It’s week two of PA Month! This is Eliphalet Pearson, the first headmaster at Phillips Academy. I took Latin for two years in Pearson Hall, the Classics building in the middle of campus.
Pearson was born in Newbury in 1752. He graduated from Harvard in 1773 at the top of his class. His graduation speech against slavery was so amazing that his teachers published it into a pamphlet. During the Revolutionary War, Pearson and his friend Samuel Phillips ran a powder mill and supplied soldiers with 1,000 pounds of gun powder per week. When Phillips Academy was founded in 1778, and Pearson became the first principal. He lead on the principle (still sighted today by my headmaster Barbara Chase), “…goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefullness to mankind.”
Pearson was a brutal man, often nicknamed “Elephant” for his large frame, loud voice, and brusque manner. Students feared him, but peers respected him. After eight years as principal, Pearson was offered a position to teach foreign languages at Harvard. After expanding the campus so that more than 60 boys could enroll, Pearson stepped down as headmaster and rejoined the Harvard community. He stayed with Harvard for 20 years, becoming president in 1804. He quickly lost this position, however, because his Calvinistic views were opposed in the Unitarian environment. In a fit of fury, Pearson resigned and returned to Andover to found the Andover Theological Seminary in 1808. He remained in Andover until 1820, when he retired to a farm in Harvard, MA. The Seminary was a huge success, gaining the attention of the world with its research and publications. Although the seminary merged with the Newton Theological Seminary in 1965, the Seminary campus is now the heart of the PA campus.
Pearson truly transformed American education.
All info gathered from our archives.