Samuel W.

(May 15, 1865-June 2, 1931)

Quick Facts

Beyer served as Dean of Engineering and Dean of Industrial Science. Beyer is credited with bringing Homecoming celebrations to Iowa State and managed Iowa State athletics for many years.

Source: Iowa State Athletics,

Samuel W. Beyer was born in 1865 in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. A few months after his birth his family moved to Rock Falls, Iowa. He attended a country school while growing up and prepared for college at Cedar Valley Seminary in Osage, Iowa. Several of his friends there had attended Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) and spoke favorably of it, so he decided he too wanted to pursue his education there. He entered Iowa State College as a student in 1885. After graduating in 1889, he was appointed as the science teacher for the high school at Marshalltown, Iowa, a position he held from January 1, 1890 to April 1, 1891, when he returned to Iowa State.

Beyer returned to Iowa State in order to begin work as an instructor of geology. In 1895, he became an assistant professor in that field. Between 1891 and 1895 he worked toward his PhD in Geology at Johns Hopkins University, holding a fellowship there in 1894-1895. In 1898 he became a professor of geology and mining engineering at Iowa State, and in 1907 he became the Vice Dean of the Engineering Division. During the emergency of the Spanish-American War in 1898 he served as the temporary head of mining engineering and in the First World War became the Dean of Engineering due to Anson Marston's absence. Upon Marston's return, Beyer became the Dean of Industrial Science.

During the course of his career Beyer served as a special assistant to the Iowa Geological Survey and as assistant geologist for the United States Geological Survey. For many years he directed the compilation of mineral statistics for the Iowa Geological Survey, and supervised the geological surveys' work on clay, quarries, peat, concrete, and road materials. In addition to working for the federal and state governments, he conducted geological surveys for many of Iowa's counties. The survey reports contain many of his own reports, including "The Sioux Quartzite and Certain Associated Rocks," "Geology of Boone, Marshall, Story and Hardin Counties, Iowa," "Clays and Clay Industries of Iowa," "Iowa Quarries and Quarry Products," "Iowa Peat Deposits," and "Road and Concrete Materials in Iowa." He represented Iowa and the Iowa Geological Survey in 1897 at the Seventh International Geological Congress, held in Russia. He also spent a semester at the University of Munich, Germany, studying pedagogical methods and working on geological collections.

Professionally, he was a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Iowa Academy of Science. He was a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, the Iowa Engineering Society, the Geological Society of Washington, the National Geographic Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and Tau Beta Pi.

Beyer was injured while driving with Marston to the funeral of D. D. Murphy, former president of the state board of education, in a collision with a train. He died of those injuries later that night. The alumni magazine noted his passing, and the Iowa State Student hailed him as a "Father of Iowa sincerity" and a good man: "His table, his life will be a legend, his activities something to equal, his personality something to copy and his service an example." In its view, "the whole school is at half mast." The faculty also memorialized him, in a resolution on his institutional and professional service. He is interred at the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Beyer met his wife, Jennie Morrison, at Iowa State during his senior year and they were married in 1893 after her graduation. She passed away in 1950 and is interred with her husband at Iowa State University Cemetery. His two daughters, Jeanette and Mary, also attended Iowa State.

Source: University Archives, Iowa State University Library

His greatest legacy was his interest in sport and athletics. That interest dated at least to his days as an undergraduate at Iowa State. While he was a student "he was prominent on the [baseball] diamond," according to the Bomb, that being the college's only sport at the time. His fellow students elected him as one of eight student representatives on the college's athletic board, which also included two faculty members. Later in life he enjoyed hunting and fishing. He and Marston frequently played golf and tennis together.

After he himself became a member of the faculty, he continued to improve the athletic climate at Iowa State, being appointed to and then leading a committee charged with creating a new organization for administering the college's athletic opportunities around the turn of the century. He was Iowa State's faculty representative to the Missouri Valley Conference since its establishment in 1907, and also collaborated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. For many years he headed the college's athletic association; according to a document with an unknown author and date, "the reputation which Ames has gained in the Middle West as a school which is fair, clean, and truly sportsmanlike in all her athletic contests, is a direct credit to him."

In its resolutions on his death, the General Faculty summarized his importance to physical education and collegiate athletics: "In the broader field of physical education he was equally active and influential.  He was among the first to advocate a general system of physical education in colleges for all students.  He built one of the strong student health service departments and correlated its work with that in physical education in such a way as to make a most efficient unit."

Beyer is interred at the Iowa State University Cemetery. Beyer Hall on campus is named in his honor.

Selected Sources

Samuel Beyer Papers, RS 13/01/14, University Archives, Iowa State University Library, Ames.

Letter from S.W. Beyer to C.L. Brewer and the University of Missouri about Iowa State's Jack Trice, October 10, 1923

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