The Right President at the Right Time

Rufus Stimson, president of Connecticut Agricultural College from 1901 to 1908. (University Library Archives & Special Collections)
Rufus Stimson, president from 1901 to 1908, helped Connecticut Agricultural College grow beyond anything the institution's founders had imagined. (University Library Archives & Special Collections)

In 1901, the future of what was then called Connecticut Agricultural College was very much in doubt. Attempts to introduce a liberal arts curriculum alongside agricultural studies had been met with stiff opposition from farmers, politicians, and the state’s press, with the New Britain Herald editorializing that it was “dangerous” and “insidious” to broaden the curriculum.

Enter Rufus Stimson. Arriving as president in a tumultuous time, Stimson not only steadied the institution but helped it grow beyond anything the institution’s founders had imagined. An accomplished public speaker with a gift for publicity, Stimson courted newspapers and lawmakers, inviting them to Storrs to tour the campus, and instituted the first summer classes in the school’s history as a way of spreading the word about the college.

By the time Stimson left in 1908, the student body had grown from 18 to 150, including students from as far away as India, Ecuador, and Germany; the campus had electric lighting and paved roads; the state appropriation to the school had increased from $5,000 to $25,000 a year; and the first brick dormitory on campus, Storrs Hall, had been built.

Listen to the podcast (from episode 22):

 

For full episodes of the UConn 360 podcast, visit uconn.edu/uconn360-podcast.