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Monday, February 18, 2013

Timothy Dwight IV ~ Academic, Educator, Theologian, Minister, Legislator, Author, Yale President


Timothy Dwight IV

Academic, Educator, Theologian, Minister,
Legislator, Author, Yale President


May 14, 1752January 11, 1817


Timothy Dwight IV was born in Northampton, Massachusetts to Timothy Dwight III, a farmer, merchant and Revolutionary War Major. His mother was Mary Edwards, the third daughter of renowned theologian Jonathan Edwards.

The oldest of twelve siblings, Timothy was a brilliant youngster and is said to have read the Bible by the time he was five years old and was teaching local Indians by the age of seven. Besides learning Latin and Greek, he met the Yale entrance requirements by the time he was eight, but waited to enter the college until he was thirteen. His long hours of study led to deteriorating eyesight and other health issues that plagued him throughout his life. He received his B.A. in 1769 and his M.A. in 1772.

Dwight served as rector of a grammar school for two years before returning to Yale to serve as a tutor from 1771-1777.  The year 1777 proved to be a consequential year for Dwight as during that year he was licensed to preach and was appointed as chaplain in the Connecticut Continental Brigade where he served with distinction. That same year he married Mary Woolsey, daughter of well connected banker and merchant Benjamin Woolsey. It was also in 1777 that his father died though news of it didn’t arrive until over a year later. In 1778 he resigned his commission and returned to Northampton, Massachusetts to support his mother and help raise his younger siblings. He also managed the family farms, preached, and established a coed school. During that period he also served two terms in the Massachusetts legislature.

Timothy Dwight began to draw public acclaim in 1776 while at Yale during an address when he noted the unique national identity of Americans as:



“people who have the same religion,
the same manners, the same interests, the same language,
and the same essential form and principles of civic government.”


 






Timothy Dwight IV by John Trumbull
In 1783 He became the minister of Greenfield Hill, a Congregational church in Fairfield, Connecticut.  He also established a highly respected and sought after academy. There he combated the ideology of Deism. His “Discourse on the Genuineness and Authenticity of the New Testament” became a powerful tool defending orthodox Christianity. 

He was elected as the President of Yale in 1795. During his tenure at Yale, he was credited with advancing Yale’s profile and academic scope. He taught classes, preached the Word of God, and was instrumental in bringing revival. It has been said that a third of the student body came to faith during this time and was part of the Second Great Awakening.

In addition to authoring books, Dwight also penned several hymns, one I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord, is believed to be the oldest hymn by an American still in common use.

Timothy Dwight IV died of cancer in 1817 and was buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.     

6 comments:

  1. Well written article, Janet. I'm struck by the way Yale University has evolved since Timothy Dwight was its president.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by, Cynthia. A number of "esteemed" universities (Harvard, Princeton) like Yale were established to teach the Word of God, and yes, they have "evolved".

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  3. What a neat look at the author of one of my favorite hymns! Thank you Janet.

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  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed the post Judith. Timothy Dwight IV sure didn't let any grass grow under his feet.

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  5. You know, he died at a fairly young age, yet look at all he accomplished! Wow. Great post.

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  6. You're right, Debbie, he was a real over-achiever, something not uncommon to oldest children.

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