Samuel A. Chapin
Samuel Austin Chapin, Iota 1878, Zeta Psi Distinguished Service Award Honoree 1956, (July 24, 1858 – May 13, 1959)
Brother Chapin was one in one of the first classes of initiates at the Iota chapter in 1875;
however, he stayed at Berkeley only one year and transferred to Amherst College in
1876 graduating in 1880.
He was a man of opinions, accomplishments and prominent writer and editor in his day. As he told The New York Times in a 1958 interview, “I was a native son of California with a very strong New England background.” His parents were from Northbridge, Worcester, Massachusetts, and he was born in San Francisco. He said his earliest ancestor in the United States was Deacon Samuel Chapin who arrived in Boston in 1640 and was one of the founders of Springfield, Massachusetts.
After graduating from Amherst, Brother Chapin became an assistant to Reverend
Lyman Abbott, the pastor of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. Pastor Abbott
succeeded Henry Ward Beecher, the renowned abolitionist as the church’s pastor and
Brother Chapin helped Pastor Abbott write Pastor Beecher’s biography. He then became the editor of The Century and St. Nicholas magazines.
Brother Chapin later said that St. Nicholas was “the best children’s magazine published”
and quoted Mary Mapes Dodge whom he succeeded as editor at St. Nicholas as saying
“if the children of today don’t like St. Nicholas there ought to be different children.”
Brother Chapin was also on the editorial staffs of Pearson’s and Literature magazines.
Throughout his life, Brother Chapin was active and supportive of the Fraternity and the
Iota chapter. He was elected Sigma Alpha in 1882. Along with Brother Huston, he was among the first two brothers to receive the Fraternity’s Distinguished Service Awards in 1956 at the Williamstown, Massachusetts convention. Both men were 100 years old and both were the oldest alumni of their colleges or university. In the 1958 The New York Times article, Brother Chapin, a bachelor, said he “regretted that he never married and the decline of literary and musical tastes in the United States.”
When asked how he lived so long, he urged readers to “keep a serene mind and never