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.
According to the 1998-99 President’s Report*, one notable contribution Sears made was ensuring there was a “‘substantial sidewalk’ linking the school and town. Sears noted that when it rained, the roads became so muddy it was impossible to get into town from the school ‘out in the country.’ In fact, he was so determined to connect Illinois Wesleyan with the growing community of Bloomington that he spent $500 of his own money to build the sidewalk.”
*Quoted from “Part 1-The Beginning,” One Building, One Sidewalk: 1850-2000, Past is Prologue. 1998-99 President’s Report, A Sesquicentennial Preview (p. 5). University Archives Record Group 5-2/7.