Founder and First President at Temple University
By Megan Lounsbury
Born in 1843 in South Washington, Mass., Russell Conwell left life on the farm to attend Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy, and then briefly attended Yale University. Before graduating from Yale, Conwell enlisted in the Union Army in 1862 for around nine months for the Civil War. After serving in the war, Conwell attended Albany Law School to study law and graduated with the class of 1865. Post-law school, Russell Conwell worked as an attorney, and a journalist.
Accomplished for his writing with around 10 books published, he also wrote campaigns for presidents, including Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Ulysses S. Grant. Baptist minister and pastor at the Grace Baptist Church of Philadelphia in 1882, Conwell, passionate in tutoring students and religion, went on to be the first president and founder of Temple University.
Known for his "Acres of Diamonds" speech, Conwell focused on inspiring individuals to look for opportunities in their own communities. He encouraged those to "dig in your own backyard," and to not look elsewhere for opportunities because the resources one may need to gain fortune are presented at their own doorstep. Using the money he received from the speech to support Temple University, Russell Conwell was a large benefactor to the school.
To commemorate Conwell as the first president and founder of the university, Temple's football team wear diamond decals on their helmets in reference to his famous "Acres of Diamonds speech." Buried in the Founders Garden at Temple, Conwell passed away on Dec. 6, 1925.