Rev. President Joseph Willard

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Joseph Willard

Also Known As: "Josephus"
Birthdate: (65)
Birthplace: Biddeford, York County, Maine, United States
Death: Died in New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Reverend Samuel Willard and Abigail Willard
Husband of Mary Willard
Father of Willard Willard; Sophia Dana; Ann Theodora Dana; Mayor Sidney Willard; Augusta Dana and 1 other
Brother of Reverend Samuel Willard; Deacon William Willard Sr.; Deacon Dr. John Willard; Eunice Chadwick and Abigail Willard infant

Occupation: was a sailor, schoolmaster, college tutor, clergyman, and the first President of the newly-formed Harvard University
Managed by: Carol Ann Selis
Last Updated:

About Rev. President Joseph Willard

Joseph Willard (29 December 1738 – 25 September 1804) was sailor, schoolmaster, college tutor, an American Congregational clergyman and academic. He was president of Harvard from 1781 until 1804.

Early Life and Education

Willard was born on December 29, 1738 in Biddeford, Maine to the Reverend Samuel Willard and Abigail (Wright) Willard. The youngest of three sons, Willard's father died when he was only two years old and he was reared in poverty during his childhood. In order to provide for himself and his family, Willard taught school as a young man and made several trips as a seaman, an occupation in which he developed a genius for mathematics and navigation. Recognizing Willard's academic potential, Samuel Moody, a local schoolmaster in York, Maine, helped prepare Willard for college and arranged a scholarship for him to attend Harvard College.

During his years as a student, Willard was characterized as the best mathematician, astronomer, and scholar in his class. As an undergraduate at Harvard College, Willard served as a waiter, taught school in Lancaster, Massachusetts, and was Scholar of the House, a student position responsible for the repair of any physical damage to student rooms. He was named the College Butler in 1765, managing the storeroom that held beer, other beverages, and the college utensils. Willard received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1765 and Master of Arts degree in 1768. After graduation, Willard was appointed a tutor in Greek (1766-1772) and a member of the Corporation (1768). Later in his career, he was honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Harvard University (1785) and a Doctor of Laws degree from Yale University (1791).

Willard resigned his tutorship in 1772 to serve as minister of the First Church of Beverly, Massachusetts. During his years in the ministry, Willard was open-minded in regards to religious belief and held that religion was a purely personal matter. A supporter of the patriot cause during the American Revolution, he later became a follower of the Federalist Party.

Willard's great interest was in science. He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780 and served as its first recording secretary. In addition to a regular correspondence with scholars from Europe and America, Willard wrote many articles on astronomy and mathematics during his lifetime. Among his professional affiliations were memberships in the Royal Society of England, the Medical Society of London, the Royal Society of Göttingen, and the American Philosophical Society.

Harvard University

Willard's distinction as a learned scholar earned him his appointment as President of Harvard University. Although Harvard students considered him to be somewhat austere and autocratic in manner during his tenure as President, Willard earned the respect of both the faculty and students for his conscientious and honest attention to University affairs. Willard led the University as it matured. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts officially recognized Harvard College as a university on October 25, 1780.

During Willard's administration, University entrance requirements were raised, instruction was updated with the introduction of new courses and textbooks, daily sermons were discontinued, new additions to Harvard Hall were built, and the Harvard Medical School was opened. Moreover, the stability of the University was improved with the acquisition of substantial gifts from patrons and donors. Under Willard's leadership, Harvard University's reputation grew and the school entered the new century with an optimistic future.


Joseph Willard married Mary Sheafe of Portsmouth, New Hampshire on March 7, 1774. Of their thirteen children, Sidney (A.B. 1798) became a Harvard University professor and Joseph (A.B. 1816) won distinction as a prominent Massachusetts attorney.

Willard became ill in 1798 and spent the next few years in semi-retirement, traveling throughout the United States. He died on September 25, 1804 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His wife, Mary, died in 1826.


Before 1780, the institution that became Harvard University was known as Harvard College.


Cohen, Sheldon S. "Willard, Joseph"; 01/01-00973.html; American National Biography Online February 2000. Access Date: Friday February 4 11:51:47 EST 2005.

"Joseph Willard." Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Biography Resource Center. 4 February 2005.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Shipton, Clifford K. Biographical Sketches of Those Who Attended Harvard College in the Classes 1764-1767, Sibley's Harvard Graduate Series, Vol. XVI. Boston, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1972.

Willard, Joseph and Charles Wilkes Walker. Willard Genealogy, Sequel to Willard Memoir. Edited by Charles Henry Pope. Boston, Massachusetts: Printed for the Willard Family Association, 1915.

Willard, Sidney. Memories of Youth and Manhood. Vol. 1. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Bartlett, 1855.

Scope of the Papers of Joseph Willard

The Papers of Joseph Willard document his activities as a minister, President of Harvard University, and scholar. These papers are comprised of correspondence, sermons, Greek manuscript materials, catalogs, memorandums, resolutions, certificates, and a personal seal used by Joseph Willard as President.

Series Descriptions and Folder Lists

Series: Correspondence, 1781-1804 13 documents (13 folders)

Processing Information: The material in this series was arranged chronologically by the archivist.

Scope and Content: This series contains incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting some of Willard's activities and undertakings both as a minister and President of Harvard University.

Joseph Willard to his parishioners, 1781 November 19 Box 1

Acquisition Information: This folder contains a typewritten copy of Willard's original letter provided by the Boston Public Library in October 1909. The original letter was owned by Theodora Willard of Cambridge, Massachusetts and exhibited at the BPL. The location of the original letter is unknown.

Scope and Content: Letter from Joseph Willard to his parishioners in Beverly offering his resignation as minister on being elected President of Harvard University.

Joseph Willard to L. Baldwin, 1782 October 2 Box 1

Scope and Content: Letter regarding the repair of the college pump. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

William Scales to Joseph Willard, [1785?] Box 1

Scope and Content: Letter addresses contributions of Locke and Newton to scientific and philosophical advances. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

Joseph Willard to John Hancock, 1785 February 19 Box 1

Acquisition Information: This folder contains a typewritten copy of Willard's original letter provided by the Boston Public Library in October 1909. The original letter was owned by Theodora Willard of Cambridge, Massachusetts and exhibited at the BPL. The location of the original letter is unknown.

Published in Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. X, pp. 320-322.

Joseph Willard to John Hancock, 1786 May 6 Box 1

Acquisition Information: Donated by Philip Spaulding, 1936.

Scope and Content: Letter from Joseph Willard to John Hancock asking Hancock to renew his membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

Joseph Willard to Thomas Brand Hollis, 1787 July 19 Box 1

Scope and Content: This folder contains a handwritten letter from John Disney to the Reverend Dr. Lowell, February 28, 1838, that contains extracts of a letter written by Joseph Willard to Thomas Brand Hollis. The extract refers to books in Greek at Harvard University and their destruction in a fire in 1764.

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, 1791 May 20 Box 1

Scope and Content: Letter regarding a delivery of books to Harvard University from Thomas Jefferson. This folder contains a typewritten transcript and a xeroxed copy of the original letter.

Joseph Willard to Reverend William Walter, 1796 November 23 Box 1

Scope and Content: Letter to Walter asking him to present the Dudleian Lecture in 1796. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

Reverend William Walter to Joseph Willard, 1796 December Box 1

Scope and Content: Letter from Walter responding to Willard's request to present the Dudleian Lecture. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

Joseph Willard to Reverend Dr. Hitchcock, 1796 December 1 Box 1

Acquisition Information: Gift of the Friends of the Library, 1936.

Scope and Content: Letter regarding a Harvard University lottery drawing. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

Joseph Willard to Mrs. Willard, 1799 August 21 Box 1

Scope and Content: Letter to Willard's wife, Mary, addressing the death of their son, Augustus. This folder contains the original handwritten letter, a photostat copy and a typewritten transcript.

Joseph Willard to Samuel Willard, 1803 August 19 Box 1

Acquisition Information: Purchased from the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, 1948.

Scope and Content: This letter concerns the subject matter for a commencement address. This folder contains the original handwritten letter and a typewritten transcript.

Joseph Willard to his son, Sidney, 1804 January 25 Box 1

Acquisition Information: Donated by Mrs. Richard Hubbard, 1948.

Biographical Note: Sidney Willard (Harvard A.B. 1798) studied divinity and entered the ministry. He was the Hancock Professor of Hebrew at Harvard University until his resignation in 1831. Was elected Cambridge representative and senator to the Massachusetts legislature, 1833-1835; mayor of Cambridge, 1848-1850. He wrote an autobiography Memories of Youth and Manhood (1855). Sidney died in 1856.

Scope and Content: Letter wishes Sidney well in Windsor, Vermont and requests that he return a house key. This folder contains the original handwritten letter.

Series: Sermons, 1768-1792 and undated 2.6 cubic feet (8 document boxes)

Acquisition Information: Sermon 2 was donated by Susanna and Theodora Willard in 1910. However, it is unclear whether or not the Willards donated all the sermons to the Archives in 1910 or only sermon 2.

Processing Information: The custodial history of these sermons is murky. Although numbered, it is not possible to determine with any clarity whether the numbering system was originally designed by Joseph Willard or imposed by one of his descendants. The archivist maintained the numerical arrangement scheme, which sorts the sermons by date.

The sermon titles listed in the folder list below were taken from the title pages of each sermon or from the introductory paragraphs at the beginning of each sermon by the archivist. It is important to note that the titles written on the title pages may have been written at a later date by one of Willard's descendants.

Scope and Content: This series contains sermons given by Willard as a minister and during his tenure as President of Harvard University.

Researchers should note that sermons 1, 27, 28, 96, 220, 269, 299, 314, and 317 are missing. Sermons 101-199 from September 1774 through December 1774 and from the years 1775 and 1776 are missing. Sermons from the years 1782 through 1783 are also missing.

2, Work out your own salvation, 1768 Box 2

3, The pure in heart, 1768 Box 2

4, The belief in Christ that entitles us to salvation, 1768 Box 2

5, For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul, 1768 Box 2

6, Thus faith the Lord of Hosts, confides your ways, 1769 Box 2

7, Mary's choice, 1770 Box 2

8, The fruit of the spirit, 1770 Box 2

9, Prove all things, hold fast that which is good, 1770 Box 2

10, The change in character produced by Christianity, 1771 Box 2

11, The advantages of religion in the present life, as well as the life to come, 1771 Box 2

12, Paul before Felix, 1771 Box 2

13, Gospel invitations, 1772 Box 2

14, Faith in the invisible, 1772 Box 2

15, And to know the love of Christ which passett knowledge, 1772 Box 2

16, But it is now made manifest by the appearance of our savior Jesus Christ, 1772 Box 2

17, God through Christ quickening sinners, 1772 Box 2

18, Justification by faith, 1772 Box 2

19, For by grace are ye saved, 1772 Box 2

20, He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me, 1772 Box 2

21, For Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of, 1772 Box 2

22, For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, 1772 Box 2

23, For we might all appear before judgment, 1772 Box 2

24, No anxious thought for temporal blessings, 1772 Box 2

25, There is therefore now a condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, 1772 Box 2

26, The conversation with Nicodemus, 1772 Box 2

29, Thanksgiving sermon, 1772 Box 3

30, Communion sermon, This do in remembrance of me, 1772 Box 3

31, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory, 1772 Box 3

32, Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, 1773 Box 3

33, Praying always with all prayer and supplication and in the Spirit, 1773 Box 3

34, While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, 1773 Box 3

35, But the path of the just is the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day, 1773 Box 3

36, Wherefore he is able, 1773 Box 3

37, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, 1773 Box 3

38, External rites, their right value and faith, its importance and operation, 1773 Box 3

39, Proofs of the truth of Christianity, 1773 Box 3

40, Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, 1773 Box 3

41, To this man I will look, 1773 Box 3

42, Affliction, its origin and design, 1773 Box 3

43, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, 1773 Box 3

44, I also withheld thee from sinning against me, 1773 Box 3

45, Duties of heads of families, 1773 Box 3

46, The atonement, 1773 Box 3

47, Righteousness, hunger and thirsts after, 1773 Box 3

48, These were more noble than those in Thepalonica, 1773 Box 3

49, The Golden Rule, social or relative values, 1773 Box 3

50, Yea, doubtfuls, and I count all things but losts, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, 1773 Box 3

51, For our conversation is in heaven, 1773 Box 3

52, For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1773 Box 3

53, But exhort one another daily, 1773 Box 3

54, And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead, 1773 Box 3

55, But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, 1773 Box 3

56, Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation, 1773 Box 3

57, Strive to enter in at the strait gate, 1773 Box 3

58, And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, 1773 Box 3

59, Being justified freely by his grace, 1773 Box 4

60, The wisdom that is from above is first pure, 1773 Box 4

61, But when the fullness of the time was come God sent forth his son, 1773 Box 4

62, Whereby are given unto to us exceeding great and precious promises, 1773 Box 4

62a, See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 1773 Box 4

63, He that coventh his sins shall not prosper, but who so confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy, 1773 Box 4

64, Giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue knowledge, 1773 Box 4

65, Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the son of man cometh, 1773 Box 4

66, Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever as man soweth, that shall he also reap, 1773 Box 4

67, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, 1773 Box 4

68, How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?, 1773 Box 4

69, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, hear God, and keep his commandments, 1773 Box 4

70, Abstinence, 1773 Box 4

71, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain, 1773 Box 4

72, Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace, 1773 Box 4

73, And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, Lamasabachthani, 1773 Box 4

74, No man can come unto me, except the father which hath me, draw him, 1773 Box 4

75, Thanksgiving sermon, Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth, with all your heart, 1773 Box 4

76, Chronicles, first sermon, 1773 Box 4

77, Chronicles, second sermon, 1773 Box 4

78, For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil, 1773 Box 4

79, And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense, toward God, toward men, 1773 Box 4

80, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, 1774 Box 4

81, For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, 1774 Box 4

82, Be clothed with humility, 1774 Box 4

83, But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the Sons of God, 1774 Box 4

84, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity, 1774 Box 4

85, For we walk by faith, not by sight, 1774 Box 4

85a, The righteous is more excellent that his neighbor, 1774 Box 4

86, Let your affections on things above, not on things on the earth, 1774 Box 4

87, Personality of the holy spirit, 1774 Box 4

88, For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, 1774 Box 4

89, Communion Day, 1774 Box 4

90, And seeing the multitudes he went up into a mountain, 1774 Box 4

91, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted, 1774 Box 5

92, Meekness, 1774 Box 5

93, Communion Day, 1774 Box 5

94, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy, 1774 Box 5

95, Blessed are the peace makers, 1774 Box 5

97, Sermon on account of the Boston Port Bill, Our fathers trusted in thee, they trusted and thou didst deliver them, 1774 Box 5

98, Pilate therefore said unto them, art thou a king then?, 1774 Box 5

99, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, 1774 Box 5

100, Of blasphemy against Holy Ghost, 1774 Box 5

201, Behold my servant whom I uphold, 1777 Box 5

202, Born of God, commit him, 1777 Box 5

203, Repent ye therefore and be converted, 1777 Box 5

204, By faith Moses when he was come to years, 1777 Box 5

205, For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, 1777 Box 5

206, [title page torn, title missing], 1777 Box 5

207, O Lord what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies, 1777 Box 5

208, Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, 1777 Box 5

209, Fast sermon, Hear O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken, 1777 Box 5

210, Fast sermon, Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, 1777 Box 5

211, And be not conformed to this world, 1777 Box 5

212, Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying he shall never see death, 1777 Box 5

213, Death and resurrection of Christ, 1777 Box 5

214, Fools make a mock at him, 1777 Box 5

215, The word of God, the good man's delight and the guide of his conduct, 1777 Box 5

216, But thou, when thou prayest, enter unto they closet, 1777 Box 5

217, After the surrender of Burgogne, The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad, 1777 Box 5

218, Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom, 1777 Box 5

219, But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, 1777 Box 5

221, Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, 1778 Box 5

222, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you, 1778 Box 5

223, And he said, a certain man had two Sons, 1778 Box 5

224, And he said, a certain man had two Sons, 1778 Box 6

225, A devout man and one that feared God with all his house, 1778 Box 6

226, Fast sermon, Then came the word of the Lord of Hosts unto me praying, 1778 Box 6

227, Fast sermon, I hearkened and heard, but they spoke not aright, 1778 Box 6

228, For the kingdom of heaven is a man traveling into a far country, 1778 Box 6

229, Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying I am the light of the world, 1778 Box 6

230, For to be carnally minded is death, 1778 Box 6

231, Bearing fruit, mark of the true disciple, 1778 Box 6

232, If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them, 1778 Box 6

233, He was wounded for our transgressions, 1778 Box 6

234, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God, 1778 Box 6

235, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, 1778 Box 6

236, God is a spirit, spiritual nature of worship of God, 1778 Box 6

237, For man also knoweth not his time, 1778 Box 6

238, For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory forever, 1778 Box 6

239, Thanksgiving sermon, Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, 1778 Box 6

240, Soon after the Treaty with France in 1778 or early 1779, God is the Lord which hath secured us light, undated Box 6

241, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1779 Box 6

242, See that ye refuse not him that speaketh, 1779 Box 6

243, Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work, 1779 Box 6

244, Jesus faith unto him, I am the way, and the truth and the life, 1779 Box 6

245, Treasure hid in a field, 1779 Box 6

246, The Parable of the Marriage Feast, First sermon, 1779 Box 6

247, The Parable of the Marriage Feast, Second sermon, 1779 Box 6

248, Fast sermon, Therefore I will judge you O House of Israel, 1779 Box 6

249, It is good for me to draw near to God, 1779 Box 6

250, Character of the good man, 1779 Box 6

251, Purifying their hearts by faith, 1779 Box 6

252, Ye are my friends if ye do what forever I command you, 1779 Box 6

253, Husband and wife, 1779 Box 6

254, Children obey your parents, 1779 Box 6

255, Christ the only foundation, 1779 Box 6

256, Doing the will of God, 1779 Box 6

257, Transgressions of the law of God, 1779 Box 6

258, Fast sermon, Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, 1779 Box 6

259, For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 1779 Box 7

260, But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed, 1779 Box 7

261, This year thou shalt die, 1780 Box 7

262, For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is for better, 1780 Box 7

263, Let your loines be girded about, and you lights burning, 1780 Box 7

264, Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, 1780 Box 7

265, I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound, 1780 Box 7

266, Fast sermon, Therefore also now saith the Lord, turn ye unto me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping and with mourning, 1780 Box 7

267, Fast sermon, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, 1780 Box 7

267, The Agrippa said unto Paul almost thou persuaded me to be a Christian, 1780 Box 7

268, Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of Lights, 1780 Box 7

270, And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, 1780 Box 7

271, Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long, 1780 Box 7

272, Fast sermon, He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy, 1780 Box 7

273, And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, 1780 Box 7

274, When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou has ordained, 1780 Box 7

275, And behold one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?, 1780 Box 7

276, For it became him, for whom all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many Sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings, 1780 Box 7

277, A discourse upon Psalmody, 1780 Box 7

278, Let not your heart be trouble, ye believed in God, believe also in me, 1780 Box 7

279, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meakness and fear, 1780 Box 7

280, But I wholly followed the Lord my God, 1780 Box 7

281, And you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works yet now hath he reconciled, 1780 Box 7

282, I have set the Lord always before me, 1781 Box 7

283, For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost, 1781 Box 7

284, TEKEL, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting, 1781 Box 7

285, I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman, 1781 Box 7

286, And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised other, 1781 Box 7

287, For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory, 1781 Box 7

288, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, 1781 Box 8

289, Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partaken of the inheritance of the saints in light, 1781 Box 8

290, Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they consider not that they do evil, 1781 Box 8

291, The temptation in the wilderness, 1780 Box 8

292, And Peter remembered the words of Jesus which said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly, 1781 Box 8

293, And if the righteous scarely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?, 1781 Box 8

294, A perfect and upwright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil, 1781 Box 8

295, Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip, 1781 Box 8

295a, Part of a discourse after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, 1781 Box 8

297, He was a burning and a shinning light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light, 1784 Box 8

298, Convention sermon, Whom we preach, warning everyman, and teaching everyman in all wisdom that we may present everyman perfect in Christ Jesus, 1784 Box 8

300, Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, 1788 Box 8

301, Remove far from me vanity and lies, give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me, 1789 Box 8

302, Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, 1790 Box 8

303, Funeral sermon, He was a burning and a shinning light, and ye were willing for a second to rejoice in his light, 1790 Box 8

304, Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth, 1792 Box 8

305, Thou art good and dost good, undated Box 8

306, Part of an earlier sermon, preached soon after the loss of three sailors belonging to Beverly, Massachusetts, undated Box 8

307, On the office of Deacon, undated Box 8

308, Who art thou that judgest another man's servant, 1785 Box 8

309, With thee is the fountain of life, undated Box 8

310, That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lights, undated Box 8

311, When Christ who is out life shall appear then shall ye also appear with him in glory, undated Box 8

312, Corrupt communication, undated Box 8

313, For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, undated Box 8

315, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, undated Box 8

316, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, undated Box 8

318, This I say then, walk in the spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh, undated Box 8

319, For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not grievous, undated Box 8

320, In a time of drought, Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain, undated Box 8

321, Christ the Lamb of God, undated Box 8

322, Thanksgiving sermon, towards the close of the War of Independence, Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men, undated Box 9

323, Part of a fast day discourse on patriotism, undated Box 9

324, Part of a sermon to the students of the college after the death of two of their number, one by fever and the other by drowning, undated Box 9

325, Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ, undated Box 9

Unnumbered sermon, Until the day in which he was taken up, 1776 Box 9

Unnumbered sermons, no title, undated Box 9

3 folders; these sermons are most likely fragments of complete addresses.

Series: Materials for Greek Grammar and neighboring documents, ca.1780-1800 .45 cubic foot (1 document box)

Acquisition Information: Gift of Sidney Willard, 1851.

Processing Information: The archivist placed the notes in this series in numerically labeled folders in the order that they were found. The notes were interleaved with acid-free paper.

Some of Willard's grammar notes were recorded on the blank sides of letters, receipts, lists, and petitions. Despite their use as scrap paper and fragmentary nature, these documents may have historical interest and were collected and placed together in a single folder by the archivist. Additional description of these documents is provided in the folder list below.

Scope and Content: Joseph Willard began to write a manuscript about Greek grammar when he became President of Harvard University. He continued to work on it until his health began to fail in the late 1790s, at which point he stopped working on the project. This series consists of Willard's notes and citations drawn from various Greek historians, orators, poets, philosophers, and rhetoricians. Handwritten in both English and Greek, the notes in this series contain Willard's analysis of Greek verb forms, the meaning and uses of Greek words, and illustrations of syntactic rules.

Folder 1, John Pickering to Joseph Willard, 28 August 1838 Box 10

Related Material: Published in Memories of Youth and Manhood by Sidney Willard, vol. 1, pp. 164-165.

Scope and Content: Pickering (A.B. 1796) analyzed Willard's Greek grammar manuscript for Willard's son, Joseph, and conveys his comments in this letter.

Folders 2-14, Materials for Greek Grammar (13 folders) Box 10

Scope and Content: These folders contain Willard's Greek manuscript material.

Folder 15, Neighboring documents, Materials for Greek Grammar Box 10

Scope and Content: In addition to Willard's Greek manuscript material this folder contains:

Listing of students, undated.

Note to the President, Professors, and Tutors of Harvard University, November 1799, requesting excused absence due to ill health.

Transcript of a speech by [William?] Pitt, undated; this document also contains a listing of Harvard University students on its reverse side.

Letter from J. Tilton to the President and Tutors of Harvard University asking for an appointment as Butler, undated.

Listing of students absent from prayers for the quarter ending September 1802.

Petition from Harvard University seniors asking that disputations in the syllogistic form be discontinued, this petition is signed by several students and is undated; this document also includes a draft of a letter, likely written by Willard, but not signed or dated discussing a letter from Doctor Priestley and the High Church of England.

Document that describes the procedure for the accounting of student absences, April 7, 1797.

Receipt from Judge Lincoln, December 14, 1801.

Letter of reference from Nathan Fay, December 4, 1799.

Letter from Samuel Shapleigh to Joseph Willard regarding a donation, November 1, 1799.

Letter of recommendation for Henry Fales (A.B. 1803) from Thomas [Meeker?] to the President, Professors, and Tutors of Harvard University, December 30, 1799.

Letter from Benjamin Upton to the President, Professors, and Tutors of Harvard College, apologizing for his son's absence from school, February 17, 1794; this document also includes a personal letter, likely a draft, from Willard to [Mr. Hitchcock?] referring to a gift and his daughter Mary, undated.

Class listing of Freshman, Sophomores, and Juniors, undated.

Series: Triennial Catalog, 1794 1 volume (Box 11)

Acquisition Information: Donated by Israel Thorndike, 1818.

Processing Information: This catalog was re-housed prior to the 2005 re-processing.

Biographical Note: A triennial catalog is a listing of Harvard graduates arranged by classes.

Scope and Content: This series contains a triennial catalog beginning in 1642 and ending in 1794. At the end of this catalog there is a brief description of the history of Harvard University addressed to Professor Ebeling of Hamburgh from President Joseph Willard. This catalog was probably sent to Ebeling as a gift from Willard.

Series: Memoranda, 1792, 1802 2 documents (2 folders)

Scope and Content: The memoranda in this series recount the items discussed at two meetings of the Corporation.

Memorandum of Corporation meeting, 1792 Box 1

Scope and Content: This folder contains the original document.

Memorandum of Corporation meeting, 1802 Box 1

Scope and Content: This folder contains the original document.

Series: Resolution, 1804 1 document (Box 1)

Processing Information: Material re-housed during the 2005 re-processing.

Scope and Content: This series contains a Harvard Corporation resolution giving Mrs. Mary Willard, now a widow, permission to continue to live in the President's house with her family. The resolution was signed by [Eliphalet?] Pearson. Original document.

Series: Certificates, 1790, 1792, 1803 3 documents (2 folders, 1 flat file box)

Processing Information: The certificates in this series were arranged chronologically by the archivist. They were re-housed during the 2005 re-processing.

Scope and Content: This series contains two stock certificates relating to the sale of stock to Joseph Willard and the transfer of stock to Harvard University. Included also in this series is Willard's certification of membership in the Royal Society of Göttingen.

Certificate of membership in the Royal Society of Göttingen, 1790 Box 12

Acquisition Information: Purchased from S.O. [Berganson?], 1940.

Scope and Content: This folder contains the original certificate. Written in Latin.

Stock certificate belonging to Joseph Willard, 1792 June 8 Box 1

Acquisition Information: Donated by Jeremiah Colburn, 1882.

Scope and Content: This folder contains the original certificate.

Stock certificate transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1803 July 1 Box 1

Scope and Content: This folder contains the original certificate.

Series: Seal of President Willard, ca. 1781-1804 1 artifact Box 13

Acquisition Information: Donated by Theodora Willard, 1935.

Processing Information: Seal re-housed during the 2005 re-processing.

Scope and Content: This series contains the personal seal of Joseph Willard, presumably used by him during his tenure as President of Harvard University. The seal is inscribed: "Pres. Joseph Willard, Har.Col."

Sept. 20, 1781 - The Harvard Corporation elects Joseph Willard, Class of 1765, as Harvard's 12th President.

Sept. 25, 1804 - President Joseph Willard dies in office.


Joseph Willard

Term of office: 1781-1804

Almost 13 months after Samuel Langdon’s resignation (August 1780), Harvard finally found a new president in Joseph Willard (1738-1804), whom historian Samuel Eliot Morison has pronounced successful if not great. After the short terms of his two immediate predecessors, Willard’s longevity in office alone qualifies as no small measure of success.

A far more substantive example is the founding of the Harvard Medical School in September 1782. The “Medical Institution of Harvard University” was the first faculty beyond the College. (Ironically, Willard had once aspired to become a physician.) While there are substantial grounds for considering Harvard a university even in the 17th century, the new professional school unquestionably made Harvard a university in every modern sense. (First based in Cambridge, the Medical School moved to Boston in 1810.)

Important changes also came to the undergraduate scene. Only a few weeks before Willard’s election, students formed the Harvard Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, which held its first Literary Exercises in 1782. PBK was only one of the many groups in which the period abounded. In 1787, French teacher Joseph Nancrède became Harvard’s first paid instructor in a modern language. (Before Nancrède’s arrival, students wishing to learn French had to use licensed outside teachers.)

Less happily for students, the Harvard Corporation tried to lessen competitive dressing in 1786 by imposing a student dress code that banned silk outright. The code further prescribed blue-gray coats and four approved colors of waistcoats and breeches, along with particulars of dress tied to one’s year in school (e.g., varied ornamental details down to the buttonholes - but nothing in gold or silver, thank you!). Students detested these onerous requirements and the punishments incurred for transgressing them.

Willard’s own sense of decorum required that students and tutors doff their hats when he entered the Yard. Such traditional formality extended to his personal contacts with students and made him seem rigid to many. Nevertheless, in 1799, Willard broke with tradition by giving his Commencement address in English instead of Latin - the first known example of a Harvard president’s use of the native tongue for this purpose.

Born in Maine, Willard showed an early knack for mathematics and navigation. He once planned on going to sea and retained a lifelong interest in science. Academically, he was a late bloomer, finishing his undergraduate degree in his late 20s. Before becoming Harvard’s chief executive, he served as the College butler, a tutor in Greek, and a Fellow of the Corporation. Willard died in office on Sept. 25, 1804.

joseph willard is in this story----------------------

History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton [Massachusetts].

Manasseh Cutler, LL. D. 

His father was named Hezckiah , who was a respectable farmer and member of the Church in Killingly. Conn . He was b. 1711 , and graduated at Yale College 1765 . Soon after he took his first degree, he engaged in business kept a store, and was concerned in commerce and whaling at Edgartown, on Martha 's Vineyard. While so employed in an active and enterprising manner, he neither lost his taste for study not threw aside his books. He acquainted himself with law, was admitted to the bar, and pleaded a few cases in the Court of Common Pleas 1767 . Still he cherished a preference for the ministry, and was determined to prepare for the discharge of its sacred offices. His diary for Nov. 1768 , says.-"Prosecuted my study,-began to make sermons. May God grant me his blessing in so important an undertaking, and make me serviceable to the cause of religion, and the souls of my fellow men. I never engaged in this study with so firm resolution before; yet I have, for many years, had serious thoughts of entering on the ministry." Thus determined, he settled up his business and removed with his family to Dedham, Nov. 1769 , for the purpose of pursuing his theological studies under his father-in-law, Mr. Balch . In order to comply with the clerical costume of that period, he soon, but reluctantly, suffered his hair to be shorn, and its place to be supplied with a dark-colored wig. Being licensed, he preached for the Hamlet parish six months, and was ordained here Sept. 11th, 1771 . This solemn occasion, however, did not pass over without a trial to his feelings. Three persons objected to his becoming their pastor. But the Council, after considering their charges against him, decided that they were insufficient to prevent his settlement. At the time of his being set over this people, the difficulties between our country and Great Britain were assuming a dark and fearful aspect. He watched, with emotions of deep interest, the approach of the Revolution. When news came of Lexington battle, he made a short address to the minute company here, then mustered to march thither, and, with Mr. Willard of Beverly, afterwards President of Harvard College, he rode on horseback to Cambridge , and came in sight of the enemy, as they were retreating into Boston .-1776, Sept. 5th . Desirous to serve his country in deed, as well as word, he receives a commission, as chaplain, in the regiment under Col. Ebenezer Francis . In this capacity, Dr. Cutler served six months; and, for the same time subsequently, in the regiment commanded by Col. Titcomb , at Long Island and other stations. Towards the close of the war, as the physician of his people was employed in the army, and they were destitute of his aid, Dr. Cutler applied himself to the study and practice of medicine. At this crisis of public affairs, and of great distress, his salary had nearly ceased, he suffered loss by the depreciation of paper currency, and his family were straitened for the comforts of life. For several years he administered to the bodily, as well as the spiritual ills of his flock. For his former services he received little or no compensation. While he sought an increasing acquaintance with the revealed wonders of Deity, he did not fail to be interested in those works, which he had made in the heavens, and upon the earth. The plants of his own neighbourhood and elsewhere early attracted his attention, and he became one of the pioncers of botanical science in America . He was induced, at first, to pursue this branch of knowledge by casually meeting with an English work on Botany. He soon became noted for his scientific taste and attainments.-1781, Jan. 1st . He was elected a member of the American Academy. He furnished their volumes with the following pieces. On the Transit of Mercury over the Sun, Nov. 12th, 1782 . On an Eclipse of the Moon, March 29th, 1782 , and of the Sun on the 12th of the next April . Meteorological Observations, 1781 , 1782 , 1783 . An Account of some of the Vegetable Productions, naturally growing in this part of America . Remarks on a Vegetable and Animal Insect.-1785, June 1st . He was chosen a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.


Mr. Willard was a great-grandson of Maj. Simon Willard who was one of the earliest settlers of Concord, Mass. 1635 , and for the succeeding forty years is well known in the annals of the Colony. Samuel , a son of Maj. Willard , born at Concord 1740 , was among the most eminent divines in New England ; the minister of Groton , afterwards of the Old South church in Boston , and acting president of Harvard Coll. for several years. His son John , father of our minister, took a collegiate degree 1690 , and settled as a merchant at Kingston , Jamaica, W. I. , where Samuel was born 1705 . The latter was early sent to Boston to be educated under the care of his uncle, Josiah Willard , secretary of the Colony, and graduated at Har. Coll. 1723 ; when he returned to Kingston with the intention of fixing his residence on the island. But he was so much shocked by the licentiousness and irreligion which prevailed there, that he came back to New England , and soon after commenced the study of divinity. Directly on his settlement at this place he married Abigail , daughter of Mr. Samuel Wright , of Rutland, Mass. , previously of Sudbury . Their children were the following: Samuel , who died in childhood; John , b. 28 Jan. 1733 ; William , b. Dec. 1734 ; Abigail , died in infancy; Joseph , b. 29 Dec. 1738 ; and Eunice , b. 1741 . On the death of Mr. Willard , the town voted £20 to his widow, to purchase a mourning dress, and £15 for a further donation. She was again married, Nov. 13, 1744 , to Rev. Richard Elvins , minister of the second parish in Scarboro ', who proved an excellent father to her promising children, yet of a tender age.

Joseph Willard December 29, 1738-September 25, 1804

Joseph Willard was a U.S. Congregational clergyman and academic. He was educated at the Dummer Academy (now known as The Governor's Academy) and Harvard College (B.A., 1765; M.A., 1768) and served as pastor in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1780 he was appointed first corresponding secretary of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the following year he became president of Harvard in the midst of the American Revolution.

Wife: Mary Sheafe


  • Sidney Willard September 19, 1780-December 6, 1856


view all 11

Rev. President Joseph Willard's Timeline

December 29, 1738
Biddeford, York County, Maine, United States
February 6, 1775
Age 36
September 19, 1780
Age 41
Beverly, United States
October 14, 1795
Age 56
Portsmouth, Rockingham, NH, USA
March 14, 1798
Age 59
Cambridge, MA, USA
September 25, 1804
Age 65
New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States
- 1765
United States