Harper, William Rainey, 1856-1906

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Noted academic who helped to organize the University of Chicago and Bradley University, and served as the first President of both institutions.

From the description of William R. Harper letter to Prof. H. H. Boyesen [manuscript], 1891 Feb 26. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 420487062

Born in New Concord, Ohio; graduated from Muskingum College at age 14; earned a Ph. D. at Yale; teacher, Hebraist, and educator; became first president of the University of Chicago in 1892, and remained president of the university until his death.

From the description of William Rainey Harper collection, 1883-2001. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70968147

Epithet: President of Chicago University

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000132.0x000345

Professor and head, Department of Semitic Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago, 1891-1906. President, 1891-1906.

From the description of Papers, 1872-1938 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52246188

William Rainey Harper (1856 -1906) was the first president of the University of Chicago, from 1891 to 1906. Born on July 24,1856, Harper was the son of Samuel Harper and Ellen Elizabeth Rainey. An excellent student, Harper learned Hebrew at an early age and received his B.A. from Muskingum College at fourteen. After working for a few years in his family's store, in 1873 he went on to graduate work at Yale. There he studied philology, concentrating particularly on Hebrew. His dissertation was entitled, ";A Comparative Study Prepositions in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Gothic. Harper earned his Ph.D. in two years, graduating just before his nineteenth birthday.

In 1875, Harper married Ella Paul and they moved to Macon, Tennessee where Harper had found a position as the head of Masonic College. This was the first of several positions, including Denison University, Baptist Union Theological Seminary and Chautauque Institution, he held before returning to Yale in 1886 to teach Hebrew in the Semitic Languages department and the Divinity School.

Harper remained at Yale for only a few years. He had already been a member of the faculty at the Baptist Union Theological Seminary in Morgan Park, Illinois, where he had taught Hebrew. Before leaving, he had been offered the presidency of the failing old University of Chicago, so when the American Baptist Educational Society formed and decided to organize a midwestern Baptist university, Harper was invited to join the organizational committee. With the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, a board of trustees was formed and they soon nominated Harper for the presidency. On February 16, 1891, after lengthy negotiations, he accepted the presidency of the new University of Chicago.

Even before his official acceptance of the presidency, Harper was planning. Although originally envisioned as a Baptist, undergraduate college for the midwest, Harper had bigger ideas. Instead of merely an undergraduate institution Harper wanted to promote his ideal of higher education with a combination of undergraduate teaching and strong support for research. Also part of this plan was a continuation of the kind of correspondence education he had developed at the Baptist Union Theological Seminary and Yale. With this in mind, he began an intensive period of recruitment and building. Harper worked tirelessly to recruit first class faculty and raise money for his institution. He brought in faculty from a range of fields and institutions, using his persuasive skills and tenacity, as well as promises of time for research, to convince them to join the new university.

Eventually, the university came to include graduate degree programs, adult education programs, athletics, a university press and extension services. These were in addition to the undergraduate college. It was formed according to the plan of two years of general study of the classics followed by two years of greater specialization. Harper himself taught in the Department of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Despite the burden of administrative activities, Harper was the chair of his department as well as president, he felt it was important to teach. Even with this interest in teaching, a key part of Harper's vision of higher education was research and scholarship. Harper wanted his senior faculty to have ample time and freedom to pursue their research interests as well as teach. This emphasis on research was somewhat novel at the time, but Harper was able to exploit the absence of traditional constraints in forming a new university in order to give research and scholarship a central role.

When he was not occupied with his educational plan, Harper was raising money and soliciting donations, especially from John D. Rockefeller. In addition to the recruitment of faculty and the organization of programs of study, there were buildings to be built and academic ceremonies to be held. During all this activity Harper continued to write, producing biblical commentaries and other works, and maintaining a passionate interest in sports. He never stopped planning for the future and continued to expand the university and include new programs and schools over the following years. This caused problems in budgeting, however, and Harper ran up large deficits in his fifteen years in the presidency. These financial problems would not be addressed until Harry Pratt Judson was appointed president after Harper.

In 1905, Harper became ill. Although he continued to work and teach throughout the period of his illness, Harper died on January 10, 1906. He left behind the foundations of the University of Chicago, which would continue to grow and change after his death, but never lose his emphasis on a combination of undergraduate education and scholarly research.

Harper and his wife, Ella, had three sons, Samuel Northrup, Paul and Donald, and one daughter, Davida.

From the guide to the Harper, William Rainey. Papers, 1872-1938, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

The industrialist and philanthropist, John Davison Rockefeller's (8 July 1839-23 May 1937) practice of philanthropist giving is juxtaposed against his legacy as the founder of Standard Oil which dominated the oil industry and provided him with $900 million to share.

Born in Richford, New York, the son of William Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison, Rockefeller's family settled in Cleveland, Ohio in 1855. Rockefeller's father, a hardworking business man who lent money and traded in lumber, salt, horses, medicines, etc., traveled a great deal and left John D. to care for the family. His mother, a devout Baptist, emphasized the virtues of discipline, thrift, handwork and proper moral conduct. Throughout his life Rockefeller would apply these values and would never exhibit ostentatious behavior in style or manner.

Graduated from Cleveland's Central High School Rockefeller enrolled in business course's in Folsom's Commercial College in the summer of 1855. By the spring of 1859 Rockefeller had determined to begin his own commission house with a $1000.00 loan at ten percent interest from his father. He and his partner, Maurice B. Clark, profited from the start and considerably more throughout the civil war.

In those years Rockefeller used his Baptist faith to guide his behavior and took a role of leadership in the Erie Street Baptist Church. Sharing his church duties was his wife Laura C. Spelman. The couple married 1864 and Spelman, a retired teacher, mothered three daughters and one son.

Rockefeller entered the oil industry in 1863 and consolidated the various companies and modes of transportation to form a formidable company. As the largest stockholder he amassed a personal wealth of $900 million by 1913. In this process he created the modern corporation by bringing stability to the emerging oil industry and instituting the board of corporate trustees. In 1911 Standard Oil could no longer resist the many court decisions regarding monopolies and struck by the Supreme Court's 1911 anti-trust act, the Standard Oil was dismantled to reform 38 companies. The stresses from his business life were so severe that by 1910 Rockefeller had lost all of his hair, including his eyelashes.

Rockefeller's philanthropic attention was pulled toward supporting and later establishing educational facilities in the Chicago area beginning in 1873. Through his association with Goodspeed and Harper he began donating to the Morgan Park Seminary. Goodspeed and his Baptist associate William T. Gates were able to convince Rockefeller to donate funds toward a college later to be expanded into a university. Rockefeller went to great lengths to procure the services of Harper for the Presidency of the future University of Chicago.

Although Rockefeller believed the college should be in the Midwest Goodspeed and Gates had to convince him that a large amount of funds were needed. Once it was determined that one million was the start up cost Rockefeller offered $400,000 and pleaded that he could not donate more due to other obligations. Gates convinced him that the fundraising must seem at least half completed in order to give heart to the remaining fund raising efforts. Within the first ten years Rockefeller donated $35 million to the University of Chicago with a strong faith in the three other university founders and he never directed how they should organize the university. He interfered only when felt they were not financially self sustaining. Rockefeller felt Harper had over reached the university's financial means and he stopped donating to the university in 1910. He returned to assisting the university in 1912 after it had ridded itself of its deficit.

Rockefeller has been criticized because the bulk of his philanthropic giving began after 1900. Prior to that he treated giving as a tithe. Rockefeller himself described the process of giving as a burden of decision making. He felt weighed down by the number of pleas for assistance that he received. From his early business days, Rockefeller's ledgers reveal that he freely donated part of his earnings, generally through the church. He would eventually donate 540 million. His philanthropy became an industry of its own as he established a foundation to make the distribution decisions. He persuaded Gates to join the advisory staff; Gates became one of Rockefeller's chief financial advisors; taking on investment responsibilities too. Including the sale of Rockefeller's iron ore interest to J.P. Morgan with a clear profit of 50 million.

Rockefeller established various foundations to receive his donations but also continued giving to existing groups and through his church. 82% of his donations went toward the endowment for the first biomedical research facility, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (established in 1901 it is now Rockefeller University). Also important were the General Education Board (1903), dedicated toward "the promotion of education within the United States, without distinction of race, sex, or creed,"; the Rockefeller Foundation (1913); the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease (1909) which expanded into the International Health Board of the Rockefeller Foundation; and for his deceased wife's remembrance, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (1918) primarily for the concern of women and children.

Although comfortable with his family, Rockefeller rarely appeared in public or gave speeches or interviews. It was often remarked by his business associates that he seemed cold, reserved and quiet. To improve his public image Gates and his son convinced him to appear more frequently at public affairs in addition to granting more interviews with journalists and prospective charities, and individuals to whom he would dispense shiny dimes. A shrewd and conservative businessman his judgments avoided wasteful giving. Every penny must be used to its greatest extent.

Rockefeller was buried in Lakeview cemetery in Cleveland after passing away at his home in Ormond Beach.

From the guide to the University of Chicago. Founders' Correspondence, 1886-1892, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Manny, Frank Addison, 1868-1954. Frank Addison Manny papers, 1890-1955. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Scrap-book of newspaper cartoons relating to William Rainey Harper and John D. Rockefeller. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Walker, George C. Scrapbook, 1873-1903 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Harper, William Rainey, 1856-1906. William Rainey Harper collection, 1883-2001. Library of Congress
referencedIn Starr, Frederick. Papers, 1868-1935 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Stagg, Amos Alonzo, 1862-1965. Papers, 1866-1964. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Archives of the Religious Education Association, 1902-1982 Yale University Divinity School Library
referencedIn Gates, Frederick Taylor. Papers, 1888-1906 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931. Papers of David Starr Jordan, 1861-1964. Library of Congress
referencedIn Vol. CCCCXXXV (ff. 278). Jan.22 Apr.-July 1895.includes:ff. 1, 111 Francis Charles Lawley, Secretary to W E Gladstone; son of Paul, 1st Baron Wenlock: Correspondence with W. E. Gladstone: 1852-1895.f. 3 Joseph Parker, DD; Congregational minister..., 1895 British Library
referencedIn Harper, Samuel. Diaries, 1849-1903 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Additional papers of the Howe-Richards family, 1843-1957. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Burton, Ernest DeWitt, 1856-1925. Papers, 1875-1969 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Beman, Wooster Woodruff, 1850-1922. Wooster Woodruff Beman papers, 1865-1938. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Burton, Ernest DeWitt. Papers, 1875-1969 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Stagg, Amos Alonzo. Papers, 1866-1964 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Goodspeed, Thomas Wakefield, 1842-1927. Papers, 1865-1927 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn University of Chicago. Office of the President. University of Chicago Office of the President, Harper, Judson and Burton administrations records 1869-1925 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Blaine, Anita McCormick. Correspondence and papers, 1828-1958. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Von Holst, Hermann Eduard. Collection, 1869-1902 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Weller, Stuart. Papers, 1900-1927 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Harper, William Rainey, 1856-1906. Correspondence to Daniel Garrison Brinton, 1892. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Starr, Frederick, 1858-1933. Papers, 1868-1935 (inclusive), 1892-1923 (bulk). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Talbot, Marion, 1858-1948. Papers, 1854-1948 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn American Institute of Sacred Literature. Records, 1880-1943 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Office of the Messrs Rockefeller. General files. 1890-1961. Rockefeller Archive Center, Rockefeller University, Pocantico Hills
referencedIn Ely, Richard Theodore, 1854-1943. Papers, 1812-1963 (bulk 1882-1939). Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
referencedIn Gates, Frederick Taylor, 1853-1929. Papers, 1888-1906 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Weller, Stuart, 1870-1927. Papers, 1900-1927. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Scrap-book of clippings relating to William Rainey Harper. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Chamberlin, Thomas C. (Thomas Chrowder), 1843-1928. Papers, 1880-1928 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn William Roscoe Thayer papers, 1762-1927 (inclusive), 1872-1921 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Harper, William Rainey, 1856-1906. Papers, 1872-1938 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Wooster Woodruff Beman papers, 1865-1938, 1878-1922 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Harper, William Rainey. Papers, 1872-1938 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Remsen, Ira, 1846-1927. Ira Remsen papers, 1868-1938. Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Willard, Daniel Everett, 1862-1947. Daniel Everett Willard reminiscences, [1940s?]. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Augustus Mendon Lord collection, Lord (Augustus Mendon) collection, (bulk 1876-1908), 1778-1908 John Hay Library, Special Collections
creatorOf University of Chicago. Founders' Correspondence, 1886-1892 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1839-1937. Correspondence, 1886-1892 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931. David Starr Jordan papers, 1861-1964. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Henry Villard papers, 1604-1948 (inclusive), 1863-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Talbot, Marion. Papers, 1854-1948 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Overton family papers, 1856-1969. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Portraits of University of California individuals and groups, ca. 1850-[ongoing] The Bancroft Library. University Archives.
referencedIn University of Chicago. Office of the President. Records, 1889-1925 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Goodspeed, Thomas W. Papers, 1865-1927 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Atwater, Richard Mead, 1844-1922. Papers. Haverford College Library
referencedIn Daniel Everett Willard reminiscences, [1940s?]. Minnesota Historical Society.
referencedIn Frank Manny papers, 1890-1955 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Bell, Ernest A. (Ernest Albert), 1865-1928. Ernest A. Bell papers, 1876-1934. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Appelbaum, Meyer, 1869-1937. Meyer Appelbaum correspondence, 1903. American Jewish Archives
referencedIn Herrick, Robert. Papers, 1887-1960 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Religious Education Association. Archives of the Religious Education Association, 1902-1988. Yale University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn University of Chicago. Office of the President. Harper, Judson and Burton Administrations. Records, 1869-1925 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Von Holst, H. (Hermann), 1841-1904. Papers, 1855-1903. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Letters from various correspondents, American period, 1876-1937. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Taylor, Graham, 1851-1938. Graham Taylor papers, 1820-1975, (bulk 1866-1940). Newberry Library
referencedIn McCormick, Harold Fowler, 1872-1941. Harold Fowler McCormick papers, 1892-1947. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn David Starr Jordan papers, 1861-1964 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Walker, George C. Scrapbook, 1873-1903. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Religious Education Association. Religious Education Association records, 1902-1988 (inclusive). Yale University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn American Institute of Sacred Literature. Records, 1880-1943 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Records, 1896-1926 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Harper, William Rainey, 1856-1906. William R. Harper letter to Prof. H. H. Boyesen [manuscript], 1891 Feb 26. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Religious Education Association. Religious Education Association records, Addendum A, 1982-2003 (inclusive). Yale University, Divinity School Library
referencedIn Gates, Frederick Taylor, 1853-1929. Papers, 1888-1906 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf The University of Chicago. Letters to Henry Charles Lea, 1897-1903. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Herrick, Robert, 1868-1938. Papers, 1887-1960 (inclusive), 1887-1938 (bulk). University of Chicago Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Institute of Sacred Literature. corporateBody
correspondedWith Appelbaum, Meyer, 1869-1937. person
associatedWith Arnett, Trevor, 1870- person
associatedWith Atwater, Richard Mead, 1844-1922. person
associatedWith Bell, Ernest A. (Ernest Albert), 1865-1928. person
associatedWith Beman, Wooster Woodruff, 1850-1922. person
associatedWith Blaine, Anita McCormick. person
associatedWith Boyesen, Hjalmar Hjorth, 1848-1895, person
associatedWith Burton, Ernest DeWitt, 1856-1925. person
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
associatedWith Chamberlin, Thomas C. (Thomas Chrowder), 1843-1928. person
associatedWith Chautauqua Institution. corporateBody
correspondedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935 person
associatedWith Ely, Richard Theodore, 1854-1943. person
associatedWith Gates, Frederick Taylor, 1853-1929. person
associatedWith Goodspeed, Thomas Wakefield, 1842-1927. person
associatedWith Harper family. family
associatedWith Harper, Samuel, 1823-1905 person
associatedWith Herrick, Robert, 1868-1938. person
associatedWith Howe family. family
associatedWith Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931. person
associatedWith Judson, Harry Pratt, 1849-1927. person
associatedWith Lake Zurich Golf Club. corporateBody
associatedWith Lord, Augustus Mendon, 1861-1941 person
associatedWith Manny, Frank Addison, 1868-1954. person
associatedWith McCormick, Harold Fowler, 1872-1941. person
associatedWith Muskingum College. corporateBody
associatedWith Office of the Messrs Rockefeller. corporateBody
associatedWith Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918 person
associatedWith Religious Education Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Remsen, Ira, 1846-1927. person
associatedWith Ridge Historical Society (Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1839-1937. person
associatedWith Shepardson, Francis Wayland, 1862-1937. person
associatedWith Stagg, Amos Alonzo, 1862-1965. person
associatedWith Starr, Frederick, 1858-1933. person
associatedWith Talbot, Marion, 1858-1948. person
associatedWith Taylor, Graham, 1851-1938. person
correspondedWith Thayer, William Roscoe, 1859-1923 person
associatedWith University of Chicago corporateBody
associatedWith University of Chicago. Office of the President. corporateBody
correspondedWith Villard, Henry, 1835-1900 person
associatedWith Von Holst, H. (Hermann), 1841-1904. person
associatedWith Walker, George C. person
associatedWith Walker, George C. person
associatedWith Weller, Stuart, 1870-1927. person
associatedWith Willard, Daniel Everett, 1862-1947. person
associatedWith William Rainey Harper College. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Illinois--Chicago
Beverly Hills (Chicago, Ill.)
Morgan Park (Chicago, Ill.)
Washington Heights (Chicago, Ill.)
Subject
Universities and colleges
Education, higher
Preservation of materials
Occupation
Hebraists, Christian--Illinois--Chicago
College presidents--Illinois--Chicago
Educators--Illinois--Chicago
Function

Person

Birth 1856-07-26

Death 1906-01-10

Americans

English

Information

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