Timothy Dwight IV
Academic, Educator, Theologian,
Legislator, Author, Yale President
Timothy Dwight IV was born in
to Timothy Dwight Northampton, Massachusetts III, a farmer, merchant and
Revolutionary War Major. His mother was Mary Edwards, the third daughter of
renowned theologian Jonathan Edwards.
The oldest of twelve siblings, Timothy was a brilliant youngster and is said to have read the Bible by the time he was five years old and was teaching local Indians by the age of seven. Besides learning Latin and Greek, he met the Yale entrance requirements by the time he was eight, but waited to enter the college until he was thirteen. His long hours of study led to deteriorating eyesight and other health issues that plagued him throughout his life. He received his B.A. in 1769 and his M.A. in 1772.
Dwight served as rector of a grammar school for two years before returning to Yale to serve as a tutor from 1771-1777. The year 1777 proved to be a consequential year for Dwight as during that year he was licensed to preach and was appointed as chaplain in the Connecticut Continental Brigade where he served with distinction. That same year he married Mary Woolsey, daughter of well connected banker and merchant Benjamin Woolsey. It was also in 1777 that his father died though news of it didn’t arrive until over a year later. In 1778 he resigned his commission and returned to
to support his mother and help
raise his younger siblings. He also managed the family farms, preached, and
established a coed school. During that period he also served two terms in the Northampton, Massachusetts legislature. Massachusetts
Timothy Dwight began to draw public acclaim in 1776 while at Yale during an address when he noted the unique national identity of Americans as:
|Timothy Dwight IV by John Trumbull|
In 1783 He became the minister of Greenfield Hill, a Congregational church in
Fairfield, . He also established a highly respected and sought
after academy. There he combated the ideology of Deism. His “Discourse on the
Genuineness and Authenticity of the New Testament” became a powerful tool
defending orthodox Christianity. Connecticut
He was elected as the President of Yale in 1795. During his tenure at Yale, he was credited with advancing Yale’s profile and academic scope. He taught classes, preached the Word of God, and was instrumental in bringing revival. It has been said that a third of the student body came to faith during this time and was part of the Second Great Awakening.
In addition to authoring books, Dwight also penned several hymns, one I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord, is believed to be the oldest hymn by an American still in common use.
Timothy Dwight IV died of cancer in 1817 and was buried in
, Grove Street Cemetery . New Haven, Connecticut