William Carlson’s tenure as UVM’s fifteenth president was brief and uneventful. When he accepted the presidency in April 1950, Carlson announced, “I want this move to be a permanent one.” Yet, only two years later, he accepted a position as president of the University of the State of New York.
William Samuel Carlson was born in Ironwood, Michigan, on November 18, 1905. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in geology from the University of Michigan. He married Maryjane Rowe in 1932, and after teaching in Michigan schools, he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1937. In World War II, he served as a special consultant to the War Department. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and obtained the rank of colonel in the Air Force before returning to Minnesota in 1945 to serve as dean and director of admissions. In 1946, he was named president of the University of Delaware where he served for four years before being selected to come to the University of Vermont.
It is not entirely clear why Carlson left Vermont in 1952. The most probable reason was the challenge of running New York state university system, which encompassed thirty-three school, colleges, and institutes, with a total enrollment of forty-seven thousand students. Unfortunately, Carlson’s tenure at the State University of New York was not successful. The board of trustees refused to accept his plan to create a centralized campus with an integrated program, and he resigned in 1958. Carlson then went on to become president of the University of Toledo where he served with distinction for fourteen years.