- Honorary Degree (1837)
- Master of Arts
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Andrew Wylie
Cornelius Pering was born in southwest England in 1806 to a farmer and his wife, the eldest of five children. He studied at Cambridge University, London’s Royal Academy of Arts, and became a member of the London Literary and Scientific Institute.
Pering, his wife, and their baby traveled to America in the summer of 1832 on the sailing ship “Woodman.” After 32 days on the Atlantic Ocean, they came straight from New York to Bloomington, Indiana. There, he established the Monroe County Female Institute, absorbing the only year old Monroe County Female Seminary. He became principal of the Institute in 1835, a position he held for 13 years. Hugely successful, the institute graduated 400 women in one four-year period.
In 1837, Indiana College (now IU) awarded Pering with an honorary Master of Arts degree. He was an artist and sketched many scenes of early Bloomington and IU.
In 1847, Pering established a painting school in Louisville, Kentucky. He and Charlotta, his second wife, both taught there and were able to keep the school going even during the Civil War.
Pering’s mother’s much older brother, Isaac, moved to America while it was still a British colony; he operated a gunsmith shop in Kentucky and decided to join the patriots’ cause in the Revolutionary War. When Pering was 12 years old, his uncle, Isaac, moved to the new state of Indiana with his large family.
At age 21, shortly after his father died, Pering married Susannah Hine. She was five years his senior. In March 1831, Susannah gave birth to their first son and namesake, Cornelius Hine Pering.
Pering and Susannah decided to emigrate to the U.S., choosing Bloomington, Indiana, specifically because their relatives already lived there. Isaac’s sons operated the Orchard House Inn (an alcohol-free “temperance hotel”) and a stagecoach business between Indianapolis and Louisville.
While in the U.S., Pering continued sending letters to his family in Somerset, England. Within a few years, nearly all of his family in England, including his mother, all four of his siblings, an aunt and uncle, and some cousins, moved to Indiana. Meanwhile, Pering and Susannah had more children: Alfred (born 1833), Zenobia (born 1835), James (born 1837), Cornelia (born 1840), and William (born 1842). Susannah was at least 40 years old by the time their last child was born.
In 1845, Susannah fell into a cistern and was drowned, leaving six children under the age of 14.
In 1846, Pering fell in love with an English-born seminary teacher of French language, Charlotta Carmichael, and married her. That same year, he decided to leave Bloomington. His two eldest sons remained in Bloomington with their grandmother and other relatives, while the rest of the children went with their father and new stepmother across the Ohio River.
All of Pering’s children moved away in adulthood except Cornelia, who eventually became a teacher at the painting school in Louisville, Kentucky. She continued the school after Pering’s death.
In 1864, son and namesake, Cornelius Hine Pering, who served in the Union Cavalry, died from an accidental discharge of his own rifle, leaving behind a wife and three young children.
In 1881, Pering died in Kentucky, but his body was returned to Monroe County, Indiana to be buried next to his first wife, Susannah. Charlotta, his second wife, died in 1885 and was buried in Kentucky.
Pering has many living descendants in Illinois, Missouri, and Springville, Indiana.
Pering’s great-great-grandson, John E. Perring, was named an “Honorary I-Man” by the college and attended every home football game of the University of Illinois from 1967 to 2002.