How much do you know about Transylvania University? Find the surprising answers to the questions listed below. Want to know more? Learn about our history.
Robert Barr, class of 1802. Transylvania now inducts alums into the Barr Society on the occasion of their 50th reunion.
Francis Preston Blair and Blair House. Since 1942, Blair House has been the official President’s Guest House, playing host to foreign heads of state. Blair graduated from Transy in 1811 and became a nationally prominent journalist and politician. He was the most influential member of President Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet,” an informal circle of advisers, and the editor of the Globe, the organ of the Jackson administration. He purchased what became Blair House in 1836 and lived there with his family for many years. His son, Montgomery Blair, also attended Transy and was later appointed Postmaster General by President Lincoln.
The program began in 1982 as the Thomas Jefferson Scholars. The program was renamed in 1988 in honor of William T. Young, the founder and principal supporter. The merit scholarships cover tuition and fees for four years.
Members of the secret, idealistic fraternity, founded in 1819 for students of the Medical Department of Transylvania University, helped found the American Medical Association in 1847 and devised its Principles of Medical Ethics.
A cholera epidemic. Doctors, including members of the Medical Department of Transylvania, were unable to stop the spread of the disease that killed over 500 Lexingtonians out of a population of 6,000.
Thomas Jefferson, working in his retirement to create UVA, wrote to friend Joseph Cabell, saying, "If our legislature does not heartily push our University, we must send our children for education to Kentucky or Cambridge. The latter will return them to us as fanatics and tories, the former will keep them to add to their population. If however we are to go begging anywhere for our education, I would rather it should be to Kentucky than any other state, because she has more of the flavor of the old cask than any other."
In 1862, Lincoln appointed Samuel Freeman Miller to the Supreme Court, where he would serve as an associate justice until his death in 1890. Miller graduated from the Transylvania medical school in 1838 and practiced medicine for nearly 10 years before turning to the study of law.
John and Charles Bell’s comprehensive multi-volume treatise The Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Body, published from 1703-1804, contained graffiti in the form of student signatures, comments about professors, declarations of love, and portraits doodled on the end pages.
The curators unanimously approved admission of women on April 27, 1889. Laura Clay, daughter of Cassius M. Clay and a leader in Lexington’s women’s rights movement, presented the curators with a petition, and they asked the presidents of 10 other colleges and universities that had already become coeducational for their advice. The minimum age of women students was 14, and because there were no dormitories for them, female applicants were admitted only if they could find a home in the city or vicinity "where they can be under protecting and controlling family care."
On April 23, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower spoke from the steps of Old Morrison, saying: "It seems to me that everybody who in the past has graduated from this institution, or who today is privileged to serve it, or to be here as a student, has a great heritage of tradition which cannot fail to enrich his life as long as he shall live." Other dignitaries on the stage included Senator John Sherman Cooper and Transylvania alum Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler.
Henry Clay, born April 12, 1777, was a member of the Transylvania Board of Trustees and taught in the law school. Known as the Great Compromiser, Clay represented Kentucky in both the House of Representatives and Senate. He served as Secretary of State and a leader in the Whig Party. He ran three unsuccessful campaigns for the presidency, but remained extremely influential in American politics.
Transylvania took part in the first recorded college football game in the South, against Centre College on April 9, 1880, in Lexington. A newspaper account of the day listed Transy as the winner, 13-3/4 points to 0.
Benjamin Winslow Dudley, who served as professor of anatomy and surgery in the Transylvania Medical Department until 1850. He insisted that he and his assistants wash patients’ bodies or injuries with water that had been boiled. All bandages, operating tables, and instruments were scrubbed with boiled water and soap before use.
J. Hill Hamon, who taught biology from 1968-96, produces books that have been recognized for their beauty of graphic design and perfect execution on his Whippoorwill Press. Hamon was also a photographer, paper maker, calligrapher, musician, geologist, and writer.
Since the inception of Transylvania’s Alternative Spring Break in 1993, students have spent their week of vacation volunteering for outreach and service programs outside of Lexington. Some ASB projects have included providing disaster relief in Mississippi, the Midwest, and North Carolina; building low-income housing in Tennessee; and working with migrant farm workers in Florida.
In 1848, the year he graduated from the Medical Department, George Rogers Clark Todd gave the university an "Immense Hairball" from the stomach of a buffalo. Todd was the youngest brother of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln. The museum later received a second, smaller hairball from Thomas J. Clay, grandson of statesman Henry Clay.
Mary Austin Holley was a lifelong poet and published The Texan Song of Liberty in 1836. Her husband, Horace Holley, was president of Transylvania from 1818-1827. She was a cousin of Transylvania graduate and hero of Texas, Stephen F. Austin.
Charles Wilkins Short, class of 1810, meticulously prepared his specimens, and they were so highly regarded that five prominent botanists named species after him. Short served as Dean and Chair of Materia Medica and Medical Botany in Transylvania’s medical department from 1825-37.
To past generations of Transylvanians, the Kissing Tree was a favorite spot for couples to steal a kiss or two. There was a time when public displays of affection were frowned upon and on many college campuses, kissing in public was strictly against the rules. Somehow, a tacit agreement evolved at Transylvania that when sweethearts were under the Kissing Tree, administrators would look the other way while they stole a kiss. For more on the Kissing Tree, click here.
If Transylvania won an away football game the campus community was notified by the blowing of the steam whistle at the Power Plant. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, Transylvania suspended the football program "for the duration," but for a variety reasons, many financial, the program was never resumed. For more on the last seasons of Transylvania’s football program, see the Fall 2006 Transylvania magazine.
Lucy Shropshire Crump, Transylvania class of 1926, restored or repaired more than 200 books in Transylvania’s Special Collections. When she retired in 1990, she donated her Boxwood Bindery to the university. Crump was affectionately known as the Mayor of Gratz Park.
Fire was discovered in the basement on January 27, 1969. It gutted the center of the historic structure, but the wings, which housed administrative offices and records, were not seriously damaged. The price tag for restoration was $1.1 million, and the building was rededicated May 9, 1971.
John Fox Jr.’s novel The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come was one of the first in American literature to sell a million copies, as did his second novel, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. He was named American Author of the Year in 1904.
Joseph Buchanan, who was educated at Transylvania from 1806-07 and began teaching in the Transylvania Institutes of Medicine in 1809. Remembered today as the greatest American psychologist before William James, Buchanan also claimed to have isolated a way to use combustion to drive an engine without steam, possibly anticipating modern air engines.
Paul Preston ’79, an anesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center, is a leader in healthcare safety training, using robotics to simulate emergencies that may occur during labor and childbirth. He was featured in U.S. News & World Report and an Associated Press article that was picked up by newspapers across the country. Click here to read article.
John D. Wright Jr’s Transylvania: Tutor to the West, traces the college from its chartering in 1780 to its status in the 1970s. Wright was a history professor at the university from 1950-86.
John D. Wright Jr.’s Transylvania: Tutor to the West, traces the college from its chartering in 1780 to its status in the 1970s. Wright was a history professor at the university from 1950-86.
Alpha Lambda Delta, which is a national honor society for students who have maintained a 3.5 or higher GPA and are in the top 20 percent of their class during their first year or term of higher education.
Maurine Dallas Watkins, class of 1918, is the author of Chicago, a satirical 1926 play that has been the basis for all the stage and movie versions that have appeared since then, including the 2002 Academy Award-winning movie. In 2009, So Help Me God!, a long-forgotten play that Watkins wrote 80 years prior, opened at the Lucille Lortel Theater in New York City. Watkins was a Hollywood screenwriter from 1930-40. Among her many credits is the 1936 MGM film Libeled Lady, starring Spencer Tracy, William Powell, and Myrna Loy.
Transylvania students host approximately 60 local children for Crimson Christmas. The children, from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lexington, enjoy games and crafts with the Transy students before a visit from Santa Claus who delivers stockings and gifts.
The cabin was one of the first buildings in Lexington. It is the cabin of Robert Patterson, one of the first settlers of Lexington and an early trustee of Transylvania. He later helped settle Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. For more information, click here.
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was first published on November 24, 1859. Transylvania’s special collections holds a first edition copy of On the Origin of Species, along with first edition copies of several of Darwin’s other books. The year 2009 also marked the 200th birthday of Darwin. For more information, click here.
A rare Medical Venus. Organs and tissue from as many as 200 cadavers were used in casting the life-sized dissectible wax figure of a woman. Benjamin Winslow Dudley and Charles Caldwell, professors in the Transylvania Medical Department, purchased the Venus in Florence, Italy, along with books and other apparatus for the college—many of which are still housed in the museum. To learn more about the Venus click here.
Gideon Shryock. Transylvania’s trustees commissioned the 29-year-old to design the building and oversee its construction in 1831. The estimated cost of the Greek Revival structure was $30,000. Shryock also designed the Old State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.
Lyman Beecher, father of author Harriet Beecher Stowe, highlighted a convention of teachers held on November 6, 1833 with a speech on “The Dignity and Importance of the Profession of Teaching.”
Nineteenth century naturalist Constantine Rafinesque came to teach at Transylvania in 1819 but was fired by university president Horace Holley in 1826. Raf wrote that he left the college with curses on it and Holley, starting the legend of the curse. In 1827, Holley died, and in 1829, the main building on campus (then in Gratz Park) burned. Remains thought to be Rafinesque’s were moved from Philadelphia to Transy’s Old Morrison building in 1924, but in 1969, Old Morrison was damaged by fire. Does the curse still exist? For more on Rafinesque, click here.
Constantine S. Rafinesque, a native of Constantinople and a naturalist ahead of his time, taught at Transylvania from 1819-1826. He died in Philadelphia in 1840 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1924, his grave was located and remains thought to be his were reinterred at Transylvania, in a tomb in Old Morrison.
Dr. Samuel Brown. He was a professor of medicine at Transylvania in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Dr. Brown founded the Kappa Lambda Society of Hippocrates, a medical fraternity at Transy that was one of the earliest professional fraternities in the country. Its members later helped found the American Medical Association.
In 1865. Transylvania originally operated as a non-denominational public institution and at various times was affiliated with the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.
Old Morrison, the University’s administration building, is in the center of the city’s official seal. The U.S. Government designated the building as a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1966. For more information about Old Morrison, click here.
The 1999-2000 women’s soccer team went to the very brink of Transylvania’s first national team championship before losing to Westmont College 3-0 in the NAIA finals in Miami, and claiming the national runner-up trophy. The team was honored September 26, 2009, during halftime of the Transy-Defiance.
Monroe Moosnick, who devoted 50 years to Transy, beginning in 1946 as a chemistry professor. He also served as department chair, curator of the medical museum that bears his name, alumni coordinator, and special assistant to the president. Moosnick died in 1995 at age 76. For more information about the Moosnick Museum click here
Frank Rose, president from 1951-57, garnered cooperation among presidents of eight private colleges to establish the Foundation, which was dedicated to soliciting support from Kentucky industries and businesses.
Serenade and greet line. First-year students gather on the steps of Old Morrison, where the men and women take turns singing to each other. Then they line up to introduce themselves to each other.
When it was organized in 1799, Transylvania’s law school was the second permanently operating law school in the United States. The law school’s founder, George Nicholas, also drafted the Kentucky Constitution.
Cecil Sanders, a 1936 graduate. He was also a friend of President John F. Kennedy.
John Marshall Harlan was appointed by President Hayes as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1877. He is most notable as the lone dissenter in the infamous Civil Rights Cases (1883) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).
George Shannon. He was later a student at Transylvania and went on to practice law in Lexington.
Tuition was set at four pistoles (Spanish gold coins). In the west where men with goods to sell looked down the river to New Orleans, the Spanish appeared a more significant factor, and Spanish gold was the best currency available.
In February 1785, the first Transylvania students trudged through snow to reach classes, which were held in a small log cabin.
Christopher Greenup, one of Kentucky’s first two representatives to the U.S. Congress in 1792, was one of Transylvania’s early trustees. He was also elected governor of the state in 1804.
Isaac Shelby, Kentucky’s first governor and a noted military leader in the American Revolution, was one of Transylvania’s early trustees.
Fifteen. Founded in 1780, Transylvania is the 16th oldest college in the nation, and the first west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Transylvania University admits students regardless of age, race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, national origin, or any other classification protected by federal or state law or local ordinance.