Hugh D. Vail: "Volunteer Weatherman"


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Board of Managers

Minutes of the Board of Managers, 3/4/1863

Minutes of the Board of Managers, March 4th, 1863. Here, the Board of Managers discusses the proposed institution of a more study-conducive library with a Reading Room for students to use. The Alumni Association agreed to donate money with the use of "erecting a hall" that was to be incorporated with the Library of the time. 

After earning his honorary degree from Haverford in 1858, Hugh Vail became a member of the Board of Managers that following year. He served as a Manager of the Corporation from 1859 until 1882, acting as part of the Committee on Instruction, Committee on Library and Apparatus, Committee of Property, Committee on Farm, Committee on House and Grounds, and Executive Committee all at various points during his time on the board. Since this period followed very closely behind the reopening of the college, it was a time of change and advancement. Vail helped contribute to several improvements and important decisions around campus.

The Library in 1865

The Library in 1865. Photographed by Landscape Studies, J. Moran, Philadelphia. View a larger version here.

Vail served on the Committee on Library and Apparatus from 1859 until 1871 (excluding the school year 1868-1869), overseeing the general equipment of the college and also helping to develop libraries and study spaces. On March 3, 1863, the Minutes of the Board of Managers included a plan for a more useful study space that would be more conducive towards focused academic work. The photo to the right shows the library following a relocation of books from the old library to Alumni Hall, which is now Magill Library. The books were moved between June and August of 1864, and were rearranged according to subject, making it easier for students to access books necessary for classes (History of Haverford 617).

Minutes of the Board of Managers, 6/7/1861

Minutes of the Board of Managers, June 6th, 1861. These minutes include notes on the assessment of the status of the astronomical instruments in the Observatory. 


As a member of the Committee on Library and Apparatus, Vail also used this opportunity to work once again towards improving the quality and range of equipment for the observatory. In July of 1861, the committee included a minute regarding the need to address the status of the instruments of the observatory, and later decided to make improvements. Vail's work for the Library and Apparatus Committee often intersected idealogically with that of the Committee of Instruction. Vail served longest on the Committees on Instruction and Library and Apparatus, which both worked towards facilitating the most comprehensive education possible. As a member of the Committee on Instruction, Vail was instrumental in developing the curriculum and structuring classes for each year.

Minutes of the Board of Managers, 7/9/1867

Minutes of the Board of Managers, July 9th, 1867. Included in these minutes is the notice regarding the decision to give an honorary degree to Joseph Moore. 

Scrapbook- page 23

Page 23 of Vail's scrapbook of newspaper clippings shows an article about Jospeh Moore which he wrote following Moore's acceptance of an honorary degree from Haverford College. 




Vail received his own honorary degree in 1858, but was also a part of the awarding of honorary degrees to other prominent figures at Haverford College. On July 10, 1860, poet John Greenleaf Whittier was awarded an honorary degree, and on July 9, 1867, Joseph Moore, whose genealogy Vail later investigated in an article for a Santa Barbara newspaper, was also awarded a degree, as indicated in the Minutes of the Board of Managers. Vail eventually left the Board of Managers in 1882, when he and his family moved to Santa Barbara.


Haverford College Alumni Association. A History of Haverford College for the First Sixty Years of its Existence. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1892. 

Minutes of the Board of Managers, 1857-1883.

Haverford Years
Board of Managers