Lewis Warner Green

H-SC President, 1849-1856

Lewis Warner Green By 1848 Lewis Warner Green was one of the most widely known and highly respected ministers in the Presbyterian Church. An orphan, he was reared by a much older brother, a judge in Kentucky; he was educated at Transylvania University (founded by Hampden-Sydney alumni) and at Centre College, where he was in the first graduating class. He had studied law, then medicine, and after pre-theological work at Yale went to Princeton Seminary. His wealthy second wife treated him to two years of study - in theology, French, German, general literature, Biblical archaeology, and natural sciences - in three European universities. He had taught at three colleges and been an acting president twice at Centre. It was regarded as the coup of at least the decade when a student group at Union Seminary got him, then the pastor of the largest church in Baltimore, to speak in June 1848. The Hampden-Sydney Board was meeting to consider a successor to Sparrow, and took a recess to hear the eminent and eloquent preacher; upon returning to their business, the Trustees unanimously elected Green President, and he accepted on the spot, pledging to "raise again the fortunes of the embarrassed college." He was the first President to have been the head of another institution, and he used his charm, learning, and experience to good effect in eight mostly golden years; even his precarious health dramatically improved. He was the first President to spend a major portion of his time (albeit in vacation-periods, since, like all Presidents until the twentieth century, he had classes to teach) cultivating the College's external constituencies. Although students liked to mock him and took advantage of his vanity, he had almost no disciplinary problems and encouraged the embryonic Honor System. Constantly wooed by other colleges, in 1856 he returned to Centre as President (and pastor of the Danville Presbyterian Church) - and just in time, too, for his pro-Union views would have made his position at Hampden-Sydney untenable very shortly.