Presidential installation: Adonijah Welch

President, 1869-1883

Adonijah Welch, Iowa State University's first president, was installed on March 17, 1869 -- the same day of the official opening of what was then called Iowa State Agricultural College.

The event drew an estimated 1,200-plus people, including numerous politicians, leaders in education, and other prominent Iowans. Lt. Gov. John Scott opened the formal ceremony with the welcoming address. Then Benjamin F. Gue, president of the Agricultural College's Board of Trustees, took the stage to discuss the struggles of establishing a new institution of higher education on the prairie.

Iowa Gov. Samuel Merrill presented President Welch with the charter and seal for the new college and bestowed upon him the responsibility and honor of managing the fledgling institution. John Russell presented Welch with the keys to the main building, which in time would become known as Old Main.

New approach: Learning and labor ... and women

In his inaugural address, Welch expounded on the new approach to education the Iowa Agricultural College was taking -- leaving behind classical education to combine "learning and labor" and focus on the "branches of natural science which underlie the industries of this beautiful State."

Welch also commented on the progressive nature of the new institution of learning, which admitted women "on equal terms with young men, to all the privileges and honors which the institution can bestow." Norton S. Townshend, Iowa State's first professor of agriculture, then welcomed Welch on behalf of the faculty. Professor H.W. Parker of Iowa College in Grinnell closed the event with his poem, "The Ideal Farmer and His Wife," which exalted the scientifically educated farmer and spouse.

At the request of the Board of Trustees, Welch resigned from his position as president in 1883. However, he remained on the faculty at Iowa State until his death on March 13, 1889.