1871 Second President Edward Magill
As a young man, Edward Hicks Magill (1825-1907) wrote in his journal of assisting "self-emancipated slaves" along the Underground Railroad in Bucks County, Pa. Educated at Yale and Brown universities, he joined Swarthmore's faculty when the College opened in 1869 and continued to teach while president as a professor of mental and moral philosophy.
Under Magill, Swarthmore moved further into the mainstream of American collegiate education. He upgraded the quality of the academic courses, worked to phase out the College's preparatory school, and began the practice of awarding honorary degrees. A strong advocate of co-education, he said in 1873, "Nothing short of co-equal, co-educational advantages and the same degrees conferred upon both sexes for equal attainments will meet the demands of the times."
At his inauguration, Magill extolled the virtues of Swarthmore's "optional" system, which provided general academic development and the opportunity to specialize in upper-level courses. By the time he stepped down, Swarthmore offered four degree paths: a bachelor of arts focusing on the classics; a bachelor of letters focusing on modern languages and literature; a bachelor of science; and a bachelor of science in engineering. Swarthmore's first observatory was erected during his tenure.
Magill Walk, the main path from the College that leads to the town of Swarthmore, is named for him. An excerpt from "Magill Walk in Maytime" follows:
"Four score years and some ago,
Planting rows of oaks on row,
Edward Hicks Magill laid claim
To a later, greater fame.
This one presidential duty
Laid a thoroughfare of beauty:
Bright-hued, rustling flower beds,
And nodding oaks above our heads."