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Finally in February 1839, Matthew Simpson, of Allegheny College, after earlier turning down the professorship of mathematics, accepted the presidency of Indiana Asbury University. The first official listing of Indiana Asbury faculty in 1839 included Simpson, Nutt, and Weakley, plus John Wheeler, a member of the senior class, as tutor in mathematics.

Hoosier Town
The 1839-40 catalogue, the first to be issued, outlined a prescribed course for the college of recitations leading after four years to the degree of bachelor of arts. The course outline closely followed the established pattern of the older liberal arts colleges to the east. Arranged in two semesters of 21 weeks each, it comprised a heavy dose of Latin, Greek, and mathematics in the first two years, alleviated by a variety of subjects such as rhetoric, logic, ancient history, political economy, and the law of nations in the final two years. The capstone of the entire educational program was the study of mental and moral philosophy and "Christian evidences" in the senior year. This part of the curriculum was directed by the president himself, who was indeed often called upon to teach other courses as well. This major course was in no way a formal philosophy course, but rather, a practical course in "right living." In 1839-40 only 22 students were registered for the full classical course, while 43 were listed as irregular, or non-degree, students; and the largest number, 58, were pupils in the preparatory department. Two literary societies, the Platonean and Philological-usually called Plato and Philo for short-had been organized, affording students both social fellowship and an opportunity to supplement the rather thin prescribed curriculum with oratorical exercises on issues of current interest.

By September 1840 the new classroom building, under construction since 1837 and generally known simply as the Edifice, was far enough along to provide a suitable place for the university's first commencement and the belated inauguration of President Simpson. On the 16th of that month, chosen because it was the eve of the meeting of the Indiana Methodist Conference, the chapel was crowded with visitors from around the state as Asbury's first three graduates were recognized - Thomas A. Goodwin, Finley L. Maddox, and John Wheeler. Joseph E. McDonald, who left college before graduation, was later awarded a degree as a member of the class of 1840. Indiana's governor, David Wallace, delivered the charge and presented the keys of the university to President Simpson, who made a lengthy inaugural address outlining the aims and objectives of higher education in terms not altogether unlike those often heard in the university's later history. In addition to furnishing general knowledge, colleges should promote "a capacity for close and thorough investigation, ability to communicate information in an interesting and successful manner, and a disposition to use the utmost exertions for the amelioration of the conditions of mankind." The ceremony concluded with an evening lecture to the literary societies by the 26-year-old Henry Ward Beecher of the Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. The university was launched.





Soon additional instructors were appointed and replacements named for those departing, as the student body gradually expanded. Most, like their predecessors, were ordained ministers in the Methodist Episcopal Church with little more than a classical college background. In 1840 William C. Larrabee became professor of mathematics and natural sciences, Simpson shifting from that field to the professorship of mental and moral philosophy. In 1842 Charles G. Downey, a graduate of Wesleyan University who had served as tutor in mathematics at Asbuiy in 1840-41, was appointed professor of natural science, relieving Larrabee of that portion of his responsibilities. He remained for 15 years, including a stint in the short-lived medical college. Another who began his career as tutor in mathematics was Joseph Tingley, an Asbury graduate in the class of 1846who held the professorship of natural sciences from 1849 to 1879.


Benjamin Franklin Tefft served as professor of Greek
   and Hebrew at Indiana Asbury from 1843-46.  His
   inaugural address at the college so impressed the board
   that   it ordered 1000 copies printed.


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People, Events & Traditions

Cyrus Nutt

The Edifice

Tommy Goodwin

Matthew Simpson

John W. Ray

William C. Larrabee

Rebellion of 1856- 57

Literary Societies

Thomas Bowman

The Civil War

Joseph Tingley

Alexander Martin

The Edifice Fire

Bettie Locke (Hamilton)

East College

Japanese Students