Richard McIlwaine

H-SC President, 1883-1904

Richard McIlwaine In his autobiography, Richard McIlwaine 1853 says that his election as President was "not a surprise." Indeed, it was well-nigh inevitable: Three of the Trustees who elected him had also voted for Green in 1848 and Atkinson in 1857, and they had known him since his student days; his father, a Trustee 1848-1876, as Treasurer had husbanded the College's meager funds through War and Reconstruction; his wife was kin to over half the Board; he himself, a Trustee since 1870 (taking the seat vacated by his brother), was an active member of all committees dealing with finances and a regular counselor of Dr. Atkinson, whose open choice as successor he had been for a decade. A charter member of the first fraternity on campus, McIlwaine had thoroughly enjoyed his college days; but after a religious experience while at the University of Virginia Law School (where he specialized in card-playing) he attended Union Seminary and Edinburgh University, was ordained, and served several pastorates and a chaplaincy in the Confederate Army. In 1868, while pastor in Farmville, he became for two years the College's part-time General Agent (more recently styled Vice President for Development) - a post the Board and Dr. Atkinson wanted to be full-time - at the same stated salary as the President's. From 1870 to 1883 he was in the senior levels of the Presbyterian bureaucracy, finally as Secretary of the Home and Foreign Missions Board in Baltimore. He entered office with a full, well-articulated agenda that included items that in 2000 are still unfinished business (his dream of a swimming pool materialized only in 1980); under him features of the twentieth century College began to appear: the B.S. degree (no ancient language required), student government, athletics, Bible as a required course (dropped in 1971), the beginning of a faculty rank and probation system, and the like. In 1892 the College put up its first building in over sixty years. In a devastating irony, the Board refused to free Dr. McIlwaine, the first President chosen with an eye to potential as a fund-raiser, from his teaching duties so that he could raise money. An outspoken opponent of the Seminary's move to Richmond in 1898, he became more and more embattled, and in 1904 finally resigned under fire in a controversy over dancing on campus.