Henry John Van Lennep (AC 1837), a noted 19th-century Christian minister, missionary, writer and educator, was born in Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) in 1815. In 1830 he was sent to the United States for his education. He prepared for college at Mount Pleasant Institute, Amherst, Mass., and Hartford (Conn.) Grammar School. After graduating from Amherst College in 1837, he attended Andover Theological Seminary for one year, then studied with Rev. Joel Hawes in Hartford and was ordained a Congregational minister in 1839. He served as a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for twenty-nine years beginning in 1840, in Smyrna (1840-44 and 1863-69), Constantinople (1844-54), and Tocat (1854-56). Van Lennep traveled extensively throughout the region of western Asia and Egypt. After losing his sight from cataract in 1869, he returned to the United States. He taught as a professor of natural sciences and languages at Ingham University, a women's college in Le Roy, New York (1876-78), and subsequently was co-principal, with his son E.J. Van Lennep, of the Sedgwick Institute, a small private boarding school in Great Barrington, Mass.
Van Lennep was proficient in numerous languages and was also a skillful artist, sketching (in pencil or pen and ink) scenes from his extensive travels. Many of his drawings appeared in published works, which include The Oriental Album: Twenty Illustrations, in Oil Colors, of the People and Scenery of Turkey, with an Explanatory and Descriptive Text (1862); Travels in Little-known Parts of Asia Minor: with Illustrations of Biblical Literature and Researches in Archaeology (1870); and Bible Lands: their Modern Customs and Manners Illustrative of Scripture (1875). He also executed several drawings for Professor Edward Hitchcock, including his Geology of Massachusetts (1841) and Illustrations of Surface Geology (1860).
Van Lennep was married three times: to Emma L. Bliss (1839-40), Mary E. Hawes (1843-44), and Emily Ann Bird (1850-?). He had six children. Van Lennep died in Great Barrington, Mass., in 1889.
From the guide to the Henry J. Van Lennep Sketches and Papers, 1834-1879, (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)