Jonathan Edwards

The 2nd president of Union College

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (1745 – 1801)
(Union College Permanent Collection)

Term: 1799-1801
Academic credentials: B.A., Princeton University

The Old Schenectady Academy building, which still housed the College was illuminated the night that Edwards, the son of the famous theologian, arrived in late July 1799. The institution's greatest need at that time was to fund the completion of a new stone building.

Edwards successfully lobbied the state legislature for contributions, but they were insufficient to complete the building. Internally, he concerned himself with the moral and intellectual life of students. Under his leadership, the faculty extended required attendance at morning and evening prayers from weekdays only to a full seven days and added Saturday morning classes to the schedule.

In response to a resolution the trustees passed a few months before Edwards' arrival, the new president added to the curriculum a weekly class in English that focused on writing and public speaking.

In the spring of 1800, presumably on Edwards' recommendation, the rules against playing billiards or gambling were strengthened, and keeping wine or spirituous liquors in rooms was forbidden. To permit more thorough examinations, the spring examination period was extended from three days to four.

On the second anniversary of his arrival at Union, President Edwards fell ill of an “intermitting fever of the regular type.” He died a few days later and is buried in the cemetery of Schenectady’s First Presbyterian Church.

From the "Encyclopedia of Union College History"

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