H-SC President, 1838-1845
William Maxwell, Yale class of 1802, had been well known to Hampden-Sydney since the 1820s, when he participated in Cushing's Literary and Philosophical Society, which evolved into the Virginia Historical Society. A prominent Norfolk lawyer, businessman, editor, ex-legislator, philanthropist, and active Presbyterian layman, in 1836 he was elected to the Board and given an LL.D. (only the third LL.D. the College had awarded).
Financially ruined in the 1837 Panic, he was more than willing to leave Norfolk, and with his talents and accomplishments he seemed a natural for President. He arrived with a sweepingly ambitious program of academic and physical changes, including the College's first master plan for real landscaping. Most of his agenda came to naught for lack of money and continuing doctrinal strife in the Presbyterian Church which caught Hampden-Sydney in a crossfire.
Maxwell resigned in 1844. He moved to Richmond and served as Corresponding Secretary and Librarian of the Virginia Historical Society and Editor of the Virginia Historical Register.