Professor Koons with honeybees

Professor Koons studying honeybees with teachers, undated

“Immediate cause of death was exhaustion due to cancer of the throat.” Those words in the December 19, 1903 edition of The Hartford Courant related the cause of death for a beloved member of the campus community in Storrs.  The day before, at his home in Storrs, Benjamin F. Koons, first president of Connecticut Agricultural College, died. He was 59. Koons had begun his Connecticut career as an instructor of natural history at Storrs Agricultural College when it started its first semester in September of 1881. By the end of 1882 he was acting principal of the school for boys, and in 1883 held the position in full. He became president in 1893 when legislation changed the school into the Storrs Agricultural College, and officially admitted women.  Koons had allowed local women to attend starting in 1891, noting that in creating a boys school, the legislature did not forbid the enrollment of women.  Koons was replaced in 1898 by George Flint. In retirement, as the first president emeritus, he continued to teach natural history, maintained a botanical garden, and started the college’s first museum of natural history.

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