Yale University

views updated May 23 2018


YALE UNIVERSITY, an educational institution founded in 1701 as the result of a conservative reaction by Congregationalist leaders weary of what they identified as the increasing departure of Harvard College from its Calvinist heritage. Today, Yale consists of twelve graduate schools and Yale College, approximately 5,300 students who makeup the undergraduate arts and sciences division of the university. Approximately 975 full-time faculty instruct students in bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs.

Like much of its earliest history, the date of Yale's founding is open to debate. Given the extant records, some place the date as 15 or 16 October 1701, when the Connecticut General Assembly approved a petition drafted by area clerics entitled "An Act for the Liberty to Erect a Collegiate School." This would-be charter of the "Collegiate School" presented the ministers with the charge of educating men "fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State." With the petition approved, several ministers, among them James Pierpont of New Haven, Thomas Buckingham of Saybrook, Israel Chancy of Stratford, and Joseph Webb of Fairfield, met in Saybrook, Connecticut, on 11 November 1701, the other date offered as the founding, to plan a school for these stated purposes. With the exception of Gurdon Saltonstall, an advisor to Fitz-John Winthrop, soon-to-be governor of Connecticut, and the only founder not to be ordained, none of the careers of the men gathered at this event were, as the historian Brooks Mather Kelley remarked, "especially striking." There were other similarities as well. All but one were residents of Connecticut or Massachusetts and graduates of Harvard College. During this time the school remained little more than a proposal among a handful of clerics.

The following year, however, these designs turned into reality. Fifty-six year old Abraham Pierson, a minister in Killingworth, Connecticut, was appointed the first rector of the college. His first student was Jacob Heminway of East Haven, Connecticut, who began attending class in March 1702. Classes were held in the rectory of Pierson's church, with the first commencement taking place on 16 September 1702. With little fanfare the ceremony was held in the home of the Reverend Thomas Buckingham of Saybrook. Nathaniel Chauncey was the school's first graduate, receiving his master's degree. Chauncey was joined by four graduates of Harvard who were also conferred with M.A. degrees at this time. The following year, John Hart of Farmington, Connecticut, became the first candidate to officially receive a bachelor's degree from the school.

During its first several decades of service, the institution faced constant uncertainty. Despite the support of area residents and the Connecticut legislature, the school struggled financially. Student enrollment, a primary source of income, fluctuated from year to year, with as many as nine members in the class of 1714, followed by only three students in the class of 1715. Student discipline was also an early concern and was likely due, in part, to the age of incoming freshmen, who typically entered school at sixteen. Another obstacle in these initial educational efforts was the institution's library, which consisted of considerably dated works. These problems were further compounded by the debate among trustees concerning the location of the school. From 1701 to 1717, the college held its classes in numerous parsonages throughout Connecticut, including Hartford, Milford, New Haven, and Saybrook. It was not until 8 October 1717 that the college constructed its first building in New Haven. This ultimately settled a long-standing dispute among trustees as to where to permanently locate the school. Other developments at this time forever changed the institution's history.

In seeking greater financial stability for the college, Cotton Mather, alienated by the direction of Harvard's educational efforts, was asked to work on behalf of the Connecticut school. Mather wrote Elihu Yale, an employee of the East India Company who was appointed governor of Madras in 1687, asking for a charitable donation to the school. Yale eventually succumbed to Mather's requests, donating both money and personal effects to the college. In honor of this gift, the school named its first and only building after Yale. This situation, however, led to some confusion concerning the relationship between the name of the school and its lone building. Between 1718 and 1719 the names "Collegiate School" and "Yale College" were used interchangeably. By the spring of 1720, however, trustees referred to the school as Yale College in their letterhead, and the name appears to have quickly replaced the initial designation.

Enthusiasm for the Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century swept across the Yale campus leaving an indelible mark on the school. New Light preaching, calling people to repent while emphasizing a conversion experience as a sign of faith, flew in the face of Yale's new rector Thomas Clap, a conservative Congregationalist. The administration and student body clashed over theology on several fronts, with some students denied their degrees for propagating revivalism. In 1742 the situation became acute. Students refused discipline and religious instruction from those faculty they perceived to be unconverted. As a result, Clap closed the college, sending students home until the following academic term.

The late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed Yale's growth from a fledgling, largely sectarian, school to a prominent university. During Ezra Stiles's presidency (1777–1793) changes were made to broaden the curriculum by introducing English, literature, and theater as subjects of study. Enrollments increased during these years averaging approximately 140 students at the college each year. Under the leadership of Timothy Dwight (1795–1817), Jeremiah Day (1817–1846), and Theodore Dwight Woolsey (1846–1871), the student population continued to grow as the foundation was laid to build the college into a premiere national educational institution. Two developments, the scientific method and the appointment of faculty to shaping the curriculum of their particular field, played a major role in Yale's pedagogical maturation. The first of what would become professional schools at Yale was also established at this time with the founding of the Medical Institution at Yale in 1810 and the Divinity School in 1832. In 1847, the department of philosophy and arts was established from which would emerge the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The nation's first art museum associated with an institution of higher education was also founded at this time.

In 1886 the Yale Corporation approved president Timothy Dwight's plan to change the name of the institution from Yale College to Yale University. In May 1887, this change was made legal, and Yale College became an undergraduate liberal arts department of Yale University. This name change more accurately reflected the academic life of the institution and mirrored the changes in higher education taking place in the late-nineteenth century. It was during the first half of the twentieth century that the institution began to truly reflect its university status. By 1920 its physical plant numbered over forty buildings and its endowment had grown to $25.5 million. Moreover, monetary power was taken away from its old constituent parts and concentrated in the university. With these changes Yale was able to attract and retain leading scholars, making it a world-renowned institution. Despite two wars and financial setbacks at times, Yale University continued to expand and diversify under the leadership of A. Whitney Griswold (1950–1963). Under Griswold, women were first admitted to Yale College in 1969, making the university truly modern.


Kelley, Brooks Mather. Yale: A History. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1974.

Pierson, George Wilson. The Founding of Yale: The Legend of the Forty Folios. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.

Stevenson, Louise L. Scholarly Means to Evangelical Ends: The New Haven Scholars and the Transformation of Higher Learning in America, 1830–1890. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Warch, Richard. School of the Prophets: Yale College, 1701–1740. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1973.

Kent A.McConnell

See alsoEducation, Higher: Colleges and Universities ; Ivy League ; New Lights .

Yale University

views updated May 09 2018


Yale University, a private institution, is situated in New Haven, Connecticut. Its library of more than 10 million volumes is the second largest university library and third largest library system in the United States. The Yale Center for British Art (1977) holds the largest collection of British art and illustrated books outside the United Kingdom. Yale College provides a liberal arts education in which undergraduate students explore a variety of fields and obtain a wide cultural background. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the ten professional schoolsarchitecture, art, divinity, drama, forestry and environmental studies, law, management, medicine, music, and nursingaward master's, doctoral, and professional degrees.

Historian Franklin Dexter chronicles that in 1701 ten Connecticut ministers obtained a colony charter "to Erect a Collegiate School" whose mission was to instruct youth in the arts and sciences and fit them "for Publick employment both in Church & Civil State" (pp. 2021). In 1716 the college was moved from Saybrook to New Haven, and in 1718 when Elihu Yale, an Englishman with New Haven ties, donated books and saleable goods the college was named after him. The early curriculum consisted of traditional liberal arts studies and strict Congregational instruction, and most graduates became ministers. By the 1770s the students were entering other fields and actively supported the American revolutionary cause. In 1802 President Timothy Dwight (17951817) advanced the sciences by appointing Benjamin Silliman the first science professor in America.

Over the next half century Silliman developed the arts and sciences, establishing a medical school in 1810, the first university art gallery in 1832, and the first American graduate school and scientific school in 1846. In 1852 the engineering school and the bachelor of philosophy degrees were instituted, and science instruction was consolidated into the Sheffield Scientific School in 1861. Graduate education was formalized in America when Yale awarded the first doctor of philosophy degrees in 1861. In 1876 Yale awarded the first American doctorate to an African American, physics student Edward Bouchet. The college continued to maintain its liberal arts tradition as affirmed in its 1828 Report on the Course of Instruction, a landmark document in nineteenth-century education.

In the 1820s the divinity and law schools were established, and by mid-century Yale was the largest U.S. college. The first university art school, Yale's first coeducational school, was founded in 1869. In the 1870s, the Peabody Museum opened to exhibit the first dinosaur bones and fossils collected by Professor Othniel C. Marsh on Western expeditions. The college became Yale University in 1888, and women were admitted to the graduate school in 1892. In 1900, Gifford Pinchot established the oldest continuously operating forestry school in America.

American college sports and traditions were largely developed at Yale, beginning with rowing in 1843. Yale's greatest sports contributions have been in the invention of American football by Walter Camp, and in developing the sports of swimming, baseball, basketball, golf, and boxing.

Yale's distinguished professors, such as Josiah Willard Gibbs, Irving Fisher, and William Graham Sumner, earned international reputations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the first quarter of the twentieth century Yale made further advances in the education of women, admitting them to the schools of medicine in 1916 and law in 1919, and establishing the first academic nursing school in 1923. President James Rowland Angell's administration (19211937) was marked by extensive development of the graduate and professional schools as well as the college. Gifts of John W. Sterling and the Harkness family enabled Yale to reform its educational system, rebuild its campus, and broaden its educational mission. One of the most significant features, the undergraduate residential college system, was instituted in 1933. The twelve colleges are separate entities designed to give the students of a sense of belonging to and participating in smaller groups. In the 1950s, President A. Whitney Griswold (19501963) strengthened the liberal arts educational mission of Yale and modernized its architectural appearance. Under President Kingman Brewster (19631977), Yale became more democratic and diverse, and women were admitted to Yale College in 1969. The School of Management was established in 1973. As New Haven's largest employer, Yale, under president Richard C. Levin (1993), is strongly committed to working with the city in developing mutually beneficial educational, cultural, and economic projects.

See also: Higher Education in the United States, subentry on Historical Development; Research Universities.


Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, ed. 1916. Documentary History of Yale University, under the Original Charter of the Collegiate School of Connecticut, 17011745. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kelley, Brooks Mather. 1974. Yale: A History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Pierson, George W. 1952. Yale: An Educational History 18711921. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Pierson, George W. 1955. Yale: The University College 19211937. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Pierson, George W. 1979. Yale: A Short History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Reports on the Course of Instruction in Yale College; By a Committee of the Corporation and the Academical Faculty. 1828. New Haven, CT: H. Howe.

internet resource

Yale University. 2002. "Factsheet: Some Facts and Statistics about Yale University." 2002. <www.yale.edu/oir/factsheet.html>.

Judith Ann Schiff

Yale University

views updated Jun 27 2018

Yale University Institute of higher education, in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Founded in 1701, its current charter dates from 1745. It is a member of the Ivy League.