Presidents of the College of William & Mary Exhibit, April 2012

Presidents of the College of William & Mary Exhibit, April 2012
Colleges In Virginia
Image by Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library
Shown here is an image from the Presidents of the College of William & Mary exhibit series located on the third floor of Swem Library just outside the Brown Board Room. The exhibit provides a history of the College as seen through the eyes of its presidents. This exhibit case features the presidencies of William Yates, James Horrocks, John Camm, and Bishop James Madison, and will be on display from March 28, 2012 through October 2, 2012.

The following is taken from the label text presented in this case:

This exhibit is part of a continuing series about the presidents of the College of William & Mary. The items selected here are from the Special Collections Research Center. The Center’s University Archives contains records from a number of William & Mary presidents.

For more information about the Office of the President records in the Special Collections Research Center, please visit…

William Yates, 1760-1764

William Yates, an alumnus and former master of the Grammar School at the College of William & Mary, became its fifth president after the death of Thomas Dawson. During Yates’s tenure, the board of visitors tried and failed to limit the power of the church in college affairs by appointing laymen as chancellors. Yates started his presidency with only two faculty members, and the board desperately sought to hire faculty that would be loyal to their cause. Yates agreed with most of the board’s decisions, and when he died in 1764, the board lost a valuable ally in their quest to limit the influence of the clergy at William & Mary.

For more information about William Yates, please visit

James Horrocks, 1764-1771

James Horrocks, the youngest member of the faculty and master of the Grammar School, became the sixth president of William & Mary upon the death of William Yates. During Horrocks’s early tenure, from 1764-1768, the struggle for control of the college between the faculty and the board of visitors continued. A delicate balance was eventually reached, with the faculty being able to retain their dual appointments as professors and clergy, while the board was left in control of the college’s finances. When Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt, arrived in 1768 as governor of Virginia, William & Mary finally achieved a harmonious relationship with the local government. Lord Botetourt helped to obtain funding for necessary repairs to campus buildings and provided an endowment for student achievement awards. Today, the Botetourt medal is awarded annually to an undergraduate student for outstanding scholarship.

For more information about James Horrocks, please visit

John Camm, 1771-1777

John Camm, at the time the longest-serving faculty member, was elected by the board of visitors after the departure of James Horrocks. The tranquil relationship between the faculty and the board of visitors that marked the first two years of Camm’s presidency came to a halt with the Boston Tea Party of 1773. The onset of the American Revolution divided the college further. While most of the faculty remained loyal to England, the students favored the American cause. Student disorder began to increase with the appearance of swords and muskets on campus. A debate between the board of visitors, faculty, and local newspapers over academic standards and the curriculum emerged. As the last loyalist on the faculty, John Camm was removed from the presidency by the board of visitors in 1777 and fled to England.

For more information about John Camm, please visit

James Madison, 1777-1812

Elected as the first bishop of the Diocese of Virginia in 1790, Bishop James Madison divided his time between church and college affairs. Under Madison’s tenure, William & Mary slowly became more of a modern-day university, offering courses in the sciences, modern languages, and law while eliminating all divinity classes. Both the board of visitors and the faculty shared the responsibility for the curriculum of William & Mary. The college closed from 1780-1781 while the British occupied Williamsburg during the American Revolution. A high turnover rate in faculty, financial insolvency, and a decrease in the number of students all contributed to the fact that by the end of Madison’s presidency William & Mary was in a dire state of decline.

For more information about James Madison, please visit

Faculty Minutes, 10 May 1763

This entry from the faculty minutes documents how a student, John Hyde Saunders, was expelled for impudent behavior towards his Grammar School master.

Faculty Assembly Records, UA 133

Henley-Horrocks Inventory, 8 December 1772

Prior to 1772, most of the books in William & Mary’s library related to theology. This inventory of books, acquired for the college from the estate of James Horrocks, lists several titles related to mathematics and physics.

Samuel Henley Papers, UA 6.023

Faculty Minutes, 22 May 1770

This excerpt from the faculty minutes documents the confrontation between the faculty and the board of visitors over who has the final say regarding the appeals of degree candidates.

Faculty Assembly Records, UA 133

John Camm, Williamsburg, Virginia concerning the death
of William & Mary Grammar School master Josiah Johnson,
16 June 1773

University Archives Faculty-Alumni File Collection, UA 10

Photograph of Portrait of Bishop James Madison, undated
Artist Unknown

University Archives Photograph Collection, UA 8
Original portrait is in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society

Notes on natural philosophy lectures of Bishop James Madison taken by John Croghan, 1807-1808

In addition to being president of the College of William & Mary, Madison also taught courses in natural philosophy, which included lessons in physics, chemistry, and astronomy.

University Archives Bound Volumes Collection, UA 15

From the Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. See for further information and assistance.

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