Henry Sabin Papers

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Henry Sabin Papers
Archives Records Series 01/01/21 (1 box)

Henry Sabin served as the President of the Iowa State Normal School (UNI) Board of Directors from 1888-1892 and 1894-1898. In this position, he worked closely with President Homer H. Seerley (1886-1928) to improve educational standards throughout the state of Iowa. Born on October 23, 1829 near Pomfret, Connecticut, Sabin was educated in the common schools of New England including Woodstock Academy and Amherst College. Gaining the experience required of teachers for this time, he went on to teach in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois before relocating to Iowa in the late 1860s.

From 1871-1887, Sabin served as the Superintendent of Schools in Clinton, Iowa. Working in this capacity he became aware of the inherent problems in the American public school system and committed his life to finding and implementing solutions. During his tenure as Superintendent, he was among the final three candidates for the first presidency of the Iowa State Normal School, which ultimately was granted to James C. Gilchrist (1876-1886). Unperturbed by the results, Sabin continued on in his work and was elected President of the Iowa State Teachers Association in 1878.

From 1896-1897 he was the chair of the National Education Association Committee of Twelve on Rural Schools. The final report compiled by the Committee recommended consolidation, efficiency, and professional teacher training as solutions for the deficiencies of rural education. Highly influential in improving Iowa’s educational standards, the report echoed Sabin’s belief that, “The school must be the aid, the active ally of civilization, from a humanitarian standpoint as well as from that of the arts and sciences. A humane education is necessary to the growth and preservation of a civilization, which is humane in its nature.”

As President of the Iowa State Normal School Board of Directors, Sabin worked cooperatively with President Seerley to ensure that teachers and students in Iowa were well educated. During his tenure, the University secured the ability to certify normal school graduates on the basis of training rather than examination, establish the training school for observation and practice teaching, develop special curricula for the training of teachers for different areas of public school work, and procure appropriations for campus improvements and construction projects. In addition, Sabin was influential in laying the foundation necessary to transition the Iowa State Normal School (1876-1909) to the Iowa State Teachers College (1906-1961).

Following his retirement, Sabin went on to teach at Highland Park College in Des Moines and participated in a Midwestern lecture circuit. While serving as an editor for Midland Schools (1899-1907) and the Iowa edition of the Western Teacher (1901), he authored two books Talks to Young People (1899) and Common Sense Didactics (1903). Along with his sons Elbridge and Edwin, he co-authored The Making of Iowa (1900) and Early American History for Young Americans (1904). Until his death on March 22, 1918 in Chula Vista, California, Sabin remained a strong supporter of educational reform in Iowa and the nation.