Unable to afford the $2.50 tuition for the term, thirteen-year-old Jonathan Allen paid his bill with cords of split wood so he could attend the new Alfred Academy’s first class on December 5, 1836. He was joined by 14 other young men and 22 young women: making Alfred University a coeducational institution from the start. When he entered he could not write his own name. Within four years he was teaching in a nearby district school. At eighteen, he wrote a play that accurately predicted the future Civil War, its cause, and its impact. Jonathan’s dedication to the abolitionist cause was evident from a young age; and while later attending Oberlin College, he helped runaway slaves gain passage into Canada.
In the spring of 1849, Jonathan returned to Alfred as a faculty member. As a naturalist, he was enchanted by the inherent beauty of life and spent much time beautifying the campus grounds. Along with his wife, Abigail Maxson Allen, he constructed the Steinheim castle using stones gathered within three miles of Alfred, many were glacial deposit specimens.
He became the university’s second president in 1865. He deeply supported individuals, their power, and their capabilities irrespective of nationality, race, religion, background or gender. In helping to build Alfred University, President Allen hoped to preserve his idea that the greatest education can be found in the most ordinary of objects.
“Fiat Lux.” – Jonathan Allen