Dear Mr. Mudd: Who Are You?

By Spencer Shen ’16

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q: Who are you?

A: Actually, I’m Dr. Mudd. I was a practicing cardiologist before joining the faculty of the California Institute of Technology. Later, I became a professor, a member of the Board of Trustees, and the Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. I also served as a trustee of Pomona College, Stanford University, the California Institute of Technology, and the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

MrMudd

As you can see, I was keenly interested in promoting higher education, and I contributed more than $10 million to private colleges and universities during my lifetime. In my will, I established the $44 million Seeley G. Mudd Fund of Los Angeles to support educational excellence through grants for the construction of buildings for teaching, learning, and research.

The fund stipulated that an institution requesting funds would pay at least half the cost of a new building. For the Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University, the fund’s trustees made a grant of $1,125,000 to Princeton toward the $2,500,000 needed to build it. The balance was contributed by other donors, many of whom were alumni or their relatives.

Princeton was not the only university to apply for a grant from the Mudd Fund. You can go to Yale University, Duke University, Lawrence University (Appleton, WI), and Pomona College (Claremont, CA) and visit a Mudd Library there. There is a large medical complex named for me at the University of Southern California, and Howard University also has a Mudd Medical Building in its College of Medicine. You can also visit Mudd science buildings at the University of Denver, Colby College (Waterville, ME), and Lehigh University. There is even a Seeley G. Mudd Chapel at Whitworth College (Spokane, WA). These are only a few of the buildings financed by the Mudd Fund.

I am often asked whether I am a relative of Samuel A. Mudd, the Maryland doctor imprisoned for aiding John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. We are only very distantly related, as fifth cousins thrice removed. I am the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Henry “Harry” Mudd (1685-1736), and Samuel A. Mudd is the great-great-great-grandson of Henry Mudd’s older brother Thomas Mudd, Jr. (1679 or 1680-1739). Henry and Thomas Jr. were two of Thomas Mudd’s (1647-1697) children. He had three wives, but both Thomas Jr. and Henry were born to Sarah (Boarman) Matthews. Thomas Mudd immigrated to America from Austria circa 1665. He is believed to be the first Mudd to have arrived in America, though it is possible that he also came with two of his brothers.

Mudd tree

Dr. Mudd can no longer do his own writing, so we confess that we answer his mail on his behalf.This post was originally written by Nancy M. Shader (2003) and Christopher Shannon (2007) for our old website. It has been revised and illustrated here by Spencer Shen ’16 as part of our launch of our new website

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