- Honorary Degree (1837)
- Doctor of Divinity
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Andrew Wylie
Henry Bidleman Bascom was born in New York in 1796, of Basque and French ancestry, a direct descendant of Thomas Bascom, who came from England to Massachusetts Bay aboard the “Recovery” in 1634 and founded the town of Windsor, Connecticut.
Bascom was a circuit (traveling) preacher for the Methodists, riding horseback from one church or community to another upon assignment. In one single year, he preached 400 times. From 1823 to 1824, he was chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1827, he became the first president of Madison College in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1829. From 1829 to 1831, he was an agent of the American Colonization Society, which settled freed American Blacks in the African country of Liberia.
In 1832, Bascom became a professor at Augusta College in Kentucky, and by 1837, he was president of the college, where he stayed until 1842.
Indiana College (now IU) awarded Bascom an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in September 1837. As president of Augusta College, Bascom later awarded an honorary A. M. degree upon fellow IU alumnus William Daily.
In 1842, Bascom became president of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, a position he held until 1849. From 1846 to 1850, he also edited the Southern Methodist Quarterly Review.
In 1850, Bascom went to visit some Native American missions, and on his return trip home, he took ill and died.
In 1839, Bascom married Eliza Van Antwerp of New York, the daughter of a wealthy merchant fifteen years his junior. Their daughter, Laura, was born in 1840 and died, unmarried, in Lexington in 1902. On January 6, 1846, their son, Lewis, died.
Bascom and his wife were avid abolitionists and incurred the wrath of many of their fellow Kentucky aristocrats, who were slave owners. Eliza continued working on behalf of the Negroes, and she and her surviving daughter became part of their community until her death in 1897. She died in her home in a Black section of Lexington, Kentucky. Her eulogist said that Eliza was “a woman who half a century ago moved in the highest society of Blue Grass Kentucky, but whose life ended on Monday last among the colored people who for years have been her associates.”
In 1856, Ralston and Thomas Neely published Posthumous Works of the Rev. Henry B. Bascom, a set of four volumes, which continue to be sold print-on-demand today.
The town of Bascom, Florida (newsworthy for having, from 2003 to 2020, the only beluga caviar farm in the U.S.), was named in Bascom’s honor as was the town of Bascom, Texas, settled in 1846.