Rev. Edwards was elected April 4, 1866, as the first president of the experimental union of the two institutions, Washington College and Jefferson College, under the Act of Assembly of March 4, 1865. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 19, 1817. He graduated from Hanover College in 1835, from its theological department in 1838, and taught in Kentucky from 1838 to 1842. He was ordained in 1844 and served as pastor at various churches in Ohio, Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He had been the fifth president of Hanover College (1855-1857).
When he began his presidency in 1866, entrance requirements had been relaxed since, the enrollment being greatly depleted during the Civil War, they were anxious to increase the student ranks. At the time, the new institution of Washington & Jefferson College maintained two campuses, one in Canonsburg and one in Washington. Edwards, as president, resided in Canonsburg and the vice-president was at Washington. "The Preparatory and Scientific Departments and Freshman Class are located at Washington and the three remaining Classes of the College, proper, at Canonsburg." --W&J College advertisement published in the Pittsburg Commercial, 1866. The faculty consisted of 9 professors including the president and vice-president. Students in attendance the fall of 1866 were 113 at Washington and 122 at Canonsburg.
By the fall of 1868 there was serious talk about consolidating the two campuses, which President Edwards supported. In his report to the Board dated December 22, 1868, he urged the Board to determine "the location of the College as soon as practicable." Edwards resigned April 20, 1869 to accept a pastoral charge in Baltimore. He died in Peoria, Illinois, on July 13, 1891.
Photograph courtesy of Observer Publishing Company.