Project Home List of Names Rollins Archives Olin Library Rollins College

Willard A. Wattles (1888-1950):

Original Golden Personality

 On June 8, 1888, farmer and lumber dealer, Harvey Austin Wattles and his wife, Jennie Fay Wattles gave birth to Willard Austin Wattles in Baynesville, Kansas. After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas in 1909, Willard Wattles began his teaching career as an English instructor at a high school in Leavenworth, Texas.  Wattles returned to Kansas University for another two years, completing a fellowship and Master’s degree by 1911. Wattles spent the next nine years in academia, instructing students in English at Leavenworth High School, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Kansas.  After graduating from Princeton in 1921, Wattles moved to Connecticut and then Oregon, where he continued to teach and pursue his love for poetry. 

Soon after, Wattles became widely recognized, not only for his teaching background, but also for his authorship of several books, including Lanterns the Funston Double-Track and Other Poems (1918), Compass for Sailors (1928), and for the publication of his poems in The Independent. Hamilton Holt, editor of The Independent and president of Rollins College, was so impressed by his work that he requested Wattles’ presence at Rollins.  In 1927, Wattles joined the faculty, bringing the “qualities of heart and mind that made him greatly beloved by the students.”[1] Wattles immediately became involved with the College, working as faculty advisor for The Sandspur, The Tomokan, and The Flamingo.  Wattles made outside contributions as well, including his 1929 summer involvement with Breadloaf School of English. Through such services, Wattles revealed his “sound understanding of student problems and his judicial fairness.”[2] By 1938, Rollins named Wattles chairman of the division of English, and later, professor of American Literature.  By 1945, Rollins granted Wattles with a Doctor of Literature degree. Wattles remained at the College for another five years, making a final self-publication (Six Guys and a Girl) of poems written by seven students in his contemporary poetry class.

On September 25, 1950, Willard Wattles died of a heart attack, leaving behind his membership to the American Editorial Association, the Poetry Society of America, and to the Tenth Division of the U.S. Army.  In honor of his involvement, the Omnipotent Order of Osceola presented Mrs. Wattles with a plaque, inscribed, “to our teacher and friend, Willard Austin Wattles…we walk together when we are apart, our eyes have met and what we saw, no man shall know, nor forget.” [3]

-Alia Alli

[1] “Who’s Who at Rollins College,” Winter Park Herald, December 21, 1934.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Plaque for Professor,” Rollins College Archives, Box 45E, Winter Park Florida.

Project Home List of Names Rollins Archives Olin Library Rollins College