Wilder graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1873, and was the first alumni to become president of the institution. He was born in Greenfield, Illinois on July 7th, 1849. Wilder worked on a farm as a boy and later taught “country school.” He held pastorates in five Illinois towns and was presiding elder of the Decatur district at age 34.
Adams was president of Illinois Wesleyan from 1875-1888. He attended the preparatory department of Northwestern University and was licensed to preach by the age of 19 and was a student preacher in Chicago. He enlisted in the Civil War in 1863 and within a year was elected lieutenant. Adams organized the first company of African Americans and was later promoted to captain and then to major. After resigning from the military, he went to study at Garrett Biblical Institute and graduated in 1870.
Fallows was born in England and immigrated to Wisconsin with his family in 1848 where he joined the Methodist Church at the age of 19. He studied at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and at the University of Wisconsin. He was the Vice-President and Principal of Galesville University for two years, joined the Union Army in 1862, and served as the chaplain for the 32nd Wisconsin Infantry. He was also a Professor-elect of Natural Sciences at Lawrence and later a superintendent. He became president of Illinois Wesleyan University in 1873.
Sears was the first official president of Illinois Wesleyan University and served from 1855 until 1857. He was born in New York in 1820 but spent most of his life in Ohio. He graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1841. Before his presidency, he held the dual position of librarian and Professor of Ancient Languages and Literature.
Guest post by Ashlyn Calhoun
We have a lot of interesting things here at the Tate Archives and Special Collections in the Ames Library. We have old letterman jackets, the shovel used for almost every building’s groundbreaking since Presser, and an old student publication issue that included a condom! Recently, Meg Miner and myself discovered what has got to be the most interesting Archival discovery of all time: the whiskers from a man-eating tiger slain by an alum during his time in India! How cool is that?
Campbell, his wife, and daughter lived and worked as missionaries in Jagdalpur, India for close to 20 years. Campbell’s daughter, Eleanor, told the tale of her father’s slaying of the tiger in a file obtained from the
Illinois Great Rivers Conference Archives at MacMurray College. Eleanor told how her father, a Methodist minister, shot the tigress, who had killed over 150 people, after a Sunday church service!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Campbell family’s time in India or about the man-eating tigress herself, head up to the fourth floor of Ames and give Meg and I a visit! We love the company!
In 1890, Wesleyan’s first two international students graduated from IWU’s Law School. Their names were Yeizo Osawa and Kashiyira Tanaka. They were from Tokyo, Japan, and were in residence on campus when they graduated. Stories in our student publications relate how they shared their culture with IWU’s campus, such as delivering lectures and describing some of the customs of Japan. Their presence among the graduation class of 1890 was even noted in local newspapers and in the Chicago Tribune.
Even earlier, other graduates with international addresses received degrees through our Non-residential program, meaning they did not have to attend classes on our campus. This program is described the following way in an 1895 publication:
The object of this step was to furnish lines of systematic study for those professional men and women whose duties and environments are such as to make a resident course of study an impossibility, and yet who earnestly desire systematic study.
Sounds a lot like what online learning programs promise today, doesn’t it?
An early graduate of the program with an international address is Rev. John Oakly Spencer of Japan, who graduated with a Ph.B in 1888. One wonders about the possibility of Osawa and Tanaka meeting Oakly and finding out about our small school in Central Illinois!
Other Non-resident graduates living abroad in the same time period were Rev. Myron Chesterfield Wilcox of China who also graduated with a Ph.B in 1886, and William Groves of Uruguay who graduated with an M.A. in 1897. William C. Armstrong and Frederick W. A.Meyer, of Ontario, Canada and Arthur Thomas Carr of Birmingham England all received M.A. in 1896.
These men were not international students in the same way we think of today, but they demonstrate our current philosophy has long-standing roots: bring the world to Wesleyan and Wesleyan to the world!
To learn more you can visit Tate Archives and Special Collections in the Ames Library or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Guest posted by Melissa Mariotti, edited by Meg Miner
One recurring question asked in the archives is when did IWU admit students of color? While Illinois Wesleyan may not have been the first school to have a graduate of color, it did admit students of color not too long after its opening in 1850 but not without some prompting.
We lack easily accessible information on demographics for early students, but an argument in a local newspaper surrounding the admission of “a colored boy” to IWU’s Model School (aka, elementary) program. The anonymous letter writer stated that the student’s “request was refused” (The Daily Pantagraph, May 9, 1867, p. 4). The writer makes the pointed criticism that the student was qualified by published standards for admission at the time and questions why a specific vote was needed. His conclusion is that it was due to the color of his skin.
Archives Record Group 16-1/10 contains a research file compiled about Black History at IWU, including photo copies of these local news sources, that show a series of commentaries by the writer calling himself “Radical” and one response from then-President O.S. Munsell.
We can use the date in these sources for further exploration of the question.
We don’t know the name of that student or if he ever joined our campus, but an explicit faculty vote on the principle was successful in April 1867 and the Board of Trustees approved the decision at its June meeting.
There is no detailed discussion in any known IWU source about the case, but the culmination of this early effort seems to have finally occurred 13 years later.
Gus A. Hill is the first known African American student to attend Illinois Wesleyan University. He was a member of IWU’s Law School, Class of 1880. He was mentioned several times in our student newspaper of the era, which was known as the Wesleyan Bee, and his colored skin was often referenced. For instance, in the February 1st, 1883 Wesleyan Bee, the article refers to him as “a colored man and brother.” We have no photographs of Hill in the archives or campus publications.
In 1889, Alfred O. Coffin became the first African-American in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D in Biology. Editors of another student paper titled the Elite Journal, also refer to Coffin as the “talented young colored gentleman” in the April 19th, 1889. Coffin lived in Texas and was enrolled in our version of a distance-education program, so having his presence on campus noted indicates contemporary students’ interest in his story. He was on campus for his final exams then and anyone interested can visit Special Collections to see book one of a two-volume “herbarium” set that Coffin created for his degree completion requirements.
That book was discovered just two years ago in a campus office. Book two wasn’t with it but it offers me a chance to remind everyone that while IWU is 165 years old, it is still possible to make unexpected finds, so keep your eyes open whenever the spring cleaning bug strikes!
N.B. The first known record of international students enrolling is in 1889 and will be described in the next post. Another “first” was women’s admittance to IWU in 1870, although a discussion about that possibility is first recorded in 1851. Two brief presentations on this topic — one in 2010 and one in 2014 — are available for introductions to that part of our history.
To learn more about this topic, or just to visit and marvel at 126 year old plants from A.. Coffin’s Texas collection, visit Tate Archives and Special Collections in the Ames Library or contact us at email@example.com!
Last spring, our archives was selected for participation in a digitization project sponsored by the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). I chose the IWU Catalogue of Courses from 1851-1954 for this project, and it just went live as the 200th collection added to CARLI’s digital collection database for member libraries.
Course catalogs may not seem like the most compelling artifacts to have available online, but they have a lot to tell us about changes in personnel and physical attributes of campus, not to mention the curriculum!
A little known fact about these sources is that up until 1954, our catalogs contained an “enrolled” student list for the range of degree and certificate programs being offered.
So from the standpoint of the kinds of questions people direct to the archives, a significant benefit of this effort is that our last large collection of print material needed for finding people associated with IWU is now searchable!
Of course, all of the originals and the more recent catalogs, from 1955-present, are available in print in the University Archives.
For this project, CARLI worked with the Internet Archive, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization to make these materials freely available to CARLI libraries and the world, through the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/carli_lib.
You can access our catalogs there or though the CARLI-hosted search interface. The smaller collection I created through CARLI makes it easy to search just our collection rather than having ours along with the millions of items already in the Internet Archive.
Guest posted by Melissa Mariotti
As most students and faculty know, there are several main entrances into Wesleyan’s campuses. There is the North entrance on Franklin Avenue, the South entrance by Empire Street, the East entrance by Park Street, and the West entrance by Main Street. There is not much known about the latter entrance. It stands between Pfieffer and Gulick Halls and bears the inscription:
“We stand in a position of incalculable responsibility to the great wave of population overspreading the valley of the Mississippi. Destiny seems to point out this valley as the depository of great heart of the Nation. From this center mighty pulsations, for good or evil, must in future flow, which shall not only affect the fortunes of the Republic but reach in their influence other and distant Nations of the earth.”
Upon further research, it was discovered that the gates were ”erected and presented to the school by the Bloomington Association of Commerce in 1921” (Founders’ Day Convocation, 2006). There are two differing theories about where this quote came from. According to the 1960 Wesleyana, it is “an excerpt from the report on education to the annual meeting of the Illinois Conference held in Springfield in 1854.” But according to an Argus article from February 13th, 1940, it was said on December 18th, 1850 from the “Conference Record.”
The quote was verified in the Methodist Conference Record of 1854 by the archives that holds those documents: The Illinois Great Rivers Conference Archives at MacMurray College, Jacksonville, Illinois. There is more to the quote than was summarized on our West Gates, but the spirit of the passage resonates just as much today as it did for our Founders.
The quote that is inscribed on the gate is said to represent “the ‘incalculable responsibility’ the founders of Illinois Wesleyan felt in the work they had undertaken” in establishing Illinois Wesleyan as an “institution of learning” (President Wilson, Founder’s Day Convocation Remarks, 2006). It describes the passion that the Founder’s had for teaching and learning, along with the many obstacles they had to face into creating the school. This inscription is referenced many times during Founder’s Day Convocations, and is evident in the care and consideration of all who work to sustain and advance that goal today.