In 1866 the Wisconsin legislature passed an act to enlarge and restructure the university including its curriculum, faculty, and students. The legislature also created a new corporation and a new Board of Regents. One of the first pressing needs was to find a chief executive, now called president, for the reorganized university, and the regents settled on Paul Chadbourne.
Chadbourne was born in North Berwick, Maine on October 21, 1823. He attended Phillips Academy and worked for several years before graduating from Williams College in 1848. He graduated from the Theological Institute of Connecticut (later Hartford Theological Seminary) in 1853, and taught at Williams College, Bowdoin College, and was president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Amherst.
Chadbourne originally rejected the offer of the presidency at Wisconsin but finally accepted on June 22, 1867, and took office immediately. Chadbourne was a strong administrator and laid the groundwork for the growth of the university in later years. The Law School was established during his administration, and the first professor of agriculture was hired.
Chadbourne was an opponent of co-education, creating a separate Female College when the legislature mandated in 1866 that women be allowed to enroll in the University (women were admitted into the newly created normal department in 1863, but not into the university proper). Ladies Hall, which originally housed the Female College and later was a women’s dormitory, was named for Chadbourne.
Chadbourne resigned in June, 1870, and later became president of Williams College from 1872 to 1881 and then returned to the Massachusetts Agricultural College as president in 1882. He died in New York city, where he had gone for business, on February 23, 1883.