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The Moore legacy

The University's first chancellor, David Hastings Moore, constructed the "humble but sure foundation on which the present magnificent University has been built." Photo courtesy of University Archives

In discussions about the most significant chancellors in the University’s history, David Hastings Moore rarely comes up. Today Moore is largely forgotten, though he was DU’s first chancellor and an essential figure in the growth and development of Colorado Seminary and the early University of Denver.

Moore, the son of Congressman Eliakin Moore, was born in Athens, Ohio, on Sept. 4, 1838. He graduated from Ohio University in 1860 and became an ordained Methodist minister. In 1861, he married Julia Carpenter, with whom he had nine children.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, a 24-year-old Moore joined the Union’s 87th Ohio Infantry as a private. He rose through the ranks to lieutenant colonel and took part in General Sherman’s famous march to the sea.

After the war, he served as a minister in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. In 1875, he became president of Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, a post he held until 1879, when close friend and Colorado Seminary Trustee Earl Cranston urged him to come to Colorado to become the seminary’s first chancellor. Moore agreed to make the move, later joking that “my wife had a yearning for California, and Colorado was half way.”

At the time, Colorado Seminary had been closed for 15 years but had kept its original charter. The seminary, newly renamed the University of Denver, reopened in 1880 under Moore’s direction. When Moore took the helm, the school had just 30 students and six faculty members.

By the end of his nine-year term, the student body had grown to more than 600, and the University had nine core professors and many more part-time instructors. The curriculum also grew tremendously in the 1880s. Starting with not much more than a basic arts and science curriculum, Moore added the schools of law, business, oratory, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and music.

After playing a major role in plans to relocate the campus from downtown Denver to University Park, Moore left DU in 1889 to become editor of the Western Christian Advocate in Cincinnati. In 1900, he became a bishop of the Methodist Church and traveled to Asia to oversee missionary work in China, Korea and Japan. In 1904, Moore was transferred to Portland, Ore., where he served as a bishop until 1908, when he moved back to Cincinnati. Upon his retirement in 1912, Moore settled in Indianapolis.

In 1914, at the age of 76, Moore returned to campus to speak at the 50th anniversary of the University’s founding. He summarized his achievements at DU: three “excellent” buildings at 14th and Arapahoe; the future site of the University Park campus; a pledge to build the observatory; the “beginning of the first of the great halls which now dignify the campus;” a “well-appointed faculty” of the College of Liberal Arts; colleges of music, fine arts, medicine, pharmacy and dental surgery as well as schools of manual training, business and oratory; and a total enrollment of 665 students.

He described the tally as a “humble but sure foundation on which the present magnificent University has been built by the unsurpassed wisdom and untiring efforts of my honored successors and their loyal confederates in service. Heaven’s blessings on them all!”

Moore passed away on Nov. 23, 1915, in Cincinnati. He is buried near his birthplace.

DU’s first chancellor was “a man of unshakable faith and unconquerable convictions, with iron energy and an eloquence that carried everything before him,” wrote history Prof. Leslie Schofield in an unpublished 1950 history of the University. “His sympathies embraced all classes and conditions of men and penetrated all phases of life.”

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