century association biographical archive

Earliest Members of the Century Association

View all members

Wallace Buttrick

Executive Secretary, General Education Board

Centurion, 1913–1926

Born 23 October 1853 in Potsdam, New York

Died 27 May 1926 in Baltimore, Maryland

Buried Ogdensburg Cemetery, Ogdensburg, New York

Proposed by Joseph H. Choate and Albert Shaw

Elected 7 June 1913 at age fifty-nine

Century Memorial

The conversation at the Century lunch-table invariably took an entertaining turn when Dr. Wallace Buttrick drew his chair to the table; the talk of the billiard-room grew animated when he shouldered his cue. His Pickwickian face and figure—not accompanied by Pickwickian mentality, except for a kindly attitude towards his fellowmen—were equally familiar in reading-room and library. To be able to spare for amusement or relaxation so many moments of a busy life marked a particularly strong and vigorous executive, for Dr. Buttrick’s daily official task was most exacting. President and Chairman of the General Education Board, trustee of other philanthropies endowed by the Rockefeller fortune, he was professionally occupied in distribution of many millions; not himself a college graduate, he advanced higher education enormously. He personally examined the working of all kinds of educational enterprises throughout the United States; visiting every significant institution, knowing every influential worker, and frequently extending his journeys to foreign countries. To supplement wide experience he brought penetrative observation, sure and unfaltering judgment, often condensing whole atmospheres of vague hopes into a laconic phrase or trenchant word of solid practicality. In an immense correspondence his letters would rarely cover a single page. It has been testified by applicants whose request he had officially turned down, that there was possibly a more pleasant personal feeling left on being refused by him than on having an application accepted by other men.

Even at the Century, Dr. Buttrick sometimes had to consider solicitations. His diagnosis and prescriptions were then as brief as possible, and he turned with relief to good food, tobacco, talk and billiards. Cordial affinity for entertaining stories that illuminated human nature made it a delight to narrate them for his attentive ear and explosive chuckle, and a greater delight to hear him recount his own.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1927 Century Association Yearbook