Theodore B. Comstock

Years: 1894-1895
Presidential Order: 1st President

Theodore B. Comstock had been assistant state geologist of Texas when Frank A. Gulley contacted him about being dean of the School of Mines at the newly established University of Arizona. Born in Ohio in 1849, Comstock obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State College and a Bachelor of Science and doctoral degrees from Cornell University. Before going to Texas, Comstock had been a professor at the University of Illinois. 

A hardworking, aggressive man, he had been an explorer, miner and engineer. He arrived in Tucson in the fall of 1891. One of his first tasks at the University was to buy equipment for the School of Mines. He toured the territory, created interest in opportunities the University could provide, and actively assessed Arizona’s mineral resources. He established the first assay laboratory and planned for a geological and mineral survey of the territory. As head of the School of Mines, Comstock held equal authority to Frank Gulley, who was heading up the School of Agriculture. Comstock had a higher salary, however, and felt the “separate but equal” arrangement resulted in a divided faculty. Seemingly more adept at working in the political arena, Comstock readily accepted the position of president of the University when the office was officially created at the close of the academic year on May 30, 1894. 

During his term, the first printed forms for grade reports were developed. The first seal of the University was adopted by the Arizona Board of Regents on May 4, 1895. Still today, the University seal can be used only with permission from the president's office. Comstock presided over the first commencement exercises, which were held May 29, 1895.  
Although Comstock was eager to accept his position as the University’s first president, he was often impatient with limitations the newly created institution faced. He resigned in August of 1895 to go into commercial work in Los Angeles, where he lived until his death in 1915.