The eponym for McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College), William Roberts McDaniel's life revolved mostly around that school.

Born in Talbot County, Maryland in August 1861, McDaniel was the youngest child of twelve in his family. In 1877, at age 16, he entered the college as a sophomore and graduated as the salutatorian of the class of 1880. After graduation, he started a newsletter called the Alumni Bulletin to unite the college's alumni, and in 1885 returned from Johns Hopkins, where he was attending graduate school, to take over from a dying math professor. Over the next 36 years, McDaniel taught math, astronomy, German, and calisthenics. The exercise classes, started in 1888, were of his own design, and involved swinging clubs to music.

Over the years, McDaniel held a number of other roles at the college. He served as the alumni association's treasurer for 50 years, and was appointed the college's treasurer in 1894; he remained in that position until his death. In 1906, he was named the vice president and acting president so then-president T.H. Lewis could take a leave of absence; he was offered the official presidency in 1920 but declined the position. In 1911 he was elected to the Board of Trustees, and received the school's first honorary doctor of science degree. McDaniel also founded the campus's first Sunday School and served as its superintendant, and he started a bicycle club at the college.

His family also attended Western Maryland College. His daughter Dorothy graduated in 1918, his grandson in 1949, and his great-granddaughter in 1976. McDaniel died at age 80 on April 19, 1942.

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