Wesleyan's Eighth President

Bradford P. Raymond

B.A., B.S.T., Ph.D.

"A 'safe and unselfish First Director'...whose genial optimism and talents as a peacemaker were assets in dealing with key constituencies."
– David B. Potts

A Civil War veteran, scholar, and pastor, Bradford P. Raymond came to Wesleyan from Lawrence University, where he had served as president for six years. Raymond was born on April 22, 1846, in High Ridge, Conn., and attended local public schools until the age of 18, when he joined the Union Army. When the war ended, he was in poor health and was sent to Red Wing, Minn., where an uncle and older brother lived. There, he became very religious and decided to become a minister.

He attended Hamline University in Red Wing, Minn., but it closed during his junior year for lack of funds (it was later reopened in St. Paul). Raymond organized the students and faculty, collected money from the students, and paid the faculty to continue teaching for the year. He then went to Lawrence University for his senior year and graduated from there in 1870.

After graduating from theology school in Boston and serving pastorates in New England, Raymond was elected president of Lawrence University in 1883. His tenure there was so successful that when Wesleyan needed a new president, the trustees turned to Raymond, who was installed in June 1889.

Raymond's primary interest was the faculty, and he worked hard to increase the number of faculty while maintaining the student-faculty ratio (enrollment had increased in the late 1880s and early 1890s). He also supported academic endeavors, and during this period Wesleyan's reputation was enhanced by the faculty's research.

One controversial project was Professor William O. Atwater's respiration calorimeter, a machine built to measure human metabolism. Atwater's report that alcohol had nutritional value was contrary to the dogma of the temperance movement, which was heavily supported by Methodists. The controversy raged on for a number of years, but Raymond supported Atwater throughout. His support of Atwater did not diminish his reputation, however, and he remained a popular president with the faculty and students.

Another controversy centered on coeducation. After 1890 the number of female students increased and some feared that Wesleyan would become a women's college. Thus, in 1909 the trustees voted not to admit any more women, a policy that stood until women were again admitted at the end of the 1960s.

Future U.S. President Woodrow Wilson served on the faculty from 1888-1890, one of the first non-Methodists to do so, and also coached football. Booker T. Washington spoke on campus in 1895 and won the admiration and respect of Raymond, who advocated for the admission of blacks to Methodist schools.

Although fund-raising was not his first choice, Raymond succeeded well: He more than doubled the endowment, more than doubled the value of buildings and land, increased the student body by one-third, and almost doubled the number of faculty members. Student publications flourished during his tenure, the honor system was adopted, and alumni began to organize.

Eventually, the annual deficit in the college finances became unmanageable, and Raymond's health broke down. He resigned and was elected professor emeritus of ethics and biblical literature. On February 27, 1916, he passed away in Middletown, his busy administration eventually taking its toll.