Photo of Johnathan Allen
Johnathan Allen
Years on campus 1836 - 1892

Johnathan Allen

Johnathan Allen paid winter’s tuition in six cords of four-foot wood. Then, carrying a homemade chair into the sparse school room, he attended the first class of Alfred Academy.

When he came to the Academy at thirteen years old, Johnathan could not write his own name. By age seventeen, he taught a district school. At eighteen, he wrote a play that accurately predicted the emancipation of slavery twenty-two years in the future. Johnathan’s dedication to the abolitionist cause was evident from a young age; and while attending Oberlin, he helped runaway slaves gain passage into Canada.

In the spring of 1849, Johnathan returned to Alfred to build a college using his own hands. As a naturalist, he was enchanted by the inherent beauty of life and, using local clay, forged Alfred’s first buildings. He constructed the Steinheim castle from nearly seven thousand types of stones gathered from nearby regions to symbolize the diverse history of the Alfred valley.

As president, he established Alfred University as a coeducational institution. He deeply supported individuals, their power, and their capabilities irrespective of nationality, race, and gender. In creating Alfred University, President Allen hoped to preserve his idea that the greatest education can be found in the most ordinary of objects.

“Fiat Lux.” – Johnathan Allen