1853 – 1857
George Cooke Presidency
George Cooke, a New Hampshire native and 1832 graduate of Dartmouth College, had served as pastor of Second Presbyterian Church on his arrival in Knoxville in 1852 from a church pastorship in Andover, Massachusetts. Cooke was also serving as principal of a Knoxville female academy when asked to be president of East Tennessee University (UT’s seventh president). The energetic Cooke set about with “almost unprecedented zeal…to recuperate the languishing university.” Salaries were reduced, tuition was increased, and laboratory fees for chemistry were charged for the first time. A plan of studies used at the University of Virginia was adopted which allowed students to be grouped by the academic fields where their talents lay. Students were also allowed to pursue degrees by examination, irrespective of the length of their attendance at the university. The alumni association, now formally organized, was encouraged to be more active in securing popular support for the institution. Unfortunately, such support was undermined by the slavery controversy. Local pro-slavery newspapers complained about the inappropriateness of a northerner presiding over a southern school. Although little is known about the political climate surrounding the university itself, sectional strife could hardly have failed to affect the increasingly frail institution. The resignation of Cooke in January 1857 and two other faculty members a month later resulted in the suspension of operations at the school for less than a year.