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J. Oliver Buswell

After the death of Charles Blanchard Wheaton College was left without a president. The trustees quickly selected a temporary acting president and started the process of selecting a new president. At the end of January in 1926 James Oliver Buswell Jr. started a week of special services at Wheaton College’s chapel. By the end of these services a petition had been circulated amongst the students requesting Buswell be invited to another week of chapel presentations, and while Buswell could not comply with the students request, the trustees ended up inviting Buswell to be president of Wheaton College less than two weeks later. After a brief struggle on the board of trustees J. Oliver Buswell Jr. took up the position of president of Wheaton College on April 1st, 1926. Buswell will be best remembered for his advancements of Wheaton College’s academics and the accreditation of the college under his supervision. Large additions to the science departments were made during his tenure, as well as a significant increase in the number of Ph.D. holding faculty, rising from 24% of faculty when Buswell started to 49% of faculty by his last year. Unfortunately while Buswell was always striving to grow and strengthen his school, controversy was never far behind him. The firing of Buswell from Wheaton College was a complex consummation of many different controversies, all of which Buswell responded to in his classic attitude of stubborn and genuine self-confidence. By 1939 there was talk amongst alumni, faculty, and the board of trustees regarding the president and his continued employment at that status. On January 20th 1940 the board of trustees met and during the meeting asked Buswell to resign in face of the controversies and disagreements against him. To this Buswell responded that he would not retire, but rather forced the trustees to fire him, so as to put the responsibility on them, at this it was stated that the trustees agreed that Buswell would cease to be the president of Wheaton College. While this ending may have marred the image of Buswell’s presidency, he will be remembered as the man who helped Wheaton College grow from a small family institution to be a respected institution of higher education
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