The founding trustees of Dickinson College secured a charter from the legislature of Pennsylvania on Sept. 9, 1783, authorizing them to establish a college in the Borough of Carlisle for “the right education of the youth, who must succeed the aged in the important offices of society” and “to disseminate and promote the growth of useful knowledge.” As befits the first college or university established in the United States after the close of the Revolutionary War, the charter cites the conclusion of the “long and bloody contest with a great and powerful kingdom.” For the founder, Benjamin Rush, and John Dickinson, for whom the college was named, Dickinson was nothing less than a revolutionary project designed to create the educated citizenry required for the survival of the young republic.
Charged with this patriotic mission and anxious to establish the college in earnest, the trustees held three meetings in Philadelphia later that month. At the first meeting, John Dickinson was elected to the chair, and the board appointed its first committees—one on fundraising and one to acquire land and to plan for a building to house the college. At the second meeting, the trustees were occupied principally with fundraising questions. At the final meeting, the stature of the board—which included such luminaries of the revolutionary era as Dickinson, Rush and James Wilson—was matched by the auspiciousness of the location, which was the State House, known today as Independence Hall. From the beginning, therefore, the college has been governed by trustees who engage their work with energy and who appreciate the seriousness of their project.