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Rev. Samuel Austin, D.D. (1815 - 1821)

When the university reopened after the war, the trustees elected Samuel Austin as UVM's second president on March 18, 1815. The Reverend Mr. Austin, who was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 7, 1760, saw brief service in the revolutionary war before graduating from Yale in 1783 with the highest honors in his class. He studied theology with Jonathan Edwards (son of the famous preacher) and married Jerusha Hopkins in 1788. He then served as the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, for twenty-five years, from 1790 until 1815, before he journeyed north to assume his new duties at UVM.

If the administration of President Sanders had reflected a high degree of energy, the Austin years were marked by disillusionment. In 1815 the university was in a position of abject poverty. Although it was able to secure a settlement of $5,600 from the United States government for the use of the College Edifice as a barracks, this sum was used to pay off past debts. There were few new students, and funds continued to be scarce. President Austin's salary had been fixed at $1,000 a year, but by the summer of 1820, it was $3,120 in arrears.

President Austin also appears to have experienced difficulties adjusting to life in Burlington. Travel conditions were still so primitive that he waited seven months, from his inaugural on July 26, 1815, until February 17, 1816, for his library and household goods to arrive from Worcester. When Austin attempted to revise the curriculum, a committee of the corporation advised him not to include the works of Jonathan Edwards in classical studies. Since Austin was a strict Calvinist and a distinguished scholar who had edited a definitive collection of Edwards' works, he could hardly have taken such an affront lightly.

The university was operating under a darkening cloud when President Austin submitted his resignation on March 21, 1821, to assume the pastorate of a church in Newport, Rhode Island. Later he moved to Glastenbury, Connecticut, where he died on December 4, 1830. Conditions at UVM deteriorated rapidly following his resignation, and the university was about to face a new crisis even more serious than that which had been brought about by the War of 1812.

Last modified September 28 2012 11:08 AM

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