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Allyn, Robert (1817-1894) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Allyn, Robert (1817-1894)

Historical Note:

Robert Allyn was the first President of Southern Illinois State Normal University and served from 1874-1892.  He was a contemporary and co-worker of education trail blazer Horace Mann.  He was born in Ledyard, Connecticut on January 25, 1817 and raised on his family’s farm.  After studying at Bacon Academy in Colchester for 1 year, he began teaching at the age of 17 in East Lynn.  After 1 year he attended Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts where he finished his preparation for college.  In 1837 at age 27 he began college at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and graduated in 1841.

After graduation Allyn was a professor of mathematics at Wilbraham Academy but resigned in 1843 to enter the ministry.  He preached in Colchester, Connecticut for 2 years and returned to Wilbraham Academy as its head for 3 years.  Afterward he served as President of Methodist Academy (possibly East Greenwich Academy) in East Greenwich, Rhode Island for 6 years and served in the state’s legislature for 2 terms.  He was then appointed the State Superintendent of Public Instruction of Rhode Island in which he served 3.5 years.  From 1857-1859 he was a professor of Greek and Latin at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and then served as President of Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati from 1859-1863.  He was then elected President at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois where he served from 1863 until coming to Southern Illinois State Normal University in 1874.

Allyn was inaugurated July 1, 1874.  At the time, SINU was only the second public school in the state devoted to teacher preparation.  He retired in 1892 and died in January 1894.  The university’s building dedicated as a training school for SINU students was named the Allyn Building in his honor.  Today it houses the School of Art and Design.  He was a member of the National Educational Association and the National Council of Education.  His first wife was Emeline Huntington Denison with whom he had two children, Charles and Emma.  Emeline died in 1844 and Allyn married Mary Buddington with whom he had 3 children: Joseph, Ella, and Hattie.  Mrs. Mary Allyn died on October 20, 1879.


Lentz, Eli G. Seventy-Five Yeras in Retrospect, 1874-1949.  Carbondale: University Editorial Board, 1955. pp. 20-21.

Williams, Charles Allyn. Record of he Ancestry of Dr. Robert Allyn, First President of Southern Illinois Normal University. p.1 (Box3, Robert Allyn Papers, Morris Library Special Collections Research Center)

Quarter Centennial Anniversary Souvenir of the Southern Illinois State Normal University, published by the Alumni Association, 1899.

Note Author: Matt Gorzalski

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