From the letters sent by Tourgée to Emma, it appears that he thoroughly enjoyed his time at the University of Rochester. He seemed to take his studies seriously, and was involved in a number of activities.
A July 1860 program lists Tourgée as contributing a poem for the Class Day Exercises.
Tourgée is identified in the University of Rochester Archives as one of the organizers of a student "Wide Awake” club on campus. The Wide Awakes were organizations across the country comprised mostly of groups of young, single men who supported Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election.
Almost as much a social as political organization, the Wide Awakes supported preservation of the Union and the Republican Party.
The Library of Congress has many materials relating to the operations of various Wide Awakes clubs across the country. According to the University of Rochester Archives, President Martin B. Anderson, described as a political moderate, initially was strongly opposed to the rallies and parades of the Wide Awakes on campus, but eventually relented as the fears of Southern secession and armed conflict became more widespread.
Even after he left the University to enlist, and never to return, Tourgée maintained a lifelong contact with Anderson. Some of that correspondence can be found in the Tourgée Papers as well as in the University of Rochester Archives as part of the Martin B. Anderson Papers.