Lewis Ransom Fiske, 1825
5th President, 1877-1898
Died February 14, 1901
Albion College President +
Accomplishments as President
- Curriculum expanded
- Enrollment increased
- Facilities expanded
- Fiske House (1878)
- Observatory (1888)
- Old Gymansium (1892)
- McMillan Chemical Laboratory (1893)
- Area of campus expanded
Fiske was born December 24, 1825, in Penfield, Monroe County, New York. He was the descendant of an old Stradhaugh, England, family dating from the latter part of the fourteenth century. Members of it first came to North America in 1637 to settle in Essex County, Massachusetts. From there, the Fiske’s spread into other New England states, New York state, and the West. The ten-year-old Lewis journeyed with his parents from New York state to Coldwater, Michigan, in 1835. They settled on a farm near there.
Dr. Fiske was connected with the institution at Albion on three separate occasions. He prepared for college at the Wesleyan Seminary during 1846, but received his A.B. degree from the University of Michigan in 1850. the same year he started his second connection with Albion. It was that year that he became professor of natural science at the Albion Female Collegiate Institute and Wesleyan Seminary, a position he retained for three years. Dr. Fiske’s third connection took place, of course, when he became president.
Before that came about, the young professor was to obtain much more academic experience. After leaving Albion in 1853, he went to Ypsilanti to accept the natural science chair from the state normal school there. After three years, he moved up to East Lansing to become professor of chemistry at the Michigan Agricultural College, now Michigan State University. Besides being chemistry professor, Dr. Fiske served four years as the agricultural college’s “presiding officer.”
After seven years of work at M.A.C., he left to become a clergyman. This was in 1863 when he started a 14 year career as pastor of churches in Jackson, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. A short time after the publication, The Michigan Christian Advocate, was established, Dr. Fiske became with the Rev. Orrin Whitmore, its editor. This was while Dr. Fiske was pastor of the Central and Tabernacle Churches in Detroit. He became editor of the Advocate in 1875.
Two years later he was appointed president of Albion College for a term which was to last more than 20 years. His becoming the college president could not have been considered a promotion in the financial sense, for we have his own word for the fact that he took a $1,000 reduction in salary to come to Albion.
He was honored by Albion College with a D.D. degree in 1873. Six years later, the University of Michigan conferred upon him the degree of doctor of laws. At that time he already possessed an A.B. and an A.M. degree from the university.
President Fiske’s first marriage took place in 1852 to Miss Elizabeth Spence. She died February 25, 1879. They had four sons and one daughter. Mrs. Ira Davis of Detroit became Dr. Fiske’s second wife in June 1879. She died March 19, 1896, nearly five years before her husbands death on February 14, 1901. Dr. Fiske became ill of pneumonia in December 1900, went from Albion to Denver to visit his son. The next month before his recovery was quite complete, he suffered a relapse, and died.
Source: Gildart, Robert. Albion College, 1835-1960, A History. Chicago: Donnelley Lakeside Press, 1961.
Two pictures of President Fiske’s study located in the Fiske House.
Source: Lewis Ransom Fiske, Baccalaureate Addresses Delivered at Albion College, 1898