The early history of the college often refers to a “financial agent,” which begs the question, what did that individual do? The financial agents weren’t the treasurer — that duty was held by professor David Duncan for many years. Instead, this position was the college’s primary fundraiser.

Three Methodist ministers served consecutively from 1876 to 1894 as Wofford’s financial agent. Each held a faculty appointment as professor of mental and moral philosophy or professor of metaphysics and political science as well as serving as the college’s primary fundraiser. The first was William Wallace Duncan of the Class of 1858, who served from 1876 to 1886. When Duncan was elected bishop, Alexander Coke Smith of the Class of 1872 succeeded him, serving until 1889. When Smith’s health forced him to give up the post, John C. Kilgo took his place, remaining until he left to become president of Trinity College in 1894. All three were noted speakers and preachers, all three had strong connections in South Carolina Methodism and all three ultimately were elected bishops in the Methodist Church.

The financial agents did not have much to work with. Duncan in 1877 reported to the trustees that the college’s assets, not including the facilities, did not exceed $33,000. All parties — trustees, faculty and alumni — recognized the need to supplement funds received from tuition with outside funds. In a day before federal and state-based financial aid, only the Methodist Church and friends of the college could provide additional resources. Those Methodist clergymen were each well placed to lobby congregations and friends around the state to support the college, and gradually, their efforts paid off.
College historian D.D. Wallace noted how hard the work was; Kilgo had raised $24,295 for the endowment, but only one gift had been over $500 and less than 25 had been over $100. Still, the alumni got better organized and paid for the construction of Alumni Hall (now the Hugh S. Black Building, home of the college’s admission and financial aid offices), and several alumni began to make larger contributions.

These three early financial agents laid the groundwork for later efforts by presidents, trustees, alumni and friends to put the college on a firmer financial footing.

by Dr. Phillip Stone ’94, college archivist