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American College & University Founders

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  • Jesse Mercer (1769 - 1841)
    Jesse Mercer, Baptist minister and patron of missions and education, was born in Halifax County, the oldest of eight children of Silas Mercer, an able pioneer preacher in Georgia. His brother Daniel ...
  • Alexander B. McCorkle (1806 - 1886)
    Alexander B. McCorkle was a native of Rockbridge County, Va., and a descendant of the McCorkle and Glasgow families of that state. A Presbyterian minister, he preached widely in Virginia, Georgia, and ...
  • Robert Lee Madison (1867 - 1954)
    Robert Lee Madison, educator, legislator, and founder of Cullowhee High School, which became Western Carolina University, was born in Staunton, Va., the son of Robert Lewis and Helen Banister Madis...
  • Henderson W. Belk (1923 - 2011)
    The Reverend Dr. Henderson Belk The Rev. Dr. Belk, 88, of Charlotte, NC died on October 20, 2011. He was born on August 1, 1923 in Charlotte, son of the late William Henry Belk (founder of Belk Dep...
  • Rev John McMillan D.D. (1752 - 1833)
    DAR# A078294 This is my 5th Great-Grandfather. Everyone in my mother's family has little commemorative plates of a log cabin hanging on their wall, but I never knew the whole story until now... The...

This project aims to gather together all of the Geni profiles of people who directly founded American colleges and universities. Anyone who solely founded an institution can be added.

Who Is a Founder?

Please read this section carefully before adding anyone to this project. Thanks!

A specific founder is usually listed on the "History" page of any major college or university's website. In many cases, an institution may have been founded by a small group of trustees or governors. Right now, we are most interested in the primary founders. (For example, while a small group of men founded Yale University, Rev. James Pierpont is universally considered the primary founder.)

If you have any questions about whether an individual is a founder, please feel free to use the Discussions area of this project.

Please note: Being the namesake, benefactor, or first president of an institution does NOT automatically mean having founded it. Many colleges named for people were not founded by those people. Harvard, for example, was founded by the Massachusetts legislature and not by John Harvard.

List of Founders (Alphabetical by College)

NOTE: Founders not in bold need to be added. If you collaborate on those profiles, please add them and then embolden their name. Thank you!






  • Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina -- founded by













South Carolina State University -- founded by





  • Xavier University of Louisiana -- founded by



About This Project

This project was started in May 2011 by Ashley, a member of the History of Education Society. Feel free to contact her with any questions -- or, better yet, use the Discussions area to connect with all collaborators!