Harvard University | University of Cambridge was founded in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne", the institution was renamed Harvard College on March 13, 1639. It was named after John Harvard, a young English clergyman from Southwark, London, an alumnus of the University of Cambridge (after which Cambridge, Massachusetts is named), who bequeathed the College his library of four hundred books and £779 pounds sterling, which was half of his estate. The charter creating the corporation of Harvard College came in 1650. In the early years, the College trained many Puritan ministers. The college offered a classic academic course based on the English university model—many leaders in the colony had attended the University of Cambridge—but one consistent with the prevailing Puritan philosophy. The college was never affiliated with any particular denomination, but many of its earliest graduates went on to become clergymen in Congregational and Unitarian churches throughout New England. An early brochure, published in 1643, described the founding of the college as a response to the desire "to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches".
The leading Boston divine Increase Mather served as president from 1685 to 1701. In 1708, John Leverett became the first president who was not also a