Wesleyan's Seventh President
John W. Beach
"Naturally introspective, he dealt much in analysis, but always left
the impression on the minds of his hearers of profound thinking,
powerful logic and forceful illustration."
John W. Beach, the son of a Methodist minister, was born on December 26, 1825, in Trumbull, Conn. A lifelong classicist, he graduated from Wesleyan in 1845 and then taught school in Philadelphia until becoming licensed as a Methodist preacher.
He returned to teaching and educational administration at Amenia Seminary until again obtaining a pastorate. In 1879, he was made presiding elder of the New York District, New York East Conference, where he gained a reputation as an able and fair executive.
While presiding elder, he met George Seney, at that time the wealthiest Wesleyan trustee. Seney promoted Beach's candidacy for the presidency and at the same time made major monetary contributions to the institution.
Beach's tenure as president was somewhat rocky, as he did not go out of his way to cultivate students, faculty, or friends of the university. He removed himself physically from the campus by purchasing a home and 13 acres on High Street, a quarter mile south of the university, converting the president's house on campus into a women's dormitory.
In 1884, Seney stopped his contributions because of personal financial reversals and, not having made the effort to maintain communication and good relations with alumni and friends, Beach was unable to find other sources of revenue. The trustees urged Beach to resign, but he refused. A vote of no confidence forced him out, although he continued to live in Middletown for the rest of his life.
He returned to church leadership positions and became presiding elder of the New Haven District and later the New York District. Beach died in Middletown on January 1, 1902.