James Harris Fairchild was born on 25 November 1817 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Shortly after his birth his family moved to Ohio and settled on a farm near the present site of Oberlin College. In 1834 Fairchild entered the freshman class at Oberlin, supporting himself by working for five cents an hour in a sawmill. He received his BA in 1838, served as tutor of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew at Oberlin from 1839 to 1842, was professor of languages from 1842 to 1847, and became chair of mathematics and natural philosophy in 1847. In 1858 he was named professor of systematic theology and moral philosophy. Fairchild acquired a reputation as an able teacher and was admired by many. He was a trustee, faculty Chairman, and upon President Charles Finney's resignation, he was elected President in 1866. Oberlin was having financial problems and had only nine professors. In 1889 when he stepped down from the presidency, the college had twenty-three professors, a property value of one million dollars, and a reputation as a leading college. Fairchild traveled to Palestine, Egypt, and Europe in 1871, and in 1884 to Hawaii. He continued to teach as professor of theology until 1898 and as professor emeritus until his death. Fairchild died on 19 March 1902 in Oberlin, Ohio.
From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.