American Colleges Abroad

  • Overseas
  • 1863

The growing popularity of overseas missions spurred significant private giving by Americans in the later 1800s. These gifts exported American-style schools, colleges, hospitals, and public works overseas, and sustained the many thousands of missionaries who manned these projects. The first American-style overseas college created in this way was Robert College, set up in Istanbul in 1863. It was named for New York philanthropist Christopher Robert, who poured $600,000 into it, and run by missionary Cyrus Hamlin. Other New York donors like the Dodge and Huntington families also supported the school, allowing it to add degrees and serve both male and female students, a groundbreaking practice at that time and place.

With organizing help from groups like the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, other similar institutions followed—like Syrian Protestant College founded in 1866 with a substantial endowment provided by U.S. donors. Its medical school was planned from the beginning to be one of its central features. It is now known as the American University of Beirut. These institutions produced many important alumni over the years.