jQuery Slider

You are here

Ivy League schools jettison religion underpinnings

Ivy League schools jettison religion underpinnings
Columbia leads the pack

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
May 3, 2024

The preRevolution colonial-era Ivy League universities have lost their original spiritual moorings. They are now adrift in a sea of hyper secularism, wokeism, and anti-Semitic activism bordering on domestic terrorism.

Currently that is being played out against the backdrop of anti-Israel demonstrations, civil disobedience and campus occupations spearheaded at Columbia University which spread like wildfire throughout the elite collegiate community spilling over into other college settings.

There are nine colonial-era schools, seven of which are in the prestigious Ivy League. One other Ivy League school was founded in the days following the Civil War.


The Ivy League schools are considered to have academic excellence, with a highly selective admissions process, and hold to social elitism.

They are -- according to their founding dates -- Harvard (1636); Yale (1701); University of Pennsylvania (1740); Princeton (1746); Columbia (1754); Brown (1764); Dartmouth (1769); and Cornell (1865). The two other colonial colleges William & Mary (1693); and Rutgers (1766) are not considered Ivy League schools but are a part of the original nine colonial-era pre-Revolutionary War colleges still in operation.

Other than the University of Pennsylvania, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin as a public academy to train Pennsylvania youth, and Cornell University established as a post-Civil War private coed nonsectarian land grant school, all the Ivy League institutions were initially founded by various religious denominations for the training of their clergy.

Although the University of Pennsylvania does not have religious roots at its foundation the school's mascot is the Quaker -- a nod to William Penn who was the founder of the Providence of Pennsylvania and himself a Quaker.

Penn is noteworthy for penning the tome "An Humble Disciple and Patient Bearer of the Cross of Jesus" in 1669. It has become a Christian classic.

The Quakers, officially called the Religious Society of Friends, were basically started by George Fox pool in the 1640s became disillusioned with the church of England and felt that a person could experience a direct connection to Christ without clergy. Thus Quakerism, which believes in simplicity, was born and spread to the new world in 1656.

William Penn founded what would become the state of Pennsylvania in 1681 with a land grant from King Charles II of England.

All the other colonial and Ivy League schools -- save Cornell -- had founding religious roots: Brown was Baptist; Columbia and William & Mary were Anglican; Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale were Congregationalist; Princeton was Presbyterian; and Rutgers was Dutch Reformed.

On April 27, 1865, a mere 13 days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, New York Governor Ruben Fenton signed a land grant for the establishment of Cornell as a private coed nonsectarian institution. The land grant came as a result of the 1862 Morrill Land Grant College Act giving states the ability to provide land for the establishment of institutions of higher learning.

Cornell (1865) is one of only three private land grant universities in the United States, the others being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1862) in Cambridge, and Tuskegee University (1881) in Alabama.


Incrementally through the years the religious moorings of the Ivy League schools were shed and eventually they all became what is known as research universities. Meaning that instead of their focus being on the training of clergy to spread the Gospel in America and to provide spiritual care their focus shifted from the religious message to being committed to secular research including but not limited to scientific, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, zoology, the humanities, politics, the arts, economic, social, medicine, and technological research as a central part of its mission.

Leading the vanguard of the developing research university concept includes the Ivy League schools of Columbia (1754), Harvard (1636), Pennsylvania (1740), Princeton (1746), and Yale (1701); state land grant universities including universities of California-Berkeley (1868), Illinois-Urbana/Champaign (1867), Michigan-Ann Arbor (1817), Minnesota-Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul (1851), and Wisconsin-Madison (1848); and private institutions of higher learning conceived from their inception as research universities including the University of Chicago (1890), Cornell (1865), Johns Hopkins (1876), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1861), and Stanford (1885).

All of the above research universities, save the universities of Illinois and Minnesota and MIT, are founding members of the Association of American Universities established in 1900 The elite university organization is dedicated to fostering academic research. Illinois and Minnesota joined in 1908 while MIT joined the ranks in 1934.


Initially the various colonial Ivy League schools were founded to train clergy. Their early presidents were all clergymen. But slowly each school shed its religious identity and focus.

Columbia is an interesting case in point. In 1754 it was established as King's College through a royal charter by King George II and initially found a home on the grounds of the historic Trinity Parish. For 30 years the school reflected its homage to the King of England for its founding. But in 1784, following the Revolutionary War, the name was changed to Columbia College while remaining on the grounds of Trinity-Wall Street.

Trinity Parish was founded in 1697. In 1709 a parish school -- Trinity School -- was established to serve the educational needs of the parish's children. Then in 1754 Trinity Church allowed a modest school building to be built on its property to house the newly forming King's College which had all of eight students in its first class. It was Trinity Parish's desire to establish an "Anglican college" in New York. When Trinity's vestry cut a deal with the new "Anglican" college for use of the land it stipulated that every college president must be a member of the Church of England or else the land would revert back to the church. To this day Trinity School acts as an Ivy League preparatory school funneling students into Columbia.

However, Trinity Parish's prohibition against nonAnglicans being at the helm of what would become Columbia University had no teeth after King's College moved to Park Place in 1760. Then in 1857 what was known as Columbia College set up camp along Madison Avenue. In 1896 Columbia College was elevated to university status. Within a year, in 1897, Columbia University permanently resettled in Manhattan's Morning Heights district where it is still located today.

The current president of Columbia is Baroness Minouche Shafik who was born in Egypt to Muslim parents. She plays down her nonChristian religious history and emphasizes her academic and financial background.

It has been under her watch that anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations and violent protests broke out at Columbia and then spread to other American colleges and universities resulting in campus encampments, the takeover of Hamilton Hall and clashes with police upsetting campus life and threatening student safety.

After more than a week of escalating violence the New York Police were called in at the waning hours of April to break the back of the demonstrations at Columbia. So as May dawned Columbia University was again quiet as police restored law and order to the campus. They are expected to maintain a visible police presence through the early part of May.

There have also been growing sympathetic demonstrations at other Ivy League schools including Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Yale.

The widening demonstrations are reminiscent of the Viet Nam War protests during the Baby Boomer generation college days. Those Baby Boomers are now the grea-grandparents of this crop of protesting Columbia students.

Historically all Ivy League schools shed their clerical leadership. Today there is no clergyman (or in the age of wokeness -- clergy woman) who is leading an Ivy League school.


Columbia, which has strong Anglican roots, was the first Ivy League school to shed its clerical leadership in 1829. In 1754 Columbia was initially founded as King's College through a royal charter granted by King George II of England who was also the Defender of the Faith and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

King George saw a need to have an institution of higher learning with an Anglican focus. Harvard (1636); Yale (1701); University of Pennsylvania (1740); Princeton (1746) had already been established. Harvard and Yale were in the Congregational camp, Princeton was Presbyterian, and Pennsylvania was established as nonsectarian.

Finally, in 1937 Brown, an American Baptist school, was the last Ivy League college to say goodbye to clergy in the President's office.

The last clergymen who were Ivy League presidents include: COLUMBIA: William Harris, Episcopal priest (1811-1829); DARTMOUTH: William Tucker, Congregational minister (1893-1908);

PENNSYLVANIA: Daniel Goodwin, Episcopal priest (1860-1868); HARVARD: Thomas Hill, Unitarian minister, (1862-1868); YALE: Timothy Dwight, Congregational minister (1886-1899); PRINCETON: John Hibben, Church of Scotland priest (1912-1932); and BROWN: Clarence Barber, American Baptist pastor (1929-1937).


Each Ivy League school has its motto. Many reflecting their early belief in God as a driving force in education. However, the Ivy League colleges are no longer living up to the ideals set by their mottos.

BROWN: In Deo Speramus -- In God We Hope.

COLUMBIA: In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen -- In Thy Light we see light.

CORNELL: I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study -- Ezra Cornell.

DARTMOUTH: Vox clamantis in deserto -- A voice crying out in the wilderness. Drawing upon Isaiah 40:3 for inspiration.

PENNSYLVANIA: Leges sine moribus vanae -- Laws without morals are useless.

PRINCETON: Motto: Die Sub Numine Viget -- Under God's Power She Flourishes Seal: Vat(us) Nov(um) Testamentum -- Old Testament and New Testament.

YALE: אורים ותמים (Hebrew) Urim and Thummim reflecting Exodus 28:30 and I Samuel 14:41 Lux et veritas (Latin) -- Light and Truth.


The student bodies of the Ivy League schools ranges from 6,700 (Dartmouth) to 36,500 (Columbia) with faculty ranging from 850 (Brown) to more than 5,200 (Yale).

DARTMOUTH: 6,700 student body and 943 faculty.

PRINCETON: 8,500 student body and 1,068 faculty.

BROWN: 11,000 student body and 850 faculty.

YALE: 14,800 student body and 5,200 faculty.

HARVARD: 21,500 student body and 2,400 faculty.

PENNSYLVANIA: 23,000 student body and 4,800 faculty.

CORNELL: 26,000 student body and 1,600 faculty.

COLUMBIA: 36,500 student body and 4,600 faculty.


Basic undergraduate tuition ranges from a low of $57,261 (Harvard) to a high of $66,139 (Columbia). And this does not include dormitory, food service, books or other fees and monetary needs which adds another $20,000 to $25,000 to the yearly price tag. A four-year degree can come in at more than a third of a million dollars with Columbia weighing in at $344,388.

DARTMOUTH: Basic undergraduate tuition is $62,658 plus another $21,144 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $83,802. A four-year Dartmouth degree costs $335,208.

PRINCETON: Basic undergraduate tuition is $57,410 plus another $23,005 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $80,415. A four-year Princeton degree costs $321,660.

BROWN: Basic undergraduate tuition is $65,146 plus another $18,540 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $83,686. A four-year Brown degree costs $334,424.

YALE: Basic undergraduate tuition is $62,250 plus another $22,870 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $83,802. A four-year Yale degree costs $340,480.

HARVARD: Basic undergraduate tuition is $57,261 plus another $26,277 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $83,538. A four-year Harvard degree costs $334,152.

PENNSYLVANIA: Basic undergraduate tuition is $63,452 plus another $22,286 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $85,738. A four-year Pennsylvania degree costs $342,952.

CORNELL: Basic undergraduate tuition is $63,200 plus another $19,958 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $83,196. A four-year Cornell degree costs $332,784.

COLUMBIA: Basic undergraduate tuition is $66,139 plus another $19,958 for room, board and book brings the academic yearlong tuition to $86,097. A four-year Columbia degree costs $344,388.

Ivy League's parents are wasting their hard-earned money to send their high school graduates to institutions which have jettisoned the Biblical worldview for practical lessons in wokeism, civil disobedience, and violent activism.

TO READ MORE CLICK HERE: https://melaniephillips.substack.com/p/the-ivory-tower-jihad?publication_id=77655&utm_campaign=email-post-title&r=8sue6&utm_medium=email

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline.

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top