When the corporation elected Calvin Pease president on November 27, 1855, he was the first alumnus of the university to serve in this capacity. Pease was born in Canaan, Connecticut, on August 12, 1813. In 1826 he moved to Charlotte, Vermont, and he graduated from UVM first in his class in 1838 before receiving an A.M. degree in 1841. In 1842 he was designated professor of classics at the university, and he later married Martha Howes of Montpelier. They had a family of five daughters, one of whom, Jane, married an 1880 UVM classmate, James R. Wheeler, the son of President John Wheeler.
Calvin Pease was deeply dedicated to public service. In 1856 he was elected president of the Vermont Teachers' Association and appointed to the first State Board of Education. He was committed to improving the public schools, and he gave generously to this cause.
His work at the university, however, was limited by the same financial constraints that had strapped his predecessors. In 1857 UVM ran a deficit of almost $1,000, and within four years this had increased to more than $2,300. Despite this, trustees voted to raise funds for a new library building. However, the financial situation deteriorated as a result of the panic of 1857, and by 1861 it was so serious that the corporation agreed on a plan to reduce both the salaries and the size of the faculty. This development coincided with news of the surrender of Fort Sumter and the outbreak of the Civil War. After President Lincoln's call for troops reached Vermont in April 1861, a military company was formed at the university.
Unfortunately, Pease faced increasingly difficult health problems, and he resigned from the presidency on February 4, 1862. That same winter he accepted a call to serve as minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, but in the following year he returned to Burlington where he died on September 17, 1863, at the age of fifty.