6th president, June 23, 1875—June 28, 1882
Born in Gowanda, New York, on November 25, 1830, Lucius Bugbee was licensed to preach in 1850. Like George Loomis, he attended Genesee Wesleyan Seminary but transferred his senior year to graduate from Amherst College of Massachusetts in 1854. Following a year’s teaching at Cooperstown Female College, he headed a banking house in Iowa. In 1857 he became principal of Fayette Seminary, which the next year was chartered as Upper Iowa University. Health concerns forced his resignation in 1860. Preaching posts in Wheaton, Chicago, and then Aurora, Illinois, followed. In 1865 he became president of Northwestern Female College in Evanston. Three years later he became president of Cincinnati Wesleyan College. In 1869 Ohio Wesleyan of Delaware, Ohio, awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Bugbee’s success in building the Cincinnati college won him acclaim. In early 1875 the Allegheny Board of Control invited him to assume the presidency of the College. He was inaugurated in June, taking over from Professor Jonathan Hamnett who had served as acting president for a year.
Bugbee began an energetic building program, refitting Bentley and Ruter halls and improving the grounds. Culver Hall was placed under a cooperative system of boarding, reducing costs by 40 percent. A capital fund was launched. The literary societies that had played and would continue to play such an influential role in Allegheny education throughout the nineteenth century—Allegheny, Philo-Franklin, and the new women’s Ossoli—were encouraged and their rooms refitted. Because of Bentley Hall renovations, he bought a home at 544 Park Avenue, becoming the first president never to reside in Bentley Hall (during his last years in office President Loomis dwelled on North Main Street).
Allegheny had accepted preparatory students since the time of Timothy Alden. Often the campus held more preps than matriculated undergraduates. Bugbee formalized this practice by creating the Allegheny Preparatory School with a three-year program. Through careful letter writing Bugbee recruited a government-funded military professorship for Allegheny, and a Military Department was formed in April 1877. To ensure the College’s ability to prepare Methodist preachers, the School of Hebrew and Biblical Literature was strengthened. A new School of Latin and Modern Languages was formed, giving the European languages higher status and relieving some students of the laborious study of classical Greek.
Enrollment prospered. In the 1876–77 academic year, the increase was 70 percent. Including the 135 preparatory students, attendance totaled over two hundred. Two new faculty members were added, raising the academic staff, including the president, to nine. In 1880, twenty-one students graduated.
Concern for housing of women caused purchase of a small frame house on Highland Avenue and then recruitment of a challenge grant from Marcus Hulings. Completion of a residence for eighty women in fall 1880 assured that coeducation at Allegheny, always referred to before as an “experiment,” would now become permanent.
The president was liked personally, applauded for his achievements, and recognized for his executive and organizational abilities. Yet some faculty and students questioned his policies, including his emphasis on inculcation of religion. More ominous was the growing conflict between the trustees and the Methodist Board of Control. Issues included salaries, lengths of contracts, academic programs, and the utility of the Board of Control. These disagreements would in time bring greater problems. Stress, failing personal health, and shortfalls in his own salary payments led Bugbee to resign in 1882. He died in Evanston, Illinois, on July 28, 1883. His legacy to the College, however, would continue for generations to come, not only through his work, but also through numerous relatives and descendants who would attend and serve on the faculty and staff. Among these was his grandson, the noted entomologist Robert E. Bugbee, who taught biology from 1947 to 1974.
* This account is taken with permission nearly completely from J. E. Helmreich, Through All the Years: A History of Allegheny College. Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, 2005.