H-SC President, 1883-1904
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 rreconstruction; he himself, a Trustee since 1870, 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, 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 (fund-raiser). 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.
McIlwaine entered the presidency with a full, well-articulated agenda. Under him features of the twentieth century College began to appear: the B.S. as a separate degree, student government, intercollegiate athletics, and the beginning of a system of faculty rank. In 1892 the College put up its first new building, Memorial Hall later McIlwaine Hall, in over sixty years.
In 1904 in a controversy over dancing on campus, McIlwaine resigned.