|Date(s):||August 1865 to October 1870|
|Course:||“Civil War and Reconstruction,” Juniata College|
In August 1865 at the age of fifty-eight, only four months after surrendering at Appomattox Robert E. Lee accepted the position of President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. The New York Times talked of Lee in glowing terms about how he accepted this humble position because of noble and patriotic motives. Then added it would only be a short time until people came to love him in this new profession as well. With his appointment the college's board of trustees accepted a resolution that was included in Lee's letter of acceptance. This resolution stated that every citizen should "do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony, and in no way oppose the policy of the State or General Government directed at that object." Lee went on to say that people in charge of instructing youths should set the best example of submitting to authority. The times then wrote that young men from both the north and south would prosper from Lee's great example and benefit from his holy work of educating youths.
While he was a college president for the last five years of his life, he had not been pardoned, that took place in 1878, eight years after he died. Throughout his life, Lee had used George Washington as his model, which he continued to aspire to at the college. By accepting his position at Washington College, then a struggling, little-known school, Lee had turned down offers that assured him of wealth for the rest of his life.
Historian C. S. Marsh writes that the many changes and improvements Lee made at the college marked him as a great educator. Within a month of his arrival the trustees took action to establish five new professorships and establish a liberalized curriculum. The next year the whole curriculum was abolished and nine separate schools were established with students choosing which school they would attend. With his forward-thinking ideas, Lee outlined the plan for a school of commerce in 1869. He was unable to implement the plan during his lifetime due to poor health, but it was very similar to business schools today. If he had been able to implement his plan, this would have been the first commerce school in the country; the first actual school began in 1881. Following his death on October 12, 1870, Washington College was renamed Washington and Lee University. Today Lee's impact is still highly visible at the college and its traditions.