Among the first students at the Western University was Wilkins Tannehill, who referred to himself as a “backwoodsman” and whose Sketches of the History of Literature from the Earliest Period to the Revival of Letters in the Fifteenth Century was published in 1827. Tannehill served as Mayor of Nashville from 1825 to 1827. He was grandmaster of the Masons of Tennessee and raised money for a number of small Masonic colleges.
Thomas Mellon, the founder of the Mellon Bank and the patriarch of the Pittsburgh Mellons, was a student at the Western University from 1834 to 1837. In his autobiography, Thomas Mellon and His Times, he remarked, “An excellent literary society, ‘the Tilghman,’ possessed of a fair library, was attached to the college, and to its weekly exercises I feel that I owe nearly as much in the way of educational advantages as to my college studies.”