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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Andonijah S. Welch

Adonijah S. Welch - History of Iowa.jpg

ANDONIJAH S. WELCH was born April 12, 1821, at Chatham, Connecticut, and received his early education in the schools of that place. He removed to Michigan and entered the State University at Ann Arbor from which he graduated. His first inclination was to become a lawyer; he entered upon the study and was admitted to the bar. But after a few years began what proved to be his life work, teaching. He was chosen principal of the first union school in Michigan and soon developed such ability in that work that he was elected president of the State Normal School of Michigan. Here, for fifteen years, he labored with such marked success that he ranked among the most progressive and resourceful educators of the west. After continual work in that position his health gave way and he went to Florida for a season of rest. While residing there he was elected to the United States Senate, in the process of reconstructing the government of that State and its restoration to its place in the Union, in 1868. While holding this position he had been so strongly recommended by the leading educators of Michigan for the presidency of the Iowa Agricultural College that the chairman of the special committee on organization of that institution became convinced that he was the man for the place. After extended investigation, he so reported to the Board of Trustees and was by them authorized to tender the position to Mr. Welch. He accepted upon condition that he be allowed to serve in the Senate until the 4th of March, 1869, and enter upon the duties of his new position soon thereafter. He visited the college in September, 1868, had a long conference with the trustees, presented to them his plan of organization and course of study and helped to inaugurate the preliminary and preparatory session. He returned to Washington and resumed his seat in the Senate. The Republicans of Florida, who had a majority in the Legislature, proposed to elect Mr. Welch to the long term in the Senate but he declined the position, preferring the presidency of the Iowa College. There for fifteen years, he labored most successfully, to build up that institution into one of the most successful scientific and industrial colleges in the west. He possessed a remarkable power of organization and was largely instrumental in working out the many difficult problems of the new system of education then in its infancy. He was an enthusiastic advocate of coeducation and demonstrated its practicability and advantages in the college under his supervision. Under his wise direction the foundation was laid in the formative years for the great educational institution which has grown up. In 1877 the United States Commissioner of Technological and Industrial Schools, visited the Agricultural College and, after a thorough investigation of its plans and work, said to President Welch: “You have here the best institution of its kind in the United States.” President Welch was one of the most accomplished and powerful public speakers in the west and was in constant demand for addresses before educational and industrial organizations throughout the country. He was long regarded as the highest authority on industrial education in the United States and was the author of several valuable school text books. In 1882 he was sent by the Department of Agriculture on a mission to Europe to examine and report upon industrial and scientific schools of the old world. His report was one of great value and widely sought for. Dr. Welch died in Pasadena, California, on the 14th of March, 1889. His funeral was held at the college, on the 21st, and was attended by the Governor and other State officers.