Adonijah Welch. Photo: Eastern Michigan University

Adonijah Strong Welch (April 12, 1821 - March 13, 1889) was the first president of Michigan State Normal School. Welch Hall on the Eastern Michigan University campus is named after him.

Adonijah Strong Welch was born April 12, 1821 in East Hampton, Connecticut. He received the B.A. (1846) and M.A. (1852) from the University of Michigan, where he was one of the founding members of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. Dr. Welch became the first principal (1852-1865) of the Michigan State Normal School (later Eastern Michigan University). In 1865, he moved to Florida and became involved in the orange and lumber industries. Dr. Welch was serving as United States Senator from Florida (1868-1869) when he accepted the position of President (1869-1883) of the newly established Iowa State Agricultural College (Iowa State University).

Dr. Welch was serving as President of Iowa State Agricultural College when he was asked by the United States Commissioner of Agriculture to investigate and report on the organization and management of agricultural schools in Europe. While in Europe, Dr. Welch’s opponents who were unsatisfied with the college’s development sought to remove him from office. This effort led to Welch’s resignation as president of Iowa State in 1883. Dr. Welch returned to Europe a second time to recover his health and on returning to Iowa State in 1884 accepted the chair of history of civilization and practical psychology. He continued to teach at Iowa State until his death in 1889.

Dr. Welch is credited for a number of successes during his tenure as president, though his most lasting legacy may be the design of Iowa State’s early campus. Dr. Welch helped develop Iowa State’s first courses in agriculture and mechanical arts and supported the right of women to receive a college education. Dr. Welch was often asked to address farmers’ gatherings, horticultural meetings, and breeders’ conventions. His wife, Mary Welch, established the first courses in the domestic sciences, which would later become the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Dr. Welch married Eunice P. Buckingham in 1859 and had three children with her before her death in 1867. He later married Mary Beaumont Dudley in 1868. They had two children. Dr. Welch died on March 13, 1889, in Pasadena, California.

The Adonijah Strong Welch Papers are kept at the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, from which this biographical essay is derived.