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Samuel P. Capen

Samuel P. Capen sitting on his sailboat in Maine, circa 1945

Image ID: RG30-1-00-1_12_2_1945_p1

Samuel P. Capen on his sailboat in Maine

Personal accounts describe Samuel Capen as a modest man who did not like to discuss his achievements, instead crediting the people who worked at the university for its accomplishments.  He preferred being called "Mr." to "Dr."  To all who met him, Capen was known for his unfailing integrity, courtesy and consideration.  The UB Council and the faculty of the university found Capen to be a tactful and forceful diplomat and described him as straightforward and frank.  

Though he was formal and did not like to stop to talk in the hallway, he would readily invite anyone to his office to talk over a cup of tea.  Capen was described as kindly and understanding, and warm and considerate.  He was always ready to provide advice to faculty and staff whether on personal or professional matters, but he would not make final decisions for people.  Instead, he would discuss the choices available to a person and the potential outcomes of those choices.

Samuel Capen believed that as chancellor, his personal conduct and demeanor reflected directly on the University of Buffalo.  Because of this, some would see him as cold and austere.  Those who knew Capen more personally knew that though he disliked frivolity and indelicacy, he had an infectious and subtle sense of humor.  He loved telling humorous stories where he was the butt of the joke and saw the amusing in everyday activities.

Samuel Capen was an avid sailor who would take his racing sloop out off the coast of South Brooksville Maine where the residents knew him simply as "Sam."  In his younger days, he played tennis and golf.  Capen read over 500 books per year and his favorites were mysteries and the works of Shakespeare.  He enjoyed listening to classical music and would read the musical score while listening.

A close up photograph of Samuel P. Capen smiling

Image ID: RG3-9-00-2_1957-10_p1

Samuel P. Capen, 1946

When interviewed by the Courier Express for an article titled "What's the story behind your beard," Capen would say

"Back in 1899, I lost the first job I applied for because I looked too young.  It happened that my hair grew very rapidly, and I decided if I were to be judged on what appeared to be my age, I should let nature take its course and look a bit older.  Several times I have decided to get rid of it but once you have one, you are marked as a person with a beard and if you shave it off, problems of identification arise."


  • Furnas, Clifford C. and Julian Park.  "Samuel Paul Capen 1878-1956)." Cosmos Club Bulletin, v.9, no.11, October 1956, pp.2-5.
  • McGrath, Earl J. "Samuel P. Capen, 1878-1956." Alumni Bulletin, October 1956, p.2
  • "Mr. Capen."  The Reporter, November 10, 1977.
  • "Retiring Dr. Capen. reviews his 28 years as Chancellor of U.B."  Buffalo Evening News, August 23, 1950.
  • Skrzycki, Cindy.  "He set out to build a university and run it over the years on first class principles." Buffalo Evening News, April 2, 1978.
  • Smith, Katherine. "Capen Boulevard named for chancellor of U.B."  Buffalo Courier Express, December 3, 1939
  • Smith, Lee. "Dr. Capen found joy, comfort in the poetry of Shakespeare." Buffalo Evening News, February 17, 1954. 
  • Williams, Earl.  "What story lies behind your beard?" Courier Express, March 18, 1954.