Bela Malcom Lawrence

Acting President (February - July, 1920)

lawrence_bela.jpgB. M. Lawrence was born in Cherryfield, Maine, January 1, 1857. He graduated from high school in his home town and later attended Coburn Classical Institute in Waterloo, Maine. He was graduated from Colby College with an A. B. and received his M. A. from the University of Chicago. Shortly after his graduation from Colby, he came to Owatonna, Minnesota, and taught for one year at Pillsbury Academy. From here he went to Farmington, Minnesota, as principal.

On March 30, 1886, he married Miss Laura E. Arey. They had four children, however, three died in infancy. From Farmington, he went to Lisbon, North Dakota, where he taught at a Baptist College. Later he served as Superintendent of Schools at Lisbon. Daughter Alice was born in Lisbon. From Lisbon, he came to Flandreau, South Dakota, as superintendent of schools. In 1905, he joined the faculty of the Madison State Normal School as head of the Mathematics Department and Superintendent of the training department. In 1917, he was appointed Secretary and Registrar and served in this capacity until ill health forced his retirement.

Mr. Lawrence was a member and an active worker in the Baptist Church. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon College Fraternity, Evergreen Lodge A. F. & A. M., and served as W. M. at two different times. He also belonged to the R. A. M. and Commandery. He was the head of the Memorial Day Association in Madison for several years, and held several offices in the South Dakota Educational Association.

B. M. Lawrence died March 31, 1925. His funeral was held in the Masonic Temple in Madison, and he was buried in Farmington, Minnesota.

Mr. Lawrence was affectionately known by the nickname of "Barney." Although no one ever called him that to his face, I'm sure he was aware of it and rather enjoyed it.

When he came to the Normal School, Mr. Lawrence's daughter, Alice, was principal of the high school and instructor in English. After her father's death, she and her mother moved to Minneapolis, where she taught in the Minneapolis schools for many years. I understand that she is now retired (1965).

The early normal schools were four-year schools, but did not offer four years of college credit. Graduates were certified to teach in town and city schools with no specific demands for degrees. With the increasing standards, the normal schools were stepped up to offer more college credit and less high school credit. Then, with the growth of the public high school movement, the high school grades were eliminated and the four-year course became a full four-year college course with degrees granted.

Thus, the teachers' colleges came into existence. In many states, this change took place without any questions being raised about the right of the normal schools to expand into teachers' colleges and to train teachers for the high school. By 1920, the teachers' college movement was well established in many states, but in South Dakota little change had taken place. The number of high school students enrolled exceeded the number of college students and the normal schools trained teachers only for the elementary schools. Many school districts did not have high schools so the normal schools were meeting this need.



Lowry, V. A. Forty Years at General Beadle (1922-1962). Madison, SD: Dakota State University, 1984. pg 22, 23, 24.