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The Wheelock Succession of Dartmouth Presidents


Eleazar Wheelock

Eleazar Wheelock, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, founded Dartmouth College in 1769 and served as its first president. The last of the Colonial colleges, Dartmouth was established by a charter granted by King George III, with funds from the second Earl of Dartmouth and others and a grant of land from John Wentworth, Royal Governor of the Province of New Hampshire. Wheelock had earlier established Moor's Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, to provide education to young American Indian men and train them for missionary work. Hoping to expand his school into a college, but unable to gain a charter in Connecticut, Wheelock looked to the north, where settlements were growing and, with them, the need for educational institutions. Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian and one of Wheelock's first students, was instrumental in making Wheelock's dream a reality by raising funds and goodwill from English and Scottish missionary organizations.

A major figure in the first Great Awakening, Wheelock was a visionary and a preacher of some renown, a career he continued at Dartmouth where, in addition to President, he was also Trustee, Professor of Divinity and Minister of the College Church. Devoted to the College he had carved out of the wilderness, Wheelock was also thoroughly practical and throughout the difficult years of the Revolutionary War forged the political alliances and raised the funds necessary to keep the fledgling enterprise open. Largely because of his efforts, Dartmouth is one of the few American colleges to have continually graduated a class since 1771.

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Last Updated: 6/25/09