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History of Andover Newton

The seed for Andover Newton can be traced back to 1778, when Phillips Academy was founded for "the promotion of true piety and virtue" in Andover, MA. In 1807, New England Congregationalists, concerned about "unitarian" trends at Harvard College, instituted a separate department of divinity and raised money for the Samuel Abbot Professor of Theology at Phillips Academy. This was the first seminary professorship in North America and a position now held by Andover Newton's S. Mark Heim.

Andover Theological Seminary, as it was called until 1965, began as a pioneer and path-breaker. It established post-baccalaureate education for the ministry in North America. At a time when professional training in the United States, including study for the ministry, still occurred within an apprenticeship system, Andover was also the nation's first formal graduate school.

Part of the rich cultural heritage of New England Congregationalism, a tradition that also included Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth Colleges, Andover created the educational model followed by virtually all other theological schools today. Its early graduates were pioneers in the ministry and distinguished in many other fields, including public and higher education, and established schools, colleges, and other institutions in the United States and abroad. The school was a major center of Abolitionist sentiment in the years before the Civil War.

In the early 20th century, fearing its rural location would hurt its ability to attract students, Andover relocated to Cambridge, MA. There the seminary built a new campus and was affiliated for two decades with Harvard University and the Harvard Divinity School. As a result, Harvard and Andover Newton continue to have ties today.

Separately founded in 1825, Newton Theological Institution was a Baptist seminary established in Newton Centre, MA, based on the model Andover had created a generation earlier. Part of a network of New England Baptist churches and institutions, Newton produced three important 19th- and 20th-century presidents of Brown University among its early alumni. For a full century from the 1820s to the 1920s all but one of Brown's presidents were trained at either Andover or Newton.

Gardner Colby, a Boston industrialist and Newton Centre resident, was an early treasurer of the school and a benefactor of Newton and other Baptist institutions, including Brown. Colby Hall and Colby Chapel on the Andover Newton campus are named for him as is Colby College in Waterville, ME.

At Newton's invitation, Andover moved its operations to the Newton Centre campus in 1931. The two schools officially merged in 1965 under the name Andover Newton Theological School.  The school has continued to be an innovator in theological education, pioneering in such movements as civil rights and social justice, psychological studies, and the ordination of women.

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