Professor Gregory Hayes (1862-1906) succeeded Morris in 1891. Hayes had attended divinity school at Oberlin College and was one of Oberlin’s first black graduates. Before becoming president of the Seminary, he taught history and mathematics at the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute.
Hayes was known as one of the foremost black leaders at the beginning of the twentieth century. His philosophy of self-sufficiency and his concern for black self-esteem guided his administration of Virginia Seminary. Against the wishes of the Home Mission Society, a significant financial contributor, Hayes was determined to make the Seminary an institution of higher education that would offer a liberal arts curriculum along with theological and teacher training and college preparatory work. He hired an all-black faculty and restored the ideal of black control under which the Seminary had been founded. Under his leadership enrollment reached 408.