1872-1883: The Early Years
Rev. Dr. George Archibald (1873-1874)
Rev. Dr. Archibald was educated at Jefferson College, class of 1847. He went on to teach at Danville Theological Seminary. When the Seminary temporarily closed, Archibald accepted the position of president at Wilson College. He was inaugurated on Sept. 11, 1874. He remained at Wilson for only one year. When the Seminary reopened in 1874, Archibald decided to return to his former position. He resigned on June 23, 1874.
Rev. Mr. W.T. Wylie, President-Elect (1875-1876), President (1876-1878)
Reverend Wylie was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1853 and served as a pastor for the Second Presbyterian Church of New Castle, Pennsylvania until he received the offer for the Wilson College presidency. President Wylie began his tenure at Wilson College in 1876 and was an integral part of the revision of Wilson College’s curriculum during the summer of 1876. His focus on the educational goals for Wilson students included a department of chemistry, gardening, and fruit culture and architecture. With the change in the graduation requirements to include an additional year of study, Wilson lost a good portion of its student body as they were set back in their curriculum a year. This adjustment of coursework caused Seniors to become Juniors, Juniors to Sophomores, etc. but brought the curriculum of the college closer to the standards of other colleges of the time.
This was a time of reconstruction at the college, both in terms of curriculum and faculty. The faculty at the time was constantly changing, with a new Latin teacher four years in a row. However, there were several faculty members who remained as the foundation of the programs offered at Wilson and President Wylie made an active effort to recruit quality educators to join the Wilson faculty.
While President, Rev. Wylie reorganized the college curriculum and tried to make a greater distinction between work at the college level and at the secondary level, he also sought to cap enrollment at 75 students (a limit he did not reach) and instituted housekeeping courses for non-academic courses. He resigned in 1878.
Rev. Dr. J.C. Caldwell (1881-1883)
Rev. Caldwell was involved with Wilson College as a member of the Board of Trustees before his inauguration as President in 1881. Rev. Caldwell was also known for his position as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg. In 1881, enrollment had fallen to a new low, but through Rev. Caldwell’s efforts, enrollment increased from 49 to 79 students. He notably established a School of Music in 1881 and a special course in Fine Arts in 1882 in order to increase the size of the student body. By the fall of 1882, the student population had finally begun to show an increase, before enrollment began to fall again to less than 30 students. Part of the struggles of the college at the time related to the beginnings the Depression (1882-1885). Rev, Caldwell resigned in 1883 due to poor health.