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The Alma Maters of Our Founding Fathers


America's Founding FathersAs you prepare to barbecue, watch fireworks, and celebrate this great nation, we thought it’d be fun to take a moment and remember the men behind the holiday, America’s Founding Fathers, by taking a look at where they went to college.

Sure, things have changed quite a bit since the 18th century. But it’s still nice to think that the Founding Fathers went through some of the same struggles and triumphs – and maybe even the same schools! – as today’s college students.

The Ivy League

Some of the most well-known Founding Fathers you learned about in high school attended college in the Ivy League. Just one of them is John Adams, who won a scholarship to Harvard University at age 16. He graduated from there in 1755, when he was 20.

John Hancock also went to Harvard, enrolling in 1750 and graduating in 1754. James Madison went to Princeton University, though it was called The College of New Jersey at the time. He enrolled in 1769 and graduated in 1771, at age 20.

Another Founding Father whose Alma Mater’s name has since changed is John Jay, who attended Columbia University way back when it was called King’s College. Robert R. Livingston went to the same school, entering at age 15 and graduating in 1764, when he was 18. Alexander Hamilton also attended this college, but in 1773.

Other Colleges Popular with the Founding Fathers

Not all the Founding Fathers went to college in the Ivy League. Thomas Jefferson’s Alma Mater was the College of William and Mary. This is also where James Monroe went in 1774, though he dropped out in 1776 and never returned for a degree.

Benjamin Harrison V also went to the College of William and Mary. George Washington did, too, though he got his surveyor’s license rather than a bachelor’s degree.

John Witherspoon went to the University of Edinburgh to get a Master of Arts in 1739. That’s also where James Wilson went, though he didn’t graduate. He also attended the University of St. Andrews and the University of Glasgow for a short time, never earning a degree, though.

Founding Fathers with No Alma Mater

Here’s a fun fact: not every Founding Father went to college at all. For example, Benjamin Franklin didn’t go to school past the age of 10 because his parents couldn’t afford to send him anymore. However, by 1753, he had accomplished enough for Harvard and Yale to give him honorary degrees.

Thomas Paine did not go to college, either, yet he still managed to write the two most influential pamphlets in American revolutionary history.

And as you can see, though some of our Founding Fathers only went to college for a short time (or didn’t attend at all), the majority obtained degrees from great schools, schools which still attract thousands of students to this day.

Did you attend any of the same colleges as America’s Founding Fathers? Let us know in the comments below!



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