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Francis Wayland

Francis Wayland

President of Brown University
Francis Wayland
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro President of Brown University
Was Religious scholar Theologian Professor Educator
From United States of America
Type Academia Religion
Gender male
Birth 7 March 1796, New York City, New York, USA
Death 30 September 1865, Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA (aged 69 years)
Star sign Pisces
Union College
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences  
The details


Francis Wayland (March 11, 1796 – September 30, 1865), American Baptist educator and economist, was born in New York City, New York. He was president of Brown University and pastor of the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, Rhode Island. In Washington, D.C., Wayland Seminary was established in 1867, primarily to educate former slaves, and was named in his honor. (In 1899, Wayland Seminary merged with another school to become the current Virginia Union University, at Richmond, Virginia.)

Early Life and Family

Francis Wayland's father was an Englishman of the same name, who was also a Baptist pastor. Born in New York City in 1796, Wayland graduated from Union College in 1813 and studied medicine in Troy, under Dr. Ely Burritt. Dr. Burritt, a son of the Rev. Blackleach Burritt, graduated from Williams College, class of 1800 and was licensed to practice medicine at Troy, New York, on March 29, 1802, and quickly gained recognition for his medical skills. Dr. Wayland said the following about his former teacher: "Dr. Ely Burritt was a man of remarkable logical powers of enthusiastic love of his profession, and of great and deserved confidence in his own judgment. He stood at the head of his profession in Troy, and in the neighboring region, and was a person of high moral character." Dr. Wayland also studied medicine in New York City, but in 1816 entered Andover Theological Seminary, where he was greatly influenced by Moses Stuart. He was too poor to conclude his course in theology, and in 1817-1821 was a tutor at Union College, to which, after five years as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Boston, he returned in 1826 as professor of natural philosophy.

He was one of the founders of Newton Theological Institution in 1825.

He was an early advocate of the temperance and anti-slavery causes, for many years was "inspector of the state prison and Providence county jail," president of the Prison Discipline Society, and active in prison reform and local charities. He was one of the "law and order" leaders during the "Dorr Rebellion" of 1842, and was called "the first citizen of Rhode Island."

One of the individuals that he supported, trained and encouraged was Leonard Black, author of The Life and Sufferings of Leonard Black, a Fugitive from Slavery who became a Baptist minister.

Wayland worked hard to prevent the local Baptist denominations from splitting into pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions, but ultimately failed in this attempt.

Wayland was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1851.

Brown Presidency

In 1827 he became president of Brown University. In the twenty-eight years of his administration he gradually built up the college, improving academic discipline, formed a library and gave scientific studies a more prominent place. He also worked for higher educational ideals outside the college, writing text-books on ethics and economics, and promoting the free school system of Rhode Island and especially (1828) of Providence. His Thoughts on the Present Collegiate System in the United States (1842) and his Report to the Corporation of Brown University of 1850 pointed the way to educational reforms, particularly the introduction of industrial courses, which were only partially adopted in his lifetime.

Wayland's attempts to reform Brown's medical school were met with antagonism and resistance from the school's faculty and staff to the point where they resigned, and the medical program was eliminated.

Wayland was vividly remembered by members of the Brown community, including Charles T. Congdon and James B. Angell, who are quoted in the Encyclopedia Brunoniana.[1]

Charles T. Congdon wrote in his Reminiscences:

He was disobeyed with fear and trembling, and the boldest did not care to encounter his frown. He was majestic in manner, and could assume, if he pleased, a Rhadamanthine severity. It was a calamity to be called into that awful presence; and no student, of whatever character, ever made the least pretence of not being frightened at the summons. ... However loosely our tongues might wag, we thoroughly respected and even reverenced the president; and upon public occasions, when he put on his academic gown and cap, we were rather proud of his imposing appearance. ... In his later days, I have been told he exhibited marked urbanity and sweetness of disposition. Certainly there were small traces of either when any undergraduate was detected in an act of meanness or a flagrant violation of the university statutes. He had a heavy foot for a student’s door when it was not promptly opened after his official knock.

President of the University of Michigan James B. Angell Class of 1849, who wrote in Memories of Brown:

The discipline of the college was wholly in his hands. In administering it he was stern, at times imperious. But no graduate of his time ever failed to gain from him higher ideals of duty or lasting impulses to a noble and strenuous life. He said so many wise things to us and uttered them in so pithy and sententious a style that one could never forget them. I presume that my experience is like that of others, when I say that hardly a week of my life has passed in which I have not recalled some of his apt sayings and to my great advantage. Is there any better proof than that of the power of a teacher over his pupils?

He resigned the presidency of Brown in 1855, and served from 1857 to 1858 as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church in America, in Providence.

Role in the development of public libraries

Wayland was a long time vocal advocate for libraries. His donation to the town of Wayland, Massachusetts, in 1851 for the establishment of a public library was the catalyst for legislation in Massachusetts allowing towns to establish libraries.

Published work

Besides several volumes of sermons and addresses and the volumes already mentioned, he published:

Other works:


The town of Wayland, Massachusetts was named in his honor. Wayland Seminary in Washington D.C., a predecessor of Virginia Union University was named for him. The Wayland Day lectures at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, were named in honor of Wayland, whose writings had a lasting effect on the founder of the oldest university in Japan.

Prominent son

His son Francis Wayland III (1826-1904) was lieutenant-governor of Connecticut from 1869–1870, and became a professor and Dean of the Yale Law School.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 22 May 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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