Today I would like to share another of Emeritus Chemistry Professor David A. Phillips’ excellent biographies – He has written a series of biographical sketches of the portraits in the Chapel. These sketches include Edmund O. Hovey and Caleb Mills, all of our past presidents and five former trustees. Enjoy! Beth Swift, Archivist of Wabash College
Elihu Whittlesey Baldwin (1835-1840)
Born in Durham, New York, on December 27, 1789, Elihu Baldwin graduated (cum laude) from Yale University in 1812 and from Andover Seminary in 1817. In 1817 Baldwin was licensed to preach and established a Presbyterian church in Newberryport, New York. Baldwin was a brilliant success, and by the 1830’s the congregation had grown to over 600. And yet, when Edmund O. Hovey approached him with the offer of the presidency ─ “We want a college building, and more than all, a college head. Will you, my dear sir, come over and help us?” ─ Baldwin readily accepted the challenge and left his successful career behind him. Even before his election on December 31, 1834, Baldwin began working with Hovey to secure the funds necessary for the establishment of the College. Eventually, the two of them were able to raise over $28,000 from donors in New York and New England.
Although he reached Crawfordsville in October, 1835, Baldwin was not formally inaugurated until June 13, 1836. His inaugural address set forth principles that seem as appropriate now as they did at the founding of the College. “But I have chiefly in view, in my remarks on liberal education, the improvement of the mind… Our purpose is never to rest while Wabash College shall lack any advantages for the student which are offered by the highest class of American colleges.”
As President, Baldwin labored mightily on behalf of the College, teaching classes, recruiting students, and raising money in Indiana, New York, and New England. On September 23, 1838, a fire nearly destroyed the newly-erected South Hall (on the site of Baxter Hall). This was a bitter blow, but the building was rebuilt and in use by the beginning of the 1839-1840 academic year. However, the rebuilding effort had left the College’s coffers bare, forcing Baldwin to redouble his fund-raising efforts. Eventually, these exertions took their toll on the President’s health. Elihu Baldwin died on October 15, 1840. He left behind an institution with a strong faculty, a growing student body, and a course of study comparable to those of the top eastern colleges. In the five years of his presidency, Elihu Baldwin’s steadfast character and strong leadership had been vital to the success of Wabash College.
by David A. Phillips, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus