Timothy Dwight IV

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Timothy Dwight (May 14, 1752 – January 11, 1817) was an American academic and educator, a Congregationalist minister, theologian, and author. He was the eighth president of Yale College (1795–1817).[1]


Early life

Dwight was the eldest son of merchant and farmer Timothy Dwight III (a graduate of Yale (1744) of Northampton, Massachusetts. The Dwight family had a long association with Yale College, as it was then known.[2] His father was also a major in the Continental Army and served under George Washington. His mother was the third daughter of theologian Jonathan Edwards. He was remarkably precocious, and is said to have learned the alphabet at a single lesson, and to have been able to read the Bible before he was four years old.

Dwight graduated from Yale in 1769. For two years, he was rector of the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut. He was a tutor at Yale College from 1771 to 1777. Licensed to preach in 1777, he was appointed by Congress chaplain in General Samuel Holden Parsons's Connecticut Continental Brigade. He served with distinction, inspiring the troops with his sermons and the stirring war songs he composed, the most famous of which is "Columbia".

In 1777, Dwight married Mary Woolsey (1754–1777), the daughter of New York merchant and banker Benjamin Woolsey (1720–1771). This marriage connected him to some of New York's wealthiest and most influential families. Woolsey had been Dwight's father's Yale classmate, roommate, and intimate friend.

On news of his father's death in the fall of 1778, he resigned his commission and returned to take charge of his family in Northampton. Besides managing the family's farms, he preached and taught, establishing a school for both sexes. During this period, he served two terms in the Massachusetts legislature.


Dwight first came to public attention with his Yale College "Valedictory Address" of 1776, in which he described Americans as having a unique national identity as a new "people, who have the same religion, the same manners, the same interests, the same language, and the same essential forms and principles of civic government." [3]

Declining calls from churches in Beverly and Charlestown, he chose instead to settle from 1783 until 1795 as minister in "Greenfield Hill," a congregational church in Fairfield, Connecticut. There he established an academy, which at once acquired a high reputation, and attracted pupils from all parts of the Union. Dwight was an innovative and inspiring teacher, preferring moral suasion over the corporal punishment favored by most schoolmasters of the day.

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