John Blair Smith
John Blair Smith was born in Pequea, Pennsylvania Colony, on June 12, 1756, the son of the Rev. Robert Smith, who ran an academy there. John Blair Smith was valedictorian of the Class of 1773 at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. He was recruited at the age of 19 to come to Virginia as a tutor at the new Hampden-Sydney College, then being founded by his elder brother, Samuel Stanhope Smith.
In 1779 S.S. Smith resigned his presidency and the pastorates of his churches, in order to answer a call to be president of the College of New Jersey. The younger Smith, who was ordained and elected president on the same day his brother resigned, managed to revive the flagging enterprise, and, with the assistance of Trustee Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, persuaded the General Assembly of Virginia to grant a charter in 1783, bestowing the power to grant degrees and establish a self-perpetuating Board. J. B. Smith resigned in 1789, accepting a call as pastor to church in Philadelphia. Four years later he was elected the first president of Union College in Schenectady, New York. Eight months after returning to his pastorate in Philadelphia in 1799, he died there in a yellow fever epidemic.