Albion Woodbury Small was Colby’s ninth president. At the time, Small was the first Colby graduate (class of 1876) to serve as president; he was the first son of a Colby graduate to serve as president (his father was A.K.P. Small, Colby 1849); the first Colby president to hold a Doctor of Philosophy degree; and the youngest president to serve, being only 35 years old when he became president in 1889, succeeding George Dana Boardman Pepper. Before becoming president of Colby, he was Professor of History at Colby. After graduating from Colby he attended Newton Theological Seminary, in anticipation of entering the ministry, but had instead become much more interested in history, political science, economics, and sociology. Right before he became president of Colby, he completed his doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University. Although his studies led him towards history and sociology, he remained a faithful Baptist.
In his first year of presidency, Small oversaw the construction of the Shannon Physical Laboratory and Observatory (funded by Richard Cutts Shannon, Colby 1865) in support of the sciences, but also established the system of coordination, abandoning the existing system of coeducation at Colby. Small’s plan of coordination involved separate “colleges” for men and women. Although the two colleges would have the same entrance requirements, they would be treated entirely separately in terms of almost everything else, including courses, rank, prize contests, etc. In reality, two separate colleges were never established; rather, two separate divisions, men’s and women’s, were created, with many separate classes (although not entirely.)
Small left the presidency of Colby after only two years to develop a department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Small later achieved fame as “the father of Sociology” and founded the American Journal of Sociology. After his death, his daughter established the Albion Woodbury Small Prize at Colby for the best paper each year written in the fields of economics and sociology.