Hoar, Leonard, 1630?-1675

Alternative names
Birth 1630
Death 1675

Biographical notes:

Leonard Hoar (1630-1675) was the third President of Harvard College (1672-1675) and the first Harvard College graduate to assume the presidency.

Hoar was born in 1630 at Gloucestershire to Charles Hoare (d.1638) and Joanna (Hincksman) Hoare (d.1651). His father was a brewer, alderman, and sheriff, and his mother was a member of a prosperous Gloucestershire family. After the death of Charles in 1638, Joanna moved the family to Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in Braintree.

English-born but New England bred, Hoar received his Bachelor of Arts (1650) and his Master of Arts (1654) from Harvard College. In 1656 he returned to England and became the Rector of Wanstead in Essex. He married Bridget Lisle, daughter of Lord John Lisle and had two daughters. Hoar left his ministry in 1662 after he found himself at odds with the Anglican Church. Interested in scientific and medical studies, he returned to school and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Cambridge in 1671.

Hoar was chosen the President of Harvard College in 1672. At the time of Hoar's appointment, Harvard College was suffering through a period of decline. Very few students were attending the College, most of the buildings were in need of repair, and the Indian College was deserted. Hoar's goal upon assuming the presidency was to make Harvard College a center of scientific research in the New World and rededicate the College to the advancement of learning.

Unfortunately, disaffection between Hoar and his teaching fellows and students doomed his presidency from the start. Strict and exacting with students and overbearing and rough with younger associates, Hoar lost the support of College officials. When he had a student whipped for a misdeed, the entire student body walked out of school. Four teachers resigned. Very few students returned to the College after the 1674 commencement. As a result, the General Court of Massachusetts declared the College in a languishing and decaying state, accusing Hoar of hindering the development of the school. On March 15, 1675, Hoar turned in his resignation. By this time Harvard College had pretty much shut its doors and there were very few students on campus.

With his ideals and hopes crushed, Hoar's demise broke his spirit and he became ill shortly after his resignation. He died in November 1675 a disillusioned man. He was buried in Braintree (now Quincy), at the age of 45.

Although his term of office was brief, Hoar left behind the Harvard College tradition of issuing a catalogue of Harvard College graduates. In the seventeenth century, no university in the world had attempted to publish the names of alumni in a catalogue. This catalogue, eventually known as The Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Harvard University, was continued until 1930.

In 1976, 301 years after Leonard Hoar's resignation, the Massachusetts State Senate rehabilitated Hoar's reputation by passing a resolution proclaiming and confirming Hoar's innocence of any wrongdoing or misdeeds while president of Harvard College.

From the description of Massachusetts Senate Resolution, 1976. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 249204865


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