Patrick Healy - first African-American to head a college (Georgetown): 1873
Georgetown`s Patrick Healy
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Also see James M. O'Toole. James M. O'Toole. Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920. [ISBN 1-55849-341-7]
Catholic Irish in early America were scorned as low lifes, papist, alcoholics. The KKK term seems to have branded the Irish as white niggers.

~ Georgetown University ~

Who was Patrick Healy?

first black college president
Photo courtesy Lauinger Library - Georgetown

Patrick Healy - first African-American to head a college (Georgetown): 1873

Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family:
Patrick Healy was born 27 February 1830 on a cotton planation near Macon, Georgia, to Michael and Mary Eliza Healy. A former Irish soldier who emigrated to America by way of Canada after the war of 1812, Michael was a planter. In 1829, Michael fell in love with Mary Eliza, a mixed-race domestic slave, and purchased her from her former owner, Sam Griswold. Georgia's laws at the time prohibited interracial marriages, but the two are believed to have been married by a traveling preacher, and lived their blended life as wedded man and wife.

Family of outcasts. Considered both illegitimate and slaves at birth under the law, Patrick and his siblings were forbidden from attending school in their home state. Wanting their children to be educated, the Healys sent Patrick and his brothers Hugh and James to Quaker schools in the north, first in Flushing, New York, then in Burlington New Jersey, where they studied in the 1840's under the instruction of Adeline Glover. Despite the Quaker emphasis on equality, the boys met with some discrimination throughout their school years, based not only on their race, but also on their Irish heritage and the fact that their father owned slaves - something local Quakers found unconscionable.

Gifted and talented. In the mid-1840s, Michael Healy transferred the boys to the newly-founded Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where they excelled academically. Patrick's brothers were in the first graduating class of 1849. Their younger brothers, Michael and Sherwood, followed them to Holy Cross. After his graduation a year later, Patrick continued his education at Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, where in 1863 he may have been the second African-American to earn his Ph.D. - his brother Sherwood reportedly received a doctorate in Canon Law from the North American College in Rome in 1860.

Second Founder of Georgetown College. Ordained as a Jesuit priest, Father Healy served as Georgetown Colleges's prefect of studies from 1868 to 1878, and its president from 1873 to 1881 - the first African-American president of a predominantly white university. Called the "second founder" of Georgetown by some, he reformed the curriculum, oversaw the construction of a multi-use building which now bears his name, expanded programs in medicine and law, and founded the alumni association. It was under Healy's tenure that Georgetown attained University status.

Healy Hall
Healy Hall ~ Georgetown

Healy Hall, which is at the center of Georgetown University, not only bears his name, but is also a national historical landmark. See The City Beautiful

Dream of an Outcast : Patrick P. Healy by Father Albert Foley
God's Men of Color: The Colored Catholic Priests of the United States, 1854-1954 by same author
The Healy Family - Passing for White by James M. O'Toole
ut unum sint   ONE AGAIN:     can the "Blue and Gray wounds" heal?
Georgetown University Step Team: Go Hoyas
Dangerous Minds: collegiate resources for the gifted and talented
Costs and rewards of sheer boldness
The Blue and the Gray Terrence J. Boyle - Georgetown University Factoids
Visit Washington DC - cultural tourism helps and info
Historic Preservation - saving the best of the town's valuable heritage
Energia Georgetown - they're targetting the energy issue
The making of "The City Beautiful" (Washington DC) - an exxercise in boldness

John Carroll (1735-1815), the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States, set a valuable precedent when he made elaborate provisions for the rights of conscience in his organization of Georgetown College. Although the school was to be thoroughly Catholic, non-Catholics were urged to attend chapel at the church of their choice and to find spiritual counselors of their own persuasion.... This pattern was to become normative for almost all church-related colleges in the United States.

[Glenn T. Miller. Religious Liberty in America. 1976]

Those Resilient Irish

Besides the well-known Georgetown, a lesser known college deserves mention:

Oberlin in Ohio: also in the forefront of leadership

High in the annals of American history is Oberlin, in Ohio. Founded in 1833 as the first institution of higher education for blacks, it faced the prejudices of the day in doing so. Nevertheless, in 1835 the trustees resolved that: "The education of the people of color is a matter of great interest and should be encouraged & sustained in this institution."

The founder, John Shipherd, was a close ally of the evangelical abolitionist Charles G. Finney, who counselled a more moderate (Christ-like) rhetorical tone by the incendiary anti-slavery radicals. Finney's close friend, Theodore Weld, had been particularly incendiary and reckless in his abolitionist name-calling and finger-pointing, equating Southerners with the worst perversions and depravities. Finney was a staunch foe of slavery himself, but felt the violent harrangues departed from not only the spirit of Christ, but even from the simple truth regarding the South. Indeed, looking back we today perceive a certain malevolence in the extreme and (in many instances) baseless accusations hurled at slaveholders in particular and at the entire South, in general.

Assisting Shipherd and Finney in the founding of Oberlin was energetic and devout Philo Stewart. Arthur Tappan, a New York philanthropist and evangelical, also was a fervent abolitionist. During the struggling early years, it was Tappan who agreed to underwrite Oberlin. He stipulated that Charles Finney be appointed to teach theology, and that African Americans be freely admitted on an equal basis with whites. The trustees agreed willingly. According to church historian William Ringenberg, Finney "brought to Oberlin an intense crusading spirit of reform unmatched in American educational history." The result was a fiery one: "Oberlin became the abolitionist hotbed of the country."

Of Finney it is said that No other person has influenced the subject of revival in America like Charles Grandison Finney. Nor did anyone better represent the untamed spirit of frontier America in the 19th century than Finney. His life and ministry spanned continents and controversy. In America, Finney was considered the father of modern revivalism with over 500,000 conversions resulting from his ministry. Historians claim that in many ways, Finney laid a well-paved road for mass evangelists who would come after him -- Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham. [See "The persuaded Life."] Bio at

Finney seemed to have had something of that evangelical or missionary fervor of the heart that Yves Congar called a holy "torrent of love." If his theology was rough-hewn or sketchy, his simple message of love certainly was not. Something of that passion and fervor resonated with the wilderness folk of early America. The spiritually hungry frontier responded!!

What was his secret? It's a sort of question that stymies the wisest among us. Why would God choose such a man, not even theologically trained? Why would God choose an Abe Lincoln, or Bernadette of Lourdes, or yes, an Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli? Why would a privleged Francis of Assisi turn his back on wealth and instead chose a life of service and often poverty in Jesus name? Certainly the clues to any answer must lie deep in the heart, the mystical realm where God's spirit alone moves, and works, and transforms. This realm of the Holy Spirit is the region Arthur Hurd has called the "undiscovered country of Christianity, the dark continent of the Christian life, the land where our spiritual resources lie, but lie undeveloped."

In 1835 Finney began work in Oberlin College and Theological Seminary, later headed the college as President. 1835 was also the year that Oberlin opened its doors to include whites as well as blacks. Oberlin has many firsts, besides its leadership in admitting blacks, and appointing black teachers and professors. It was the college that graduated the first African-American woman, and was actually a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1837 women were first admitted, again becoming the first college in America to do so.

For An Oberlin site (Martin Luther King's three visits).

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Some two hundred years ago, an unknown student inscribed a crude graffiti on the walls of Oxford. (Or was it Cambridge?) It said:

How odd
Of God
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The Jews.

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