Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 486-90.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Robert Lincoln Campbell

Robert Lincoln Campbell, formerly president of the Buena Vista College, was born in Belleville, Pennsylvania, March 5, 1865.  That city was also the birthplace of his father, Joseph Campbell, who was of Scotch-Irish ancestry.  The family was founded in America in colonial days and representatives of the name participated in the Revolutionary war with the continental army.  Although the educational advantages which Joseph Campbell received were somewhat limited, he became a well informed man, for he was a broad reader and, moreover, had the faculty of assimilating what he read.  For this he was recognized as one of the leading and influential citizens of Mifflin county, Pennsylvania, and he left the impress of his individuality upon the substantial development of that community.  His life was characterized by high and honorable principles and the Presbyterian church found in him a consistent and helpful member, who for forty-five years served as one of its elders and was untiring in his work in its behalf.  In every relation of life he was not only just but displayed also the higher attribute of mercy and his sympathy was manifest in his tangible efforts to assist those with whom he came in contact.  A stalwart republican in his political belief he was often urged to become a candidate for office but always refused, preferring to do his public duty as a private citizen.  He passed away in 1894 in his seventy-eighth year and thus closed a long, useful and honorable life.  His wife, who bore the maiden name of Elizabeth Wilson, was born in Belleville, Pennsylvania, and died in 1894 in her seventieth year.  She was a daughter of Major William Wilson, who won his title by service in the Pennsylvania Militia and who was a successful agriculturist of the Keystone state.


Robert L. Campbell of this review, was the sixth in order of birth in a family of seven children and his early training was that of the home farm, where he assisted in the work of the fields from his boyhood days.  His preliminary education was acquired in the district schools and later he pursued a preparatory course in the Pennsylvania State Normal, at Indiana, Pennsylvania.  He afterward engaged in teaching school for one year and next matriculated in Wooster University at Wooster, Ohio, from which he was graduated with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1891.  Three years later his alma mater conferred upon him the Master of Arts degree.  He pursued a classical course and while in college was business manager of the Index, the junior annual of the college.  During his senior year he was business manager of the Voice, the students' paper, and he was also much interested in athletics, including baseball and football.  He likewise represented the college on a number of occasions in a public way, delivering addresses and orations, being chosen by the faculty and the students to act as the orator on the laying of the cornerstone of one wing of the university building.  He had a ready and fluent delivery and was largely master of the art of rhetoric, while his scholarship, his interest in athletics and his activity in all matters relating to college life made him very popular with both faculty and students.


In preparation for a life in the ministry, Mr. Campbell spent three years in McCormick Seminary, at Chicago, and was graduated in 1894.  His first pastorate was at Grand Ridge, Illinois, where he remained for six years, when he accepted a call from the church at Henry and there continued for three years.  He afterward became pastor of the church at Marion, Iowa, where he continued actively and earnestly at work in his ministerial capacity until he was called to the presidency of Buena Vista College in the fall of 1906 and remained at the head of that institution until recently.  In the same year the college at Cedar Rapids conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.  He brought to his new field of work a contagious enthusiasm which was manifest in all branches of the college work.  With the aid of his associates he thoroughly systematized the courses taught in various lines and the college is now proving a valuable element in the intellectual progress of northwestern Iowa.


In October, 1894, Dr. Campbell was married to Miss May B. Ihrig, who was born in Wooster, Ohio, in July, I865, and is a daughter of David B. and Elizabeth Ihrig, the former a merchant.  Unto Dr. and Mrs. Campbell have been born three children, of whom one died in infancy.  Twin sons, Robert and Charles, were born June 4, 1900.  The wife and mother passed away in 1903, and in June, 1906, Dr. Campbell wedded Miss Rebecca Pence, who was born in Lowellville, Ohio, in 1871, and is a daughter of James N. and Mary (Arrel) Pence, the former a retired farmer.


Dr. Campbell votes with the republican party and supports his position by intelligent argument when occasion demands, but has little time for active participation in political affairs, as he feels that his energies are needed in the college work.  He stands with that progressive class of educators who recognize the fact that physical, mental and moral training should go hand in hand and he stands for high ideals in all departments of educational work, knowing that in the great majority of instances the school training constitutes the foundation upon which is builded [sic] character and success in later life.