John Kingsbury (1801-1874), secretary of the Corporation and school principal, was born in South Coventry, Connecticut, on May 26, 1801. His early education was at the district schools with instruction in the classics under Reverend Chauncey Booth. When he entered Brown in 1822, Kingsbury had already been teaching in district schools for five years while working on his father’s farm. He continued teaching to make ends meet while he studied, and after graduating in 1826 he conducted with G. A. Dewitt the private Providence high school. In 1828 he opened a department for girls, which became the Young Ladies’ High School, at which the students learned not the usual feminine accomplishments, but Latin, mathematics and science. His detractors ridiculed him as “the man who is teaching girls Latin,” but his school prospered in its location in a school house formerly presided over by Oliver Angell. The school, as renovated by Kingsbury, was a novelty visited by and imitated by other schools with its previously unheard of luxuries, such as a carpeted floor and broadcloth covered desks. In 1848 the building, which was old-fashioned and poorly ventilated, was replaced by a new school house designed by Thomas A. Tefft 1851 (who was then a freshman at Brown), built at the same location. This building was to become in 1892 the first home of the Women’s College at 235 Benefit Street.
In 1830 Kingsbury was among the founding members of the American Institute of Instruction, of which he was later vice-president for many years and president in 1856 and 1857. He was also president of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction from its inception in 1845 until 1856. He was named a trustee of the University in 1844, served on the committee to raise $125,000 for President Wayland’s “New System” in 1850, was appointed a fellow of the University in 1853 and at the same time appointed Secretary of the Corporation. He retired from his position at the Young Ladies’ High School in 1858, and was commissioner of public instruction in Rhode Island until 1859. From that date until 1874 he was president of the Washington Insurance Company. He died in Providence on December 21, 1874.