Thirty could be a lot of things at Maryland.
It could be the number of IFC fraternities currently on campus–but that’s 25.
It could be the number of food locations on campus–but that’s 39.
It could even be the insane number of credits you took this semester (it isn’t, but we know it feels like it. That said, what were you thinking???)
No, 30 represents the number of days that Benjamin Hallowell, our first president, actually served in the job before resigning, all the way back in 1859.
To be fair, Dr. Hallowell, a noted educator and abolitionist, was not initially aware that he had been chosen to be the first president of the Maryland Agricultural College. The trustees apparently assumed he would take the position, as he had been advising them on matters relating to the college, so they went a step further and announced that he was the president at the college’s opening ceremonies on October 6, 1859, as well as acknowledging that Hallowell hadn’t been informed yet.
But wait! There’s more.
Hallowell was soon told of his election and agreed to serve, but he was not prepared for the condition of the college when he arrived. According to newspaper coverage of the college’s opening, there was still a great deal to do. Landscaping remained unfinished, and the college’s barracks, which also served as chapel, classrooms, kitchen, dining hall, etc., was not complete. In fact, construction was so delayed on the Barracks that only one-third of the building was erected before it was destroyed by fire in 1912.
Only half the faculty had been appointed, and those professors who were on-site did almost nothing until Hallowell arrived to assume command–six weeks after the college opened.
As he later recorded in his autobiography, upon arriving, Hallowell observed that the faculty “had apparently been waiting for me…to organize the college…six weeks that had elapsed without regular order or government…in the earnest effort that I made to effect a proper organization, and secure a healthy order and discipline, my health gave way in about a month.”
Hallowell had for some time been suffering the ill effects of a prescription that had been mixed incorrectly and which had almost killed him. Perhaps fearing that the Maryland Agricultural College would finish what the pharmacist had started, he “resigned the Presidency unconditionally.” After a period of rest, he resumed his teaching and scientific research, until after another period of declining health, he passed away on September 7, 1877.
Hallowell’s brief tenure at the helm of the college led to a rapid succession of presidents, 15 more leaders over the next 33 years, until Richard Silvester offered a bit more stability. Sylvester served the college from 1892 to 1912.
This post is part of our new series on Terrapin Tales called UMD123! Similar to our “ABC’s of UMD” series last semester, posts in this series will take a look at the university’s history “by the numbers.” New posts will come out twice a month, on Wednesdays, throughout the semester; search “UMD123” or check out Twitter #UMD123 to see the rest. If you want to learn more about campus history, you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.