Born in Sandwich, Ill., in 1875 into a family of 10 children, Rufus B. von KleinSmid received his bachelor’s (1905) and master’s (1906) degrees, plus a doctor of laws (1925) degree, from Northwestern University. From 1905 to 1914 he was a professor of education and psychology at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.
During von KleinSmid’s term at the University of Arizona, enrollment increased from 451 to 1,732. He established the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, which later became the College of Liberal Arts. Steward Observatory, a memorial fountain, and an aviary were built with gift funds during von KleinSmid’s tenure. The mines and engineering buildings, a new auditorium, a mechanic arts building and new dorms for both men and women were constructed. After four years as a department, the School of Law was established in 1919. That same year, the first known aerial photograph of the campus appeared in the Desert yearbook.
In 1920, Gen. John J. Pershing visited campus to dedicate a memorial fountain, which was built to honor the University’s World War I dead. After Pershing’s speech, von KleinSmid conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws upon the general.
One of the famous events to happen during von KleinSmid’s time in Tucson was the building of the A on “A” Mountain. Students were given the day off from school and the A was completed and whitewashed on March 4, 1916. It was during the von KleinSmid era that University teams became known as Wildcats.
Always concerned with international and public affairs, von KleinSmid gave an honorary degree to the rector of the University of Mexico. In 1915, von KleinSmid gave an address at the Second Pan-American Scientific Congress in Washington, D.C. This led to an invitation to visit the University of Mexico in 1919. Unofficial visits to other Latin American countries followed. His efforts mark the beginning of the University’s cultural and scientific relationships with various institutions south of the border.
Von KleinSmid left the University to serve as the president of the University of Southern California, where he further distinguished himself as an American educator. After serving as president of USC until 1946, von KleinSmid became chancellor of the university, a position he held until he died in 1964 at the age of 89.