|Russell Herman Conwell|
February 15, 1843|
South Worthington, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||December 6, 1925
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Occupation||Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer|
|Known for||Founder and first president of Temple University|
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Russell Herman Conwell (February 15, 1843 – December 6, 1925) was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer. He is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Pastor of The Baptist Temple, and for his inspirational lecture, Acres of Diamonds. He was born in South Worthington, Massachusetts, and was buried in the Founder's Garden at Temple University. A middle school was also dedicated to him in Philadelphia, PA. This middle school is called Russel Conwell Middle Magnet School.[importance?]
Early life 
The son of Massachusetts farmers, Conwell left home to attend the Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy and later Yale University. In 1862, before graduating from Yale, he enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War. From 1862–1864, Conwell served as a captain of a volunteer regiment. He was dismissed from the military after being charged with deserting his post at Newport Barracks, North Carolina. While Conwell claimed that he was later reinstated by General James B. McPherson, no military records confirm his statement. After the Civil War, Conwell studied law at the Albany Law School. Over the next several years, he worked as an attorney, journalist, and lecturer first in Minneapolis, then in Boston. Additionally, during this period, he published about ten books—including campaign biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield. In 1880, he was ordained as a Baptist minister and took over a congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Baptist minister 
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Russell H. Conwell joined the pastorate of the Grace Baptist Church of Philadelphia before the members of the church had heard him preach for themselves. Brother Alexander Reed had heard Conwell preach when he visited him at Lexington, Massachusetts. Brother Reed was an outstanding leader of the church and recommended that Conwell become a new pastor. Once the official "call" was made on October 16, 1882, Conwell arrived at Philadelphia on a Friday evening and was met by a committee of men from the Church at the Columbia Avenue Station of the Reading Railroad. The committee consisted of deacons Stoddard and Singley and members Enos Spare and Spencer VanHorn, who escorted Conwell to the church at Mervine and Berks streets in Philadelphia. Deacon Reed was leading a prayer-meeting at that time. Here pastor and members met for the first time.[awkward]
Conwell preached on the following Sunday in the lower room of the basement—later deemed the Lecture Room, as the Upper Main Audience Room was yet unfinished because work on frescoes, installations of pews, stained glass windows, carpeting, and other decorations was still in progress. This church building was later dedicated by Conwell on December 3, 1882.
The December 4, 1882 issue of The Public Ledger reported the following about the new minister and church:
Conwell ended evening services by holding an hour of prayer, leading song services, and giving commentary relevant his sermons. The musical pastor often performed a solo piece during evening services.
The story of Hattie May Wiatt is one of importance to the Baptist Temple as it describes the role of a child in encouraging the congregation to grow and build a new church building. She lived near a church where the Sunday School was very crowded and he told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow every one to attend who wanted to. She had saved only fifty-seven cents when she contracted diphtheria and died. Rev. Conwell was asked to do the funeral, and the girl's mother told him that Hattie May had been saving money to help build a bigger church and gave him the little purse in which she had saved 57 cents. Rev. Conwell had the 57 cents turned into 57 pennies, told the congregation the story of little Hattie May, and sold the pennies for a return of about $250. In addition, 54 of the original 57 pennies were returned to Rev. Conwell and he later put them up on display. On June 28, 1886, A nearby house at the corner of Broad and Berks streets, referred to as The Temple because the property owner did not want the house to be called a church until the mortgage was fully paid, was investigated for purchase by the Wiatt Mite Society, which was organized for the purpose of taking the 57 cents and enlarging on them sufficiently to buy the property for the Primary Department of the Sunday school. A few days later, the congregation agreed to purchase the lot. The first down payment for the lot was the 57 cents. The property was conveyed to the church on January 31, 1887. In that same house, the first classes of Temple College, later Temple University, were held. The house was later sold to allow Temple College to move and The Temple (now the Temple Performing Arts Center to grow, and still more of that money went towards founding the Samaritan Hospital (now the Temple University Hospital). This story so touched Conwell that he repeated it many times.
In September 1887 at the Centennial celebration of the United States Constitution, money received from the Wiatt Mite Society was given "for the success of the new Temple". This was the first time the name "Temple" was used in place of the church name.
The membership of the church continued to grow under the leadership of Conwell. In 1885, a letter to the Philadelphia Association stated:
The following are the statistics for the year: United by baptism 149, of whom 34 came from the Sabbath School; total membership 700, with 975 scholars in Sabbath School. Home church expenses, $9,465.[clarification needed][not relevant]
In 1888, the youth group considered becoming a world-wide youth organization. The pastor was a speaker at a Christian Endeavor convention. Conwell was very impressed by the purpose and enthusiasm of the group. He later recommended the Christian Endeavor to the youth group of the church. On September 10, 1888, the Society of Christian Endeavor was finally organized. Frank Bauder became acting Chairman, the members were led in prayer by Deacon Moss. Then, the members elected Frank Bauder. The Christian Endeavor youth groups continued to meet at the Church until the 1960s.
Charles M. Davis, a young deacon, approached the pastor with his desire to preach; however, Davis had little education and was without sufficient funds to continue his studies. Conwell agreed to tutor him. Over the next few days, seven prospective students met with Conwell, and Temple College was conceived. Ultimately, Conwell became Dr. Conwell, president of the college, now known as Temple University.[repetition]
As the membership continued to grow to over one thousand and the Sunday School to even greater members, a larger facility was desperately needed. Consequently, on Monday, March 29, 1889, a contract was negotiated to build the new church for $109,000. This figure included only the building itself.[repetition]
William Bucknell agreed to give $10,000. The ground was broken for the new building on Wednesday, March 27, 1889. The cornerstone was laid on Saturday, July 13, 1889. As the new church building was nearing completion, the pastor wanted to test the acoustics. A group of five members met in the sanctuary as Conwell read Habakkuk 2:20: "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him." The acoustics proved to be excellent.[not relevant][repetition]
On February 15, 1891, Conwell preached his last sermon in the old church at Mervine and Berks streets. He preached the first sermon at the new building on March 1. Sixty people were baptized in the afternoon, and several addresses were given. The Rev. L. B. Hartman, the first minister, was present. The celebration continued throughout the week, and the church was filled to capacity for all of its services. The new church later became known as The Baptist Temple.
The congregation of the church continues today as The Grace Baptist Church.
Acres of Diamonds 
"Acres of Diamonds" originated as a speech which Conwell delivered over 6,000 times around the world. It was first published in 1890 by the John Y. Huber Company of Philadelphia.
The central idea of the work is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune—the resources to achieve all good things are present in one's own community. This theme is developed by an introductory anecdote, told to Conwell by an Arab guide, about a man who wanted to find diamonds so badly that he sold his property and went off in futile search for them. The new owner of his home discovered that a rich diamond mine was located right there on the property. Conwell elaborates on the theme through examples of success, genius, service, or other virtues involving ordinary Americans contemporary to his audience: "dig in your own backyard!".
In A People's History of the United States, historian Howard Zinn comments that the message was that anyone could get rich if they tried hard enough, while implying that Conwell held elitist attitudes by quoting the following from his speech:
Conwell's capacity to establish Temple University and his other civic projects largely derived from the income that he earned from this speech. The book has been regarded as a classic of New Thought literature since the 1870s.
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Conwell's name lives on in the present-day Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (with campuses in South Hamilton and Boston, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina), an interdenominational evangelical theological seminary formed in 1969 by the merging of two former divinity schools, Conwell School of Theology of Temple University in Philadelphia and Gordon Divinity School in Wenham, Massachusetts.
The author Russell Conwell Hoban was named for him. A magnet middle school in Philadelphia bears his name as well. The school yearbook is titled "Acres of Diamonds," and has also been known to reference its students by the title, "Acres of Diamonds".[importance?] Temple University's football team also wear diamond decals on their helmets and diamond trim on their collars to reference Conwell's "Acre of Diamonds" speech.
- Find-A-Grave profile for Russell Herman Conwell
- John Wimmers, "Conwell, Russell Herman," American National Biography Online, Accessed September 2008
- Conwell, Russell (Sunday Morning, December 1, 1912). THE HISTORY OF FIFTY-SEVEN CENTS (Speech). Sermon. Grace Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA. http://library.temple.edu/collections/scrc/hattie. Retrieved April 2013.
- Ellwood, R.S. (1997) The fifties spiritual marketplace: American religion in a decade of conflict. Rutgers University Press, . p 225.
- A brief biography of Russell Hoban
- "Biography for Russell Hoban". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
- "Temple football enters first MAC season with strong recruits, new look". Temple University Communications. August 17, 2007. Retrieved 2013-05-05.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Russell Conwell|
- "Temple's founder" article at Temple University
- Complete text in paginated format
- Read "Acres of Diamonds" at Project Gutenberg
- Read "Acres of Diamonds" at Temple University website
- Read "The History of Fifty-Seven Cents" at Temple University Libraries
|New title||President of Temple University
Charles Ezra Beury