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A devout Methodist, Munsell began a career practicing law in 1846, but immediately decided that preaching was more to his liking. He became a licensed preacher that same year and joined the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church. After serving as principal at two seminary schools, he was elected president of Illinois Wesleyan University in 1857 — a dubious honor at best, as the school’s doors had been shuttered due to financial difficulties. Though the university prospered in many ways during his 16-year presidency, he was forced to resign in 1873 amid allegations that he had been “overly familiar” with several of the female students.