June 29, 1928 – October 26, 2019
Thaddeus Seymour, a former college dean, college president, and accomplished amateur magician, died October 26 at home in Winter Park, Florida in the care and company of Polly Seymour, his wife of 71 years. He was 91.
Seymour was born on June 29, 1928 to Whitney North Seymour, a Manhattan lawyer and one-time president of the American Bar Association, and Lola Vickers Seymour. He attended Princeton University where he rowed in the varsity crew that came within three-tenths of an inch of qualifying for the 1948 Summer Olympics, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, then went on to earn his masters and doctoral degrees in 18th Century English Literature from the University of North Carolina.
In 1954 Seymour joined the faculty at Dartmouth College where in addition to his teaching he coached the rowing club. In 1959, just barely in his 30s, he was appointed Dean of the College, a position he held for the next ten years, guiding the Dartmouth student body through a decade of dramatic social change. His exuberant style and dedication to students earned him the nickname “Dad Thad”.
In 1969 Seymour left Dartmouth to become president of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. During his nine years at Wabash the college’s enrollment, academic standards, and endowment rose significantly, with the college successfully completing a record-breaking capital campaign and finishing as runner-up in the NCAA Division III national football championship.
After serving at Wabash for nine years Seymour and his family, which now included five children, left Indiana for Florida where he became the twelfth president of Rollins College in Winter Park. During his presidency he led the college’s centennial celebration, oversaw a recommitment to the liberal arts, raised funds for the construction of the Olin Library and the Cornell Hall for the Social Sciences, and strengthened the college’s relationship with the Winter Park community. He was particularly loved for having reinstituted Fox Day, a yearly unscheduled holiday during which students are encouraged to volunteer in the community.
After he retired as president in 1990 Seymour remained on the faculty at Rollins for another eighteen years teaching a popular class on poetry and delighting in handing out wallet-sized copies of Robert Frost’s “Dust of Snow” to friends he met as he walked around campus. In addition to his teaching, he and Polly spent many years working with the Winter Park chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which Seymour helped to found in 1991; in 2017 Winter Park’s 53rd Habitat house was named in their honor. His lifelong skill as a magician was often in demand as he performed for various groups, and many local graduates will remember that he found a way to work his legendary sleight-of-hand into more than one commencement speech.
Thaddeus Seymour is survived by his wife Polly and four of their children Liz, Thaddeus Jr, Sam, and Abigail Seymour; another daughter, Mary Seymour, died in 2015. In addition, he is lovingly remembered by eleven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, his two nieces Tryntje and Gabriel Seymour, and daughters-in-law Katie Glockner Seymour and Karen Patton Seymour.
A celebration of the life of Dr. Thaddeus Seymour, will be held in Knowles Memorial Chapel on the Rollins College campus on Sunday, November 3, at 2 p.m. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Dr. Seymour’s honor be made to Rollins College (P.O. Box 864168, Orlando, FL 32886-4168) or Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland (P.O. Box 1196, Winter Park, FL 32790-1196).