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Posts Tagged ‘Alpheus Hardy’

I learned something new as I was poring over some 19th-century college records last week: that in 1847, and again in 1869, Amherst College briefly but seriously considered the idea of changing its name to Williston, in honor of its generous trustee and benefactor, Samuel Williston.

The Trustee minutes of July 7, 1847 record that the idea was to be formally proposed and voted on at that meeting.  However, as it came up at the end of a long, arduous agenda (actually extending over two days), such a momentous decision was deferred to the next meeting. But inexplicably, the idea wasn’t reconsidered until more than a year later.  Jump ahead to the Trustee minutes of August 8, 1848:

Voted: That in the opinion of this Board it is expedient to change the name of Amherst College & to affix to it the name of its liberal Benefactor; Samuel Williston.

Voted: That President Hitchcock, Dr. Packard & Mr. Vaill be a committee to apply to the Legislature for leave to make the alteration.

Voted: That the foregoing votes be submitted to Mr. Williston previous to their taking effect.

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Samuel Williston (1795-1874), Easthampton (Mass.) button manufacturer, philanthropist, Amherst College trustee, and founder of Williston Academy.

Amherst’s debt to Samuel Williston is clearly not to be underestimated; in fact, it is no exaggeration to say that its very survival rested on his support.  When it faced serious financial difficulties in 1840, Williston pledged $1,000.  Over the next thirty years, his financial gifts to Amherst amounted to more than $220,000. (In all, his donations to various charities amounted to more than $1.5 million.)

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