Horace Webster

Member of the faculty, Geneva College

October 6, 1990

Horace Webster was born in Hartford, Vermont, in 1794.  He graduated at the head of his class at West Point in 1818, and after teaching mathematics there for several years, went in 1825 to Hobart (then Geneva College), where he taught mathematics and natural philosophy for 23 years.  During that time he also served as acting president twice (1828-30 and again 1835-36) and as treasurer (1844-48).

He was revered as both teacher and administrator for the College during its difficult years and was one of only two faculty members retained during a particularly dire period.  He was a popular professor who was affectionately known among the students as “old Fess.”  Webster was considered “the giant” of the College during his years here, and it was a near disaster for Hobart when he left in 1849 to become the first president of the Free College of New York (later City College of New York).

Professor Webster received an A.M. degree from Princeton in 1822, LL.D. degrees from Kenyon in 1846 and Columbia in 1849, and an M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1850.  He wrote one book of note, The History of Scandinavia (1858) and in addition to serving as president of CCNY and professor of moral, intellectual, and political philosophy there for 20 years, he served as a director (1851-70) and a vice-president (1859-67) of Norwich University.

He retired in 1869 to his old home in Geneva, where he was emeritus professor until his death in 1871.  A local obituary spoke of his “shrewdness and remarkable organizing power” and said that, “amidst the high county tone of a West Point professor, there was also the simplicity and gentleness of a child.”  He was a remarkable man, who left his mark on the students he taught and the institutions he served.


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