Amos Dean (1855–1859)

Amos Dean

Pencil drawing based upon an earlier portrait, Cloy Kent, 1975

The University of Iowa was established in 1847 by an act of Iowa’s first General Assembly. Classes, however, did not begin until 1855, the year Amos Dean was selected to be its first president.

A Vermont native, Dean graduated with honors from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1826. He practiced law in Albany, New York, after his admission to the state bar in 1829. In 1833 he organized the Young Men’s Association of Albany for the purpose of mutual benefit and education, believed to be the first organization of its type in the U.S.

An early advocate of professional training, Dean founded, or helped to found, law and medical programs in Albany over a 15-year period, beginning in 1838. He was also an accomplished writer who published numerous works throughout his life addressing legal, social, and historical subjects.

During his four years as University of Iowa president, he attempted to place the fledgling institution on a more financially sound foundation. However, the University was forced to close temporarily in April 1858 because of a lack of funds.

Dean was born in Barnard, Vermont, on January 16, 1803, and married Eliza Joanna Davis in 1842. He died on January 26, 1868, at age 65.