1834 – 1850
Joseph Estabrook Presidency
Joseph Estabrook, whose habits included a “prodigious use of snuff” and who was also known for wearing “elegant ruffles and fine boots,” was selected as president of East Tennessee College (UT’s fifth president) in 1834 when he was 42. A native of New Hampshire, Estabrook graduated from Dartmouth in 1815 and began preparing for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary when throat trouble interrupted his studies and ended his ministerial career. He had been principal of academies in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Knoxville when East Tennessee College came calling. “Old Joe,” as students called him, relaxed discipline, employed scholarly professors for the faculty, and oversaw the building program. Courses of instruction became more organized, catalogs were published for the first time, an alumni association was formed, and the first literary societies were established during his tenure. It was also during Estabrook’s presidency that the school assumed its military character. He was instrumental in persuading the legislature to change the institution’s name to East Tennessee University in 1840. Estabrook’s reforms were said to have raised the college “from almost total prostration to a respectable rank among the educational institutions of the country.” One indication of the effect of his reforms was the near doubling of the student body during his administration, from 95 to 169. During a trustees’ dispute over the religious affiliations of faculty members, Estabrook resigned in 1850.