1858 – 1860
William Carnes Presidency
Although there was talk of closing East Tennessee University permanently, William Carnes accepted the offer to be president (UT’s eighth president) in 1858. A South Carolinian, Carnes had entered the ministry at age 19 and he became a student at East Tennessee University in 1839, when he was already a married man in his 30s with a family. He graduated in 1842 and was immediately made principal of the preparatory department, a position which he held until 1848. He later served as principal of Lafayette Academy in Bledsoe County and as president of Burritt College in Spencer, Tennessee. One of Carnes’s first proposals for East Tennessee University was the construction of a university gymnasium, an innovative idea in higher education since most colleges had no such facilities at this time. A military department was also authorized while Carnes was president. This was partly the result of a legislative act which provided arms and equipment for that purpose. Carnes was also an innovator in his attempts to obtain additional funds for the school; he appeared personally before the legislature in Nashville to appeal for more money. Personal tragedies—the almost fatal illness of his youngest son and the death of his wife—probably hastened Carnes’s resignation in May 1860.