Early American Colleges

  • Education
  • 1636

Education philanthropy in the United States is much older than our country. The New College was founded in 1636 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and renamed in 1639 after a young minister from Charlestown named John Harvard left his library and half of his estate to the fledgling school upon his death. The ensuing century saw the rise of numerous privately supported schools that would train the religious, political, and commercial leaders of a nation striving toward independence: the College of William & Mary (1693), King William’s School (1696, which evolved into St. John’s College), Yale College (1701), King’s College (1746, reopened after the Revolution as Columbia University), College of New Jersey (1747, eventually Princeton University), the Academy of Pennsylvania (1749, later known as the University of Pennsylvania). Beginning almost a century and a half before we existed as a nation, America’s tradition of faithful education philanthropy dedicated to the common good helped establish the foundations for our success as the world’s first modern democracy.