Three major American Universities are named after Dutch Americans. They are, in order of being named, Rutgers State University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, now New Jersey’s major State University, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island, New York.
Rutgers University, named after Henry Rutgers in 1825, was the first university, or rather college as it was named Rutgers College then, to be named after a Dutch American. It was named after Henry Rutgers as much out of respect for the man as well as for the funds he could and would contribute to it. Before it was named after him, Rutgers College was named Queen’s College. Queen’s College dates back to the colonial period and was named after a British queen. Around 1815 Henry Rutgers served as a trustee of Queen’s College for a period of six years. During that time period Queen’s College was going through some difficult financial problems, largely resulting from the country being mired in an economic recession. Apparently, Queen’s College shut down for a while to resolve its financial problems. Henry Rutgers was financially well off and viewed by the other trustees to be the most likely one to financially save the College. So in 1825 the trustees decided to change the name of Queen’s College to Rutgers College. Henry provided financial support of what appears to be a nominal amount, an endowment of $5000. He also donated a bronze bell, still in use on the campus today, worth about $200. So it appears that Henry Rutgers memorialized his name for a minimal amount of money, especially based on today’s standards of donating money to educational institutions.
Although Henry Rutgers is not as well known today as some of his contemporary Dutch Americans, at the time of his life he was revered as an American Revolutionary War hero. He rose to the rank of colonel following the Revolutionary War, but during the Revolutionary War he was a captain in the American army at the battle of White Plains. Politically he became a member of the New York State Legislature in 1984 and was re-elected four times.
Henry Rutgers was a sixth generation descendent of an old Dutch family that had settled in New Amsterdam during the early years before the city became New York City. The family had wealth and used its wealth for philanthropic purposes. As a result it was a respected and popular family, and Henry was one of its most respected members. Outside of his war time service and political service in the New York State Legislature he devoted most of his life to philanthropy.
Henry graduated from Columbia College, New York City in 1766. As an educated individual he devoted considerable time and resources to educational institutions even before Rutgers College was named after him. He was also involved in the founding of Rutgers Female College, later integrated with Rutgers University. He also served as a trustee of Columbia College, Princeton University and Rutgers College.
Henry Rutgers used his considerable land holdings in New York City, especially land he owned on the East River, in the vicinity of Chatham Square, for charitable purposes, especially to establish churches and schools. Although he was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, his gifts of land and money were interdenominational. During the War of 1812 with the British, Henry also contributed funds to establish and build defensive works to protect New York City in case of attack by the British.
Henry Rutgers, philanthropist, gentleman and patriot was born in New York City on October 7, 1745. He passed away in New York City on 17 February 1830, at the advanced age of 84. During his entire life he had remained a bachelor. His name will live for ever as one of the early leaders of New Jersey’s flagship university, Rutgers University, the State University.
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Rutgers University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutgers_University
Henry Rutgers, http://famousamericans.net/henryrutgers/
Edmund B. Shotwell: Manuscript Notes on the Life of Henry Rutgers, 1946-1962,http://www2.scc.rutgers.edu/ead/uarchives/shotwellb.html