Yale College (and University) - American Education
The third oldest institution of higher education in the United States, after Harvard College and the College of William and Mary. Founded in 1701 as the Collegiate School, in Branford, Connecticut, it granted its first bachelor of arts degree in 1703 and moved to Saybrook (now, Old Saybrook), Connecticut, four years later. Like Harvard, Yale was a divinity school dedicated to the training of Congregationalist ministers who would perpetuate the Puritanism of their forebears. At the time, the colonies were suffering an acute shortage of ministers to serve their burgeoning populations, and the Connecticut population was growing especially quickly. The Puritans were a minority in England and could ill afford to send their pastors to the colonies, and Harvard was no longer able to supply the growing demand. Moreover, Harvard had become somewhat suspect for its religious liberalism. Clearly, Connecticut needed its own divinity school, and Yale was founded expressly for the “upholding and propagating of the Christian Protestant religion by a succession of learned and orthodox men.”
In 1716, the college moved to New Haven, and two years later changed its name to Yale in honor of the Boston-born merchant ELIHU YALE, who gave the college the largest gift it would receive until 1837, in the form of a sizable library and other goods. Together, Harvard and Yale supplied the colonies with 850 ministers between 1701 and 1740. By mid-century, however, a growing number of Yale students were enrolling simply to take advantage of the education there: During the 1760s, only one-third of Yale’s graduates entered the ministry, compared to well over half during the early part of the century. Class size seldom exceeded 30 students, but the proportion of ministers emerging was nevertheless declining, while the number of future physicians and lawyers was increasing—as it was at Harvard and other colleges that had started as divinity schools.
In the 1760s, Yale students were swept up in the fervor for national independence. After weeks of rioting, they forced the president of Yale to resign and the trustees to replace him with a professor more devoted to national independence than to the church. By 1773, formal education all but ended at Yale (as well as at Harvard and Princeton), as students regularly boycotted, condemned and burned British effigies and crates of tea. By 1776, patriotic students, with the encouragement of acting president Naphthali Daggett, a popular divinity professor, controlled the institution, and a year later, the Rev. EZRA STILES, an ardent advocate of independence, was named president. By 1779, the faculty and students were engaged in the defense of New Haven against a British invasion, with Professor Daggett, armed with only a “fowling piece,” emerging a hero by singlehandedly fending off an attack by a detachment of British regulars.
Yale reemerged as a leader in higher education in the years from 1795 to 1817, when its president, Timothy Dwight, established Yale’s first professional schools (including the medical school, in 1813) and converted the college into a university. By 1820, Yale was the country’s largest and most influential college, with the most geographically diverse student body. Its graduates were founding new colleges and extending Yale’s influence over higher education across the nation. In the forefront of the trend toward departmentalization, Yale officials grew somewhat alarmed by the increased introduction of nonacademic subjects such as mechanics and agriculture into higher education. With the famous Yale Report of 1828, they helped shape the curricula of American colleges and universities for the next 30 years, until the establishment of the first public landgrant colleges and state universities after the Civil War. The report urged traditional colleges and universities to limit their curricula to liberal arts programs and allow scientific and technical institutes and professional schools to teach engineering and other specialized subjects. It said the object of a college was “to lay the foundation of a superior education.” It called the “study of the classics . . . the most effectual discipline of the mental faculties.”
The emergence of land-grant institutions of higher education and the spread of public education undermined Yale’s status as a pioneer educational institution during the latter half of the 19th century, although its graduates continued to exert influence in education, as well as in the arts, industry and government. In its first two centuries of existence, its graduates included Nathan Hale, Jonathan Edwards, NOAH WEBSTER, James Fenimore Cooper, Eli Whitney, Samuel F. B. Morse and William Howard Taft, along with a legion of men who headed schools and colleges that would grow into some of the nation’s leading educational institutions.
During the second half of the 19th century, however, it was Yale’s arch-rival Harvard that pioneered the major advances in private higher education. After Charles Eliot had made Harvard the model of the modern university at the turn of the century, Yale followed suit, and, along with Harvard, it remains one of the world’s foremost universities. In addition to its undergraduate college of about 5,300 students, Yale boasts some of the nation’s foremost graduate schools of medicine, law, architecture, art, drama, music, forestry, business and divinity. Its 43 libraries hold about 11 million volumes, and the Yale University Art Gallery is the nation’s oldest college-affiliated art museum. The Yale Center for British Art houses the largest collection of British art in the world outside of England, and the extraordinary Museum of Musical Instruments contains more than 800 rare instruments.