William Stith

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Reverend William Stith, third president of the College of William and Mary, began his education at the Grammar School at William and Mary and graduated from Queen’s College, Oxford. A historian and rector of Henrico and York-Hampton parishes, Stith’s brief tenure as president witnessed the beginning of controversies that would engulf the school through the Revolutionary War.

The recent deaths of Governor Goochland and William and Mary President William Dawson heightened competition between the new royal governor Robert Dinwiddie and provincial political leaders. By April 1752, the Pistole Fee controversy political debate spilled into the presidential selection process. When Governor Dinwiddie learned that a chief political critic, Stith, was among names considered for the presidency, he and supporter John Blair began advocating for Rev. Thomas Dawson to succeed his brother as president. Rector of Bruton Parish, master of the Indian School, and senior faculty member, Rev. Thomas Dawson posed a threat to the election of Stith (former Grammar school master). At the Board of Visitors meeting on August 13, 1752, after a second count of votes, Rector Dugley Digges cast the tie breaking vote in favor of his former teacher, William Stith. Unwilling to accept defeat, John Blair and Governor Dinwiddie maneuvered to prevent Stith from the traditional appointment of commissary, which went to Thomas Dawson.

President Stith’s victory was short lived, he presided over a divided faculty until his death September 10, 1755. The adoption of a stricter disciplinary code - which included warnings against horse racing- was among one of the only accomplishments of Stith’s presidency. Stith’s presidency began a period of seemingly unending controversy over the question of the influence of the empire versus the colony in College leadership and policy.

Material in the SCRC

  • William Stith, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library:

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To search for further material, see Finding Materials in the SCRC for an introduction to the SCRC Collections Database, card catalogs, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, etc.

Questions? Contact the SCRC at spcoll@wm.edu or 221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary (hours).

External Links

Preceded by College of William and Mary President Succeeded by
William Dawson

18 July 1743 - July 1752

William Stith

13 August 1752 - 10 September 1755

Thomas Dawson

1 November 1755- 29 November 1760

A note about the information in this wiki
Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.