Richard W. Silvester (b. 1857) served as president from 1892 to 1912. Silvester studied agriculture at the Virginia Military Institute and was principal of the Charlotte Hall Academy in St. Mary's County, Md., transforming it into a practical farmer's school.
He followed a program similar to Henry Alvord's, emphasizing vocational education. He lowered costs and reinstituted pre-collegiate courses. He also established short certificate courses for farmers and others who were unable to commit to a full four-year educational program. The curriculum focused on agriculture and engineering, de-emphasizing liberal arts. His tenure also saw the addition of seven new buildings.
In 1912, a devastating fire destroyed the original college building known as the Barracks and the new administration building, and Silvester, discouraged by this loss and in ill health, resigned.