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A 150th Birthday for the Board of Managers

By Christopher Densmore
Curator, Friends Historical Library


Charter Board member Edward Parrish would become Swarthmore’s first president.

Throughout fall 1862, the founders of Swarthmore, loosely organized as the Friends Union Boarding School Association, were holding conferences and raising subscriptions throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Delaware.

On Dec. 2, 1862, the subscribers met at the Race Street Meetinghouse in Philadelphia to establish the Friends Educational Association. The association created a Board of Managers to consist of 16 men and 16 women, all members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), with an “equitable proportion” of them belonging to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and the New York Yearly Meeting.

The first 32 members of the Board of Managers included Edward Parrish, later to become Swarthmore’s first president, Benjamin Hallowell, Martha E. Tyson and others. William Parrish and Edith W. Attlee were appointed co-clerks.

Fundraising continued, and committees were appointed to draft a charter and search for a suitable location for the school. When $50,000 worth of stock was subscribed, and at least half that amount actually paid, the Board could proceed with the purchase, erection, and future management of the school, provided that “they shall at no time incur expenses beyond the available resources of the current six months.” Quakers could be generous but also had a reputation for being frugal.

These Friends secured a charter for Swarthmore College in 1864. Thus our original Board of Managers, the ancestor of our current Board, predates the formal establishment of the College by two years.

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