Calvin Pease was born in Canaan, Conn., on August 12, 1813, the fifth child in a family that claimed New England Puritan ancestry. Pease was raised as the middle child in a flock of nine sons and one daughter. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Huntington, his father, Salmon, was a farmer. In 1826, the family moved to Charlotte, Vt., where Pease worked on his father's farm and attended the common school before enrolling in the Hinesburg Academy in 1832. In the following year, he entered the University of Vermont and under the sway of the religious enthusiasm of the Second Great Awakening, pursued a course in theology. He was a distinguished scholar, standing first in his class at the time of his graduation in 1838. In 1851, Pease was licensed to preach by the Winooski Association of Congregational Ministers and embarked on a ministerial career characterized by an adherence to Calvinistic orthodoxy.
For four years following his graduation from the University of Vermont, Pease acted as principal of an academy in the state capital of Montpelier. While there, he met Martha Howes (1823-1903), and one year after he was elected to the Professorship of Greek and Latin languages at the University of Vermont (1842), the couple were married.
A brilliant philologist, Pease became well known for conscientious linguistic accuracy in his instruction. He was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Middlebury College in 1855, and the next year he was selected as president of the University of Vermont -- the first alumnus and first University of Vermont professor to rise to the office. Throughout his tenure, Pease emphasized the merits of the classical curriculum, and as a member of the State Board of Education and President of the Vermont Teachers' Association, he took an active role in shaping state educational policy. Amid all this activity, he continued with an active scholarly career, regularly contributing to the Bibliotheca Sacra and publishing a large number of works, including The Import and Value of the Popular Lecturing of the Day (1842) and The Idea of the New England College and its power of culture (1856). He often preached in the college chapel, publishing several of his sermons, and his close interest in the personal welfare of each student made him one of the University's most revered presidents.
Calvin Pease labored to place the University on a firmer financial standing, and he guided it successfully through the monetary crisis of 1857-1858. With the onset of the Civil War, the University entered its most serious economic crisis due to a drastic reduction in enrollment. The roster of graduates shrank from 25 in 1861 to only 3 in 1866. At least 190 University students and alumni served in the Civil War, the greatest number (16) with the 1st Vermont Cavalry. The 1st Vermont fought in 75 battles and skirmishes, and lost 392 men out of 2,304 who passed through its ranks. In 1861, poor health and disputes over the curriculum led Pease to resign the presidency of the University and to accept the pastorship of the First Presbyterian Church of Rochester, N.Y. (1861-63).
A committed abolitionist, his first mention of slavery was in a sermon on April 4, 1850, when he delivered a stinging denunciation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Other recurring themes in his sermons were temperance, the duties of Christian citizens to state and nation, the unconditional authority of the Bible, and the attainment of personal holiness in this life. Pease died of dysentery in Burlington on September 17, 1863.