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Profile America — Tuesday, September 23rd. The nation's oldest institution of higher learning conferred its first nine college degrees on this date in 1642, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Called the "New College," the school was founded by Puritans in 1636 and began teaching in 1638. The following year, it was renamed in honor of John Harvard, a young minister who bequeathed his library and half his estate to the institution. Harvard stood alone in the American colonies for a long time -- until 1693, when a second institution opened: the college of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, Harvard is one of about 4,600 degree granting institutions in the U.S. Nationally, there are nearly 20 million enrolled undergraduate and advanced degree students. Profile America is in its 17th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sources: Kane's Famous First Facts, 2925