William E. Dimorier: Servant Leader

Day 46: William E. Dimorier project. 10/15/2014

William E. Dimorier

This blog post contains information on the manuscript that resulted from the Dimorier Project.


The Dimorier project began in 2004, when a handwritten journal of original poetry was discovered at a printing-house auction in Erie, Pennsylvania. The journal belonged to William E. Dimorier (1871-1951), an educator, administrator, benefactor, and poet. Born in Afton, New York, Dimorier was the son of a farmer. In his young adulthood, he preached in Baptist churches and evangelized at revivals, yet he didn’t complete high school until he was 25 years old. After graduating from Colgate University at the age of 31, he became a teacher and spent more than three decades dedicating his life to his students and the community in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Dimorier’s life fits closely that described by Robert K. Greenleaf as a servant-leader, one who starts with the desire to serve and becomes a leader, rather than the opposite path.


The original purpose of the Dimorier Project was to publish William E. Dimorier’s poems with a short biography, but it became clear as the research progressed that the man was a poet and much more. He was an educator, but much more than that, too. Gradually, the scope of the project widened and revealed that Dimorier was man of service. Ultimately, the project evolved into the biography of a man for whom fulfillment was found in the work, not the rewards.

The goal of William E. Dimorier: Servant Leader is to share how a person from humble beginnings can lead a life of service, largely unrecognized, but ultimately, one that becomes an influence that stretches around the globe and across centuries.

Residents of Dimorier’s hometown and his adopted city will appreciate his story for the historical value, but a wider audience will be interested in the tale of an everyday person who did much more than was asked of him, without the expectation of reward. Readers will also be found among those looking for inspiration in role models for service to one’s community.





  1. BEGINNING, (1871-1897)
  2. SCHOLARSHIP, (1897-1903)
  3. THRESHOLD, (1903-1906)
  4. ENDEAVOR, (1906-1910)
  5. INSPIRATION, (1910-1912) 
  6. RECOGNITION, (1913-1915) 
  7. ASPIRATION, (1915-1917)
  8. LOSS, (1917-1918)
  9. ADVANCEMENT, (1919-1920)
  10. CONTENTION, (1921-1922)
  11. FUNDRAISING, (1923)
  12. ACCOMPLISHMENT, (1924)
  13. ADVOCACY, (1925-1927)
  14. SPORTSMANSHIP, (1927-1928)
  15. PUBLICATION, (1929)
  16. PERSISTENCE, (1930-1933)
  17. EXPLORATION, (1934-1938)
  18. RELEGATON, (1939)
  19. SEPARATION, (1940-1943)
  20. PRODUCTIVITY, (1943-1944)
  21. MELANCHOLY, (1944-1951)
  22. HOMECOMING, (1951)
  23. LEGACY







Day Book Front Cover

In 2004, a chance visit to an auction preview at a defunct printing company led to the discovery of a handwritten journal of poetry. Inside the well-worn book was a note offering a reward for its return. The journal had spent decades at the printing house, and the poet must have mourned its loss. A compulsion to find the owner set off lengthy research project, which revealed that this poet had been a prominent educator and servant leader. William Edward Dimorier never married, and he never owned a home of his own. He devoted his life to serving his community.


For this project, over more than a decade, many people provided documents, information, artifacts, and encouragement. Some took pity on the unfunded researcher and waived the usual fees. Others went out of their way to find information about the poet. An expression of thanks and a list of many names occupies this section.

BEGINNING, 1871-1897

William Edward Dimorier was the first of four children born into a farming family in Afton, New York. This chapter paints a picture of Chenango and Broome counties and establishes the family’s roots in history. The record of William’s early life is scant, but his early adulthood was recorded in the pages of the local newspaper. Before he graduated from high school at the age of 25, he had earned a reputation as an evangelist and captivating orator.

SCHOLARSHIP, 1897-1903

After high school graduation at the age of 25, William spent two years at college-prep Colgate Academy, before entering Colgate University as a freshman. Likely the oldest undergraduate in his class, William assumed several traditional leadership roles and even pledged to a fraternity. He was reportedly working toward a divinity degree, and at one point during these years, he also served as the pastor of a rural Baptist church. When William graduated from Colgate in 1903 at the age of 31, it was with a degree in English, not divinity. The reason for the shift can only be speculated.

THRESHOLD, 1903-1906

Referred to as “reverend” in a telegram, William traveled to Penn Yan, New York, for an interview at Keuka College. After a year teaching English there, he spent two at Cook Academy, a college-prep boarding school for boys in Montour Falls, New York. One of William’s students was V.K. Wellington Koo, future Chinese ambassador to the United States. On Cook Academy stationery, William jotted a prayer, asking for wisdom, fortitude, humility, unselfishness, and Christian courtesy. In the summer of 1906, William began graduate work at Syracuse University and was recruited to a teaching position in Erie, Pennsylvania.

ENDEAVOR, 1906-1910

As head of the English Department at severely crowded Erie High School, William took on several extracurricular roles, including athletic-association treasurer and debate-club advisor. He was a witty and accessible teacher, frequently and humorously mentioned in the annual yearbook. In 1907, William established an employment agency, the Erie Teachers’ Bureau, most likely modeled after the agency that placed him in his own teaching engagements.

INSPIRATION, 1910-1912

Heavily involved with Erie High’s sports programs, William befriended many student athletes, such as Oscar “Oc” Anderson, who would, along with his brother, Gus, become an Erie sports legend. In 1911, William and the students became inspired to start fundraising for the construction of an athletic field. William’s name soon became synonymous with the project, which consumed much of his time.

RECOGNITION, 1913-1915

Although William was an avid sports supporter, he was also a lover of literature. In 1913, his hometown newspaper, the Afton Enterprise published his lyrical poem, “Sanford,” an ode to the countryside where he spent his early years. In 1914, a Louisiana newspaper reported on William’s classroom project, “Newspaper Week,” a forerunner to today’s Newspapers in Education (NIE) project. That year, William and his students witnessed the dedication of the athletic field, now known as Ainsworth Field, which became the long-lived venue of countless football and baseball games, both amateur and professional.

ASPIRATION, 1915-1917

Now aspiring to publication, William proposed a selected collection of classic poems for memorizing to the American Book Company. This was during education’s progressive movement, when poetry was used to inform many school subjects. After more than a year of back and forth, the publisher declined, citing profitability concerns. During this time, another of William’s poems was published in a magazine, and his essay, “The Significance of Poetry,” was published in the Journal of Education. William also continued in his educator role during this time, designing and implementing a program to encourage students to stay in school after eighth grade.

LOSS, 1917-1918

From the lighthearted account of the theft of William’s bicycle, and the mournful passing of both of his parents, to the many lives taken during the Spanish Flu and the Great War, this marked a period of loss. In 1917, one of William’s former colleagues, Edgar Morris, passed away at a young age, and from the tribute William wrote, the values he held dear come to light, including that Morris had “made the world better by his life of victory.” It was also in 1917, that the cornerstone for Academy High School was set, where William would spend two decades of his career.

ADVANCEMENT, 1919-1920

In the fall of 1919, the Academy High student body was formed, with John C. Diehl transferring from principal of Erie High to that of Academy. William was promoted to the role of boys’ counselor at the new school, which operated in the Erie High building while the new structure was being finished. A promotion to Erie High principal could have led to higher advancement than William achieved in his career, but William’s counselor role extended subtle influence that spans continents and generations. Of course, William did not confine his role to counselor of boys. He was now focused on a new project, that of a grand stadium to be constructed in front of the new school.

CONTENTION, 1921-1922

In 1921, Academy’s principal, John C. Diehl, moved on to the district assistant-superintendent role. William, by now assistant principal with a newly awarded master’s degree from Colgate University, was not promoted. Instead, C.W. McNary, from New Jersey, filled the position, Still, the men seemed to enjoy a good working relationship, fortunate, because this was a period of contention for both. Their integrity was tested when they received negative press regarding the use of athletic funds. Also after receiving a mysterious letter, William requested the swimming coach’s resignation, resulting in the team’s walk-out and public furor. During this time, there was opposition to the expense of the stadium project, but William continued his efforts to bring the bowl to life. It was also during this time that William decided to sponsor the education of a student in China through a Baptist missionary, who was also a fellow Colgate alumnus.


The year 1923 marked the most activity yet in fundraising for the stadium project, with various organizations taking up the cause. By this time, a centralized commission had been created by the school district, and all other committees were released. Funds were generated by the Service Star mothers, whose children had served or died in the World War. They requested that the stadium be dedicated as a memorial to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. Various fundraising activities included dances, concerts, and festivals. There was even a three-day horseracing event with proceeds donated to the stadium fund. That year, the Academy yearbook, the Academe, was dedicated to William for his work on the stadium project. The tribute included the following: “There are grave doubts that this ambition would have been fulfilled if he had not taken the initiative.”


In May 1924, the stadium committee presented $133,551.44 to the school district. The total cost of the project would be $150,000, so more fundraising would be necessary even after the stadium was in use. That year, the Academe was again dedicated to William. His work on the stadium project was acknowledged, but this year’s sentiment was far more encompassing of his worth as an educator. In part, “He is one whom we respect as a teacher, advisor and a man, the eveready adjustor of our smallest troubles.” On Armistice Day in November 1924, after a parade and numerous speeches by dignitaries in front of 15,000 people, the stadium was dedicated. A football game followed and many, many more such competitions and programs would take place in Veterans Stadium for decades to come. It remains a landmark in the city of Erie today.

ADVOCACY, 1925-1927

One wonders when William had a free moment during this period, when he seemed to act as an advocate for everyone but himself. He brought a music educator to Academy, Morten J. Luvaas, who started a school choir, which William would support as business manager and through his own finances for the rest of his life. William petitioned the school district for more funds to equip the school’s marching band. He chaired regional musical competitions. He acted as a district chairman of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), and organized track and field events. As chairman, he had to take the hard line when member schools played over-age players. He organized debates between colleges, including Colgate, as inspiration for the Academy debate club.


As district chairman for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), William was often quoted in newspapers regarding regional sports-event policies. In Academy sports, William arranged a football game against an Atlanta team in one of the country’s first-ever intersectional scholastic competitions. As Academy’s athletic advisor, William made difficult and provocative decisions, including severing the relationship with another district for poor sportsmanship.


In 1929, William self-published a small book of poetry entitled The West Wind and other Verses. Most of its poems are recorded in William’s handwritten journal, discovered in 2004. The book contained 26 poems using classical conventions, scholarly references, and complex themes. Many themes included nature, spirituality, morality, fate, and eternity. At the end of the decade, William’s poetry was used in a choral piece based on an Italian folk song, called “Tiritomba,” composed by his good friend, Morten Luvaas, the Academy choir director.

PERSISTENCE, 1930-1933

In 1930, during the Great Depression, William, and others, believed that a pipe organ would enrich Academy students and the community. A fundraising campaign ensued, and in early 1931, the pipe organ was installed for $12,000. Not all of William’s efforts were successful, and this was one of them. A decade later, the pipe organ had become a white elephant. By this time, Morten Luvaas had moved on to Allegheny College, but William would remain friends with him. The new choir director, Obed Grender, would also become a good friend. William was a frequent guest in both the Luvaas and Grender households, taking a keen interest in the children of both families, who remembered him fondly. William’s persistence proved to be of great value when, for nearly a year, he pursued the opportunity for the Academy choir to perform at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, a performance which earned the group nationwide recognition.

EXPLORATION, 1934-1938

William was an explorer, but documentation of his travel exists only during this period. In early 1935, William took an extended trip southward to visit various high school colleges from Pennsylvania to Florida. In the summer of 1935, he accompanied the Luvaas family on a trip out west, which he extended into a nearly month-long adventure. According to his account of the trip, he traveled 30,000 miles that year. William’s poetry was getting some traction, too, when Maryland composer Franz Bornschein used four of Williams poems in a choral cycle called, “The Sea.”


In May of 1939, the Academy choir appeared at the New York World’s Fair. That summer, William trekked westward again. While in Salt Lake City with friends, he received a letter from the Erie school superintendent, referencing a change in Pennsylvania law, which had lowered the mandatory retirement age. William, at age 68, was relegated into retirement, because the Erie school district, like many others in the nation, was strapped for cash. There was no lead-in to William’s departure. No time to plan going-away parties or send-off dinners.

SEPARATION, 1940-1943 

Although retired, William wasn’t completely absent from school in the early 1940s. The 1941 yearbook mentioned that he was frequently seen in the halls and was still arranging concerts, trips, and making plans for the choir. William had always loved nearby Presque Isle, but now he had more opportunity to spend time there. His servant-leader qualities hadn’t waivered, and a newspaper reported William sweeping a sidewalk there. He said since he used it so much, he might as well maintain it.


Although William was now in his seventies and retired, he entered a period of productivity and creativity, writing and editing poetry that would culminate in his second self-published book of poetry, called Rhymes and Some Reason, published in 1944. The Erie School District superintendent, C. Herman Grose, wrote the preface for the book, stating that William was “fondly remembered as a friend and guide of youth.” In the foreword, William claimed that his verses could not claim to be poems. Instead, he asserted that they were merely reflections from his many years of teaching in the Erie School District. This statement is too modest.

MELANCHOLY, 1944-1951

Five years after William had been forced out of his job as an educator, he still wanted to be involved in the lives of young people. In 1944, he heard there were plans to hire a school counselor for Academy. In a letter to the superintendent, William offered to work for free, citing his 20 years’ experience in counseling. He admitted that his head might not be very good, but his heart was in it. In 1947, if William felt as if he was no longer useful, he was probably heartened to hear from the Baptist missionary, whom had facilitated William’s sponsorship of the Chinese student years before. The student had become a teacher at the high school associated with the University of Shanghai.


When William looked back on his life, he probably had some regrets, as do many men, but in general, he was likely very satisfied with his accomplishments, and any moments of pain were worth the moments of joy sprinkled throughout his life. William was conscious and appreciative of joyful moments, and he even wrote a poem entitled, “Joy,” which appears in Rhymes. For several years, William suffered from arteriosclerosis, and on June 14, 1951, William had a cerebral hemorrhage and entered Afton Hospital. After almost a month there, William passed away at 10:10 a.m. on July 10, 1951.


If William had married and had children, he might not have been able to devote as much time to his students and community as he did over his lifetime. The major projects that captured years of William’s life, Ainsworth Field and Veterans Stadium, still stand today. Both have undergone major renovations, and although they barely resemble the originals, they remain prominent, well-used landmarks. Through William’s work with young people, his legacy continues today, although it cannot be quantified. His life was one of service, and the service itself was paramount to accolades. In these times of inflated egos and celebrity adoration, we can all take a lesson from William E. Dimorier.


This section includes a chronological list of Dimorier’s publications in scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, choral compositions, and self-published poetry collections.


The major publications that informed the project and are judged to be of interest to readers are listed in this section.


Using the Chicago Manual of Style format, the notes section is 25 pages in length. It contains nearly every source of every claim in the book.

Dimorier Project Main Page

Ann M. Silverthorn Resume

About: Ann Silverthorn


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Posted in Dimorier, History, Northwest PA, People, Writing
6 comments on “William E. Dimorier: Servant Leader
  1. Dawn says:

    WOW!! What an undertaking and you did it!! I am so proud of you! I always knew you were a writer, and a good one? Publishing prospects??

  2. David Wood says:

    Thank you for creating a legend out of an otherwise forgotten member of my family tree. May the product of your many years of passionate and talented work serve as a cherished legacy for many generations to come.

  3. MaryJane says:

    Ann, I am so pleased that you published the story of William Dimorier. What a grand work that honors Mr. Dimorier and you! You have kept the servant-leader alive in our memories.

    I was always intrigued by your story of the discovery of the poetry. I wondered if any changes were made in his poems from the handwritten version to the published one? Do you think that he chose the poems to be published and left the book with the printer? I would like to think that he knew where the book was at that time–I would also like to think the publisher/printer would have returned the book! Was the 2nd book printed by the same printer?

    Keep on writing!!

    • Ann Silverthorn says:

      Thanks you MaryJane. Well, it doesn’t have a publisher yet, but I believe that his story will be told. I think of all the young people today whose futures seem limited to them, and how inspirational his story would be for them. One doesn’t need to be famous or wealthy to live a life that matters.

      Regarding the differences between his journal and the printed copies: There were small differences that always puzzled me. Perhaps the journal was lost early on, and he was not able to compare them before they were published. The poems in the journal have symbols next to them and also indications of out/in. Some of the poems that looked like he didn’t want them included, actually made it to the finished product.

      The first book has a soft cover and no indication of publisher. The second book is hard cover and was printed by AKD Printing.

      Thanks again!

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