George E. Vincent, second president of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), was born in 1864 in Rockford, Illinois.
He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1885. Following graduation, he worked for the Chautauqua Institution which provided flexible adult education courses and home study programs for adults. The Chautauqua movement was initiated in New York by George Vincent’s father, Methodist Bishop John H. Vincent.
In 1892 Vincent began work as a graduate student in the sociology department at the University of Chicago. While there, he and department chair, Albion Small co-authored Introduction to the Study of Sociology, the first sociology textbook to be published in the U.S. Vincent completed his dissertation, “Social Mind and Education,” and received his Ph.D. in 1896. He remained at the University of Chicago as a teaching fellow and attained a full professorship in sociology in 1904. He later served as dean of the Junior College and the College of Arts, Literature and Sciences.
In 1911 Vincent accepted a position as president of the University of Minnesota, where he spent the next six years cementing the University”s reputation as a major research institution. Vincent also created the University’s Extension Division for adult education and helped to create a partnership between the medical school and the Mayo Foundation.
In 1917 Vincent was named president of the RF, a post he held for twelve years. As president he supported the continued expansion of the RF’s public health activities, including the creation of the RF’s Division of Medical Education, which was responsible for improving medical education outside of the U.S. Vincent also initiated programs in the natural sciences and oversaw a major reorganization of the Foundation into five divisions in 1928. In addition to his role as RF President and Trustee, Vincent was a member of the General Education Board (GEB), Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and the China Medical Board (CMB).
Throughout his career Vincent remained a member of the American Sociological Society, which he helped found in 1895, and also contributed his time as an editor of the American Journal of Sociology.
George E. Vincent passed away in February of 1941 after a lifetime of influential work in the fields of education, sociology, and philanthropy. His officer's diaries are digitized and can be accessed through the Rockefeller Archive Center's online collections.