About Horace Webster
Horace Webster (Hartford, Connecticut, September 21, 1794 - Geneva, New York, July 12, 1871) was an American educator who graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1818. Webster remained at West Point as a mathematics professor until 1825, leaving with the rank of first lieutenant. He then moved to Geneva College, where he taught as a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy until he left in 1848 to head the Free Academy of New York, where he continued until retirement in 1869. Horace Webster was the first President of City College of New York from 1847-1869.
Professor Horace Webster was born, Sep. 21, 1794, at Hartford, Conn., and died, July 12, 1871, at Geneva, N. Y., at the age of 77. He became a Cadet in the Military Academy, April 1, 1815, and was graduated from that institution July 24, 1818, fourth in his class. His history and character are so feelingly presented in an obituary by Professor Charles Davies that we give it entire: —
"Reared among the hills of Vermont, he brought with him to the Military Academy the habits of early labor, the simplicity of country life, and the inspirations of beautiful and varied scenery. At West Point, in the bosom of the Highlands, exact military discipline, unremitted toils in the paths of science, and the conscientious discharge of every duty, developed the buddings and the pure tastes of early life into the ripened fruits of a noble manhood.
"The time spent at West Point in these disciplinary studies was the golden period of his life, for there were laid the foundations of those useful labors which were its crowning glory. His scholarship, his habits of study and order, his dignified and simple manners, and his great gift of imparting knowledge to others, were treasures too valuable to be lost to his Alma Mater; and on being graduated in July, 1818, he was appointed p188Assistant Professor of Mathematics, which place he filled till September, 1823. During these five years he devoted himself assiduously to the acquisition of general knowledge, and especially to the science and art of teaching.
"In September, 1825, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy in Geneva, now Hobart College. Here he contributed his full share to the establishment of an admirable system of collegiate instruction. Here he taught many pupils who have since filled places of trust and honor, — and here his name, which is associated with the birth of the College, will be cherished through its whole life as one of its able founders and honored professors.
"In the year 1848, Dr. Webster was appointed principal of the Free Academy then being organized in the city of New York. This institution owes its existence mainly to the ability and indefatigable efforts of Townsend Harris, a liberal-minded merchant, who conceived the idea of extending the benefits of a liberal education to the laboring classes of the City of New York. He has lived long enough to realize his fondest hopes. His portrait, and the memory of what he has done, are among the precious treasures of the College; while his services to the country, as its representative abroad, have won for him an enduring fame.
"The Free Academy was placed under the care of a Board of Trustees elected by the people, and all its pupils were taken from the common schools of the city. To this Board, Dr. Webster had to submit such plans of organization as would receive approval, and such also as would be most likely to stand the tests of public scrutiny. During his entire administration, from 1848 to 1869, when he retired from the Presidency and accepted the place of Emeritus Professor, Dr. Webster was in harmony and pleasant relations with the Board of Trustees, the Faculty, and the Pupils. The Board of Trustees approved his plans because they were wise. The Faculty upheld his government because it was just; and the pupils obeyed, respected, and loved him because their interests were the aim and study of his life.
"Under his able administration the institution grew and developed so rapidly, that it soon became the pride of the City and State; and is known under the imposing name of 'The College of the City of New York.' Few men have left behind them a nobler record. He had a great work assigned him, and lived long enough to perfect it. In the Military Academy, on the banks of the Hudson, in the College of the City of New York, and in Hobart College, at Geneva, where the evening of his life drew to its final close, he will be long remembered as an able educator. His academic life was marked by a love of knowledge which grew and strengthened with his years; by habits of study early formed and long continued; by a firm and gentle manner, which commanded obedience and won regard; by a sense of justice, never weakened by fickleness or passion; and by a punctuality in the discharge of every duty, which was an admonition to the heedless, an encouragement to the orderly, and a beautiful example to all.
"Perhaps the marked characteristic of Dr. Webster was the exact balance and beautiful harmony of all his faculties. His mind was clear and discriminating, and the logic applicable exclusively to one class of subjects he did not apply to another. His science and his faith ran in parallels, and hence never conflicted with each other. He found the axioms of the one in the outer sense, and those of the other in the inner soul. On the first he constructed the laws applicable to all that concerns the present life; and on the other, a living faith embracing all that relates to the world to come. Hence there was no conflict of ideas, for he saw clearly that both would meet each other and harmonize in the Infinite.
"Dr. Webster, in the common acceptation of the term, was not an author. p189He wrote, it is true, but little on the perishable leaves which record the thoughts of men, but he wrote much on the hearts and minds of his generation; and thousands who have listened to his teachings will read there, through their whole lives, and with emotions of the deepest gratitude, his many lessons of wisdom and instruction."