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William Rainey Harper, Class of  1870

William Rainey Harper
Dr. William Rainey Harper, one of America’s most outstanding educational reformers, was born in New Concord, Ohio.  He was a child prodigy, graduating from Muskingum College in 1870, shortly before his 14th birthday, and delivering his commencement oration in Hebrew. By the age of 19, he had gone on to Yale to collect a Ph.D. in Semitic languages, and had married the daughter of Muskingum’s president, the Rev. David Paul.

William Rainey Harper went on to found the University of Chicago, which was established largely through his efforts with funds supplied by John D. Rockefeller, Sr., who wrote to Dr. Harper, “I do not forget that the effort to establish the university grew out of your suggestion to me…..and I regard you as the father of this institution.”

Dr. Harper served the University of Chicago as its first president from 1891 until his death in 1906. Previously, he was a member of the Yale University faculty for a number of years and held the rank of a full professor at the age of 29.

William Rainey Harper College in Illinois named for this educational crusader. His log cabin birthplace stands on New Concord’s Main Street.