Samuel V. Cole
Reverend Dr. Samuel Valentine Cole was one of the most influential figures in Wheaton's history. While he is most commonly known for being named the first President of Wheaton College, his commitment to the school was far more extensive. As a Trustee from 1893 to 1925, Secretary of the Board from 1895 to 1908, President of the Board from 1908 to 1925, and President of the College from 1897 until his death in 1925, Cole continually took on multiple roles at Wheaton, which allowed him to leave a significant impact on Wheaton's future direction.
Cole's first experience in higher education began at Bowdoin College, where he graduated in 1877. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Cole served as a tutor and instructor at the college for several years. Cole also taught classical languages in public high schools in Bath, Maine and Williamstown, Massachusetts. In 1889, Cole attended Andover Theological Seminary in Eastern Massachusetts. Upon completing his studies, Cole became minister of the Broadway Trinitarian Congregational Church in Taunton, Massachusetts. While a minister at the Broadway Church, Cole attracted the attention of Mrs. Wheaton-- so much so, that she reccomended him for membership to Wheaton Seminary's Board of Trustees in 1893 and eventually as the seminary's first males president.
When Cole was appointed the first president of the Wheaton Seminary in 1897 he had already served several years on the Wheaton Board of Trustees and was well aware of the serious problems facing the institution. With the support of Mrs. Wheaton, Cole envisioned transforming Wheaton Seminary into a degree-granting four-year college-- an ambition that he tirelessly worked towards until 1912, when it was accomplished. Cole's vision of a new Wheaton included improving curriculum, increasing the number of faculty holding college degrees, and enlarging the campus. During his time as president, Cole oversaw the construction of twelve major buildings, including the Chapel (which was later named in his memory). The Cole Memorial Room in the Library contains a collection of works of English literature and poetry based on the personal library of Samuel V. Cole, who wrote and published a great deal of poetry; his library was given to the College by his widow Helen Weiand Cole and his brother William Isaac Cole.
He was the commencement speaker in 1897.
Miss Cornish, teacher at Wheaton and founder of House in the Pines wrote: "He was wonderfully suited to deal with girls of preparatory school age....He knew just how to address them; he 'got them' every time. He always kept this power. He never failed when he talked to the House in the Pines girls, never once, all through his life." (Shepard p.334)
"Only a man of vision, and an idealist, could have seen a future in Wheaton as it was in 1897 when President Cole assumed its leadership. The school consisted of old Metcalf Hall, Mary Lyon Hall, and a small observatory. The campus was an apple orchard, and in its midst was a barn. Old Metcalf Hall was lighted with gasoline gas, and the drinking water was pumped by hand from a well in the basement. Laundry work was done by hand. There were no telephones, state roads, electric cars, nor trains in the town; the only means of conveyance to the surrounding towns was by carriage over ordinary dirt roads." (Nov. 1934 Alumnae Quarterly, p. 10)