John Wheelock (1754–1817) - American Education
American educator who succeeded his father, the founder and first president of Dartmouth College, to the presidency of that institution in 1779. Born in Lebanon, Connecticut, where his father had opened his first school and had taught and converted Indians to Christianity, the young Wheelock was educated by his father and, after attending Yale, transferred to Hanover to become a member of the first graduating class at Dartmouth, in 1771. He became a tutor at Dartmouth, then sewed in the New Hampshire Assembly and joined the Continental Army in 1777, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
During the first 25 years of his presidency he achieved noteworthy success by expanding the institution’s physical plant and curriculum, by raising considerable funds, by reviving his father’s program of educating Indians and by lecturing and conducting prayer services. In 1798, he founded the medical school. Unfortunately, his virtually lifelong relationship with Dartmouth began to unravel bitterly in 1815, when his largely Federalist board of trustees dismissed him in a power struggle over pedagogical and administrative policies.
He appealed to the Democratic state legislature, and in 1816 a Democratic legislature declared the charter issued by George III invalid and replaced it with a new one, naming a new board and reinstating Wheelock. The old board sued and, after it lost its case in a state court, obtained the services of Daniel Webster and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1819, the Court ruled that Dartmouth was a “private eleemosynary corporation” and that its charter issued by the English Crown was a valid contract. It ruled the New Hampshire law reinstating Wheelock a violation of Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution, forbidding any state legislation that impairs a contractual obligation. The decision restored the original board to power, but by then Wheelock had died.