795 – Death of Ezra Stiles, a Congregationalist pastor, theologian, and the seventh president of Yale. He had been an advocate of Hebrew studies.
In 1778, Ezra Stiles was appointed president of Yale, a post he held until his death. Stiles freed Newport on June 9, 1778, as he prepared to move to New Haven; he would in 1782 hire his former slave for $20 a year and the indenturing of Newport’s two-year-old son until age 24.
As president of Yale, Stiles became its first professor of Semitics, and required all students to study Hebrew (as Harvard students already did); his first commencement address in September 1781 (no ceremonies having been held during the American Revolutionary War) was delivered in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. By 1790, however, he was forced to face failure in instilling an interest in the language in the student body, writing
„From my first accession to the Presidency … I have obliged all the Freshmen to study Hebrew. This has proved very disagreeable to a Number of the Students. This year I have determined to instruct only those who offer themselves voluntarily.”
The valedictorians of 1785 and 1792, however, did deliver their speeches in Hebrew.