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Christian Origins of Top Nine Colleges

Many people do not associate higher education with Christianity, what with all the state universities. But the nine oldest universities in the country all had Christian origins. The following information includes the date they were initiated and a quote from each school’s website.

Harvard University (1636): "Established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was named for its first benefactor, John Harvard . . . a young minister who . . . left his library and half his estate to the new institution. . . . An early brochure . . . justified the College’s existence: "To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches."

The College of William and Mary (1693): "1690: The clergy of the Church of England in Virginia adopted at a convention "Several Propositions" for founding a college. . . . 1691, May: The Reverend James Blair . . . was issued instructions by the General Assembly for the founding of a college, and was sent to England to present a request to the King and Queen to grant a charter for a college. 1693, February 8: King William III and Queen Mary II granted a charter to establish The College of William and Mary and Virginia."

Yale University (1701): "Yale’s roots can be traced back to the 1640s, when colonial clergymen led an effort to establish a college . . . [A] charter was granted for a school ‘wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State.’"

Princeton University (1746): "Princeton University was founded in 1746 . . . the result of a charter issued by John Hamilton, acting governor of the province, to the College’s board of trustees, whose members were leaders in the Presbyterian Church. They organized the College to train students, ‘different sentiments in religion not withstanding.’"

Columbia University (1754): "Columbia University was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. . . . Controversy preceded the founding of the College, with various groups competing to determine its location and religious affiliation. Advocates of New York City met with success on the first point, while the Anglicans prevailed on the latter."

University of Pennsylvania (1740/1757): "The Charity School of Philadelphia owes its existence to the vision and efforts of Reverend George Whitefield. . . . In 1740 his followers in Philadelphia began the building of a church and charity school in the city, but . . . Whitefield’s followers did not have the resources to complete the building. In 1749, when Benjamin Franklin was searching for a site for his proposed Academy, he convinced the trustees to purchase the Whitefield building . . . [William Smith] was ordained as a Church of England clergyman immediately before his 1754 election as a professor at the Academy." The next year Smith became the school’s first provost [think "President"].

Brown University (1764): "Brown was the Baptist answer to Congregationalist Yale and Harvard; Presbyterian Princeton; and Episcopalian Penn and Columbia."

Rutgers University (1766): "Established to train young men for the ministry in the Dutch Reformed church."

Dartmouth College (1769): "The Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, founded Dartmouth College in 1769."

©2007 Mark Nickens

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