John Hosea Washburn, 1892 – 1902

John H. Washburn was appointed to be principal of the Rhode Island Agricultural School in 1889. The land for the college had been appropriated for Rhode Island with the passage of the Morrill Act of 1862. Washburn’s first order of business was to wrest the appropriation of land-grant status from Brown University for the Rhode Island Agricultural School to become the official land-grant institution in Rhode Island. In 1892, Washburn became the first president of the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts when the General Assembly legislated the institution to college rank.

He had earned a Ph.D. at the University of Gattingen, Germany, in addition to degrees from the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Before becoming president, Washburn served as a Professor of chemistry at the Connecticut Agricultural College in Storrs, as the head of the Rhode Island Reform School in Providence and as a Massachusetts public school teacher.