Charles Edmund Wait, a classmate of President Charles Dabney’s at Virginia, held the BS, CE and ME diplomas from the University of Virginia, all of which he earned in four years of study. He then did two years of graduate work at UVA after which he taught for a year at St. John’s College in Little Rock, spent a year as chemist with the Sacramento Smelting and Refining Company, and then a year as mining engineer with the AR Antimony Company. In 1877 he became professor and director of the Missouri School of Mines.
Wait joined the UT faculty in 1888 as professor of general and analytical chemistry and metallurgy, the same year he received the PhD from the University of Missouri. He would remain on the Chemistry Department faculty until he died in office in 1923. He was elected fellow of the Chemical Society of London in 1895. He planned and supervised the construction of Science Hall, including drawing the plans for the chemistry laboratories, developed an extensive research program with external funding, and published numerous papers.
Wait contributed broadly to the university. He served as chairman of the faculty, member of the university’s Administrative Council, chairman of the Faculty Committee on Athletics, president of the Athletics Association, and planner and committee member for the YMCA building, among other activities. Two issues of the Volunteer were dedicated to him. The first athletics field (where the Walters Life Sciences Building now stands) was named for him. Students referred to him openly as “Daddy” Wait. He built a house on the Hill under the university’s agreement that faculty could built houses on campus with the university subsequently purchasing them.
His death in 1923 (while teaching a class) was followed by a memorial service attended by more than one thousand people at about the same time he was being buried in Little Rock, Arkansas.