Ivy League Universities: How they became what they are today

September 26, 2013 at 11:48 am 1 comment

Sam Operchuck

September 26th



            Ivy League refers to any of the eight universities originally founded in New England. All of these schools are now associated with high educational and economical prestige, but how did they grow to this point?


Harvard, the oldest and arguably by many the most recognizable of all the ivy league members, was founded in 1636. Harvard earned it’s name from their first benefactor: John Harvard who “upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution.” Harvard began with a mere nine students and a single headmaster, and has advanced to more than 20,000 degree candidates as well as “more than 360,000 living alumni in the U.S. and over 190 other countries.” Harvard was found based on extremely strong Christian roots. The early motto was “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” which translated reads “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Increase Mather, who took presidency of Harvard in 1692, planted many of Harvard’s incredibly strong Christian principles and teachings. During the years of the early classes, half of the graduates became ministers, however, by the 1760s the percentage had dropped significantly to 15%. Hints of secularization of the college began to surface after Increase Mather stepped down from his presidency of Harvard. “Secularization of the American university began with the takeover of Harvard by the Unitarians in 1805.” The college’s first liberal president was John Leverett who began his term in 1708. “Leverett, a religious liberal and a layman, set the college on its course away from Calvinist orthodoxy.”


Harvard’s biggest rival within the Ivy League, Yale University, is the third oldest in the league (founded in 1702), and similarly received it’s name from a benefactor: Elihu Yale, “A governer of the British East India Company” who donated “over 400 books, a portrait of King George I, and cloth goods that sold for 562 pounds.” Plans for Yale can be dated all the way back to 1656, but were suspended due to Charles II decree of forcing New Haven to unite with Connecticut. Yale’s purpose at it’s founding was to train political leaders and clergy of the colony of Connecticut. Abraham Pierson was Yale’s first president (or rector) and the college was ran out of his home “until his death in 1707, when it moved to Saybrook.” However, the college’s base was moved yet again in 1716 when New Haven’s citizens outbid all other communities both monetarily and in available land.   Another Yale president, Timothy Dwight the elder, appointed Benamin Silliman as the first science professor of America in 1802. Silliman developed a medical school in 1810 and “housed in the country’s first university art gallery in 1832; … founding a graduate school and scientific school in 1847.” By the 1850s Yale was the largest college in the country. Yale College was the first to award doctor of philosophy degrees in America in 1861. By 1887 Yale became “Yale university”. Then in 1892 women were admitted to the university, seven of whom received doctor of philosophy degrees in 1894.


Thus the heritage of these Ivy League members can be strongly attributed to their key role models and leaders. It is plain what influence their presidents had on them, and how it shaped them into where they are now. Unfortunately many Ivy League schools have pulled away from their Christian roots, similar to Harvard. It is also interesting to observe what incredible forward bounds these universities made in education and arts in fairly short amounts of time.




Unknown -http://www.america.edu/the_history_of_ivy_league_universities.html

Samuel Eliot Morison­ – The Founding of Harvard College (1935) p. 300

April 6th 2008, http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0100_Christianity_in_U.S..html

Barrett Wendell, Cotton Mather, the Puritan priest (1897) p 35



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Social classes History of Ivy League schools.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. lindseyleigh8282  |  September 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    That’s pretty sad that something started as a Christian college is now so liberal.


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