Lewis W. Green
Centre College President (1857-1863)
Lewis Warner Green, fifth president of Centre College, was born on January 28, 1806, near Danville, Kentucky. He was the youngest of the twelve children born to Willis and Sarah Green. Both his parents died when he was young, and Green was raised by his eldest brother Judge John Green. He received his first instruction from Duncan F. Robertson and Joshua Fry, both renowned teachers of the day. When he was thirteen, Green attended the classical school at Buck Pond in Woodford County, Kentucky, regarded as the best classical academy in Kentucky. The school was conducted in the home of Dr. Louis Marshall, brother of Chief Justice John Marshall.
A promising scholar, Green was sent to Transylvania University, but transferred in 1822 to the newly founded Centre College, where he was one of two members of the first graduating class in 1824. Following graduation, Green began working in the law office of his brother, Judge John Green, but his interests began to lean towards medicine. He studied for a short while under Ephraim McDowell in Danville before his career took another direction when he decided to enter the ministry. In 1831 Green enrolled in the Princeton Theological Seminary, but returned to Danville the next year to accept the invitation of President John C. Young to become professor of belles-lettres and political economy at Centre.
In 1834 the college gave Green a two-year leave of absence to continue his studies in Germany. After returning to the United States, the Synod of Kentucky appointed Green professor of Oriental and Biblical literature at the new seminary connected with Hanover College in Indiana. The next year he returned to his old chair at Centre College, along with the additional duties of vice-president of the college and co-pastor of the Danville Presbyterian Church.
Soon, however, Green left Danville for what was to be a seventeen-year absence. In May 1840, he was appointed by the Presbyterian General Assembly as professor of Oriental literature and Biblical criticism at Western Theological Seminary, Alleghany, Pennsylvania. In 1847 Green moved to Baltimore to accept a pastorate of the Second Presbyterian Church. Within a year he moved again, this time to Virginia to become president of Hampden-Sidney College. He was a successful president there for eight years until returning to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1856 as the president of the newly reorganized Transylvania University. However, the withdrawal of state support led him to resign the office in 1857. Following the sudden death of President John C. Young that same year, the Board of Trustees of Centre College extended to Green an invitation to become the president of his alma mater. He accepted the offer, and assumed the office on January 1, 1858.
The college continued to prosper under Green as it had under Young. Within two years of his appointment, however, the Civil War engulfed the nation. On October 12, 1862, Centre found itself at the middle of the storm as the Battle of Perryville erupted ten miles west of Danville. The campus was used by both armies for a hospital, and as a headquarters by Union troops for several months as they took control of central Kentucky. Green was steadfast in his determination to keep the college open, even as many other schools were closing for lack of students, funds, or support. Enrollment steadily declined, but the college remained open. There were even small signs of growth; the Board of Trustee minutes for June 1863 mention completion of the Sayre Library. On May 26, 1863, after five days of illness, caught, it was said, by helping treat sick and wounded soldiers, Green died in office. He was buried in Danville's Bellevue Cemetery.
Green was married twice: first to Eliza Montgomery in 1827, and after Eliza's death in 1829 to Mary Fry Lawrence in 1843.