Wesleyan's First Century: With an Account of the Centennial Celebration

By Carl F. Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
STEPHEN OLIN, ORATOR

THE greatness and fame of Stephen Olin, who was chosen to be the second president of Wesleyan University, inhered chiefly in a native nobility of character, eventually transfused with the religious spirit, and also in a certain type of vigorous intellectual development which made him one of the foremost pulpit orators of his day. McClintock said of him: "In beautiful blending of logical argument with fiery feeling, he is more like what we know Demosthenes to have been than any speaker we have ever heard"; and no less a judge of eloquence than John Quincy Adams spoke of him as one of the great orators of his generation.

Three vital decisions, made by Stephen Olin deliberately, wisely, but not without great mental struggle, determined his life and his work: his insistence upon a college course for himself, his decision two years after graduation to become a Christian and his choice of educational work as a profession. To this last he was forced somewhat reluctantly when he found his health unequal to the exactions of pastoral work in the Christian ministry.

Judge Henry Olin, his father, into whose home in Leicester, Vermont, Stephen was born, March 2, 1797, was a man of unusual gifts and justly prided himself upon having achieved without benefit of a college course his career as congressman, lieutenant-governor, and finally judge of the Supreme Court of Vermont. A. F. Perry has said of him that "he was to the politics of Vermont what Burns was to the literature of Scotland." Stephen's mother, Mrs. Lois Richardson Olin, was a quiet woman of unobtrusive piety. Her somewhat delicate constitution was burdened with the care

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