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Cyrus HamlinCyrus Hamlin

seminary founder, college president

Cyrus Hamlin was born in Waterford, Maine, on January 5, 1811. He graduated with high honors from Bowdoin College in 1834, then attended Bangor Theological Seminary. In 1839 he was given a missionary assignment in Turkey.

In 1840, Hamlin, under the auspices of the American Missionary Board, founded Bebek Seminary in Istanbul (now Constantinople). While running the seminary he also engaged in various business enterprises, the profits from which helped support his mission work and provided work for his students. An advocate of teaching strictly in English, he ran afoul of the Missionary Board, which wanted him to provide teaching in Turkish and other languages. The Board decided to move the school to another location in 1859, but Hamlin chose not to move with the school.

In 1860, Christopher Robert, a wealthy businessman from New York, approached Hamlin about establishing a private college in Istanbul. Robert College was established that same year, with Hamlin as president. In order to keep the college from failing financially, Hamlin accepted no salary for the first four years, and personally raised over $26,000 in donations. In 1877, Robert suddenly decided he no longer needed Hamlin, and he was unceremoniously removed from his position.

Returning to the United States, Hamlin next served as a professor of theology at the Bangor Theological Seminary, from 1877 to 1880. He resigned over differences with the school regarding his outdated teaching style and his stand on the Prohibition issue (he favored it, the school's trustees did not).

Soon after leaving Bangor, Hamlin became president of Middlebury College (in Vermont), then in danger of financial collapse. Under his guidance the college not only regained its financial strength, but also hired its first staff member (an assistant librarian) and built its first boarding house. Despite his successes there, he refused to serve a second five-year term and resigned in 1885.

Cyrus Hamlin died on August 8, 1900. He was the author of Among the Turks and My Life and Times.

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This page was last updated on January 30, 2017.