David Sands Wright

Mathematics, Religious Education Faculty

Funeral services for David Sands Wright, professor emeritus of the college, who died at his home Friday morning, October 30, 1931, at 10:45 o’clock, were conducted Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at First Methodist Episcopal Church.  Dr. Howland Hanson, college religious director, was in charge.  Burial was in the Fairview Cemetery in Cedar Falls. The son and three daughters of Professor Wright were here to attend the last rites for their father.  Professor Wright taught the first class at the opening of the college, then named the Iowa State Normal School, on September 6, 1876. 

Mr. Wright was born December 7, 1847, on a farm in Penn Township, Hyland County, Ohio.  His parents were both Quakers, and his father was a Quaker preacher. At seven years of age, he attended school in a “lone log structure,” the Squabble High School in Ohio.  In this and other country schools he developed an interest in literature and debate, and in 1866 became a schoolteacher in Ohio.  Later he entered the National Normal University at Lebanon, Ohio, where he obtained the bachelor of arts degree in 1871 and a master of arts degree in 1873.  He received a second master of arts degree at Penn College at Oskaloosa, Iowa, in 1887. In 1872, he became associate principal of Whittier College and Normal Institute at Salem, Iowa, a Quaker academy established in a community of Friends.  Professor Wright was elected to the first faculty of the newly-organized Iowa State Normal School in 1876.  He taught English literature for five years and then switched to mathematics in 1881. In 1916 he retired from the Department of Mathematics to become Director of Religious Education at the college.  Mr. Wright began his association with the Iowa State Teachers Association in 1875, and in 1904 was elected president of the organization.  He contributed approximately 125 articles to the Iowa Normal Monthly, a professional magazine for teachers, and wrote several books, among them A Drill Book in English Grammar, Geometrical Outlines, and Bible Study Outlines. The last book reached its third edition and was used extensively in Iowa high schools where the Bible was taught as a school subject.  In 1926, the State Board of Education presented him with a special award for his fifty years of service.  That same year, Professor Wright published an anecdotal history of the school, Fifty Years at the Teachers College.  He was well known throughout the state for his sermons and lectures, and was recognized as an eloquent and forceful speaker.

Professor Wright married Eliza Jane Rawstern on June 24, 1880, the evening of the day in which she graduated from the Iowa State Normal School.  Professor and Mrs. Wright were an important part of school life for over fifty years. At the time of Professor Wright's death, their daughter, Luella Wright, was a professor of English at the University of Iowa.  Their son, Joseph Wright, was a professor of physical education at Frances Parker Academy, Chicago.  Another daughter, Mrs. Ralph Swanson, lived in Vilisca, Iowa.  Her husband was a lawyer there.  Mrs. William Radcliffe, a daughter, lived at Red Oak, Iowa, where her husband was a judge.  All four attended the funeral services. 

This is a heavily edited revision of an article that appeared in the College Eye, November 6, 1931, page 1; University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson; last updated, February 10, 2015 (GP).