Jacob Gould Schurman

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Jacob Gould Schurman
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-09830, Jacob Gould Schurman.jpg
Schurmann in 1930
President of Cornell University
In office
Preceded by Charles Kendall Adams
Succeeded by Livingston Farrand
Personal details
Born (1854-05-02)May 2, 1854
Freetown, Prince Edward Island
Died August 12, 1942(1942-08-12) (aged 88)
Bedford Hills, New York

Jacob Gould Schurman (May 22, 1854 – August 12, 1942) was a Canadian-born educator and diplomat, who served as President of Cornell University and United States Ambassador to Germany.

Early life[edit]

Schurman was born at Freetown, Prince Edward Island on May 22, 1854 the son of Robert and Lydia Schurman.[1] Schurman lived on his parents' farm as a child, then in 1867 took a job at a store near his home, which he held for two years.[2]

At the age of fifteen, Schurman entered the Summerside Grammar School on Prince Edward Island, and in 1870 he won a scholarship to study at Prince of Wales College for two years. After Prince of Wales College, he studied for a year and a half at Acadia College in Nova Scotia.[2]

While a student at Acadia College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in 1875, he won the Canadian Gilchrist scholarship in the University of London, from which he received the degree of BA in 1877 and that of MA in 1878, and in 1877-1880 studied in Paris, Edinburgh and (as Hibbert Fellow) in Heidelberg, Berlin and Göttingen.

He was professor of English literature, political economy and psychology at Acadia College in 1880-1882, of metaphysics and English literature at Dalhousie College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1882-1886, and of philosophy (Sage professor) at Cornell University in 1886-1892, being Dean of the Sage School of Philosophy in 1891-1892. In 1892 he became the third president of Cornell University, a position he kept until 1920.

He received an LL.D. (honoris causa) from the University of Edinburgh in March 1902.[3]

Cornell president[edit]

As Cornell's president, Schurman helped invent the modern state-supported research university. Under the Morrill Act, states were obligated to fund the maintenance of land grant college facilities, but were not obligated to fund operations. Subsequent laws required states to match federal funds for agricultural research stations and cooperative extension. In his inaugural address as Cornell's third president on November 11, 1892, Schurman announced his intention to enlist the financial support of the state.[4] Cornell, which had been offering a four-year scholarship to one student in each New York assembly district every year and was the state's land-grant university, was determined to convince the state to become a benefactor of the university. In 1894, the state legislature voted to give financial support for the establishment of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine and to make annual appropriations for the college.[5] This set the precedents of privately controlled, state-supported statutory colleges and cooperation between Cornell and the state. The annual state appropriations were later extended to agriculture, home economics, and following World War II, industrial and labor relations.

In 1898, Schurman persuaded the State Legislature to found the first forestry college in North America, the New York State College of Forestry.[6] The College undertook to establish a 30,000-acre (120 km2) demonstration forest in the Adirondacks, funded by New York State.[7] However, the plans of the school's director Bernhard Fernow for the land drew criticism from neighbors, and Governor Benjamin B. Odell vetoed the 1903 appropriation for the school. In response, Cornell closed the school.[8] Subsequently, in 1911, the State Legislature established a New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University, and the remains of Cornell's program became the Department of Natural Resources in its Agriculture College in 1910.[6] The State later followed the same model to establish a state college of ceramics at Alfred University.

International career[edit]

He was chairman of the First United States Philippine Commission in 1899, and wrote (besides a part of the official report to Congress) Philippine Affairs--A Retrospect and an Outlook (1902). With J. E. Creighton and James Seth he founded in 1892 The Philosophical Review. He also wrote Kantian Ethics and the Ethics of Evolution (1881); The Ethical Import of Darwinism (1888); Belief in God (1890), and Agnosticism and Religion (1896).

Schurman served as United States Ambassador to Greece in 1912-13, Ambassador to China between 1921 and 1925, and then as Ambassador to Germany between 1925 and 1929, a position twice previously held by Cornell's first president Andrew Dickson White. In 1917 Schurman was appointed honorary chairman of the American Relief Committee for Greeks of Asia Minor, an organization which provided humanitarian relief to Ottoman Greeks during the Greek genocide. He retired to Bedford Hills, New York in 1930.

In 1960, Cornell named the administrative wing of its veterinary school Jacob Gould Schurman Hall in his honor.[9]


  1. ^ "Jacob G. Schurman Is Dead Here at 88". The New York Times. August 13, 1942. p. 19. 
  2. ^ a b "President Schurman of Cornell". The New York Times. October 2, 1898. 
  3. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Monday, 10 March 1902. (36711), p. 11.
  4. ^ "Inaugurating the Presidents". Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  5. ^ "History and Archieves of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine". Retrieved 2010-02-01. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Department History". Archived from the original on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  7. ^ Donaldson, Alfred Lee (1921). A history of the Adirondacks, Volume 2. Century Co. pp. 202–207. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  8. ^ "Cornll School of Forestry Suspended.; Action Followed Failure of State to Provide Means for Its Support.". New York Times. June 18, 1903. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  9. ^ "Cornell Honors Former Head". The New York Times. April 26, 1960. p. 40. 


External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles Kendall Adams
President of Cornell University
Succeeded by
Livingston Farrand
Government offices
Preceded by
Newly created
President of the Schurman Commission
(First Philippine Commission)

March 4, 1899–March 16, 1900
Succeeded by
William Howard Taft
(Taft Commission)
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
George H. Moses
United States Minister to Greece
Succeeded by
George F. Williams
Preceded by
Paul Reinsch
United States Envoy to the Republic of China
Succeeded by
John MacMurray
Preceded by
Alanson B. Houghton
United States Ambassador to Germany
Succeeded by
Frederic M. Sackett