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

By Carl F. Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
JOSEPH CUMMINGS, BUILDER

THE first graduate of Wesleyan University to become president of the institution was Joseph Cummings, '40. It was a proud day on the campus when at last Alma Mater could point to one of her own sons as chief officer of her household. There was no dearth of educators among Wesleyan alumni: indeed, large numbers of her sons had entered this field. Of the 579 Wesleyan graduates at the time of President Smith's resignation, besides those who were teachers and professors only, 188 became principals of secondary schools and an additional 50 became college presidents (41 of whom had previously presided over schools). But the trustees of Wesleyan had no difficulty in selecting Cummings, then president of Genesee College (later Syracuse University), as foremost among all these Wesleyan-made educators. His election immediately followed President Smith's resignation on August 5, 1857.

President Smith's administration brought to a close the first stage of Wesleyan history, the Period of Inception, as Dr. James M. King in 1881. first styled it. The next era, the Period of Construction, opened with the Inauguration of President Cummings, nearly a year after his election. After a quarter of a century of struggle the college's building equipment had not been much developed. It is true, there had been some improvements on the campus grounds. Trees had been planted and, after much undergraduate agitation, the lawn was seeded. The unsightly wooden fence, about the campus in which Laban Clark let his horse graze when he came to preside over trustee meetings, had given way during Smith's presidency to an iron fence. The ball field occupied the future site of Memorial Chapel and Rich Hall. The present Andrus

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