Matthew Fontaine Maury

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Matthew Fontaine Maury was suggested for the presidency of the College of William and Mary by Benjamin Blake Minor, William and Mary student 1838-1839, the author B.B.M. in articles published in the Southern Literary Messenger.

It was in the June 1848 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger that Minor suggested Maury:

"The National Observatory, through Lieutenants Gillies and Maury, has presented its first fruits to the scientific world,-which, especially those of the present superintendent, have been pronounced by competent judges, such as Arago, no unworthy offering. If he could be induced therefor to retire from his present honorable position and scientific connexions, I know no one who would so well adorn the presidential chair of our venerable William & Mary. He would infuse new life into her; and raise her to more than pristine eminence." The note within this paragraph further states: "So far from this being said in disparagement of any of her present faculty,-for all of whom, and especially the present incumbent of her presidential office, I entertain high respect and good will,-it has reference only to a new organization, provided one should take place."

The article is signed B.B.M. and dated April 13, 1848. See the lower third of the second column on p. 348 of the article "Stars and Steamers" for the text of Minor's suggestion. Copies are available in files for Minor and Maury in the University Archives Faculty-Alumni File Collection and Presidents of the College in the University Archives Subject File Collection.

At the time of the suggestion, the College was in search of a new president (and new professors after all previous had resigned) and this was a time of upheaval resulting in the College closing for a year. Robert Saunders, who had assumed the presidency on June 17, 1847, had announced his resignation planned for 1848 on November 9, 1847. Saunders served until July 1848. Benjamin Ewell eventually agreed to serve as the interim president after Saunders and before Rev. John Johns was appointed (July 1, 1849-resigned 1854). While the Board of Visitors had elected Ewell to the Presidency earlier in 1848, Ewell declined their offer, but agreed to stay on until the Board found another candidate. When the board failed to do that in a timely manner, Ewell resigned, forcing the Board to find another president.

Maury did have connections to the College through ancestors in his Maury and Fontaine family.

References

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