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Although enrollment was slow during the 1870s, the fledgling college built momentum under the leadership of President Henry Hill Goodell.
The first dedicated female dormitory, the Abigail Adams House (on the site of today's Lederle Tower) was built in 1920. Bill, facilitating financial aid for veterans, led to an explosion of applicants.
Clark became the first president to serve longterm after the schools opening and is often regarded the primary founding father of the college.
Of the school's founding figures, there are a traditional "founding four"- Clark, Levi Stockbridge, Charles Goessmann, and Henry Goodell, described as "the botanist, the farmer, the chemist, [and] the man of letters." The original buildings consisted of Old South College (a dormitory located on the site of the present South College), North College (a second dormitory once located just south of today's Machmer Hall), the Chemistry Laboratory, also known as College Hall (once located on the present site of Machmer Hall), the Boarding House (a small dining hall located just north of the present Campus Parking Garage), the Botanic Museum (located on the north side of the intersection of Stockbridge Road and Chancellor's Hill Drive) and the Durfee Plant House (located on the site of the new Durfee Conservatory).
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The university was founded in 1863 under the provisions of the Federal Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to provide instruction to Massachusetts citizens in "agricultural, mechanical, and military arts." Accordingly, the university was initially named the Massachusetts Agricultural College, popularly referred to as "Mass Aggie" or "M. C." In 1867, the college had yet to admit any students, been through two Presidents, and had still not completed any college buildings. Clark was appointed President of the college and Professor of Botany.