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The regents began wooing Henry Barnard in July 1858, and he finally accepted the offer of the office of chancellor on January 12, 1859. After several delays, he arrived in Madison in May but was not inaugurated until Commencement Day, July 27, 1859.
Barnard was born in Hartford, Connecticut on January 24, 1811, and graduated from Yale in 1830. He also read law at Yale and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1834 but spent most of his life as an educator. The regents hoped that Barnard, a nationally regarded figure who had founded the American Journal of Education, would oversee the restructuring of the entire educational system of the state, including more emphasis on the normal schools.
Due to travels and illness, Barnard was away from Wisconsin for over half of the time that he was chancellor and never moved his family to Madison. He sent his resignation to the regents from Connecticut in June 1860, but they did not accept it until January 1861 when it became clear that he would not return to Wisconsin.
Barnard continued to be involved in educational issues throughout his life, including becoming the first United States Commissioner of Education in 1867. He died in Hartford on July 5, 1900.