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George Seymour


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George Seymour, a banker from Elgin Nebraska, served on the Board of Regents from 1921-1927. Seymour was born in New York and attended Amherst College, graduating in 1888. He immediately moved to Nebraska and entered the banking business. Eventually he became President of the Elgin State Bank, and was a partner in several other banks in the area around Elgin, as well as other business enterprises. Shortly after his election to the Board, Seymour developed an interest in campus expansion, and in particular, campus planning.

In 1925 the University secured legislative funding of $900,000 for the development of the city, farm and medical campuses. This funding represented the first real increase since before WWI, and was used to develop the northeast section of the city campus, which soon became the site of Morrill Hall. An additional $450,000 was provided in 1927 allowing for the construction of Andrews Hall. In 1925, while serving as President of the Board, Seymour began working with OA Ellis, the University's Superintendent of Buildings and Construction, to refine a campus plan. This proposed plan was viewed by various groups who offered suggestions and changes, and was eventually made public in 1926. It was the last formal plan developed by the University until WWII, when a new campus plan was developed by Linus Burr Smith of the Department of Architecture.

Seymour described his plan and model in 1926:
It is the intention of this model to present a scheme of open fair-ways and vistas, which shall be established as areas upon which no buildings shall be erected. We plead that these not be violated, feeling that their perpetual preservation will enhance the beauty and usefulness of every structure that future growth may require"¦"?

Seymour's plan was formal and included two malls running from east to west, with a smaller, north/south mall on the newly developed section of campus. The large malls were identified as The Quadrangle on the south, and Memorial Mall on the north. His plan laid the groundwork for much of the modern campus. The Malls continue to exist, although both have been compromised. The Quadrangle, developed to serve as the main axis from the east edge of the newly developed campus, to the western, older campus, was intact until the 1972 addition to the Library obscured the "vista"? that was so important to Seymour. The Memorial Mall, although never landscaped in the manner proposed by Seymour, remained intact through the middle of the century. Eventually it was converted into two surface parking lots. Other elements of the plan, such as the future placement of the Library, were the result of Seymour's plan. Most importantly, the plan anticipated the eastward expansion to 16th street, the development of Greek Row and first dormitories, and expansion to the north.

After WWII, the University was overwhelmed with veteran students. Enrollments swelled at unprecedented rates. The development of the Selleck Quadrangle in the late 1940s was the first serious threat to the Seymour plan. Seymour envisioned a monumental structure for that site, possibly for a new administration building or some equally significant building, to serve as focal point at the east end of the Quadrangle. Instead, in an attempt to house the thousands of students descending on the campus, the University elected to construct low rise dormitories. On the west, Seymour envisioned a large and elegant structure to house the College of Engineering. That site eventually was used to construct the monstrous Hamilton Hall.

Seymour's interest in buildings and campus planning developed as a result of two events. In 1909 the downtown of Elgin Nebraska was decimated by fire. Elgin hired the firm John Latenser and Sons of Omaha, to design a new bank, as well as other buildings in which he had a financial interest. His choice of Latenser proved to be prophetic; in 1920 Frank Latenser was married to Seymour's daughter Alma. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ruined Seymour financially. He continued to serve on the Campus Planning Committee until his death on February 9, 1940.

Source Information:
University Journal, 1921.
Seymour letters, Barbour Collection, University Archives.
The Cornhusker, 1926.
Bd of Regents minutes, Feb. 1940.