In celebration of its rich heritage, Waynesburg University honors its many distinguished alumni who serve as an inspiration to all who call the University home. Alumni from the 1800s and early 1900s helped to build Waynesburg University's tradition of distinction through their impressive careers in politics, education, the military, the arts, medicine, ministry and science. With foundations of faith, hearts for service and minds committed to rigorous academics, Waynesburg University's featured alumni continue to inspire students, faculty, staff and visitors to lead lives of purpose.
Alfred Brashear Miller—1853 Graduate
College president from 1859-1899 whose strong Christian faith advanced Waynesburg as a liberal arts institution that provided education for all
Alfred Brashear Miller entered Waynesburg College as a student in 1851, unaware that he would later be regarded as one of the first and most influential persons ever to be associated with the school.
One of 10 children, Miller’s early education was partially inhibited due to a dissension that closed the district school for several years. He was determined, however, to receive a quality education. At age 18, Miller entered school at the Greene Academy in Carmichaels, Pa. There, he spent three summer terms learning and the winter months teaching. Shortly after completing his education at the Greene Academy, Miller received his license to pastor from Union Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Miller enrolled at Waynesburg College and, after graduating in 1853, was immediately elected professor of mathematics at the college until 1858, when he was chosen to serve as president of the college.
In 1855, he married Margaret Kerr Bell, teacher and principal of the Female Department of Waynesburg. A woman driven by her desire to teach and promote women’s rights to fair education, (Bell) Miller became an unforgettable name when she entered as a faculty member at Waynesburg College in 1850. It was said that, “[She was] by birth, temperament and training one of the most able educators of her day; a pioneer in female education and a champion of women’s rights.”
Prior to her acceptance as a faculty member at Waynesburg College, (Bell) Miller graduated with honors from the Washington Female Seminary. There she received a diploma, not a degree, due to her gender. She did not agree with the idea of separate and unequal education of men and women. Under her influence, in November 1851, all Waynesburg College students, both male and female, partook in classes in the new Hanna Hall building, no longer separated.
The year of 1852 marked a great accomplishment for (Bell) Miller and three of her female students, who became the first women to graduate with diplomas from Waynesburg College. Five years later in 1857, three more women graduated with bachelor’s degrees, becoming the first women in the state of Pennsylvania to do so.
Guided by God, the Millers worked side by side not only to better the institution, but to ensure its survival amidst the economic difficulties brought on by the Civil War.
In addition to being a wife and mother of eight, (Bell) Miller dedicated a great deal of time to her passion for education, teaching six to seven hours a day in addition to her other responsibilities at the college. In 1874 she suffered a stroke, most likely due to exhaustion, and died a few months later at only 47 years of age. Her funeral is said to have been the most attended of any in Waynesburg to that date. If not for her personal sacrifices and steadfast devotion to the institution, it might have failed.
After his wife’s passing, Miller would go on to become a nationally known figure. In 1875 he was chosen as the national delegate of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to the annual conference of the Evangelical Union in Scotland and was moderator of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1877. He was also editor of the “Cumberland Presbyterian” and author of the book, “Doctrines and Genius of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.”
Throughout his career at Waynesburg College, Miller taught approximately 7,000 students. In the last years of his presidency, Miller was significantly involved in the construction of a new college building, named Miller Hall in his honor, which was dedicated in June 1899, the year Miller stepped down as president. He said of the structure, “I verily believe that God bids us to build a monument that will not only record the liberality of a grateful church, but send a blessed influence through the centuries.” Then valued at $100,000, the building was a much needed addition to Waynesburg’s campus.
A man of many accomplishments and numerous virtues, Miller lived his faith. In his personal journal he wrote, “A life of unselfish devotion to the truth and to practical benevolence is the noblest life you can live.”
Lydia (Weethee) Sparrow—1857 Graduate
One of three Waynesburg College women who were the very first degreed females in Pennsylvania
More than 150 years ago, three women created history by becoming the first women to graduate from Waynesburg College with bachelor’s degrees. One of those bold women was Lydia (Weethee) Sparrow.
Born January 27, 1839, Sparrow was unaware of what she would come to accomplish in the future—setting a historic example for women around the globe.
She and her cousins, Laura (Weethee) Jennings and Margaret Leonice (Needham) Still, enrolled at Waynesburg after a request by family member Rev. J. P. Weethee, former president of the college, to participate in the equal opportunity experiment fronted by the school.
Prior to Sparrow’s acceptance of her degree, women had been graduating from the Female Seminary at Waynesburg College as early as 1852. However, these degrees were equivalent to today’s high school diplomas while men received degrees of higher stature, such as those received by college graduates today.
Headed by Margaret Kerr (Bell) Miller, the Female Seminary evolved into the Female Department, in which men and women were no longer separated by anything but a name. Through this transformation, Sparrow became one of the first women to take classes with men and receive the same degree as them, despite the social unease over coeducation that mounted in the town of Waynesburg prior to her enrollment.
On Waynesburg’s campus in September of 1857, for the very first time in the state of Pennsylvania, women were bestowed with bachelor’s degrees—ones of equal weight to that of their male classmates. Sparrow proudly returned home as one of the first degreed women in the country.
She married Dr. Thomas West Sparrow, M.D., in 1861 and lived a long and happy life.
Phoebe Jane Teagarden—Graduate with Honors
First female physician in Greene County
Phoebe Jane Teagarden was Waynesburg’s first well-known and highly respected physician. Born March 25, 1841, Teagarden knew her life had a purpose. She attended Waynesburg College and graduated with honors. After teaching for several years, she chose to pursue a medical degree in Philadelphia.
While in medical school, Teagarden befriended Susan B. Anthony and persuaded her to give a benefit lecture at Waynesburg College in 1880.
As a physician “Dr. Jenny” was well respected, and her male colleagues readily accepted her. Soon she had her own thriving medical practice. Concerned with the welfare and health problems of needy children, Teagarden helped establish the Children’s Aid Society and served as its president for many years.
James Jackson Purman—1864 Graduate
Awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg
James Jackson Purman was known by many titles: lieutenant, principal, lawyer, physician and medical director of the Grand Army of the Republic. But of these things, what Purman is most remembered for is his gallantry during the Battle of Gettysburg, for which he received the Medal of Honor from Congress.
Purman enrolled at Waynesburg College, teaching at a local school to help pay for his tuition. In 1862, just before his senior year, he opted to put his studies on hold to help organize a volunteer Army unit to aid the war raging around him. He was voted 1st Lieutenant of Company A, 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and a year later, found himself in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg.
During the second day of battle, Purman was struck near his left ankle after attempting to help a wounded comrade. He laid overnight listening to the cries of dying men around him. The next morning, he was shot in his right leg when opposing pickets exchanged shots. Desperate for water, he called out to the enemy for help. A lieutenant from a Georgia regiment came to his rescue, offered him water and tended to his wounds. The Confederate then got Purman safely off the battlefield by carrying him on his back while crawling on all fours.
Later that night, a Union stretcher party carried Purman to a field hospital. The next day, his left leg was amputated below the knee. The soldier whose life he tried to save had not survived.
In May 1864, Purman was discharged from the army and he returned to finish his degree at Waynesburg. He became principal of Baptist Academy, which later became Monongahela College. He also studied law and was admitted to the Greene County Bar. He and his wife then moved to the nation’s capital where Purman pursued a course in a medical school and served as the medical director of the Grand Army of the Republic—a powerful Union veterans’ organization. He also held a position at the U.S. Pension Office.
He kept in contact with the Confederate officer who aided him on the battlefield and, in later years, introduced him to President Theodore Roosevelt, describing the moment when honest compassion held greater weight than opposing opinions.
Alexander Durham Hail—1866 Graduate
Presbyterian missionary to Japan who founded Osaka Jogakuin Women’s College
Alexander Durham Hail spent a majority of his life serving the Lord through countless missions in Japan. Born in Macomb, Ill., Hail attended Maghee College in College Mound, Mo. At the onset of the Civil War, he was called home and enlisted with the Illinois Volunteers, with which he would serve for three years. After being mustered out of service, he completed his college studies at Waynesburg College.
After graduating, he served a church in Uniontown, Pa., and then took a pastorate in Cumberland, Ohio. During that time he took courses at the Oberlin Theological School and also studied medicine in the Cleveland Medical College. He was accepted by the Board of Foreign and Domestic Missions of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as a candidate for the foreign field in 1875, and in 1878 he was sent as a missionary to Japan.
Through his work, Hail compassionately ministered to the citizens of Japan. He partnered with his brother, John Baxter Hail, also serving in Japan, to establish the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church (later known as the Osaka Nishi Church). Hail traveled the country, offering God’s love and healing. He compassionately ministered to a Sotojima facility where citizens suffering with leprosy were quarantined. Some residents of that facility had not experienced human touch since developing the affliction. That is, until Hail followed God’s calling to baptize them.
While in Japan, Hail also recognized the need for educational institutions. He founded the prominent women’s college, Osaka Jogakuin (formerly Wilmina Women’s College), where he taught for many years before his death in 1923.
Marquis Lafayette Gordon—1868 Graduate
Presbyterian missionary to Japan who helped found Doshisha University and Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts
Born and raised in Greene County, Marquis Lafayette Gordon led a diverse life that carried him through war, seminary school and to Japan, where he served as a missionary for 22 years.
A Civil War veteran who served as an officer in the 85th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Gordon chose to further his education at Waynesburg College after the war. Upon graduating from Waynesburg, Gordon earned his medical degree from the Medical College at Columbia University in 1870 and became an ordained congregational minister at Andover Theological Seminary in 1871.
With a mission to share his Christian faith with others, Gordon traveled to Japan in September 1872 to share the Gospel with the Japanese people. Gordon worked closely with brothers Alexander Durham Hail and John Baxter Hail to share the Gospel. The Hail brothers were fellow graduates of Waynesburg College.
Gordon’s influence was visible throughout Japan. Government trustee Kakuma Yamamoto became a Christian through the efforts of Gordon, and Gordon later helped found some of today’s most prominent universities in Japan: Doshisha University and Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts. He, along with the Hail brothers, established many churches in Japan.
John Baxter Hail—1870 Graduate
Presbyterian missionary to Japan who established churches in the remote, mountainous regions of Osaka and Wakayama
As the first missionary sponsored by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, John Baxter Hail arrived in Japan in 1877 to share the Gospel.
Learning the Japanese language proved a great challenge for Hail. A former Samurai, Komazo Obata, became Hail’s Japanese language instructor, but Obata did not speak English, which made learning the language far more challenging. Hail, however, was patient and persevered in communicating the Gospel to the Japanese. He even went on to translate many books into the Japanese language.
Hail’s brother, Alexander Durham Hail, joined him in Japan in 1878 and the brothers, along with Marquis Lafayette Gordon, travelled through the mountainous and remote regions to spread the word of God. The Hail brothers and Gordon also established many churches in Japan, venturing deep into the mountains where missionaries of other denominations would not travel.
Hail worked diligently to spread the Gospel of Christ to the Japanese people for 15 years in Osaka and, after a two-year furlough in the United States, served for 31 years in Wakayama until his death in 1928.
Edward Martin—1901 Graduate
Decorated Army general and respected politician whose offices included Pennsylvania governor and U.S. senator
When Edward Martin graduated from Waynesburg College, little did the veteran, lawyer and Republican Party politician from Waynesburg, Pa., know, he would go on to serve the country in more ways than he could have ever foreseen.
A newspaper remarked that, “General Martin has a high conception of public duty and obligation to the people. His entire career, either that of a soldier, private citizen or public official has been one which has shown a high degree of courage, of industry, of constructive ability and loyalty. The people generally would have more faith in their Government if we had more men of the type of General Edward Martin.”
Martin offered his loyalty and service during the Spanish-American War in 1989, putting his education on hold and launching the start of his 44-year military career. In 1899, Martin returned to Waynesburg to complete his degree.
After his admittance to the bar in 1905, Martin began practicing law in Waynesburg. He assumed his first of many political offices as secretary of the Greene County Republican Committee that year.
Several years later, he was called back to serve in the First World War where he took the position of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.
Throughout his life, Martin served in several Pennsylvania state political positions including auditor general of Pennsylvania, burgess of East Waynesburg, solicitor of Greene County, state auditor general, state treasurer and governor of Pennsylvania.
On a national level, Martin served as president of the National Guard Association of the United States in 1940 and general of the U.S. National Guard. He also served as president of the Council of State Governments in 1946, which led to his election as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1947 where he served two terms, choosing not to seek re-nomination for a third in 1958.
Prior to his death in 1967, Martin was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal and published “Always Be On Time: An Autobiography.” In it, he recalled, starting with Theodore Roosevelt, he had dined with every president since that time.
John Clark Knox—1902 Graduate
Federal judge who selflessly protected the integrity of the judicial system throughout his 37-year appointment
Widely regarded as having “an intuitive sense of what was just and honorable and a soul so pure that he knew by instinct what was right,” John Knox’s legacy is the great lengths he would go to protect the integrity of the judicial system.
Knox was born in Waynesburg in 1881. He received his degree from Waynesburg College and furthered his studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. After finishing his schooling, Knox returned to Greene County and was elected a Justice of the Peace.
In 1905, Knox moved to New York City where he worked as a lawyer for the Title Guarantee and Trust Company, and, in 1913, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the New York Southern District. Woodrow Wilson appointed Knox as judge of the New York Southern District in 1918. In that role, Knox became the longest serving federal judge appointed by Wilson, with his term spanning approximately 37 years.
Knox became friends with the man most commonly known for his initials, Franklin D. Roosevelt, before Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. Though he could have received an appointment within the presidential administration, Knox opposed F.D.R. in the “court packing” bill and stood by his beliefs instead of advancing his career. Admirably, Knox went about all of his decisions this way, which involved bankruptcies, patents and copyrights, Prohibition and even the trials of spies and saboteurs.
Sol Levine—1938 Graduate
Accomplished scientist whose work was utilized by the U.S. Navy and NASA
What became the solid foundation for several important roles Sol Levine would play in the U.S. military and space program was receiving his Bachelor of Science degree at Waynesburg College.
With his ambitious character, Levine took part in several historical developments throughout his lifetime. The first was in 1950 when he patented a depth sounding recorder used to determine the depth of the ocean, which was used on Jacques Cousteau’s research ship, the Calypso, and later utilized by the U.S. Navy. He continued this path to assist in the development and construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered ship, the Nautilus.
As time persisted, naturally, Levine found himself in another inspiring position as technical director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Project Gemini. With the hopes of sending Americans to the moon, this project helped to facilitate the growth of the U.S. space program, leading to the Apollo Program. Levine’s book, “Appointment in the Sky: the Story of Project Gemini,” which discussed his experiences within the program, was published in 1963 with a forward written by former President Lyndon Johnson.
In 1984, Levine was given an honorary doctorate degree from Waynesburg College. During this time, he worked for the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C., as head of anti-submarine warfare, where he remained until his death in December 1987.
The former Yellow Jacket editor and founder of the Sol Levine Endowed Scholarship Fund at Waynesburg attributed his many successes to the school.
Other Notable Graduates
James R. Rinehart—1853 Graduate
After graduating from Waynesburg, Rinehart moved to Illinois where he practiced law in the same judicial district that Abraham Lincoln practiced. At that time, it was common for circuit judges to call on lawyers to preside in their places they were unable to make it to court. In one of his first cases, Rinehart confided the facts to Lincoln and sought his advice. To this, Lincoln said that the law was not on Rinehart’s side, but if the judge hearing the case was incompetent, there might be a chance. When Rinehart entered the court, he found Lincoln had been called by the judge to preside in his place. Rinehart lost the case.
Albert Baird Cummins—1867 Graduate
Cummins went on to become the 18th Governor of Iowa (1902-1908), the U.S. Senator from Iowa (1908 –1926) and a two-time presidential candidate (1912 and 1916). He is considered to be one of the most influential leaders in Iowa politics in the first quarter of the 20th century.
Stephen Leslie Mestrezat—1869 Graduate
After completing his studies, Mestrezat started a law practice in Uniontown in 1873. He served as judge of the 14th Judicial District, Fayette and Greene Counties, in 1894 and later as justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1899 to 1919.
James Knox—1899 Graduate
Knox was one of the most distinguished surgeons in the Pittsburgh area. In 1928, he became President of the Board of Trustees of Waynesburg College, and his wise counsel and loyal contributions were strongly instrumental in furthering the rapid advance this institution made during his administration.
Mary Charity (Scott) Martin—1901 Graduate
The wife of Edward Martin, (Scott) Martin served as honorary chairman for the War Bond Drive for Pennsylvania during World War II and received a medal and citation from the United States Treasurer. During World War II, she lived in Harrisburg as Pennsylvania's First Lady. She also spent 12 years in Washington, D. C., while her husband was U.S. Senator.