To The Trustees of Oberlin College

19 August 1865


[MS in Records of the Board of Trustees, Oberlin College Archives, 1/3/1. The letter was presented by Finney to the Annual Meeting of The Board of Trust on the morning of August 19th.]


Oberlin College

19th. Aug. 1865.

To the Trustees of Oberlin College.

Dear Brethren.

Our College needs a

President who can give more

attention to the details of its

duties than I can give. My

duties as Pastor & as Professor

of theology demand the use

of all my remaining strength.

I pray you therefore to accept

my resignation of the Presidency

of the College & excuse me

from further responsibility

in that relation. Last year I

was quite overdone by the labor

& excitement connected with the

commencement & the meeting of

the Board of Trust. From my resteles

ness [sic] last night, I fear the same result

this year, unless I can keep a good

deal out of the crowd & excitement

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of the commencement exercises.

I have, for some years, had this

resignation in contemplation but

had not fully decided upon the path

of duty until last night. I now

feel quite clear that I should

sustain this responsibility no

longer. To save time & strength

I have already signed the Diplomas

to be delivered to the graduating


Classes. On this account ^ may be best

to have this resignation take effect

after commencement is over. In that

case I must ask some member

of the faculty to preside over

the commencement exercises.

If you appoint my successor, you

will please remember to have his

appointment take effect after the

taking effect of my resignation.

Should you appoint as my successor

any member of the Faculty who is

present, he will, I hope, consent

[page 3]


to preside atŸcommencement.

I have given you my views of

the man we need as President

& must leave the responsibility of

the appointment upon the

Board of Trust, praying, earn

estly that you may be Divinely

directed, & that God will

give us a man who has

the requisite qualifications &

whose whole heart & strength

will be given to the realization

of the great end for which

Oberlin College was founded.

Your Br. in the Lord

C. G. Finney.


Finney preached the Baccalaureate Sermon on Sunday afternoon 20th, to the graduating class. (The Lorain County News, 23 August 1865, p. 2.) His letter "was referred to a committee consisting of the three oldest members of the Board in office." Those were John Keep, Michael E. Strieby, and Francis D. Parish. (Records p. 258.)


In the minutes of the Board a note by J. H. Fairchild written at the top of the page reads:

The acceptance of the resignation of Prof. Finney, previously made does not appear on the record. J.H.F.

According to a notice in The Lorain County News, 30 August 1865, p. 3: the Trustees "received and accepted the resignation of Professor Finney."


At a special meeting of the Board on June 26, 1866, with Finney present, the name of James Harris Fairchild was put forward and unanimously elected.



Finney had attended the first meetings of the Annual General Meeting of the Board the previous day.

Finney's choice for President was evidently Samuel Davies Cochran (1812-1904), the brother of his deceased son-in-law, William Cochran. Writing about his uncle in a letter to the Secretary of Oberlin College in 1904, William C. Cochran, Finney's grandson, recollected:

It is hard for anyone now living at Oberlin to remember anything about the ability & prominence of this man [S. D. Cochran] during the active part of his career. He was alumni orator in 1843, delivered the "concio ad clerum" in 1867 or 8, was the choice of Mr. Finney for Prof of Scared Rhetoric in the Seminary & Intellectual & Moral Philosophy in the College in 1852, the choice of Mr. Finney for President in 1866, and again the choice of Mr Finney for his own successor in the First Church Pulpit in 1869. The Faculty & Trustees decided otherwise in the matter of the Professorship & Presidency ... Of course, those who have only known him in the last twenty years of his life, can form no conception of his real strength & ability. I think Mr. Finney regarded him--next to my own father--as the most vigorous thinker and most powerful preacher turned out by the seminary in the first thirty years of its history. I think I can appreciate this, while recognizing fully those qualities in President Fairchild which made him in most ways a far superior administrator. (William C. Cochran to George M. Jones, 12 November 1904 in S. D. Cochran Papers, Oberlin College Archives.)