William Asa Finley served as the first president of Corvallis College from 1865 to 1872. He was appointed as president in 1865 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South and was president at the time the college was chosen as the agricultural college for Oregon under the provisions of the 1862 Morrill Act.
William A. Finley was born in 1839 and came west to California from Missouri in 1852 on a wagon train led by Benjamin Campbell, his uncle. He attended the University of the Pacific in Santa Clara for three years and then attended Pacific Methodist College in Vacaville for one year, receiving his A.M. degree in 1864. Finley was awarded an honorary D.D. degree by Wofford College of Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1871 just prior to the end of his presidency at Corvallis College.
Finley resigned in June 1872 due to his wife, Sarah's, failing health, at which point the couple returned to Santa Rosa, California. Beginning in late 1876 he served as the second president of Pacific Methodist College and later as president of the Santa Rosa Young Ladies College until 1889.
After retiring Finley returned to Corvallis College in 1884 to participate in the commencement ceremonies and to deliver the baccalaureate sermon. He continued his professional career until his death in California on July 19, 1912 at age 74.